When referring to the Kurdish people, it is important to consider two fundamental matters: first, they represent the largest stateless ethnic minority in the world (about 22 million people), and secondly that, as a population, they have survived for decades to policies of extermination, which makes its History the history of a resistance.
The Kurds settled in the space they currently occupy around 2500 B.C. The ancient Kurdistan is a region of Southwest Asia which includes territories belonging to different countries: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Armenia and Syria. Most of the current population of Kurdish origin is settled in Turkey (approximately 15 million inhabitants), a country which, incidentally, is one of the most steely to act against this people.
After both World Wars, the Kurds tried to build their own States, but failed to do so. The end of World War I and the development of international treaties that led to the modern configuration of nation-states marked the most important institutional division of the Kurdish people at the service of foreign interests. After the Treaty of Sèvres, which initially recognized their right of autonomy (following President Wilson’s Fourteen Points), the subsequent Treaty of Lausanne would finally put Kurds in the same situation they are now, with Kurdistan divided into different national sovereignties, situation which was confirmed with the Second World War.
Today, most of the Kurds continue in Turkey, a republic that promotes linguistic homogenization seeking to avoid its balkanization. Therefore, Turkey doesn’t want to give many rights to Kurdish language and region. This is what led to the insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in 1978, which fights for the independence of Kurdistan as a socialist State though it is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Thus, presently, Turkey and Iran have agreed to veto a Kurdish State, given that it threatens the disintegration of its borders, although today, possibly, with the current Syrian conflict, as happened before with the Iraqi, it is the best time for some deep reflections that could open the door to a Kurdish autonomy. But so that we can understand the dimension of the problem, we cannot forget that Turkey’s Kurdish territory is where all of the national oil is extracted from. 74% of the oil in Iraq is extracted from Kurdish area. In Iran, the “Kurdish” oil counts for a 20% of the national production. And in Syria, the totality of national oil is extracted from the Kurdish area.
But, how is this whole situation lived by the Kurds? In Diyarbakir (Turkey), which would be the capital of Kurdistan, people live with the conflict every day. Surrounded by poverty, especially outside the walls of the city, they feel marginalized by a government that not only does not serve their claims, but also oppresses and tries to indoctrinate them. Fearfully, they are wary of talking about the problem to foreigners, because they don’t know what the possible reprisals to their words might be. Moreover, in recent times, they face the problems arising from the conflict in nearby Syria and the arrival of thousands of refugees from that country. But, despite everything, and bridging the difficulties of their daily lives, they are happy. You’ll always see children playing with a smile on their faces, fascinated by foreign visitors, not many because of the conditions of the place, and men working in what they can to raise their families. And whether they are Kurds or Turks, they are generous and hospitable like few others, making you feel home, and offering you what little they have. All surrounded by a fascinating culture, full of magical places like the own city of Diyarbakir (which on the banks of the Tigris River has the second longest wall in the world, after China’s), Mount Nemrut, or the cities of Batman, Mardin or Sanliurfa. In short, this is Kurdistan, where its people live with the hope of a free and peaceful State.
Participant in the European Union project “From Past to Present”, within the “Youth in Action Programme”, in Diyarbakir (Turkey). October 2012.