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Kurdification is a cultural change in which non-ethnic Kurds or/and non-ethnic Kurdish area or/and non-Kurdish languages[1] becomes Kurdish. This can happen both naturally (as seen in Turkish Kurdistan) and deliberately (as seen in Iraq after the invasion of Iraq).[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. In Iraqi Kurdistan, currently the minorities like Turkmens, Assyrians, Yazidis and Shabaks underwent a process of Kurdification in the disputed territories of northern Iraq when Kurdish forces administrated the area until 2017.[10]


Caucasian refugees (1860s–1910s)

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.[11] 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).[12]

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.[13] These refugees included Circassians, Chechens, Laks and Avars.[14] The largest group of refugees were Circassias who fled the Circassia region (part of the Russian Empire) during the ethnic cleansing of Circassians.[15][16] Two years later, Shapsug tribe with members of the Abzakh tribe founded the villages of Bolethan (Karapolat), Arnis (Güzgülü) and Ximsor (Eskibalta) near Bingöl.[17][16][18] Concurrently with the Circassian migration, Ossetians settled in the villages of Xulik (Otluyazı) and Ağcaviran (Akçaören) in Ahlat,[19][20][21] Yaramış, Karaağıl, Hamzaşeyx (Sarıpınar), Simo (Kurganlı) in the eastern Muş region, and Lekbudak (Budaklı) near Karaçoban.[21] According to the Russian intelligence officer Aleksandr Kolyubakin, no less than 1,500 Ossetians lived in the Sanjak of Muş in the late 1880s.[19]

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,[22] and Circassians of the Kabardian tribe founded the village of Narlı Çerkezleri (Eskinarlı) in Pazarcık area.[16] 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.[23][7][24]

20th–21st century and PKK

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,[25] but some individuals of Caucasian origin joined the Kurdistan Workers' Party.[26][27] As part of their campaign, the Kurdish party Peoples' Democratic Party won most Caucasian villages in Turkish Kurdistan.[28][29][30]


Through the 20th century, an unknown number of Armenians living in the mountainous region of Tunceli (Dersim) had converted to Alevism.[31][32] According to Mihran Prgiç Gültekin, the head of the Union of Dersim Armenians, around 75% of the population of Dersim is descended from "converted Armenians."[33][34] He reported in 2012 that over 200 families in Tunceli have declared their Armenian descent, but others are afraid to do so.[33][35] In April 2013, Aram Ateşyan, the acting Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, stated that 90% of Tunceli's population is of Armenian origin.[36]



On 21 August 2006, Shabak Democratic Party leader Hunain Qaddo, proposed the creation of a separate province within the borders of the Nineveh Plain, arguing that the move was to combat the Arabization and Kurdification of Iraqi minorities. The Iraqi government voted against the proposition.[37][38][39]

After 2011

Some Assyrians in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq complained that construction plans are "aimed at affecting a demographic change that divides Assyrian blocs". Also some Yazidis, Shabaks and Turkmens have reported that they are facing a policy of cultural and security control 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]

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. 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.[44] Assyrian politicians of some towns have been replaced with Kurdish ones.[45]


See also


  1. ^ Frye, Richard Nelson (1984). The History of Ancient Iran. C.H.Beck. ISBN 9783406093975.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Preti Taneja, Minority Rights Group International (2007). Assimilation, exodus, eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003. Minority Rights Group International. p. 19.
  4. ^ "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. 2011-02-17. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-108-01335-2.
  9. ^ a b "Ortayazı Köyü/Ergani/Diyarbakır". Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  10. ^ "On Vulnerable Ground | Violence against Minority Communities in Nineveh Province's Disputed Territories". Human Rights Watch. 2009-11-10. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  11. ^ Janet Klein (2011). The Margins of Empire: Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone. ISBN 978-0-8047-7775-9.
  12. ^ "Unutulmuş Ahlat Çerkesleri-1" (in Turkish). Cerkes-Fed. 16 August 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  13. ^ 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).
  14. ^ "Kars – Index Anatolicus". Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  15. ^ Anita L. P. Burdett (1998). Armenia: Political and Ethnic Boundaries 1878–1948. Archive Ed. p. 1017. ISBN 978-1-85207-955-0.
  16. ^ a b c "Türkiye'deki Çerkes Köyleri" (in Turkish). 6 September 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  17. ^ "Karapolat – Index Anatolicus". Index Anatolicus.
  18. ^ "Eskibalta – Index Anatolicus". Index Anatolicus. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  19. ^ a b Anthony Gorman (2015-05-29). Diasporas of the Modern Middle East. ISBN 978-0-7486-8611-7.
  20. ^ Çerkes fıkraları (in Turkish). University of Wisconsin – Madison. 1994. p. 10.
  21. ^ a b "Köylere Göre Sülaler [Cached]". Alan Vakfi. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  22. ^ "Varto – Index Anatolicus". Index Anatolicus. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  23. ^ Ahmet Buran Ph.D., Türkiye'de Diller ve Etnik Gruplar, 2012
  24. ^ Dursun Gümüşoğlu (2008). Anadolu'da bir köy: Eskikonak : antropolojik inceleme.
  25. ^ Paul Globe (7 April 2015). "Turkish Circassians Reject Proffered Alliance With Kurds". Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  26. ^ "Çerkes gerilla: PKK kendimle yüzleşmemi sağladı" (in Turkish). Özgür Gündem. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  27. ^ Kurdish Politics in Turkey: From the PKK to the KCK. Routledge. 2014. ISBN 978-1-317-27116-1.
  28. ^ "Bitlis'te Oturan Çerkes Aileden HDP'ye Destek". Bitlis Radikal. 20 October 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  29. ^ "HDP Çerkesler için broşür hazırladı". Haber46. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  30. ^ "SEÇSİS – Sandık Sonuçları" (in Turkish). Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  31. ^ "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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ 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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  34. ^ Adamhasan, Ali (5 December 2011). "Dersimin Nobel adayları..." Adana Medya (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  35. ^ "Dersim Armenians back to their roots". PanARMENIAN.Net. 7 February 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  36. ^ "Tunceli'nin yüzde 90'ı dönme Ermeni'dir". İnternet Haber (in Turkish). 27 April 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  37. ^ "Cable: 06BAGHDAD3283_a". Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  38. ^ "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.
  39. ^ "Iraqi Turkmen take up arms in Kirkuk - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East". Al-Monitor. 2014-06-18. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  40. ^ "Iraqi Kurdistan Must Ensure Minority Rights". Al-Monitor. 2013-09-23. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  41. ^ "". Rudaw. Retrieved 5 May 2016. External link in |title= (help)
  42. ^ "The People of the Book and the Hierarchy of Discrimination". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2016-12-27.
  43. ^ "Yezidi Language". Yezidis. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  44. ^ Ghanim, David (2011-09-12). Iraq's Dysfunctional Democracy. p. 34. ISBN 9780313398025.
  45. ^ "Assyrian, Yezidi and Shabak Villages Are Now Under Kurdish Control in North Iraq". Retrieved 23 April 2016.

General References

  • A. Bazzaz, "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 - "recent months Turkish intelligence has begun to report Turcoman frustration with Ankara’s failure to prevent the increasing ‘Kurdification’ of northern Iraq"