Refugees: Kurdish

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People of Kurdistan, a territory inhabited mainly by the Kurds of five countries, who fled to escape repression and possible death.

In September 1925, more than 20,000 Assyrian Christians (Nestorians) and Kurds arrived in northern Iraq, fleeing the repression that came after the end of the Kurdish revolt in Turkey (19221925). This was the first time the international media mentioned the problem of Kurdish refugees.

More recently, thousands of Kurds sought asylum in Iran after the collapse of General (Mullah Mustafa) Barzani's independence movement in 1975. Kurds also fled to Iran and Turkey after the Iraqi Kurdish resistance in the aftermath of the IranIraq War (1988). These were small flights compared to the huge refugee crisis caused in April 1991 by Saddam Hussein's attacks toward the end of the Gulf War (JanuaryApril 1991). Fearing for their safety after the failure of their uprising in March 1991, about 2 million Iraqi Kurds fled toward the Turkish and Iranian borders. The arrival of such a huge number of refugees, thousands of whom died of hunger and cold, internationalized the Kurdish problem and forced unwilling Western governments to extend their protection to the Kurds. While those who went to the Turkish border came back to Iraq after the creation of a safe haven, dozens of thousands of Kurdish refugees stayed for years in Iran, living in the cities or in camps. Most of them came back in the late 1990s after the stabilization of the Kurdish region. A small number of Kurdish refugees from Iran and Turkey live in camps in Iraq.

see also barzani family; hussein, saddam; iraniraq war (19801988).


Bruinessen, Martin van. Aghas, Shaikhs, and States: The Social and Political Structures of Kurdistan. London: Zed Books, 1992.

Graham-Brown, Sarah. Sanctioning Saddam: The Politics of Intervention in Iraq. London: I. B. Tauris, 1999

chris kutschera