Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Who are the Kurdish people?

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013   No comments

Kurdish mountain guerrilla fighter

About 25 to 30 million live in the Middle East. Throughout history, the majority inhabited the mountains and plateau regions where Iran, Iraq and Turkey meet. About half the Kurds live in Turkey, accounting for an estimated 20 percent of the total population there. There are believed to be approximately 5.7 million Kurds in Iran and about 1.5 million in Syria. There also important communities of Kurds in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

America’s involvement with Iraq, where Kurds make up about 20 percent of the population, has led to the creation of a semi-autonomous region that is the closest thing to a Kurdish state since the end of World War I.

But while the Kurds of northern Iraq have prospered, the growth of their power there has been at the price of the dream of true independence. And while they have exploited their role as holding the balance of power in a country divided between a Shiite Muslim majority and a resentful Sunni minority, their position will remain vulnerable as long as Iraq lurches from political crisis to crisis.

On top of the tensions in Iraq and long-simmering Kurdish autonomy movements in Iran and Turkey, the civil war in Syria is presenting the Kurds with a new set of hopes and dangers.

The Kurdish militias in northern Syria had hoped to stay out of the fighting there. They were focused on preparing to secure an autonomous enclave for themselves within Syria should the rebels succeed in toppling the government. But slowly, inexorably, they have been dragged into the fighting and now have one goal in mind, their autonomy, which also means the balkanization of the state.

Analysts fear this combustible environment could presage a bloody ethnic and sectarian conflict that will resonate far beyond Syria’s borders. There is concern that Iraq’s Kurds, who are already training Syrian Kurds to fight, may jump into the Syria fight to protect their ethnic brethren. That could also pull in Turkey, which fears that an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria would become a haven for Kurdish militants to carry out cross-border attacks in the Kurdish areas in southeastern Turkey.

Isr Ed

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