History: The Kurds are among the world’s oldest civilizations. They have lived along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia for at least the last 3,000 years.
7th Century- Arabs sweep into the area and conquer the Kurds. This begins for the Kurds centuries of living under the rule of others. The Seljuk Turks, Mongols, and the Safavid dynasty later occupy the land. In the late 13th century, the Ottoman Empire takes control.
1923 A.D.- Turkey is recognized as an independent nation, and the Treaty of Lausanne is signed. Under the terms of the treaty, Turkey is no longer obligated to grant Kurdish autonomy. The treaty divides the Kurdish region between Turkey, Iraq, and Syria.
1946 A.D.- Iranian Kurds set up the short-lived Mahabad Republic with Soviet backing. It is swiftly crushed by Iran. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is founded and is dedicated to the creation of an independent Kurdistan.
1979 A.D.- Iran's Islamic revolution sparks a Kurdish revolt in Iran that is then quickly snuffed out by Iran.
1988 A.D.- Iraq retaliates against Iraqi Kurds for supporting Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, and through the "al-Anfal" ("spoils of war") campaign, slaughters thousands of civilians and displaces 1.5 million people. Thousands flee to Turkey.
2004 A.D.- In March, Syrian Kurds riot and fight with police for several days after a brawl at a soccer game. It was Syria's worst unrest in decades.
Languages: Kurds, more than most ethnic groups hold tightly to their culture and language. While the Kurds of Iran speak Farsi, most consider their mother tongue Kurdish. There are several dialects of Kurdish, including, Kurmanji, Zaza, Sorani and Badanani. Kurmanji and Sorani are the major sub-dialects. Most of the Iranian Kurds speak Sorani Kurdish.
Population: While numbers vary, it is believed that there are about 40 million Kurds living in the “Kurdistan” region. There are about 18 million in Turkey, 12 million in Iran, 6 million in Iraq, 1 million in Syria, and 500,000 in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.
There are also large Kurdish populations in Europe. San Diego and Nashville have become home to many Kurds who were displaced during the first Gulf War in 1991.
This is changing in Turkey and Iraq as civil unrest has forced the Kurds from the villages to the cities. Unfamiliar with life in urban areas, the Kurdish men, women and children are forced to take menial jobs or sell produce. The more zealous Kurds keep their children out of school to keep them from ideas that they fear might dilute their Kurdish identity.
Spiritual Identity: After 14 centuries of Islamic influence, most Kurds are either Sunni or Alevi Muslims. The Alevi Muslims are more tolerant and accepting of other beliefs. While Sunnis, which in Arabic means, “one who follows the traditions of the Prophet," are obviously more conservative.
In Iraq and Armenia, there is a small sect of religiously distinct Kurds, called Yezidi Kurds. Yezidi Kurds fear and worship Malaki Tawis, (believed by some to be synonymous with Lucifer) rather than Allah. Yezidi Kurds believe that God, as a disinterested creator, gave them over to Malaki Tawis. Yezidi Kurds live their lives in dread of Malaki Tawis.
Status of Christianity: In many cases, cultural pride takes a clear precedence over religious conviction and that pride becomes a barrier to the gospel. The number of Christian materials available in the different Kurdish dialects is growing as interest in the Kurds’ spiritual welfare rises. In spite of the availability of these materials, response to the gospel among the Kurds has been slow.
There is also constant hostility between the Sunni Muslim Kurds in the north and the Shiite Muslim Kurds farther south.