Kurdistan, a forgotten nation of 40 million people

Kamal Chomani

By Kamal Chomani:

This article first appeared on the Indian website Kafila.org

I have been living in Bangalore, India for about 13 months. I am here to study Masters. India to me, as it is, is incredible. I feel as if I am at home. People here are friendly. My teachers and colleagues are just great. I have to confess that, a student leaving his home for the first time for such a long time, certainly, will face many difficulties. But no difficulties have hurt me as much as a question from Indian people: “Where are you from?”

I am from Iraq, but Iraq is not my country. I cannot speak Arabic which is the official language of the country. Luckily three more Iraqi people are with me who have helped me to manage my Arabic. My culture is different from Arabs. I don’t want to look like a nationalist, because I am telling the truth. I am a Kurd! My mother tongue is Kurdish. My homeland is Kurdistan.

So, who are the Kurds?

Kurds are the original inhabitants of the Middle East. They are the biggest stateless nation around the world that they are still struggling for freedom and independence. They have been forgotten by the world.

Yes, Kurds are a forgotten nation of 40 million people. In India, few people know who the Kurds are. I am really surprised when some Indians ‘love’ Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi president. Saddam killed more than 300,000 Kurds. He used poison gas against Kurds and killed 5000 Kurds in just one hour in Halabja, which is known as Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s sister! He mass murdered more than 182,000 Kurds in Anfal (Genocide) operations. The Anfal case is going to be an international case. Sweden’s Parliament has just decided to recognize it as a genocide act against humanity. In the UK, Kurdish people have started a huge campaign to make pressure on the UK parliament to recognize it as Genocide.

Kurdistan is the land of more than 40 million Kurds which was divided in 1514 for the first time between Turks and Persians in the Battle of Caldiran. In the aftermath of the First World War, Kurds were promised independence in the Treaty of Sevres (10 August 1920). But later, in the Treaty of Lausanne (24 July 1923), they were deprived in their natural, political, human and national rights.

Now, Kurdistan is divided into four neighboring countries in the heart of the Middle East. The biggest part of Kurdistan (Northern Part) is under the occupation of Turkey, the smallest (Western Part) is under the occupation of Syria, the Eastern part is under the occupation of Iran and the Southern Part has got freedom as a part of the Federal Republic of Iraq.

For the first time, Kurdistan announced a short-period independence in Mahabad (January 22, 1946), a city in Eastern Kurdistan in Iran which ultimately collapsed under repression by the Shah’s regime. The president of the Republic of Kurdistan, Qazi Muahammad was executed, along with the massacre of hundreds of other Kurds (on March 31, 1947).

After Kamal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, came to power in the post-First World War period in Turkey, Kurdistan was promised a kind of federation within Turkey, but soon Ataturk started killing Kurds. Kurdish people struggled against the new Republic of Turkey, but they were defeated by using the harshest modern technology of arms. The dictatorship of Turkey has been using all kinds of oppression against Kurds. Till the beginning of the 1990s, even speaking the Kurdish language was banned. Now, over 20 million Kurds are living in Turkey, but they don’t have any human rights. Kurdish is still not a recognized language.

In Turkey, Abdullah Ocalan, the legendary Kurdish leader who is now in prison (arrested in February 15, 1999 in an international conspiracy by the Turkish Intelligence Establishment, American CIA and Israeli Mossad), started a revolution under the name of the Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK, an armed force  founded in 1978, which started its armed struggle in 1984. The freedom fighters are now in the mountains struggling for the rights of the Kurdish people.

In Southern Kurdistan (Iraq’s part), the scene is a bit different.  Kurds have got freedom, but they have faced all kinds of atrocities at the hands of the former Saddam Hussein regime. Kurds struggled against the invasion of the British but they were defeated during the First World War. Kurds struggled for their rights till they got Self-Autonomy in March 11, 1970, but soon Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, withdrew his agreement with the Kurds. Again the revolution of the Kurdish people started. In the peak of the Kurdish revolution in Iraq, Saddam Hussein used chemical poison gas against Kurds in March 16, 1988 in which about 5000 innocent men, women and children were killed. And then, the Anfal (Mass Murder) operations started by Saddam Hussein in which 182,000 Kurds were mass murdered by the former regime.

In March 5, 1991, Kurds struck against Saddam Hussein in what is known as the March Uprising in which they were able to liberate Kurdistan during the invasion of Iraq. Soon Saddam sent forces to crackdown on the uprising, but people of Kurdistan left the cities and headed to the neighboring countries in a mass departure in which thousands were died because of the cold and hunger.

In Syria, 200,000 Kurds still do not have the identity to be known as Syrian citizens. The revolution has started. Bashar Assad’s regime has killed more than 10,000 innocent people so far. Syrian opposition parties have held some conferences in Turkey, Tunisia and Europe to discuss about the post-regime situation. Kurds have been promised of a kind of self-governance after the fall of the regime. Now Kurds have liberated some cities, but still it takes time.

During Saddam Hussein’s massacres against Kurds, people had no chance to leave their cities and villages. The thugs of the regime were going to the villages in the middle of the night. They would take all the men and women and children.

The regime’s thugs and soldiers were coming into the cities with lorries and military trucks. They would not differentiate between anyone. Basically, for them, it was only important to take Kurds and pick them up on the back of trucks to the lands of Southern Iraq to bury them while they were alive.

My uncle was a Kurdish freedom fighter. He was moving from mountain to mountain and place to place to attack the regime’s outposts. My father was living in his hometown which is on the border between Iraq and Iran in the north. He had no chance to leave the city, because he had family including five children. When the Kurdish revolution ended in 1974, my father and thousands of Kurdish people fled to Iran. My uncle was martyred in 1982 but my father had not the right to mourn and manage a funeral for him, nor had he the right to gather with his family to receive other people who wanted to express their condolences.

When Saddam Hussein arrested 8,000 Kurds in Erbil province from the Barzan tribe, they were sleeping in their homes. They were not aware of the plot. Suddenly there were caught and found themselves in the deserts of Iraq to be mass murdered.

Those who wanted to struggle to escape from massacres, left the cities and joined the freedom movement on Kurdistan’s mountains. In Iraq, the Kurdistan region is mostly a mountainous area. The highest peak in Iraq is in Kurdistan. That’s why Kurds have a well-known saying “Only mountains are our friends.” To be honest, mountains are the main reason that Kurds still exist!

The above mentioned are only few fact files in the Kurdish history which I want all Indians to know. I approach Indians in this article because I am here and it hurts me to see that they don’t know about Kurds!

What links Kurds and Indians?

There are some connections between Kurds and Indians. Perhaps there are older connections. There are many words in common between the Kurdish language and Hindi. I think, this is the main reason Kurds love Indian movies, culture and films.

Recently, a very close friend of mine, called me to say that I had to send him back a beautiful Indian Sari for his fiancée. I went to the market and bought two kinds of Indian clothes. She wore them in the most famous Kurdish festival, Newroz. I later realized she has been influenced by Indian movies and film stars.

When I was a young boy, my cousin had a video. He used to invite us every night for an Indian film. He had all kinds of Indian films. I still remember those days when we used to gather calmly to watch an Indian film. Now, Bollywood films are widely watched in Kurdistan. Some Indian TV stations are available in Kurdistan that people watch; apart from that, in the film stores, anyone can find Indian movies.

I was recently met a Kurdish student here in Bangalore who studies pharmacy. I was really amazed by the huge information he has about Bollywood stars. Later, another friend told me that this student even can speak some Hindi and his love to India is the reason he has come to India to study.

Nowadays, India is a destination for Kurdish students to study masters and bachelor degrees. It can be estimated that there are more than 500 Kurdish students here. They are spread all over India. The cities that Kurds are studying in are Pune, Bangalore, Delhi, AurangAbad, Allah Abad, and Heyderabad. In Bangalore, Kurdish students are about 80 in number.

Kurdish people love Indians. Indian films are widely watched in Kurdistan. I was told that one of my neighbors in my hometown can speak Hindi now since she has been addicted to Indian movies. I have heard some stories of people who can speak Hindi. Whenever any friend from Kurdistan calls me, or chats with me, his or her first greetings is for Amitabh Bachchan, or Aishwarya. If you look at Kurdish Facebook users’ accounts, you will see tens of Kurdish youths have put Mahatma Gandhiji’s photo as their profile pictures. Gandhiji’s quotes are translated into Kurdish and you will see them in the youths’ status updates on their Facebook or Twitter accounts. Apart from that, tens of Indians are working in Kurdistan now. So, there’s a love of Kurdish people for India, and Indians. In response, we want love from your side for Kurds and Kurdistan, a forgotten nation. India has started investing in oil fieldS in Kurdistan Region of Iraq. It is a good step to invigorate our friendship. The media should play its role. Hopefully in the coming years, we will have better relations.

Kamal Chomani is a Kurdish journalist currently studying Masters in English Literature in India. He can be reached at: kamalchomani@gmail.com

11 Responses to Kurdistan, a forgotten nation of 40 million people
  1. Dr.N.Hawramany
    December 3, 2012 | 21:12

    Sorry kak Chomani,
    I understand your frustration about Kurds and kurdistan being unknown to Indians, the same is also true in Europe where you meet people who haven`t heard anything about Kurds and Kurdistan, the truth of the matter is that nations are known when they have sovereign states, as you know Kurds through their entire history has been on the wrong track of history, always followed their Leaders who turned out to be stooges of their occupyers. after WWI kurds allied themselves with forces that wanted to reinstate the Ottoman empire and so they fought against the British ( Uprising of Sheich Mahmood), and after fall of Saddam Husseinin 2003, kurdish leaders suddenly forgot all the atrocities committed by Iraqi Arab governments of Iraq, and instead of taking this historic opportunity to declare an independent kurdistan they helped to rebuild Iraq and Iraqi Army, now this new Iraqi Army which Kurdish leaders help to re-establish are gathered on the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan threatening a new invasion of Kurdistan. So we kurds should stop blaming others for our statelessness and see that the problem is in Kurds themselves who have no real vision or aspiration of establishing an independent sovereign country of their own!

  2. Aso Azadi
    December 4, 2012 | 09:44

    Great article brakm.

    Just one minor correction: it’s not true that the Israeli Mossad had anything to do with Ocalan’s capture – that’s a myth.

    • Cozen
      December 4, 2012 | 14:23

      No myth Kamal is correct Mossad was involved. Only thing Turkish intelligence did was acompany him back to Turkey like a Trophy

      • Osman
        December 13, 2012 | 11:35

        Well said Kak Chomani,
        I think you should apologise to the Israelis, our only friends in Middle East, legally you could be accused for libel when you accuse someone or an agency for something you can’t back up. Please do not be offended, I just applauding you for your great article

    • Kamal Chomani
      December 14, 2012 | 08:11

      with regard to what I have said about involvement of Israel in arresting Mr Ocalan, you can read this article which i have written long ago. then you can decide why I have written that. please read it. all the best

  3. Ava Homa
    December 4, 2012 | 23:00

    I am not very proud of my people’s interest in Bollywood and its extreme sentimentalism. Emotionality has always worked against us.

  4. Issa
    December 5, 2012 | 08:53

    Thanks mamosta Kamal, I am realy interested your articles, I and read most of your articles. I It is a good thing to introduce kurds to foreigners, while you are in India

  5. Amin
    December 30, 2012 | 15:46

    “There are some connections between Kurds and Indians. Perhaps there are older connection”. The older lingustic connection is through Sanskrit.Sanskrit which is the mother language of all Indian languages had influence on middle eastern languages as well including Kurdish and Persian. There are archaeological theories that Proto-Sanskrit spread from India to Europe through Persia and Kurdistan.

  6. Amin
    December 30, 2012 | 16:19

    Here is a fascinating article on how Proto-Sanskrit originated in India and then spread westwards towards Middle east and Caucasus and from there to Europe. That explains the anceint links between Indian and kurdish langauges and some similarity of words.

  7. Sudipta Bhattacharjee
    February 11, 2015 | 18:09

    I’m from India.Indians have a blood relationshio with Kurds as well as Kurdistan.Kurdish people called themselves as Yezidi and we are old Yezidi ancestors who came from ancient Persia and Kurdistan to India and then the actual inhabitants of India, the Dravids called us as ARYA.So,these Yezidi and the Arya are the same.

  8. Deepa
    June 25, 2015 | 05:15

    Good to know that you are from Kurdistan and studying in Bengaluru, which is my second home town. I am from Mysore. If u get chance go and visit Mysore, it is beautiful place. I keep reading articles about your place / location – Kurdistan. Feel sad for the destruction happening there.

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