Kurdish refugees

The problem of Kurdish refugees and displaced people arose in the 20th century in the Middle East, and continues today. The Kurds (Kurdish: کورد, Kurd), are an ethnic group in Western Asia, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

Displacements of Kurds had already been happening within the Ottoman Empire, on the pretext of suppressing Kurdish rebellions, over the period of its domination of the northern Fertile Crescent and the adjacent areas of the Zagros and Taurus Mountains. In the early 20th century, the Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire suffered genocide (especially during the First World War and the Turkish War of Independence), and many Kurds whose tribes opposed the Turks were displaced at the same time.[1]

In Iraq, suppression of Kurdish aspirations for autonomy and independence have descended into armed conflict since the 1919 Mahmud Barzanji revolt. Displacement of people became most severe during the Iraqi-Kurdish conflict and the parallel Arabization programs of the Ba'athist regime,[2] which looked to cleanse Iraqi Kurdistan of its Kurdish majority. Tens of thousands of Kurds became displaced and fled the war zones following the First and Second Kurdish Iraqi Wars in the 1960s and 1970s. The Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s, the first Gulf War in the early 1990s, and subsequent rebellions altogether created several million primarily Kurdish refugees, who mostly found refuge in Iran, while others dispersed into the Kurdish diaspora in Europe and the Americas. Iran alone provided asylum for 1,400,000 Iraqi refugees, mostly Kurds, who had been uprooted as a result of the Persian Gulf War (1990–91) and the subsequent rebellions. Today, a large portion of the Kurdish population is composed of Kurdish refugees and displaced and their descendants.

Refugee crises

Second Kurdish Iraqi War and the Arabization campaign in North Iraq

For decades, Saddam Hussein 'Arabized' northern Iraq.[2] Sunni Arabs have driven out at least 70,000 Kurds from the Mosul’s western half.[3] Nowadays, eastern Mosul is Kurdish and western Mosul is Sunni Arab.[4]

1.5 to 2 million Kurds were forcibly displaced by Arabization campaigns in Iraq between 1963 and 1987;[5] resulting in 10,000 to 100,000 deaths during the displacement.[5] This is not withstanding cases in which Kurds were outright executed such as during the Anfal genocide or other[6] events.

Persian Gulf war and consequent rebellions

U.S. Marines construct a refugee camp to house Kurdish refugees, 1997

In 1991, when suppression of Kurdish rebellion in the north was initiated by Saddam and massacres of the Kurdish population appeared, Turkey ended being host to 200,000 Iraqi Kurds in a few days.[7][8] Four days later, 1,500 refugees had died from exposure. One month later, the vast majority of refugees returned to Iraq.[7] Following the 1991 uprising of the Iraqi people against Saddam Hussein, many Kurds were forced to flee the country to become refugees in bordering regions of Iran and Turkey. A northern no-fly zone was established following the First Gulf War in 1991 to facilitate the return of Kurdish refugees.

1.5 million Kurds were displaced during the 1991 uprisings in Iraq[9] with cities like Tuz Khormato having a rate of displacement as high as 90%; at least 48,400[10] of Kurds starved to death due to displacements possibly 140,600.[10]

Displacement during the Kurdish–Turkish conflict (1978-present)

In total up to 3,000,000 people (mainly Kurds) have been displaced in the Kurdish–Turkish conflict,[11] an estimated 1,000,000 of which were still internally displaced as of 2009.[12]

Refugees of Kurdish-Iranian conflict

Large-scale confrontations between Iranian military and PJAK resulted also in displacement of Kurdish civilians. By July 26, more than 50 PJAK fighters and 8 Revolutionary Guards had been killed,[13] and at least 100 PJAK fighters had been wounded according to Iranian sources,[14] while over 800 people had been displaced by the fighting.[15][verification needed]

Moqebleh (Moquoble) refugee camp

After the 2004 events in Qamishli, thousands of Kurds fled Syria to the Kurdish Region of Iraq.[16] Local authorities there, the UNHCR and other UN agencies established the Moqebleh camp at a former Army base near Dohuk.

Syrian civil war

In response to the crisis in Syria, the Kurdish Regional Government and UNHCR established the Domiz Refugee Camp, across the border from Kurdish Syrian territories in the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. The camp, which is majority Kurdish, accommodates thousands of Syrian Kurds, offering shelter and medical care. A nearby camp offers men the option of military training, with the intention of protecting Kurdish-held territories in Syria.[17]

Kobane crisis

Kurdish refugees from Kobanî in a refugee camp, on the Turkish side of the Syria–Turkey border.

As of result of the Kobane crisis in September 2014, most of the Syrian Kurdish population of the Kobane Canton fled into Turkey. More than 300,000 Syrian refugees are estimated to have flowed into Turkey.[18]

Kurdish diaspora out of the Middle East

According to a report by the Council of Europe, approximately 1.3 million Kurds live in Western Europe. The earliest immigrants were Kurds from Turkey, who settled in Germany, Austria, the Benelux countries, Great Britain, Switzerland and France during the 1960s. Successive periods of political and social turmoil in the region during the 1980s and 1990s brought new waves of Kurdish refugees, mostly from Iran and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, came to Europe.[19] In recent years, many Kurdish asylum seekers from both Iran and Iraq have settled in the United Kingdom (especially in the town of Dewsbury and in some northern areas of London), which has sometimes caused media controversy over their right to remain.[20] There have been tensions between Kurds and the established Muslim community in Dewsbury,[21][22] which is home to very traditional mosques such as the Markazi. Since the beginning of the turmoil in Syria many of the refugees of the Syrian Civil War are Syrian Kurds and as a result many of the current Syrian asylum seekers in Germany are of Kurdish descent.[23][better source needed][dead link] [24][better source needed][dead link]

There was substantial immigration of ethnic Kurds in Canada and the United States, who are mainly political refugees and immigrants seeking economic opportunity. According to a 2011 Statistics Canada household survey, there were 11,685 people of Kurdish ethnic background living in Canada,[25] and according to the 2011 Census, more than 10,000 Canadians spoke Kurdish language.[26] In the United States, Kurdish immigrants started to settle in large numbers in Nashville in 1976,[27] which is now home to the largest Kurdish community in the United States and is nicknamed Little Kurdistan.[28] Kurdish population in Nashville is estimated to be around 11,000.[29] Total number of ethnic Kurds residing in the United States is estimated by the US Census Bureau to be around 15,000.[30]

The Japanese government has not granted refugee status to any of the Kurds in Japan who usually file it citing human rights issues and persecution in Turkey and resulted in them living in destitution, with no education and having no legal residency status.[31]

A clash took place outside the Turkish embassy in Tokyo in October 2015 between Kurds and Turks in Japan which began when the Turks assaulted the Kurds after a Kurdish party flag was shown at the embassy.[32][33]

Related ethno-religious groups

Kurdish Jews

Almost all of the Kurdish Jews of north Iraq, who were numbered around 30,000 in 1950, were evacuated to Israel during operation Ezra and Nehemiah. A significant portion of those Jews self-identified as part of the Kurdish nation, despite their Jewish ethnicity and religion, and some still consider themselves as Kurds. All together 150,000 Iraqi and Kurdish Jews were encouraged to leave in 1950 by the Iraqi Government, which had eventually ordered in 1951 "the expulsion of Jews who refused to sign a statement of anti-Zionism."[34][verification needed] Significant number of Kurdish Jews composed the exodus wave of Jews from Iran in the 1950s, with only tiny communities remaining today in Sanandaj and Mahabad. Most of the newly arriving Kurdish Jews were housed in Israeli transition camps, known as Maabarot, later incorporated into development towns. Today they and their descendants are a major part of the 150,000-200,000 strong Kurdish Jewish community in Israel.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kurdish refugees.


  1. ^ . The situation for Kurds in the newborn nation of Turkey turned disastrous during the 1920s and 1930s, when large scale rebellions resulting in massacres and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands. Since the 1970s, the renewed violence of the Kurdish–Turkish conflict has created about 3,000,000 internally displaced people and refugees, many of whom remain unable to return to the thousands of village destroyed by the Turkish security forces.
  2. ^ a b "_Toc78803800 Forced Displacement and Arabization of Northern Iraq". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  3. ^ Sunni Arabs driving out Kurds in northern Iraq
  4. ^ The other Iraqi civil war, Asia Times
  5. ^ a b Rummel, Rudolph J. "Chapter 14 THE HORDE OF CENTI-KILO MURDERERS Estimates, Calculations, And Sources". STATISTICS OF DEMOCIDE Rows 1313, 1314.
  6. ^ Jones, Dave. "The Crimes of Saddam Hussein
    1983 The Missing Barzanis". Frontline World. PBS.
  7. ^ a b Long, Katy (29 August 2013). The Point of No Return: Refugees, Rights, and Repatriation. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191654220. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Turkey Concerned at Growing Number of Syrian Refugees". VOA. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  9. ^ Kurds say Iraq's attacks serve as a warning, Christian Science Monitor, May 13, 2002
  10. ^ a b 1,000 deaths per day in April, May and June along Turkish border a - "Iraqi Deaths from the Gulf War as of April 1992," Greenpeace, Washington, D.C. See also "Aftermath of War: The Persian Gulf War Refugee Crisis," Staff Report to the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration and Refugee Affairs, May 20, 1991. The figure of nearly 1,000 deaths per day is also given in "Kurdistan in the Time of Saddam Hussein," Staff Report to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, November 1991, p.14. "hundreds" (100 to 900?) died per day along Iranian border b - Kurdish Refugees Straggle Into Iran, Followed By Tragedy, Associated Press, Apr 13, 1991 1,100 to 1,900 (a + b) deaths per day from at least April 13th (b) up to between May 1st and May 31st (a ); which suggests 44 to 74 days: 1,100(44)= 48,400 1,900(74)= 140,600 Routine calculations Routine calculations do not count as original research, provided there is consensus among editors that the result of the calculation is obvious, correct, and a meaningful reflection of the sources. Basic arithmetic, such as adding numbers, converting units, or calculating a person's age are some examples of routine calculations. See also Category:Conversion templates.
  11. ^ "Conflict Studies Journal at the University of New Brunswick". Lib.unb.ca. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  12. ^ Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) – Norwegian Refugee Council. "Need for continued improvement in response to protracted displacement". Internal-displacement.org. Archived from the original on 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2011-04-15.
  13. ^ Kurd rebels kill Basij militiaman: Iran agency Archived 2011-07-30 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "Deaths Reported in Fighting Between Iran, Kurd Rebels". Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  16. ^ "Kurdish refugees from Syria languish in Iraq". YouTube. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  17. ^ "The Fight for Kurdistan". The New Yorker. 22 September 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  18. ^ "Syria says giving military support to Kurds in Kobani". The Daily Star. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  19. ^ "The cultural situation of the Kurds, A report by Lord Russell-Johnston, Council of Europe, July 2006. Retrieved 11.01.2015.
  20. ^ "MP: Failed asylum seekers must go back – Dewsbury Reporter". Dewsburyreporter.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
  21. ^ Published on Tue June 12 14:33:59 BST 2007. "'I will not be muzzled' – Malik". Dewsburyreporter.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2010-01-02. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
  22. ^ "UK Polling Report Election Guide: Dewsbury". Ukpollingreport.co.uk. 2012-06-09. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  23. ^ "Hundreds of Syrian Kurdish migrants seek shelter in Serbia". Kurd Net - Ekurd.net Daily News. 29 August 2015. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  24. ^ "For Iraqi, Syrian Kurdish refugees, fantastic dreams and silent deaths". Kurd Net - Ekurd.net Daily News. 31 August 2015. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  25. ^ "2011 National Household Survey: Data tables". StatCan.GC.ca. Statistics Canada. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  26. ^ "Detailed Mother Tongue, 2011 Census of Canada". StatCan.GC.ca. Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  27. ^ "NPT Visits Our Next Door Neighbors in Little Kurdistan, USA". Nashville Public Television. 2008-05-19. Archived from the original on 2013-07-05. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  28. ^ "Nashville's new nickname: 'Little Kurdistan'". Washington Times. 2013-02-23. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  29. ^ "Interesting Things About Nashville, Tennessee". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  30. ^ "2006–2010 American Community Survey Selected Population Tables". FactFinder2.Census.gov. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 12 February 2020. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  31. ^ "Japan's Kurds often in limbo, despite significant community - The Japan Times". The Japan Times. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  32. ^ "Turks and Kurds clash in Japan over Turkey elections". Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  33. ^ "Turks, Kurds clash outside Turkish Embassy as voting kicks off". The Japan Times. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  34. ^ Pappe, Ilan (31 July 2006). A history of modern Palestine: one land, two peoples,by Ilan Pappé, 2004, p176. ISBN 9780521683159. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
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