Many of the Kurds’ present struggles emerged from the aftermath of World War I. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, regional powers signed the Treaty of Sèvres, envisaging, among many provisions, the future establishment of an independent Kurdish state. However, following the Turkish war of independence, under Mustafa ‘Kemal’ Atatürk and his followers, the Treaty of Lausanne was enacted instead, which sidelined the Kurdish question altogether and finalized the division of the Kurdish regions between modern Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.

The issues our people face in each country vary in nature and intensity, but there are common threads, with Kurdish regions being the scenes of genocide, crimes against humanity, extrajudicial killings, torture, mass displacement, and censorship among other abuses of international law.

Today, millions of Kurds live as internally displaced persons within other state borders, prevented from returning to their former land and livelihoods following armed conflict. Millions more live as migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers across the world.

In Iran there are presently around 10 million Kurds. Discrimination against Sunni Kurds in Shi’a Iran can be more complex than other regions due to added religious dimensions of the conflict, and also the fact that Kurds have been more actively involved in resistance against the regime than other groups. Irani state motives for repression of the Kurds are, therefore, often based on ‘security’ as much as additional factors. Incidences of executions, extrajudicial killings, and ‘disappearances’ have increased while human rights defenders and NGOs in the region have been faced with ongoing harassment.

There are around 5.5 million Kurds in Iraq. When Saddam Hussein fell from power in 2003, a new opportunity was presented for the Kurds in Iraq to tackle previous discrimination and oppression, although there is no true justice for the 182,000 Kurds killed in Anfal in 1988, those mass killings require proper care and redress for the thousands of families who continue to suffer the psychological, social, economic and political effects of the genocidal campaign.

Politically, Iraqi Kurdish regional government has the capability of ruling and promoting Kurdish identity in its inner borders. However, Turkey has tied relations with the main Kurdish party, and there are still killings and fierce disputes in the territory. Ultimately, such tension diverts attention and resources into security and away from human rights and civil issues.

In Syria, human rights abuses against the 4 million Kurdish citizens are serious and ongoing. Syria’s refusal to reinstate citizenship to 360,000 Kurds, who were stripped of it in 1962, is among the most pressing. After 2012 the Kurds and other minority ethnicities and groups started a new revolution. In North-east Syria, and especially in Rojava, society is experiencing a democratic ecological shift to a system of women’s liberation. In response, Turkey has carried out wide military operations against the Autonomous Administration of North-east Syria, displacing the Kurdish population from its hometowns. In these areas, detention without trial, torture, and curbs on freedoms of expression are particularly prevalent.

Turkey continues to systematically abuse the human rights of its estimated 30 million-strong Kurdish population. Violence and discrimination are regularly used against Kurds despite hopes that the EU accession process might encourage Turkey to improve relations. Major abuses by Turkey include torture and the employment of armed forces against civilians. The state generally refuses to account for fatalities and injuries it causes.

Freedom of expression has been particularly targeted, with many prosecutions brought against those expressing peaceful opinions. Language rights are also restricted, with technical requirements in the curriculum being introduced to make the task of teaching in Kurdish more difficult in the private schools where it is allowed.

Turkish strategic state policies are based on the denial and annihilation of the Kurdish people, including the systematic destruction of land and resources. The Kurds suffering from these policies, have chosen to resist and advocate for their ethnic, democratic, social, and political rights.

More worrying are the conditions set out in new anti-terror legislation such as the wide definition of ‘terrorist,’ the permission given to officers to use weapons ‘without hesitation’ and the decision to allow suspects to be held ‘incommunicado’ for up to 24 hours. These regulations give the Turkish state wide scope to arrest, prosecute, or shoot ‘undesirables,’ and to remain within the law.
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buildings with kurdish colors
In ancient times, Kurdistan was an important transit point for trade between the Far East and Europe on the Silk Road. In recent history, and today, it has continued to uphold this important geopolitical and geostrategic position in the Middle East due to its richness in resources such as oil, water, metal deposits, and minerals.

Kurdistan’s extraordinary wealth and strategic location are the most important reasons why our country is still divided and our people are still subjected to so much suffering. For the above reasons, Kurdistan drew the attention of the Western colonizing states in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The English, French, and Russians struggled for control over our country. Then, after World War I, they again divided it up according to their own interests.

The Russians pulled out of the region after the October Revolution of 1917. The English and French left the region as administrators after Syria and Iraq became independent, but Western economic relations and influence continue to exist in the region.
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Kurdish women with green background
The complex history of Kurdistan occupying a region of hostile and unstable nation states is the pendulum on which our liberation efforts swing as we try to align our own political and national momentum fighting for democracy as well as civil and human rights within, and amid, other nations.

And for many decades now, the spread of democracy has called for women’s rights as a necessary component to a culture of freedom for all, relying on the women’s liberation initiative to develop many theoretical, philosophical, organizational, and practical ideals in addition to integral new ways of framing history for practical use.

Additionally, the women’s liberation initiative has developed a slogan as a primary source of strength and inspiration: “Jin, Jiyan, Azadî,” which is now acquiring momentum beyond just Kurdish and Middle Eastern cultures as living, breathing inspiration for women’s liberation as essential to free societies around the world.

While liberation for Kurdistan is as complex as the matrix of cause and effect that has landed the Kurdish people in our present day statelessness, but a culture intent on living as a unified nation nevertheless, we know that women are elemental in finding a radically better way of life.

KurdDAO doesn’t pretend to be the answer to the Kurdish question, but we aim to be a component of the solution as history unfolds in real time.