In the continuing conflict in Iraq, Kurds frequently are mentioned alongside Iraq’s Sunni and Shia Muslim populations as one of the key groups involved in power struggles for which sharp religious divides have played a major part. But while the Kurds are a crucial part of Iraq’s political makeup, they are an ethnic group, not a distinct religious sect within Islam. Kurds are more appropriately compared to Arabs, the largest ethnic group in Iraq, or other regional ethnic groups such as Assyrians or Turkmen.
Much has been reported about the desire of many Kurds for greater autonomy or even independence from Baghdad. However, when it comes to religion, Kurds share a good deal in common with the Arab majority, especially Sunni Muslims.
Overall, Arabs represent 78% of Iraq’s population, while Kurds are 16% and other, smaller ethnic groups constitute the remainder, according to a 2011 Pew Research survey. In terms of religious sect, Iraqi Arabs are somewhat split: Our survey found that most said they were Shia Muslims (62%), but about three-in-ten identified themselves as Sunnis (30%) and 6% said they were “just Muslim.”
Nearly all Iraqi Kurds consider themselves Sunni Muslims. In our survey, 98% of Kurds in Iraq identified themselves as Sunnis and only 2% identified as Shias. (A small minority of Iraqi Kurds, including Yazidis, are not Muslims.) But being a Kurd does not necessarily mean alignment with a particular religious sect. In neighboring Iran, according to our data, Kurds were split about evenly between Sunnis and Shias.
Although recent conflicts in the region may have resulted in population shifts, our survey found that overall, Shia Arabs made up about half of Iraq’s population (49%), Sunni Arabs comprised about a quarter (24%) and Sunni Kurds were a somewhat smaller share (15%). Other Muslims account for about 8% of Iraq’s population. Five percent of Iraq’s population does not identify as Muslim.
Read more on PEW Research org
Watch Video on ‘Who are the Kurds’ — The most tolerant, pluralistic and diverse people throughout the history
Published on 3 May 2012
Who are the Kurds
There is a saying among the Kurds: “No friends but the mountains.” For, indeed, the world has scarcely noticed when century after century, conqueror after conqueror has driven these once nomadic tribes deep within their beloved mountains to preserve their culture, their language and their lives.
Hidden in the shadows of history, resistance against repression became the Kurdish way of life, until atrocities inflicted by a dictator named Saddam Hussein sent shock waves throughout the world causing people of ever nation to ask, “Who are the Kurds?”
For many, awareness arrived on ‘Bloody Friday’ in March of nineteen eighty-eight when Saddam dropped poisonous gas on the Kurdish city of Halabja killing five thousand within minutes, followed by seven thousand more as the bombing continued for days.
Halabja was not Saddam’s only chemical attack against Iraq’s Kurds, it was simply the worst, captured in all its horrific detail, making it a symbol of the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein.
INTERVIEW: RIZGAR HAMAWANDI
Saddam tried to wipe Kurdish people from the face of the earth. The people in Kurdistan are so happy because of the liberation and because now they can live in peace and free.
NARRATOR: To trace the history of the Kurds, one must begin at the beginning — for it was here, in the land some believe was once the Garden of Eden, that this resilient ancient people first left their mark upon the world.
Nourished by the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, archeologists believe it was within this Cradle of Civilization that Kurdish ancestors first pioneered agriculture, animal husbandry, weaving, metal work and the making of pottery.
NARRATOR: For visitors, a trip through the land of the Kurds is a trip through Biblical history. The great prophets Nahum, Jonah, Habakkuk, and Daniel are all buried within the vast borders of what came to be known as Kurdistan.
The city of Amadiya still stands, marking the place many believe wise men known as magi began their journey to follow a great star that appeared in the sky.
As centuries passed, these tribes would fall to the forces of Alexander the Great at the Battle of Gaugamela…and later rise to their zenith as traders along the legendary Silk Road.
In time the Mongol hordes would make them prisoners…followed by the Ottomans who would make them princes.
But whether their occupiers were good or bad, killers or saints, the Kurds would learn to do what they must to survive.
At the end of World War I the Kurds were finally promised independence with the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of new nation-states. Instead, with the stroke of a pen, Kurdistan was parceled out among Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq.
Today, the world’s thirty million Kurds, equivalent to the population of Canada, make up the largest ethnic group in existence without a recognized state of their own.
A brief survey of The History of the Kurds — By Kendal NEZAN, President of the Kurdish Institute of Paris
Who Are the Kurds?
Brushing over a depiction of 25 centuries of history in half an hour is obviously a tough task. That means about one minute per century! In this quick skimming through 1 can limit myself to merely pointing out a few major landmards and mentioning facts likely to help in the understanding of the present situation of the Kurds. 1 hope the specialists present here won’t hold this approach of reducing and simplifying against me and, in response to questions raised during the discussion, I’d be happy to consider any aspect, which seems to you to have been insufficiently covered, in more depth.
The first question which comes to mind is that of the origins of the Kurds. Who are they? Where do they come from? Historians generally agree to consider them as belonging to the Iranian branch of the large family of Indo-European races. In prehistoric times, kingdoms called Mitanni, Kassites and Hourites reigned these mountainous areas, situated between the Iranian plateau and the Euphrates. In VII BC, the Medes, the Kurds’ equivalent of the Gauls for the French, founded an empire which, in 612 BC, conquered the powerful Assyria and spread its domination through the whole of Iran as well as central Anatolia. The date 612, is moreover, considered by Kurdish nationalists as the beginning of the 1st Kurdish year; for them we are at present in 2601!
Kurds — on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Kurd” redirects here. For other uses, see Kurd (disambiguation).
They are an Iranian people and speak the Kurdish languages, which are members of the Iranian branch of Indo-European languages. The Kurds number about 30 million, the majority living in West Asia, with significant Kurdish diaspora communities in the cities of western Turkey, in Armenia, Georgia, Israel, Azerbaijan, Russia, Lebanon and, in recent decades, some European countries and the United States.
The Kurds are in the majority in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and are a significant minority group in the neighboring countries Turkey, Syria and Iran, where Kurdish nationalist movements continue to pursue (greater) autonomy.
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Read more on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdish_people