Politics of Demography: Worldwide Total Kurdish Populations Approaching 41 million in 2015

K City Pop GridBy Dr. M. Koohzad


We need to forcefully press on the accuracy of fact and figures related to the abuse of statistics in politics as bargaining chips. Perhaps, you have heard Staffan de Mistura, the UN Rep. for Syria, has recently said that ONLY five percent of Syria’s population is Kurdish. Unfortunately, nobody has asked him what his reference was. He does not have any knowledge of Kurdish population totals, distributions or compositions. He has to be given a copy of my research paper to learn not to use statistics so rudely, politically. He reduced that figure by five percent. This is equal to killing ONLY one million Kurds in Syria and that I call “political genocide.”

We have to seriously teach the world, both friend and enemies, accurate information about our people. If they have the littlest knowledge about us, it is dangerous. In order to make any sound argument and political planning, Mr. de Mistura has to learn to be objective. He is a citizen of two nations, Italy and Sweden. I do not think he understands what “statelessness means.” I do not think he cares about what the Kurds have been through.

We need to be watchful and remind these fools about their biases and mistakes fast and ferociously. For most of his life, Mr. de Mistura has been a servant of European imperialism. Actually, he is more concerned about Turkey, a NATO member, than Syria. Sadly, he does not know that the majority of the people in the world see NATO as a bloody arm of colonialism.

The following article was first published in September 2015:


By now almost everybody in the world has heard of the Kurds, especially the ones living in Northern Iraq. Although a landlocked place, Greater Kurdistan is endowed with rich mineral resources of oil and natural gas. It was only a year ago that the Kurds saw an uninvited neighbor, the so-called ISIS Islamist terrorist on their borders. The Kurds became the only reliable and brave fighting force against the Islamist terrorist thugs. Wherever the Kurdish Peshmerga forces show up, the ISIS terrorists are on the run. The Kurds have been the only formidable force inflecting some defeats on the world’s worst Islamist terrorists.

Yet, the Kurdish statistics are still cryptic and the rough estimates are not reflecting the new reality. The estimates are usually, particularly in the case of Turkey, undocumented and underestimated. Unfortunately, even sources such as The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Wikipedia, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Newsweek have published politically polluted Kurdish population values. More accurate and more reasonable total population sizes of the Kurds had to be discovered in the available literature. After reviewing 70 references, see the list covering 94 years, from 1921 to 2015; this study was able to calculate total Kurdish populations. Sadly, for worldwide total Kurdish population most online sources, by mid-summer 2015, stop at 32 million. For the same time, the present study has discovered that the most accurate figure was 41 million.

The Kurdish Population Case

With the Kurds and their people’s army, the Peshmerga or those who face death, still dominating the news, one expects that at least the mainstream media and serious scholars have some basic accurate knowledge about them. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Very few sources of information actually have accurate estimates of total Kurdish population around the world. The world needs to know where the Kurds live, more importantly, how many of them there are. On the other hand, almost everybody knows that they are the world’s largest nation without a country. But, nobody seems to realize “how large is the largest.” Without further elaboration, some junior journalists and even serious scholars associate the Kurds with mountains. They most often cite the saying that “the Kurds have no friends but the mountains.”

The current Kurdistan that is occupied by Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria is a byproduct of colonial powers controlling the Middle East. The Western powers’ approach of “divide and conquer” led to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that marked the end of Kurdistan. By applying a “four-state solution”, the imperial powers divided and destroyed Kurdistan. No other ethnic group in the whole world has been treated so brutally. Kurdistan has been the site of the first and the last systematic genocides, when hundreds of thousand of innocent non-combatant people were murdered. Ankara, Baghdad, and now ISIS have mercilessly mass murdered Kurds only because they were Kurds.
As soon as the so-called ISIS terrorist thugs appeared on the horizon of Kurdistan last summer, the U.S. has treated the Kurds as nothing more than American robotic-boots on the ground. More importantly, Washington wants the Kurds to forget about their century-old struggle for freedom and live in the above countries as second or third class citizens. The Kurds are being disrespectfully ignored at a time when the west, particularly the U.S. needs them most. The brave Kurdish Peshmerga freedom fighters that are defending the whole world are not receiving arms directly from Americans. This is when knowledgeable scholars such as Dr. David Phillips (2015) believe that “America’s best and only friend in Iraq [Mideast] are the Kurds. Washington must initiate reality-based contingency planning, and get ahead of events” (p. 235).

The Kurdish history, geography, political economy and demography are overlooked, while being seen as the best friend of America, who happened to have no friends but the mountains. In order to understand and plan for issues of new realities in the old Fertile Crescent, the world has to have reasonable and accurate figures of population size of the Kurds. Whereas, the great majority of the world nations have their own “population clocks”, no body has taken any census of the Kurdish populations anywhere in the world. It is sad to say that very few of the available statistics online reflect the reality of numbers in Kurdistan.

However, it would be interesting to find out where those old, undated, reference-less, perhaps politically censored, rounded, and wrong records of Kurdish population figures come from. A Google search on “worldwide total Kurdish population” returned more than 31.5 million results. Estimates of the totals ranged between 30-40 million. The total Kurdish population figures not only are dateless and with no reference, they possess the world’s largest range. Today, it is believed that between 30-40 million Kurds live in the world. This range of 10 million is the world’s largest in the history of mankind. No other nation has been so rudely ignored as the Kurds. In this case, we are dealing with 10 million unaccounted Kurds that appear and disappear in the avail distorted data.

In an article in the Foreign Affairs, Christian Caryl (January 21, 2015) predicted that Kurdistan would be the next country in the Middle East. In fact, she visited Kurdistan in Northern Iraq and knew that the Kurds have a national flag, a national anthem and are ready to be economically and politically independent. She wrote, “The 30 million Kurds of the Middle East don’t only live in Iraq, of course. But all of them are feeling the tremors of change.” Tim Arango (June 10, 2015) of the New York Times, reported that “The Kurds, a population of roughly 30 million spread across Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, have historically been treated as second-class citizens by autocratic governments and have long dreamed of their own state.”

Wikipedia has given total Kurdish populations in two articles entitled “Kurdish Population” and “Kurds.” The first article begins with “The Kurdish people, the largest stateless nation in the world, live in Kurdistan, which today is ruled by Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, with a population of an estimated 40 million.” The author of the article continued that “A rough estimate by the CIA Factbook…which adds up to close to 28 million Kurds in Kurdistan or adjacent regions.” The author of Wikipedia’s second article also believed that “The Kurds number around 40 million with the majority living in West Asia…” Oddly enough, scrolling down the page, a few paragraphs later within the same article, under the subtitle of “Population”, the same author wrote, “The number of Kurds living in Southwest Asia is estimated at close to 30 million, with another one or two million living in diaspora.” It is not surprising to recognize a discrepancy of 8-12 million Kurdish people in the same commonly used online reference.

The Council on Foreign Relations, CFR, posted an article simply called “Who are the Kurds.” Newsweek then republished this piece in its totality online on June 7, 2015. This is the day when the Kurds in Turkey earned 6 million votes in the general election and for the first time sent 80 representatives to the Grand Turkish National assembly. The writer(s) for this corrupt think tank, known as the international wing of American capitalism, wrote, “The estimated thirty million Kurds reside primarily in mountainous regions of present-day Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey and remain one of the world’s largest peoples without a sovereign state… A Kurdish diaspora of an estimated two million is concentrated primarily in Europe.”

All of the numbers on the Kurdish total population included in this article: 14.7 million in Turkey, 8.1 million in Iran, 5.5 million in Iraq, and 1.7 million in Syria perfectly match with those provided by the CIA Factbook. Indeed, a circular pie chart displayed the Kurdish population sizes in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria very professionally. The title of the chart, “30 million Kurds”, in big brown font-color is the most prominently displayed online. It is almost impossible to miss this rounded and wrong figure. The source, CIA World Factbook of July 2014, in the lower left corner of the graph, is also notably presented.

Calculating total Kurdish population in the world is highly dependent on the percentage of the Kurdish population in Turkey. Surprisingly, the CIA’s Factbook mainly underestimated population size of the Kurds in Turkey. The most recent rough estimate of the Kurdish population in Turkey was in 2014, by the Factbook used by the CFR, and is 14.8 million. Yet, using Turkish official data, the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), Dakak (2012), declared in the title of his short article that 22.5 million Kurds lived in Turkey. This indicates a huge difference of 7.8 million between the Turkish official number and that of the CIA Factbook. This implies that between these two years, instead of increasing, the Kurdish population decreased by nearly 8 million, which would be the most unusual event in the history of the world.

Distorting Kurdish data is the leftover pathetic propaganda of the Cold War years, mainly going back to a period of the post-American sponsored coup in Turkey in 1980. The U.S. and NATO member nations began helping Ankara in managing its Kurdish problems. A bloody period of killing Kurds ensued. The military prison in Diyarbakir became a detention center where many young Kurdish university students were tortured and killed by the Turkish interrogators while being supervised by CIA agents. Ankara and Washington had hardly any mercy on the Kurds in Turkey. Apparently Porter Goss, a former CIA Director, now represents the Turkish Lobby in Washington.

Correcting the Kurdish Population Case

To correct the Kurdish population case and determine more reasonable, realistic statistics, a review of historical literature between 1921 and 2015 was carried out. A total of 70 sources were reviewed. The majority of them, 60 sources, contain numbers or percentages of the Kurdish population in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The rest of them, 10 sources, were associated with the former ones. For example, it was possible to find more than one place with information about the Kurdish population sizes in the same book. The findings of this literature during the last 94 years are presented in the following tables. Table 1 shows records of the highest, lowest, and more reasonable percentages of Kurdish populations in the four countries that are currently occupying Kurdistan. Determining these percentages is the most important step in calculating the Kurdish populations given in Table 2.

Table 1

Range of Percent of Kurdish Populations
Country Lowest % Highest % Reasonable %
TURKEY 12 32.6 25
IRAN 3 13 13
iRAQ 6.5 25 25
SYRIA 1.6 10 10

Table 2 displays total population of the Kurds in four countries of their residence,in the Greater Kurdistan in the Middle East, and worldwide. Using percentages of Kurdish populations and the UN’s population projections, total Kurdish population figures for three time periods of 2015, 2020, and 2025 are calculated. The most accurate estimates of the Kurdish population for these three periods are 41 million, 43 million, and 46 million, respectively.

Table 2

Total Kurdish Populations 2015-2025, in Millions

Country 2015 2020 2025
TURKEY 19.1 20.1 20.1
IRAN 10.3 10.9 11.5
iRAQ 7.2 8.1 9.2
SYRIA 2.2 2.2 2.8
GREATER KURDISTAN 38.8 41.3 43.6
TOTAL WORLDWIDE 40.8 43.3 45.6


The occupiers of Kurdistan hide the Kurds statistically. It is almost impossible to find any accurately documented figures on the worldwide populations of the Kurds. More accurate and unbiased estimates of the total Kurdish populations are not easy to find. The online sources are mostly underestimations, undocumented, rough, and wrong. The purpose of this research paper was to find a more reasonable and more accurate total for worldwide Kurdish population. By doing a lengthy review of 70 sources, it was found that this total has already reached 41 million in 2015. In order to have a sound policy towards the Kurds, and deal with their demand for independence, this figure, reflecting the new reality, must be applied.


Dr. M. Koohzad is a professor emeritus of Middle Eastern Studies.

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