Kurdish refugees

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kurdish refugees -1991

The problem of Kurdish refugees and displaced people arose in the 20th century in the Middle East, and continues to loom today. The Kurds (Kurdish: کورد, Kurd‎), are an ethnic group in Western Asia, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

Displacements of Kurds had already been happening within the Ottoman Empire, on pretext of local rebellions' suppression, over the period of its domination of the northern Fertile Crescent and the adjacent areas of Zagros and Taurus. In the early 20th century, massive displacements were forced upon Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire (especially during the First World War and the Turkish War of Independence), but many of the Kurds, as well, suffered similar attitude as some of their tribal confederations cooperated with Ottomans, while others were opposing it and revolted in several areas. The situation for Kurds in the newborn nation of Turkey turned disastrous on the course of the 1920s and 1930s, when large scale Kurdish rebellions, resulted in massive massacres and expulsion of hundreds of thousands. Since the 1970s, renewed violence of the Kurdish–Turkish conflict created about 3,000,000 displaced, many of which remain unsettled.

In Iraq, the Kurdish strive for autonomy and independence loomed into armed conflicts since the 1919 Mahmud Barzanji revolt. The displacement however became most significant during the Iraqi-Kurdish conflict and parallel active Arabizations programs of the Ba'athist regime,[1] which looked to cleanse northern Iraq of its Kurdish majority. Tens of thousands of Kurds turned displaced and fled the war zones following First and Second Kurdish Iraqi Wars in 1960s and 1970s. The Iran–Iraq War, which spanned from 1980 to 1988, the first Gulf War and subsequent rebellions all together generated several millions of primarily Kurdish refugees, who mostly found refuge in Iran, while others dispersed into Kurdish diaspora in Europe and the Americas. Iran alone provided asylum for 1,400,000 Iraqi refugees, mostly Kurds, who had been uprooted as a result of the Persian Gulf War (1990–91) and the subsequent rebellions.

Today, a large portion of the Kurdish population is composed of Kurdish refugees and displaced and their descendants. Refugees themselves still comprise a significant proportion of Iranian and Syrian Kurds. Recently, the Syrian Kurdish community was declared to be granted civil rights as part of the supposed reforms by Bashar al-Assad, as an attempt to "pacify" the 2011 Syrian uprising. However, human rights groups said only 3,000 out of some 200,000 Kurds were given an official status in Syria.

Refugee crises[edit]

Kurdish refugees and displaced during World War I[edit]

Demographic catastrophe of the Kurdish rebellions against Turkey[edit]

Refugees of the Kurdish-Iraqi conflict[edit]

First Kurdish Iraqi War[edit]

Second Kurdish Iraqi War and the Arabization campaign in North Iraq[edit]

For decades, Saddam Hussein 'Arabized' northern Iraq.[1] Sunni Arabs have driven out at least 70,000 Kurds from the Mosul’s western half.[2] Nowadays, eastern Mosul is Kurdish and western Mosul is Sunni Arab.[3]

Iran-Iraq War and the al-Anfal campaign[edit]

Persian Gulf war and consequent rebellions[edit]

U.S. Marines construct a refugee camp to house Kurdish refugees, 1997

In 1991, when suppression of Kurdish rebellion in the north was initiated by Saddam and massacres of the Kurdish population appeared, Turkey ended being host to 550,000 Iraqi Kurds in a few days.[4] Following the 1991 uprising of the Iraqi people against Saddam Hussein, many Kurds were forced to flee the country to become refugees in bordering regions of Iran and Turkey. A northern no-fly zone was established following the First Gulf War in 1991 to facilitate the return of Kurdish refugees.

2003 Iraq War[edit]

The policies of Kurdification by KDP and PUK after 2003 tried to reverse the previous trend of Arabization, with non-Kurds being pressured to move, in particular Assyrian Christians and Iraqi Turkmen, which have prompted serious inter-ethnic problems.[5]

Displacement during the Kurdish–Turkish conflict (1978-present)[edit]

In total up to 3,000,000 people (mainly Kurds) have been displaced in the Kurdish–Turkish conflict,[6] an estimated 1,000,000 of which were still internally displaced as of 2009.[7]

Refugees of Kurdish-Iranian conflict[edit]

Further information: Iran-PJAK conflict

Large-scale confrontations between Iranian military and PJAK resulted also in displacement of Kurdish civilians. By July 26, more than 50 PJAK fighters and 8 Revolutionary Guards had been killed,[8] and at least 100 PJAK fighters had been wounded according to Iranian sources,[9] while over 800 people had been displaced by the fighting.[10][verification needed]

Moqebleh (Moquoble) refugee camp[edit]

After the 2004 events in Qamishli, thousands of Kurds fled Syria to the Kurdish Region of Iraq.[11] Local authorities there, the UNHCR and other UN agencies established the Moqebleh camp at a former Army base near Dohuk.

Syrian civil war[edit]

In response to the crisis in Syria, the Kurdish Regional Government and UNHCR established the Domiz Refugee Camp, across the border from Kurdish Syrian territories in the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. The camp, which is majority Kurdish, accommodates thousands of Syrian Kurds, offering shelter and medical care. A nearby camp offers men the option of military training, with the intention of protecting Kurdish-held territories in Syria. [12]

Kobane crisis[edit]

Main article: Siege of Kobane
Kurdish refugees from Kobanî in a refugee camp, on the Turkish side of the Syria–Turkey border.

As of result of the Kobane crisis in September 2014, most of the Syrian Kurdish population of the Kobane Canton fled into Turkey. More than 300,000 Syrian refugees are estimated to have flowed into Turkey.[13] |notes=

Kurdish diaspora out of the Middle East[edit]

In recent years, many Kurdish asylum seekers from both Iran and Iraq have settled in the United Kingdom (especially in the town of Dewsbury and in some northern areas of London), which has sometimes caused media controversy over their right to remain.[14] There have been tensions between Kurds and the established Muslim community in Dewsbury,[15][16] which is home to very traditional mosques such as the Markazi.

There was substantial immigration of Kurds into North America, who are mainly political refugees and immigrants seeking economic opportunity. An estimated 100,000 Kurds are known to live in the United States, with 50,000 in Canada and less than 15,000 in Australia.[citation needed]

Related ethno-religious groups[edit]

Kurdish Jews[edit]

Almost all of the Kurdish Jews of north Iraq, who were numbered around 30,000 in 1950, were evacuated to Israel during operation Ezra and Nehemiah. A significant portion of those Jews self-identified as part of the Kurdish nation, despite their Jewish ethnicity and religion, and some still consider themselves as Kurds. All together 150,000 Iraqi and Kurdish Jews were encouraged to leave in 1950 by the Iraqi Government, which had eventually ordered in 1951 "the expulsion of Jews who refused to sign a statement of anti-Zionism."[17][verification needed] Significant number of Kurdish Jews composed the exodus wave of Jews from Iran in the 1950s, with only tiny communities remaining today in Sanandaj and Mahabad. Most of the newly arriving Kurdish Jews were housed in Israeli transition camps, known as Maabarot, later incorporated into development towns. Today they and their descendants are a major part of the 150,000-200,000 strong Kurdish Jewish community in Israel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "_Toc78803800 Forced Displacement and Arabization of Northern Iraq". Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Sunni Arabs driving out Kurds in northern Iraq
  3. ^ The other Iraqi civil war, Asia Times
  4. ^ "Turkey Concerned at Growing Number of Syrian Refugees". VOA. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  5. ^ Stansfield, Gareth. (2007). Iraq: People, History, Politics. p71
  6. ^ "Conflict Studies Journal at the University of New Brunswick". Lib.unb.ca. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  7. ^ Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) – Norwegian Refugee Council. "Need for continued improvement in response to protracted displacement". Internal-displacement.org. Retrieved 2011-04-15. 
  8. ^ Kurd rebels kill Basij militiaman: Iran agency
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ "Deaths Reported in Fighting Between Iran, Kurd Rebels". Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  11. ^ "Kurdish refugees from Syria languish in Iraq". YouTube. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  12. ^ "The Fight for Kurdistan". The New Yorker. 22 September 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  13. ^ "Syria says giving military support to Kurds in Kobani". The Daily Star. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  14. ^ MP: Failed asylum seekers must go back – Dewsbury Reporter
  15. ^ "'I will not be muzzled' – Malik". Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  16. ^ "UK Polling Report Election Guide: Dewsbury". Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  17. ^ "A history of modern Palestine: one land, two peoples,by Ilan Pappé, 2004, p176". Retrieved 13 November 2014.