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A Brief History of Kurdistan

The Kurds are one of the indigenous peoples of the Mesopotamian plains and the highlands in what are now south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Syria, northern Iraq, north-western Iran and south-western Armenia. Between 25 and 35 million Kurds inhabit a mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. They make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation state.

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The Kurdish people have rich and beautiful cultural traditions. They range from their clothes, customs, handiwork and music. Carpet weaving is the most significant folk art. The traditional Kurdish rug uses Kurdish symbols. It is possible to read the dreams, wishes and hopes of the rug maker from the sequence of symbols used. It is this signification and communication both individually and grouped into Kurdish rug making Kurdish people study how meaning is constructed and understood by talking with the rug maker.

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Kurds are also famous for their music and poetry. The most popular form of poetry is called lawj, depicting adventure in love and battle. Everything was orally spoken until the first Kurdish literature appeared in the 7th century AD. 

Dengbej refers to a musician who performs traditional Kurdish folk songs. The word ‘deng’ means voice and ‘bej’ means ‘to sing.’ Dengbej are best known for their “stran,” or song of mourning.

Traditional Kurdish instruments include the flute, drums, and the ut-ut (similar to a guitar).

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The Struggle for Kurdish Cultural Survival

In addition to political repression, the Kurds have also experienced cultural repression.  In Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, there were extensive campaigns at forced assimilation.  Kurds were forbidden to speak Kurdish in public, they had to change their names to local ethnic names if they wanted a job or to enroll their children in school. Their books, music and clothing were considered contraband and they had to hide them in their homes. If authorities searched their homes and found anything Kurdish, they could be imprisoned, and many were. In recent years, both Iran and Turkey have relaxed their systemic cultural repression, while Iraqi Kurds have achieved autonomy.

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In the early 20th Century, many Kurds began to consider the creation of a homeland - generally referred to as "Kurdistan". After World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. 

Such hopes were dashed three years later, however, when the Treaty of Lausanne, which set the boundaries of modern Turkey, made no provision for a Kurdish state and left Kurds with minority status in their respective countries. Over the next 80 years, any move by Kurds to set up an independent state was brutally quashed.

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Sadly, in more recent years Kurdistan has become a conflict zone due to the political climate of the region and countries surrounding it leaving many of its inhabitants impoverished and ill. To help raise awareness and help the Kurdish population, please view our projects and visit the following link and donate to Bloom For Growth.