Geography/History The Kurds: A Nation Without a State Introduction Of all the ethnic groups in the world, the Kurds are one of the largest that has no state to call their own. According to historian William Westermann, "The Kurds can present a better claim to race purity...than any people which now inhabits Europe." (Bonner, p. 63, 1992) Over the past hundred years, the desire for an independent Kurdish state has created conflicts mainly with the Turkish and Iraqi populations in the areas where most of the Kurds live. This conflict has important geographical implications as well. The history of the Kurdish nation, the causes for these conflicts, and an analysis of the situation will be discussed in this paper. History of the Kurds The Kurds are a Sunni Muslim people living primarily in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. The 25 million Kurds have a distinct culture that is not at all like their Turkish, Persian, and Arabic neighbors (Hitchens, p. 36, 1992). It is this cultural difference between the groups that automatically creates the potential for conflict. Of the 25 million Kurds, approximately 10 million live in Turkey, four million in Iraq, five million in Iran, and a million in Syria, with the rest scattered throughout the rest of the world (Bonner, p. 46, 1992). The Kurds also have had a long history of conflict with these other ethnic groups in the Middle East, which we will now look at. The history of Kurds in the area actually began during ancient times. However, the desire for a Kurdish homeland did not begin until the early 1900's, around the time of World War I. In his Fourteen Points, President Woodrow Wilson promised the Kurds a sovereign state (Hitchens, p. 54, 1992). The formation of a Kurdish state was supposed to have been accomplished through the Treaty of Sevres in 1920 which said that the Kurds could have an independent state if they wanted one (Bonner, p. 46, 1992). With the formation of Turkey in 1923, Kemal Ataturk, the new Turkish President, threw out the treaty and denied the Kurds their own state. This was the beginning of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. At about this same time, the Kurds attempted to establish a semi-independent state, and actually succeeded in forming the Kingdom of Kurdistan, which lasted from 1922-1924; later, in 1946, some of the Kurds established the Mahabad Republic, which lasted for only one year (Prince, p. 17, 1993). In 1924, Turkey even passed a law banning the use of the Kurdish language in public places. Another group of people to consider is the Kurds living in Iraq. Major conflict between the Kurds and Iraqis did not really begin until 1961, when a war broke out that lasted until 1970. Around this time, Saddam Hussein came to power in Iraq. In 1975, Hussein adopted a policy of eradicating the Kurds from his country. Over the next fifteen years, the Iraqi army bombed Kurdish villages, and poisoned the Kurds with cyanide and mustard gas (Hitchens, p. 46, 1992). It is estimated that during the 1980's, Iraqis destroyed some 5000 Kurdish villages (Prince, p. 22, 1993). From this point, we move into the recent history and current state of these conflicts between the Kurds and the Turks, and the Kurds against the Iraqis. Causes for Conflict The reasons for these conflicts have great relevance to geography. The areas of geography relating to these specific conflicts are a historical claim to territory on the part of the Kurds, cultural geography, economic geography, and political geography. These four areas of geography can best explain the reasons for these Kurdish conflicts. First, the Kurds have a valid historical claim to territory. They have lived in the area for over 2000 years. For this reason, they desire the establishment of a Kurdish homeland. Iraqis and Turks, while living in the area for a long period of time, cannot make a historical claim to that same area. The conflict arises, however, because the area happens to lie within the borders of Iraq and Turkey. Even though the Kurds claim is valid, the Turks and Iraqis have chosen to ignore it and have tried to wipe out the Kurds. Second, and probably most important, is that this conflict involves cultural geography. The Kurds are ethnically and culturally different from both the Turks and the Iraqis. They speak a different language, and