Pityful Kurds

For the last fortnight, it would seem that PKK and Kurdistan have been topping the world news. The statement of President Bush declaring the PKK today as a terrorist organization aroused my curiosity and moved me to dig into the calamities of the Kurds. I recalled that the Kurds were people victims of geography for being divided and recently expelled from Iraq whilst being a minority in Turkey and in neighboring countries Iran and Syria.

The Kurdistan Region’s demography has changed considerably in the last few decades mainly because of forced migration by the previous Iraqi government, which is one of the main reasons for the movement from the countryside to towns and cities. By 2001, at least 600,000 people were internally displaced mainly because of the previous Iraqi regime’s policies since the 1970s. This included more than 100,000 people expelled in November 1991 alone from Kirkuk by the Iraqi government. According to a UNDP survey, 66% of people living in Duhok province have been forced to change their residence due to war at any point in their lives, while the figures in Suleimaniah and Erbil are 31% and 7%, respectively.

Traditionally, the majority of people in the Kurdistan Region lived in villages and survived on farming and animal husbandry of mainly sheep and goats thanks to the land’s fertile soil. The Region was known as the breadbasket of Iraq. Today this has reversed, with the majority living and working in the three cities of Erbil, Duhok and Suleimaniah and working in the government, construction, and trade.

In the 1980s Saddam Hussein’s regime destroyed over 4,000 villages and forcibly moved their residents to collective towns. Many of these villages have now been rebuilt. The Kurdistan Regional Government, with the support of UN agencies and NGOs, after 1991 rebuilt 2,620 of some 4,000 destroyed villages.

I have spent the last few hours reading on Kurds, I feel sorry for them. Admittedly they were a conquered nation under the Ottoman Empire, Since World War I, Kurdistan has been divided between several states, in each of which Kurds are minorities. No wonder the oppressed Kurds have become revolutionaries.

What would one expect of a nation ousted from its fertile land? “Kurds have no friends but the mountains”. Their curse was to own the snow mountains that are the sources 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. 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.


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