Modern Kurdish history starts with their hopes of a separate autonomous state as the Ottoman Empire was dismantled at the end of the First World War. The treaty was ultimately rejected but the dream was born.
Political settlements meant the Kurdish people were living in four separate states – Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Efforts by Turkey to assimilate them were resisted over the generations – most recently by the PKK. In the 1984 Abdullah Ocalan, Leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK, launched a guerrilla war for independence. The revolt was brutally resisted. In 1988 Iraq used chemical weapons against the Kurds in the north. Pictures of Hallabjah shocked the world – civilians who died on the spot through exposure to poison gas. After the first Gulf War Iraq’s Kurds rose up against Saddam encouraged by the United States. Iraq quashed the rebellion killing thousands. Most of the two million Iraqi Kurds fled to the mountains to escape the repression. Thousands died from cold and hunger. Turkey claimed the PKK was launching hit-and-run attacks into its territory and sent thousands of troops into northern Iraq to harshly put down the rebellion. Kurdish groups claimed the Turks were guilty of wholesale slaughter with many civilian casualties After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, four Kurds including Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani were appointed to the Iraqi governing councils. Now the regional elections in Kurdistan mark the start of a new chapter in the troubled history of the Kurds.