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Last modified: 2023-03-11 by ian macdonald
Keywords: kurdistan | turkey | iran | iraq |
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Kurdish Regional Government, Iraq image by Ivan Sache

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About Kurdistan and the Kurds

The Kurds are the largest national group without a nation state. Since the First World War, they have enjoyed three brief periods of geographically-limited near-nationhood, but their own disunity has often hindered progress. More importantly the existing regional powers have found Kurdish nationhood threatening, and major powers like the United States have shared that perspective.
Most of Kurdistan is now divided between Turkey, Iran and Iraq, and all three countries have experienced numerous Kurdish insurgencies since 1920. Smaller pockets lie in Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan. There are major communities of refugees throughout western Europe and the United States. Kurdistan divides into two general socio-linguistic regions at the Greater Zab River near the Iraqi-Turkish border:
(1) Northern Kurdistan is the Kurmanji-speaking region which mostly lies in Turkey (most of eastern Anatolia). Since the 1980s, one of the PKK-related flags has emerged as the principal flag representing Kurmanji Kurdistan.
(2) Southern Kurdistan is mostly Sorani-speaking and lies principally in Iraq (north) and Iran (northwest). Also since the 1980s another flag seems to have emerged as the most widely used for that region.
There is no central authority to legislate flags for Kurdistan, and until very recently most Kurds did not seem interested in any precision about flags. I have some friends who were very close to government officials of the former Mahabad Republic, and they insisted 15 years ago that there was no Kurdish flag. They were surprised when I presented historical evidence to the contrary.
T. F. Mills, 27 September 1997

The Flag

This flag was introduced at the Paris Peace Conference of 1920, became the flag of the short-lived Mahabad Republic of Kudistan from January–December 1946, is widely used worldwide as a symbol of the Kurds wish for independence, and was adopted by the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq on 10 June 1999. Precise construction details were issued by the Centre for Kurdish Study, who also define the colours as red 032, green 354 and yellow 116 in the Pantone Matching System.
The flag has a 21-rayed sun in its centre, and this holds primary importance in the native Yasdani religious tradition of the Kurds.
The official construction details show a 2:3 horizontal tricolour of red, white and gold with the centred sun being contained within an imaginary circle equalling one-half of flag width, and a central disk one-half of that – in other words 4-4-4 for the width, and 18 for the length with the imaginary circles defining the sun at 6 and 3.
Christopher Southworth, 8 April 2018

Two Representative Entities

Similarly, there are two entities which claim to officially represent the Kurds:

Ivan Sache, 19 November 1999

Pro-Turkey Kurdish Militia

Pro-Turkey Kurdish Militia image by Jaume Ollé Casals, 1 July 2012

I saw the flag of the Kurdish militia that fought together the Turkish army against PKK on the Catalan TV channel TV3 on 21 February 1999, in a report about the conflict in Eastern Turkey.
Jaume Ollé Casals, 1 July 2012