Decades long persecution of Kurds – An Overview

kurdistanBy Aso Fotoohi

  Kurdistan refers to a geographical area in Middle-East of which the residents are predominantly Kurdish people. The land of Kurdistan- has been divided between four countries Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

In Iran, the majority of the population are Persian, In Iraq and Syria Arab, and in Turkey Turks. This makes Kurdish people fall into the category of ethnic minorities in all these countries. As an ethnic minority, Kurdish people have been completely marginalised and excluded from any sort of social and political power. Furthermore, for centuries, the central governments of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria have put a great effort to ethnically cleanse out Kurdish people. Not only the central governments, but also the other socio-political dominant powers within these countries have been institutionally discriminated Kurds.

All the social and cultural institutions and powers including education, media, military and political forces have been recruited to ethnically cleanse Kurdish people in Middle-East. Let us not forget that we are talking about a population of 40 million Kurdish people which is a fact that makes it more and more difficult for the oppressors to deny their human rights as an ethnic minority. However, during the history of Middle-East, the central governments have shown no hesitation in using all sorts of actions, although against the very fundamental principles of human rights, to oppress and marginalise Kurdish people. These include military attacks on unarmed people and massively executing innocent people in different historical periods. To name a few, the Anfal campaign which was led by Saddam Hussein in Iraq was particularly aimed to cleanse out Kurdish ethnicity. The Anfal campaign began in 1986 and lasted until 1989; it included the use of ground offensives, aerial bombing systematic destruction of settlement mass deportation, firing squads and chemical warfare  which earned al-Majid the nickname of “Chemical Ali”. Thousands of civilians were killed during the anti-insurgent campaigns stretching from the spring of 1987 through the fall of 1988. The attacks were part of a long-standing campaign that destroyed approximately 4,500 Kurdish and at least 31 Assyrian villages in areas of northern Iraq and displaced at least a million of the country’s estimated 3.5 million Kurdish population.

Amnesty International collected the names of more than 17,000 people who had “disappeared” during 1988. The campaign has been characterized as  genocidal in nature. It is also characterized as gendercidal because “battle-age” men were the primary targets.

On March 16, 1988, there was a genocidal poison gas attack on the city of Halabja in which four to five thousand Kurdish people were killed, most of them women and children. In Iran, after the Islamic revolution in 1979, Kurdish population, in supporting Kurdish political parties, avoided supporting the model of Islamic Republic and instead, they stood for a Democratic Republic model with all their rights reserved as an ethnic minority. In response to that, Khomeini-the supreme leader of the Islamic revolution- released the Fatwa of Jihad against Kurdish people; which is simply the order of massive execution by an Islamic religious leader against non-Muslims. As a result of that, hundreds of thousands of armed troops moved to Kurdistan from all over Iran and thousands of unarmed Kurdish civilians including children, women and elderly people were killed. There are numbers of examples like this where Kurdish people have been and are being attacked by central governments but the most recent threat to Kurds, this largest stateless nation in the world, is an Islamic extremist group known as ISIS. They have particularly targeted Kurdish people in Middle-East as they have truly recognised that Kurds are the most vulnerable people in the region. They have attacked Kurdistan regions both in Iraq and Syria as they clearly know their attacks to these two regions are very likely to be supported by neighbour countries including Iran and Turkey as they consider Kurds their historical enemy. As a result, 1.5 million people from Syria and Southern Iraq have fled to cities in Kurdistan-Iraq, a region with the population of 5 million.

In some cities like Zakho, the population of refugees is greater than the population of the city itself. People are sheltering in schools and half built buildings, there is a great need for medical supplies and experts, warm cloths, blankets, clean water and food. When the extreme winter of Kurdistan comes in a few weeks, unfortunately the humanitarian crisis will be even more dangerous. It can be easily seen that urgent action is needed to support refugees who are sheltering in Kurdistan-Iraq. For this reason, a group of Scottish-Kurdish activists have organised a group to raise awareness and money to send medical and humanitarian aid to refugees in Kurdistan. The group is called Kurdistan Is Supported by Scotland –KISS. The group is holding an open meeting in a few weeks from now and is inviting everyone who is willing to help and support those in need. If you are interested in know more about KISS, email or visit and keep up to date about our activities.

1457674_491798854261745_1661901171_nAso Fotoohi is a human rights activist based in Glasgow,  UK. He is a member of Kurdistan is support by Scotland (KISS) group. He can be reached at


2 thoughts on “Decades long persecution of Kurds – An Overview

  1. Pingback: Human rights: the top ten blog posts so far | Human Rights Blog

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