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Map of Iraqi Kurdistan
  Official territory of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region
  Territory controlled by Iraqi Kurdistan
  Territory claimed by Iraqi Kurdistan
  Rest of Iraq
  Iraqi Kurdistan proper controlled by the Iraqi government

Kurdification is a cultural change in which non-ethnic Kurds or/and non-ethnic Kurdish area becomes Kurdish. This can happen both naturally (as seen in Turkish Kurdistan) and deliberately (as seen in Iraq after the invasion of Iraq).[1][2][3][4]

The notion of kurdification is different from country to country. In Turkish Kurdistan, many ethnic Armenians,[5] Bulgarians,[6] Circassians,[7] Chechens,[8] Georgians,[9] Ingushs,[8] and Ossetians have become kurdified, as a result of fleeing to the region and having subsequently interacted with ethnic Kurds.


Caucasian refugees (1860s-1910s)[edit]

When refugees from Caucasus reached the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople decided not to settle these in Kurdistan due to the extreme poverty and lack of material resources for the refugees. Yet after some time, the Ottomans started seeing the refugees as a chance to diminish the Kurdish claim to the region and allowed the refugees to settle in the region.[10] In 1862, Circassian refugees from the Shapsug tribe arrived in the Kurdish areas of Ahlat and Adilcevaz and settled in the three Kurdish villages of Yoğurtyemez, Xanik (Çukurtarla), Develik and founded the village of Koxiş (Yolçatı).[11]

The first big wave of Caucasian refugees to Kurdistan was in 1864 when 15,000 to 20,000 refugees settled in Sarıkamış, founding new villages and settling in abandoned Greek and Armenian villages.[12] These refugees included Circassians, Chechens, Laks and Avars.[13] The largest group of refugees were Circassias who fled the Circassia region (part of the Russian Empire) during the ethnic cleansing of Circassians.[14][15] Two years later, Shapsug tribe with members of the Abzakh tribe founded the villages of Bolethan (Karapolat), Arnis (Güzgülü) and Ximsor (Eskibalta) near Bingöl.[16][15][17] Concurrently with the Circassian migration, Ossetians settled in the villages of Xulik (Otluyazı) and Ağcaviran (Akçaören) in Ahlat,[18][19][20] Yaramış, Karaağıl, Hamzaşeyx (Sarıpınar), Simo (Kurganlı) in the eastern Muş region, and Lekbudak (Budaklı) near Karaçoban.[20] According to the Russian intelligence officer Aleksandr Kolyubakin, no less than 1,500 Ossetians lived in the Sanjak of Muş in the late 1880s.[18]

Chechens and Ingushs mostly settled in Varto area, in the villages of Arincik (Kıyıbaşı), Çarbuhur (Bağiçi), Tepeköy, Artet (Serinova), Ulusırt and Arinç (Çöğürlü),[8] Avars who settled in Kayalık village,[21] and Circassians of the Kabardian tribe founded the village of Narlı Çerkezleri (Eskinarlı) in Pazarcık area.[15] There is also a Georgian village in Diyarbakir Province.[9]

From early stage on, these Caucasians went through a process of kurdification and thereby had Kurdish as their mother tongue.[22][7][23]

20th-21st century and PKK[edit]

When the Kurdish question rose in Turkey, it also had an effect on their Caucasian neighbours. Even today, there is an aversion from joining the Kurds in their conflict against the Turkish state,[24] but many individuals of Caucasian origin joined the Kurdistan Workers' Party.[25][26] As part of their campaign, the Kurdish party Peoples' Democratic Party won most Caucasian villages in Turkish Kurdistan.[27][28][29]


Through the 20th century, an unknown number of Armenians living in the mountainous region of Tunceli (Dersim) had converted to Alevism.[30] During the Armenian Genocide, many of the Armenians in the region were saved by their Kurdish neighbors.[31] According to Mihran Prgiç Gültekin, the head of the Union of Dersim Armenians, around 75% of the population of Dersim are "converted Armenians."[32][33] He reported in 2012 that over 200 families in Tunceli have declared their Armenian descent, but others are afraid to do so.[32][34] In April 2013, Aram Ateşyan, the acting Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, stated that 90% of Tunceli's population is of Armenian origin.[35]


Until 2011 (end of main U.S. military presence)[edit]

The Kurdish government defended the Kurdification with the implementation of article 140 of the Iraqi constitution which ensured the restoration of the situation as it was before Saddam Hussein's genocide and Arabization policies against the Kurdish population during the Al-Anfal Campaign and the Kurdish Feyli genocide.

Intensified tensions between Kurds and Sunni Arabs led to violent clashes between both of them since Saddam's Arabization and genocide campaigns against the Kurdish population in Iraqi Kurdistan. On 21 August 2006, Shabak Democratic Party leader Hunain Qaddo proposed the creation of a separate province within the borders of the Nineveh Plains, in order to combat the "Arabization" and "Kurdification" of Iraqi minorities. The Iraqi government voted against the proposition.[36][37][38][39]

After 2011[edit]

Some Assyrians in the Iraqi Kurdistan region complained that construction plans were "aimed at affecting a demographic change that divides Assyrian blocs". In addition, some Yazidis, Shabaks and Turkmen have reported that a policy of cultural and security control was being implemented against them, especially in areas which belonged to the Kurds before Saddam's Al-Anfal Campaign.[40]

In 2016, David Romano, Professor of Middle East Politics, said that without the YPG and Peshmerga, the Assyrians of northern Syria and Iraq would likely all be dead, lying in some jihadist-dug mass grave.[41]

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum published news which argued that the Yazidis have frequently been pressured to assimilate to both Arab and Kurdish ethnicities.[42] Other sources have stated that Yazidis already speak Northern Kurdish which is one of the two major dialects of Kurdish language. [43]

Gareth Stansfield claimed Kurdification or re-Kurdification (post-Saddam) has been an open policy of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq since 2003.[44]

During the Iraqi civil war, Iraqi army troops fled their posts around the Nineveh Plains while ISIL attacked. Later, KRG forces, with the support of coalition airstrikes, captured these areas from ISIL. Since then, there have been disputes between pro-government Assyrians and Kurds, as the former have either asked the Kurds to leave or promised them autonomy.

In 2011, some Yazidi activists voiced their "concern over forced assimilation into Kurdish identity". Some have accused the Kurdish and Iraqi parties of diverting US $12 million of reconstruction funds allocated for Yazidi areas in Jebel Sinjar to a Kurdish village and marginalizing them politically.[4] According to Sweden-based economist David Ghanim, the goal of some tactics of the KRG had been to push Shabak and Yazidi communities to identify as Kurds, which has been strongly denied by KRG authorities. He also claimed that the Kurdish authorities are working to impose Kurdish identity on the Yazidis and the Shabaks.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Al-Ali, Pratt, Nadje Sadig, Nicola Christine (2009). What kind of liberation?: women and the occupation of Iraq. University of California Press. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-520-25729-0. 
  2. ^ Preti Taneja, Minority Rights Group International (2007). Assimilation, exodus, eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003. Minority Rights Group International. p. 19. 
  3. ^ "Overcrowding and Kurdification threaten Christians in northern Iraq" (AsiaNews, October 2007)
  5. ^ Mehrdad Izady. The Kurds: A Concise History And Fact Book.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ Harmen van der Wilt. The Genocide Convention: The Legacy of 60 Years. p. 147. 
  7. ^ a b Yeldar Barış Kalkan (2006). Çerkes halkı ve sorunları: Çerkes tarih, kültür, coğrafya ve siyasetine sınıfsal yaklaşım. p. 175. 
  8. ^ a b c Caucasian battlefields : a history of the wars on the Turco-Caucasian border, 1828-1921. Cambridge University Press. p. 104. ISBN 9781108013352. 
  9. ^ a b "Ortayazı Köyü/Ergani/Diyarbakır". Retrieved 17 December 2016. 
  10. ^ Janet Klein (2011). The Margins of Empire: Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone. ISBN 9780804777759. 
  11. ^ "Unutulmuş Ahlat Çerkesleri-1" (in Turkish). Cerkes-Fed. 16 August 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  12. ^ Georgi Chochiev and Bekir Koç (2006). "Migrants from the North Caucasus in Eastern Anatolia: Some Notes on Their Settlement and Adaptation". Journal of Asian History. Harrassowitz Verlag. 40 (183). 
  13. ^ "Kars - Index Anatolicus". Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  14. ^ Anita L. P. Burdett (1998). Armenia : political and ethnic boundaries 1878 - 1948. Archive Ed. p. 1017. ISBN 9781852079550. 
  15. ^ a b c "Türkiye'deki Çerkes Köyleri" (in Turkish). 6 September 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  16. ^ "Karapolat - Index Anatolicus". Index Anatolicus. 
  17. ^ "Eskibalta - Index Anatolicus". Index Anatolicus. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  18. ^ a b Anthony Gorman. Diasporas of the Modern Middle East. ISBN 9780748686117. 
  19. ^ Çerkes fıkraları (in Turkish). University of Wisconsin - Madison. 1994. p. 10. 
  20. ^ a b "Köylere Göre Sülaler [Cached]". Alan Vakfi. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  21. ^ "Varto - Index Anatolicus". Index Anatolicus. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  22. ^ Ahmet Buran Ph.D., Türkiye'de Diller ve Etnik Gruplar, 2012
  23. ^ Dursun Gümüşoğlu (2008). Anadolu'da bir köy: Eskikonak : antropolojik inceleme. 
  24. ^ Paul Globe. "Turkish Circassians Reject Proffered Alliance With Kurds" (in 7 April 2015). Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  25. ^ "Çerkes gerilla: PKK kendimle yüzleşmemi sağladı" (in Turkish). Özgür Gündem. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  26. ^ Kurdish Politics in Turkey: From the PKK to the KCK. Routledge. 2014. ISBN 1317271165. 
  27. ^ "Bitlis'te Oturan Çerkes Aileden HDP'ye Destek". Bitlis Radikal. 20 October 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  28. ^ "HDP Çerkesler için broşür hazırladı". Haber46. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  29. ^ "SEÇSİS - Sandık Sonuçları" (in Turkish). Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  30. ^ "Armenian Elements in the Beliefs of the Kizilbash Kurds". İnternet Haber. 27 April 2013. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  31. ^ A. Davis, Leslie (1990). Blair, Susan K., ed. The slaughterhouse province: an American diplomat's report on the Armenian genocide, 1915–1917 (2. print. ed.). New Rochelle, New York: A.D. Caratzas. ISBN 9780892414581. 
  32. ^ a b "Mihran Gultekin: Dersim Armenians Re-Discovering Their Ancestral Roots". Massis Post. Yerevan. 7 February 2011. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  33. ^ Adamhasan, Ali (5 December 2011). "Dersimin Nobel adayları..." Adana Medya (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  34. ^ "Dersim Armenians back to their roots". PanARMENIAN.Net. 7 February 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  35. ^ "Tunceli'nin yüzde 90'ı dönme Ermeni'dir". İnternet Haber (in Turkish). 27 April 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  36. ^ "Cable: 06BAGHDAD3283_a". Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  37. ^ "Hizballah Cavalcade: Quwat Sahl Nīnawā: Iraq's Shia Shabak Get Their Own Militia". JIHADOLOGY: A clearinghouse for jihādī primary source material, original analysis, and translation service. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  38. ^ "The Hero Yazidis Hope Will Save Them". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  39. ^ Matt Cetti-Roberts. "Inside the Christian Militias Defending the Nineveh Plains — War Is Boring". Medium. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  40. ^ "Iraqi Kurdistan Must Ensure Minority Rights - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  41. ^ "http://rudaw.net/english/opinion/21012016?ctl00_phMainContainer_phMain_ControlComments1_gvCommentsChangePage=3_20". rudaw.net. Retrieved 5 May 2016.  External link in |title= (help)
  42. ^ "The People of the Book and the Hierarchy of Discrimination". www.ushmm.org. Retrieved 2016-12-27. 
  43. ^ "Yezidi Language". Yezidis. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  44. ^ Rebecca Collard / Makhmour. "Kurds and Sunni Arabs Fall Out in the Wake of ISIS Fight". TIME.com. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  45. ^ Ghanim, David. Iraq's Dysfunctional Democracy. p. 34. 

General References[edit]

  • A. Bazzaz, turkmen.nl "The Kurdification procedure was soon implemented by the Kurdish leadership after toppling Saddam down in April 2003"
  • Park, Bill, The Kurds and post-Saddam political arrangements in Iraq The Adelphi Papers (2005), Taylor & Francis: "The Kurds, who are intent on the further ‘Kurdification’ of Kirkuk before any census is held"
  • Park, Bill, Iraqi scenarios, The Adelphi Papers, Volume 45, Number 374, May 2005, pp. 49–66
  • PKK Iran - Strategic Comments, 2004 - informaworld.com "recent months Turkish intelligence has begun to report Turcoman frustration with Ankara’s failure to prevent the increasing ‘Kurdification’ of northern Iraq"