November 3, 2019


A people without a state (The Week, November 3, 2019)

Who are the Kurds?

A tough mountain people, the Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East -- after Arabs, Persians, and Turks -- and have their own distinct culture and language. Nearly all are Sunni Muslims, but they have many tribes and are far from a monolithic group. Over the centuries, they have handed down their traditions through music, with bards singing folktales and stories of Kurdish feats in battle. Spread out mostly over four countries and now numbering some 30 million, the Kurds have pressed time and again for a homeland since the 19th century, only to have their hopes dashed when great powers broke their promises. Several times since the 1970s, the U.S. gave them military aid to fight a common foe, and then abandoned them, leaving thousands of Kurds to be killed and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee. As a Kurdish proverb says, the Kurds have "no friends but the mountains."

Why don't they have a country?

After the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, victorious Western powers agreed in the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres to create a Kurdish state. But three years later, in the wheeling and dealing over the boundaries of modern Turkey, Britain and France dropped their demand for a Kurdish homeland, and Kurds were left as large minorities in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, with small minorities in the Caucasus. All the nations where Kurds now live are opposed to granting them a homeland or true autonomy -- ­particularly Turkey.

While entering WWI at all was a mistake, choosing to lose it was catastrophic.  Nearly all modern wars are a function of Wilson preferring his utopian League to the salutary decolonization of the Third World.  A people who think themselves a nation are one.

Posted by at November 3, 2019 7:14 AM