Ethnic Kurds compose 15.7%-25% of the population in Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye’deki Kürtler, Kurdish: Kurdên li Tirkiye). Unlike the Turkish people, the Kurds speak an Indo-European language. There are Kurds living in all provinces of Turkey, but are primarily concentrated in the east and southeast of the country, which largely resembles the historical region of Kurdistan.
In the 1930s, Turkish government policy aimed at assimilating Kurds in Turkey, many have resisted these measures and today Kurds make up around 15-18% of the population of Turkey. Since the 1980s, Kurdish movements included both peaceful political activities for basic civil rights for Kurds in Turkey as well as violent armed rebellion and guerrilla warfare, including terrorist attacks aiming Turkish soldiers and their families, demanding a separate Kurdish state. According to a Turkish opinion poll, 59% of self-identified Kurds in Turkey think that Kurds in Turkey do not seek a separate state (while 71.3% of self-identified Turks think they do).
The Kurds are an ethnic group who have historically inhabited the mountainous areas to the south of Caucasus (Zagros and Taurus mountain ranges), a geographical area collectively referred to as Kurdistan. Most Kurds speak an Indo-European language belonging to the Iranian branch.
There are various hypotheses as to predecessor populations of the Kurds, such as the Carduchoi of Classical Antiquity. The earliest known Kurdish dynasties under Islamic rule (10th to 12th centuries) are the Hasanwayhids, the Marwanids, the Shaddadids, followed by the Ayyubid dynasty founded by Saladin. The Battle of Chaldiran of 1514 is an important turning point in Kurdish history, marking the alliance of Kurds with the Ottomans. The Sharafnameh of 1597 is the first account of Kurdish history. Kurdish history in the 20th century is marked by a rising sense of Kurdish nationhood focussed on the goal of an independent Kurdistan as scheduled by the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. Partial autonomy was reached by Kurdistan Uyezd (1923–1926) and by Iraqi Kurdistan (since 1991), while notably in Turkish Kurdistan, an armed conflict between the PKK and Turkish Armed Forces was ongoing 1984 to 1999, and the region continues to be unstable with renewed flaring up of violence in the 2000s.
Kurds in Syria
“Syrian Kurdistan” (Kurdish: Kurdistana Sûriyê) is an unofficial name used by some to describe the Kurdish inhabited regions of northern and northeastern Syria. The northeastern Kurdish inhabited region covers the greater part of Hasakah Governorate. The main cities in this region are Qamishli and Hasakah. Another region with significant Kurdish population is Kobanê (Ayn al-Arab) in the northern part of Syria near the town of Jarabulus and also the city of Efrîn and its surroundings along the Turkish border.
Iranian Kurdistan is an unofficial name for the parts of Iran inhabited by Kurds and has borders with Iraq and Turkey. It includes Kurdistan Province, Kermanshah Province and Ilam Province and parts of West Azerbaijan Province.
According to the last census conducted in 2006, the four Kurdish-inhabited provinces in Iran, West Azerbaijan (2,873,459), Kermanshah Province (1,879,385), Kurdistan Province (1,440,156), and Ilam Province (545,787) have a total population of 6,738,787. Pockets of Lurs inhabit the southern areas of Ilam Province.
From the 7 million Iranian Kurds, a significant portion are Shia. Shia Kurds inhabit Kermanshah Province, except for those parts where people are Jaff, and Ilam Province; as well as some parts of Kurdistan, Hamadan and Zanjan provinces. The Kurds of Khorasan Province in northeastern Iran are also adherents of Shia Islam. During the Shia revolution in Iran the major Kurdish political parties were unsuccessful in absorbing Shia Kurds, who at that period had no interest in autonomy. However, in the 1990s Kurdish nationalism seeped into the Shia Kurdish area.
Sandra Mackey , “The reckoning: Iraq and the legacy of Saddam”, W.W. Norton and Company, 2002. Excerpt from pg 350: “As much as 25% of Turkey is Kurdish.”^ “Kurdistan-Turkey”. GlobalSecurity.org. 2007-03-22. Retrieved 2007-03-28.
“In your opinion, do the Kurds want to have a separate state?” (Poll report). Public Perception of the Kurdish Question. Turkey: Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) and Pollmark. 2009. p. 63. ISBN 978-605-4023-06-6.