Found in: Iranian Plateau
Kurdistan (Kurdish: '/Kurdistan', literally meaning "the land of Kurds", formerly Curdia, Curdistan Coordistan) is an extensive plateau and mountainous area in the Middle East, inhabited mainly by Kurds. It covers large parts of eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and smaller parts of northern Syria and Armenia. It roughly includes Zagros and eastern Taurus mountain ranges.
From a political standpoint, Iraqi Kurdistan is the only region which has gained official recognition internationally as an autonomous federal entity.
The very first mention of the Kurds in history was about 3,000 BC, under the name Gutium, as they fought the Sumerians (Spieser). The territory of present-day Kurdistan corresponds roughly with the ancient Kingdom of Gutium (Qurti), which is mentioned in cuneiform records about 2400 BC, and had its capital at Arraphkha (modern Kirkuk).
Later around 800 BC, the Indo-European Median tribes settled in the Zagros mountain region and coalesced with the Gutiums, and thus the modern Kurds speak an Aryan language (Morris).
Various ancient groups; among them the Guti, Mannai (Mannaeans), Hurrian and Medes lived in this region The original Mannaean homeland was situated east and south of the Lake Urmia, roughly centered around modern-day Mahabad. The Medes came under Persian rule during the reign of Cyrus the Great and Darius. Centuries later, Kurdish-inhabited areas in the Middle East witnessed the clash of the two competing super powers of those times, namely the Sassanid Empire and the Roman Empire. At the peak of its power, the Roman Empire ruled large Kurdish-inhabited areas, particularly the western and northern Kurdish areas in the Middle East. Kingdoms like Corduene were vassal states of the Roman Empire.
According to some historians, the tract to this day known as Kurdistan, the high mountaineous region south and south-east of Lake Van between Persia and Mesopotamia, was in the possession of Kurds from before the time of Xenophon, and was known as the country of the Carduchi , as Cardyeneor Cordyene Also according to Columbia Encyclopedia, Kurds are commonly identified with the ancient Corduene, which was inhabited by the Carduchi who were mentioned in Xenophon's writings.
Corduene which ruled northern Mesopotamia and southeastern Anatolia from 189 BC to AD 384, became a vassal state of the Roman Republic in 66 BC and remained allied with the Romans until AD 384. Corduene was situated to the east of Tigranocerta, i.e., to the east and south of present-day Diyarbakir in south-eastern Turkey.
Some of the ancient districts of Kurdistan and their corresponding modern names are listed below.J. Bell, A System of Geography. Popular and Scientific , pp.1334, Vol. IV, Fullarton & Co., Glasgow, 1832.
Corduene or Gordyene
Zabdicene or Bezabde (''Gozarto d'Qarduor Jazirat Ibnor Cizre)
One of the earliest records of the phrase land of the Kurdsis found in a Syriac Christian document of late antiquity describing the stories of Christian saints of Middle East such as the holy Abdisho. When the Sassanid Marzban asked Mar Abdisho about his place of origin, he replied that according to his parents, they were originally from Hazza, a village in Assyria. However they were later driven out of Hazza by pagans, and settled in Tamanon, which according to holy Abdisho was in the land of the Kurds. This village lies just north of the modern Iraqi-Turkey border. Also Hazza is located 12 km southwest of modern Irbil. In another passage in the same document, the region of Khabur is also identified as land of the Kurds.J. T. Walker, The Legend of Mar Qardagh: Narrative and Christian Heroism in Late Antique Iraq(368 pages), University of California Press, ISBN 0520245784, 2006, pp. 26, 52.
In the second half of the 10th century, Kurdistan was shared amongst five big Kurdish principalities. In the North the Shaddadid (9511174) (in parts of Armenia and Arran) and the Rawadid (9551221) (in Tabriz and Maragheh), in the East the Hasanwayhid (9591015) and the Annazid (9901116) and in the West the Marwanid (9901096) of Diyarbakir.
Kurdistan in the Middle Ages was referred to a collection of semi-independent or in some cases independent states called "emirates". It was nominally under indirect political or religious influence of Khalifs or Shahs. A comprehensive history of these states and their relationship with their neighbors is given in the famous textbook of "Sharafnama" written by Prince Sharaf al-Din Bitlisi in 1597. The best-known Kurdish Emirates included Baban, Soran, Badinan and Garmiyan in present-day Iraq; Bakran, Botan (or Bokhtan) and Badlis in Turkey, and Mukriyan and Ardalan in Iran.
In the 16th century, the Kurdish-inhabited areas were split between Safavid Iran and the Ottoman Empire after prolonged wars. The first important division of Kurdistan occurred in the aftermath of the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514. This division was formalized in the Treaty of Zuhab in 1639.C. Dahlman, The Political Geography of Kurdistan, Eurasian Geography and Economics, Vol.43, No.4, pp.271299, 2002. Before World War I, most Kurds lived within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire in the province of Kurdistan.. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Allies agreed and planned to create several countries within its former boundaries. Originally Kurdistan, along with Armenia, was to be one of them, according to the never-ratified Treaty of Sevres. However, the reconquest of these areas by Kemal Ataturk and other pressing issues caused the Allies to accept the renegotiated Treaty of Lausanne, accepting the border of the modern Republic of Turkey and leaving the Kurds without a self-ruled region. Other Kurdish areas were assigned to the new British and French mandated states of Iraq and Syria under both treaties.
The Kurdish delegation made a proposal at the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1945, showing the geographical extent of Kurdistan as claimed by the Kurds. This proposal encompasses an area extending from the Mediterranean shores near Adana to the shores of the Persian Gulf near Bushehr, and it includes the Lur inhabited areas of southern Zagros.C. Dahlman, The Political Geography of Kurdistan, Eurasian Geography and Economics, Vol.43, No.4, p. 274.
Since World War I, Kurdistan has been divided between several states, in each of which Kurds are minorities. At the end of the First Gulf War, the Allies established a safe haven in northern Iraq. Amid the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from three northern provinces, Iraqi Kurdistan emerged as an autonomous entity inside Iraq, with its own local government and parliament in 1992.
Culturally and historically Kurdistan has been part of what is known as Greater Iran (or historic Persia).Kurds who speak a Northwestern Iranian language known as Kurdish comprise the majority of the population of the region there are also communities of Arab, Armenian, Assyrian, Azeri, Jewish, Ossetian, Persian, and Turkic people traditionally scattered throughout the region. Most of its inhabitants are Muslim, but there are also significant numbers of other religious sects such as Yazidi, Yarsan, Alevi, Christian, Jewish,.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Kurdistan covers about 190,000 km, and its chief towns are Diyarbakir (Amed), Bitlis (Bedlis) and Van (Wan) in Turkey, Mosul (Musil), Arbil (Hewler) and Kirkuk (Kerkuk) in Iraq, and Kermanshah (Kirmanan), Sanandaj (Sine) and Mahabad (Mehabad) in Iran. Kurdistan, Encyclopaedia Britannica According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Kurdistan covers around 190,000 km in Turkey, 125,000 km in Iran, 65,000 km in Iraq, and 12,000 km in Syria and the total area of Kurdistan is estimated at approximately 392,000 km. Kurdistan, Encyclopaedia of Islam''currently offline Others estimate as many as 40 million Kurds live in Kurdistan, which covers an area as big as France. The Kurdistan Province in Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan are both included in the usual definition of Kurdistan.
Iranian Kurdistan encompasses Kurdistan Province and greater parts of West Azarbaijan, Kermanshah, Ilam provinces. Iraqi Kurdistan is divided into six governorates, three of whichand parts of othersare under the control of Kurdistan Regional Government. Syrian Kurdistan is mostly located in present-day northeastern Syria. This region covers the greater part of the province of Al Hasakah. The main cities in this region are Al-Qamishli and Al Hasakah . Another region with a significant Kurdish population is in the northern part of Syria. The Kurdish-inhabited northern and northeastern parts of Syria in Kurdish is called Kurdistana Binxete. . A large area of south eastern Turkey is also home to estimated 15 to 20 million Kurds
Kurdistan is a mountainous region with a cold climate and it receives enough annual precipitation to sustain temperate forests and shrubs. Mountain chains are covered with pasture, and its valleys with forests. There are around 16 million hectares of forests in all parts of Kurdistan. Firs, other conifers, and oaks can be found in those forests. Deciduous Platanus, willow, and poplar trees are found near waters and river banks. The cutting of trees for fuel has reduced the size of forests over time.
Mountains, even to this day, have been important geographical and symbolic figures in Kurdish life, so that there is a saying that "Kurds have no friends but the mountains".John Bulloch and Harvey Morris, No Friends but the Mountains: The Tragic History of the Kurds, ISBN 0-195-08075-0 The Mount Judi is the most important mountain in Kurdish folklore and along with Mount Ararat, as one of them is thought to be the final resting place of Noah's Ark. Other important mountains of Kurdistan are Zagros Shingar, Qendil, Shaho, Gabar, etc.
There are many rivers in Kurdistan that are at least as important, if not more important, than oil. The plateaus and mountains of Kurdistan, which are characterized by heavy rainfall and in winter a heavy coat of snow, are a water reservoir for the Near and Middle East. This is the source of the famous Tigris and Euphrates Rivers as well as numerous other smaller rivers like the Khabur, Tharthar, Ceyhan, Araxes, Kura, Sefidrud, Karkha, and Hezil, the major tributaries of which spring from the mountains of Kurdistan. Those rivers that are entirely or nearly entirely in Kurdistan are usually of historical importance to the Kurds. Among these are the Murat (Arasan) and Buhtan rivers in northern and western Kurdistan (in Turkey); the Peshkhabur, the Lesser and the Greater Zab, and the Sirwan/Diyala in central Kurdistan (in Iraq); and the Jaghatu (Zarrinarud), the Tata'u (Siminarud), the Zohab (Zahab), and the Gamasiyab in southern Kurdistan.
With their water, the Tigris and the Euphrates give life not only to the Mesopotamian plain and the whole of Kurdistan but also to Iraq and Syria. These rivers, which flow down from heights of three to four thousand meters above sea level, are also very significant for the production of energy. Iraq and Syria have built numerous dams across these rivers and their tributaries. The most important ones are a series of dams that were built by Turkey as part of the GAP project (Southeast Anatolia Project). The GAP project is still not complete, but it already supplies a significant proportion of Turkey's electrical-energy needs. Due to the extraordinary archaeological richness of the land, almost any dam built in Kurdistan drowns a portion of Kurdish history. Economy: Water, The Encyclopaedia of Kurdistan
Kurdistan extends to Lake Urmia in Iran on the east and to semi-contiguous Kurdish-inhabited regions to the west on the Mediterranean shore. The region includes Lake Van, the largest body of water in Turkey; in the entire Middle East, the only larger lake is Lake Urmiabut Lake Urmia is not nearly as deep, so Lake Van contains a much larger volume of water. The Zarivar Lake west of Marivan, as well as Lake Dukan near the city of Sulaymaniyah, are significant tourist sites.
There are many oil and mineral resources in Kurdistan. KRG-controlled parts of Iraqi Kurdistan only by itself is estimated to have around 45bn barrels of oil reserves making it sixth largest in the world, mostly recently discovered. Extraction of these reserves is said to begin within the first three months of 2007. These are excluding those of Kirkuk and Mosul, cities claimed by the KRG to be included in its territory, though in these two cities oil was extracted predominantly by Iraq's former Baath regime.
As of July 2007, the Kurdish government is inviting foreign companies to invest in 40 new oil sites, with the hope of increasing regional oil production over the next half decade by a factor of five, to about . Gas and associated gas reserves are in excess of 100 TCF. Other underground resources that exist in significant quantities in the region include copper, iron, zinc and limestone which is used to produce cement. The world's largest deposit of rock sulphur is located just southwest of Erbil (Hewler). Other important underground resources include coal, gold, and marble.
Subdivisions (Upper and Lower Kurdistan)
In A Dictionary of Scripture Geography (published 1846), John Miles describes Upper and Lower Kurdistan as following:
Modern Curdistan is of much greater extent than the ancient Assyria, and is composed of two parts the Upper and Lower. In the former is the province of Ardelan, the ancient Arropachatis, now nominally a part of Irak Ajami, and belonging to the north west division called Al Jobal. It contains five others namely, Betlis, the ancient Carduchia, lying to the south and south west of the lake Van. East and south east of Betlis is the principality of Julamerick, south west of it is the principality of Amadia. the fourth is Jeezera ul Omar, a city on an island in the Tigris, and corresponding to the ancient Bezabde. the fifth and largest is Kara Djiolan, with a capital of the same name. The pashalics of Kirkook and Solimania also comprise part of Upper Curdistan. Lower Curdistan comprises all the level tract to the east of the Tigris, and the minor ranges immediately bounding the plains and reaching thence to the foot of the great range, which may justly be denominated the Alps of western Asia.
The northern, northwestern and northeastern parts of Kurdistan are called upper Kurdistan. It includes the areas from west of Amed to lake Urmia.
The lowlands of southern Kurdistan are called lower Kurdistan. the main cities in this area are Kirkuk and Arbil. The city of Kirkuk was often called the capital or the largest city of lower Kurdistan.
Conflict and controversy
The incorporation into Turkey of the Kurdish-inhabited regions of eastern Anatolia was opposed by many Kurds, and has resulted in a long-running separatist conflict in which thousands of lives have been lost. The region saw several major Kurdish rebellions including; the Kockiri Rebellion of 1920, the Sheikh Said Rebellion in 1924, the Republic of Ararat in 1927, and the Dersim Rebellion in 1937. These were forcefully put down by the Turkish authorities and the region was declared a closed military area from which foreigners were banned between 1925 and 1965.
In 1983, the Kurdish provinces were placed under martial law in response to the activities of the militant separarist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).Kurd, The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia including Atlas, 2005 An extremely violent guerrilla war took place through the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s, in which much of the countryside was evacuated, thousands of Kurdish-populated villages were destroyed and numerous extrajudicial summary executions were carried out by both sides. More than 37,000 people were killed in the violence and hundreds of thousands more were forced to leave their homes. The situation in the region has since eased following the capture of the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999 and the introduction of a greater degree of official tolerance for Kurdish cultural activities, encouraged by the European Union. However, some political violence is still ongoing and the Turkish-Iraqi border region remains tense.
The region has an extreme continental climatehot in the summer, bitterly cold in the winter. Despite this, much of the region is fertile and has traditionally exported grain and livestock to the cities in the plains. The local economy is dominated by animal husbandry and small-scale agriculture, with cross-border trading (especially of petroleum) providing a major source of income in the border areas. Larger-scale agriculture and industrial activities dominate the economic life of the lower-lying region around Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish-populated city in the region. Elsewhere, however, decades of conflict and high unemployment has led to extensive migration from the region to other parts of Turkey and abroad.Martin van Bruinessen, "Kurdistan." The Oxford Companion to the Politics of the World, 2nd edition. Joel Krieger, ed. Oxford University Press, 2001.
There are many rivers flowing and running through mountains of Kurdistan making it distinguished by its fertile lands, plentiful water, and picturesque nature. The mountainous nature of Kurdistan, the difference of temperatures in its various parts, and its wealth of waters, make Kurdistan a land of agriculture and tourism. Because of its high altitude, the climate of Kurdistan is harsh. There is a lot of snowfall in the high mountains. Precipitation varies between 200 and 400 mm a year in the plains, and between 700 and 3,000 mm a year on the high plateaux between mountain chains.
Education in Kurdistan has a long history from Tekiye to Universities throughout the region. Kurdish literature is a proof of Kurd's description of love in words.
See also: List of universities in Kurdistan
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) News, progress reports and reference material about Kurds, KRG and Kurdistan Region.
The Kurdish Institute of Paris Provides news, bulletins, articles and conference information on the situation in Kurdistan.
The Kurdistan Associated Press is a joint collaboration project dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free Kurdish and Kurdistan related content, and to providing the full content of this project to the public free of charge.
Kurds, Kurdistan, The Encyclopaedia of Islam.