Cradle of Civilization
Kurdistan has been the cradle of civilization for thousands of years. Being strategically located in the heart of the Middle East it became the center of the neolithic revolution about 15.000 years ago. Things we take for granted today, like settlements, agriculture and many technological achievements, were first put into practice in the vast region of the Toros-Zagros mountain ranges. From there cultural knowledge that enabled human beings to live in large communities spread all over the world. At the same time, it was in lower Mesopotamia that the first states evolved based on their relationship and contradictions with the rural, self-governed communities in the Toros-Zagros mountains. Ever since the conflict between natural, self-governed society and hierarchical state structures began, Kurdistan has been a battleground of ancient empires or modern global powers. Because of its strategic geographical position between Western Eurasia and the Far East, its vast natural resources and its cultural importance for humankind Kurdistan has been a contested ground for thousands of years.
The Sumerians called the people in the mountainous areas to their north `Kurti` which meant `mountain people`. Proto-Kurdish people like Hurri, Hitit or Mitanni represent the thousand-years-long history of this people. They developed relations with neighboring peoples thus engaging in cultural exchange and trade. Accounts of ancient historians like Herodotus give an impression of the lasting influence Kurds had on peoples with whom they established contact, e.g. the Roman Empire. The term `Kurdistan` was first mentioned in the 11th century and since then refers to a vast, mostly mountainous area inhabited by Kurds, Armenians, Arabs, Turkmens, Azeri and Syriacs.
Dividing a homeland
In 1639 Kurdistan was divided for the first time. After having waged many bloody battles against each other, the Persian and the Ottoman Empires signed the Kasr-ı Şirin-Treaty. It divided Kurdistan into two parts. The western part fell under the rule of the Ottomans while Persia claimed the East. Nevertheless, the many Kurdish tribes still had plenty of opportunities to form confederations among themselves or develop relations with their neighboring power centers. Yet, beginning in the early 19th century the increasing intervention of capitalist global powers like France and Britain, led to the further division of Kurdistan after World War I. With the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 Kurdistan was split into four parts. Now the newly formed nation states Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran claimed parts of Kurdistan for themselves. This status has continued until today. Thus defying the national identity of millions of Kurds that consider themselves one people despite their diversity.
Diversity of Kurdistan
The homeland of the Kurds – Kurdistan – is a vast geography sheltering a great diversity of languages, regional cultures, natural environments, religious beliefs and social structures. The Kurds are a people united in diversity. While each region has a specific beauty to itself that its inhabitants proudly identify with, Kurds at the same time consider themselves one people. The diversity and unity of them has grown steadily and naturally during thousands of years. The deep-rooted nature of Kurdish culture explains the insistence of the Kurds on their right to a united, self-governed homeland.
North Kurdistan (southeastern Turkey) is both geographically and demographically the biggest part of Kurdistan. Home to about 25 million Kurds its geography is characterized by vast mountain ranges, a water-rich environment including the major rivers Tigris and Euphrates and rich agricultural lands. It has historically been home to many different religious communities like Alevis, Ezidis, Assyrian Christians, Jews and Muslims. Important cities in the northern part of Kurdistan are Amed (Diyarbakir), Cizre, Nusaybin, Van or Riha (Urfa). Village life is still vivid with thousands of small settlements spread across the mountains and valleys. Nomadic communities also exist keeping alive many of the oldest Kurdish traditions. Like in the other parts of Kurdistan many inhabitants earn their living with agriculture and live stock. Historically, North Kurdistan has witnessed hundreds of uprisings against empires like the Ottomans or the colonial policy of the Turkish nation-state. Today, too, the political, cultural and military struggle for a free Kurdistan finds strong support in the cities and villages of North Kurdistan.
Western Kurdistan (northern Syria) or Rojava is deeply connected with the northern part. For centuries it mainly served as an agricultural area and pastureland for Kurdish tribes from the north. Thousands of small villages were built in the course of thousands of years while cities only really developed after the occupation by the French and the foundation of the Syrian nation-state. Rojava is the smallest part of Kurdistan being home to a population of about four million. Apart from the mountainous Efrin region in the West the area is characterized by flat land suitable for agricultural use due to its fertility and rich water resources. The Kobane region is characterized by the Euphrates river flowing along its western border while the Tigris river constitutes the eastern border between West and South Kurdistan. Cities like Qamishlo, Heseke, Serekaniye and Kobane are among the biggest population centers in the area. Rojava has for centuries been home to Armenian, Assyrian, Chechen and Arab communities, too. The Efrin region encompasses many Ezidi and Alevi villages. Tribal customs still play an important role in everyday life, especially in the regions of Kobane and Cizire. Having been a center for Kurdish literature and intellectual activities for decades the population of Rojava started to strongly support the Kurdish freedom struggle in the 1980s. Thus taking a clear stance against the Syrian state policy of denial, assimilation, suppression and poverty. Today, Rojava is known world-wide for its heroic fight against the Islamic State (IS) and the revolution which started in 2012. Based on self-governed communes, women`s liberation and ecology the inhabitants of Rojava together with the other peoples of the region have built their own democratic system that today goes far beyond the mostly Kurdish populated areas: the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.
South Kurdistan (northern Iraq) was separated from the other parts of Kurdistan based on the Musul-Kirkuk-Treaty of June 5, 1926 between Britain and Turkey. Ever since it has been subject to special attention and policies of Western powers. With a population of ten million it is the third largest part of Kurdistan. The South Kurdish population can look back at a long history of uprisings against foreign occupation. It was the Baban uprising in 1806 that marked the historical beginning of the modern Kurdish struggle for independence. This resistance against capitalist global powers and their regional partners started in South Kurdistan and continues until today. Geographically the region is characterized by vast mountainous areas in the North and East with wide flat land more to the West. Rich oil resources have attracted the attention of international powers for centuries. Yet, the region`s ample water sources and its fertile soil historically constitute the economic basis of the area. Rice, grains or pomegranate are only a few of the many agricultural products. Culturally South Kurdistan is home to both a Sorani and Kurmanci population while the Ezidis in Sinjar region constitute an important community, too. Large cities like Hewler (Erbil), Kirkuk, Dohuk or Sulaymania form major population centers with villages being spread all over the mountainous parts of South Kurdistan. Like in the North, this part of Kurdistan has also witnessed the forceful depopulation of thousands of villages. Saddam Hussein`s regime brutally suppressed any Kurdish calls for freedom and justice especially in the 1970s and 80s. Despite large economic resources due to the local oil industry and the granting of autonomy since the early 1990s, deep social, economic and political problems continue until today. The South Kurdish population has traditionally offered strong support for the Kurdish freedom struggle, be it the Peshmerga forces or the PKK guerrilla in the mountains of the area.
Rojhilat or East Kurdistan (north-western Iran), as the second largest part of Kurdistan, is home to more than 15 million Kurds. The Kurds of East Kurdistan have not only waged a struggle for their own rights, but have also been an active part of the struggle for freedom and democracy all over Iran. The epic resistance of `DimDim Castle` still nurtures the spirit of freedom and democracy in Iran. The Kurds have risen up against the state-sponsored repression against them and have made great sacrifices to this end. The `Simko Shkak Uprising` and the foundation of the Kurdistan Republic in Mahabad in 1946 constitute Rojhilat’s quest for its rights in the post World War era. The Kurds took an active part in the Iranian revolution of 1979, and under the leadership of parties like Komala and HDKI resisted against the Islamic Republic’s denial of Kurdish rights. When the state-sponsored terror forced these parties into a refugee life, an air of dissolution covered the social and political atmosphere of Rojhilat. But with the rise of the PKK, and especially after the abduction of leader Abdullah Ocalan via an international conspiracy, the Rojhilat people found new hope and identified themselves with the PKK struggle. Since 1999, all major national-democratic movements have been inspired by the PKK struggle. This marks a new era in the struggle of Rojhilat for freedom and democracy. The establishment of PJAK and KODAR have created great hopes for the people of Rojhilat and other peoples in Iran. Iran’s policy of intimidation, imprisonment, torture, and execution has not been able to curbs the people`s resolve for freedom. Today, the Kurds are a pioneering force on the protests against Iran’s Sharia law and state suppression.
Importance of Kurdistan in the 21st century
With the global capitalist system in crisis the Middle East has been the center of attention for almost three decades. Today, all global powers are engaged in what we consider a `World War III` that aims at renewing capitalism by soundly rooting it in the Middle East. Kurdistan today finds itself in the center of this war. For two hundred years the Kurds have paid enormous sacrifices for their resistance against capitalism and colonialism. Since the late 1970s they have put great efforts as a people into building and supporting their very own freedom movement: the PKK. Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK and the Kurdish people as a whole have together been self-consciously demanding their right to decide for themselves how they want to live. As a result of this decades-long struggle the Freedom Movement of Kurdistan has developed a clear vision for the future of the Middle East and beyond: Democratic Confederalism.
With the whole Middle East being a battleground of global and regional powers, there is a third force that is increasingly making its voice heard: the force of the different peoples of the region. While global powers like the USA, Britain, Germany or Russia are involved in the overall effort of reinventing the capitalist system, regional powers like Turkey or Iran are more focused on protecting the status-quo. It is peoples like Kurds, Arabs, Armenians, Persians and Turkmens that are leading a democratic struggle. Nobody can clearly predict how the crisis of capitalism with its center in the Middle East will end. Yet, we know as a certainty that it will be the organizational strength, appropriate tactics and strategies of the different forces involved that will define the results. The Kurds as the most organized people in the region have shouldered the responsibility to engage in this struggle for democracy. Supported by an ever growing number of Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Turks and people from around the world, the success or defeat of their struggle will have a decisive impact on whether capitalism will be able to establish itself fully in the Middle East and thus gain new energy. If the struggle for democracy and freedom in Kurdistan and the Middle East prevails the democratic forces and peoples in the world will be able to take a deep breath and finally put capitalism, states and patriarchy in the dustbin of history. This is why what is happening in Kurdistan today is of such great importance for the future of the world as a whole.
With this truth in mind we work every day to strengthen our struggle for Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan, the Middle East and beyond. We believe that supporting our struggle is vital to building a future of humanity worth living. Our success in achieving freedom and democracy in Kurdistan and the Middle East, we have far-reaching ramifications all over the world.