Kurdish people show their support for the upcoming referendum for independence of Kurdistan at a rally on September 21, 2017, in Erbil, Iraq.
CNN  — 

Here’s some background information about the Kurdish people. Kurds do not have an official homeland or country. Most reside within countries in the Middle East including northern Iraq, eastern Turkey, western Iran and small portions of northern Syria and Armenia.

About the Kurdistan region

Area: Roughly 74,000 sq mi

Population: approximately 25-30 million (some Kurds reside outside of Kurdistan)

Religion: Most are Sunni Muslims; some practice Sufism, a type of mystic Islam

Other Facts

Kurds have never achieved nation-state status, making Kurdistan a non-governmental region and one of the largest stateless nations in the world.

Portions of the region are recognized by two countries: Iran, where the province of Kordestan lies; and northern Iraq, site of the autonomous region known as Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) or Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kurds were mostly nomadic until the end of World War I and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.

Kurds make up about 10% of the population in Syria, 19% of the population of Turkey, 15-20% of the population of Iraq and are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Iran.

The Peshmerga is a more than 100,000-strong national military force which protects Iraqi Kurdistan, and includes female fighters.


October 30, 1918 - (TURKEY) The Armistice of Mudros marks the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I.

November 3, 1918 - (IRAQ) With the discovery of oil in the Kurdish province of Mosul, British forces occupy the region.

August 10, 1920 - (TURKEY) The Treaty of Sèvres outlines the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, with Turkey renouncing rights over certain areas in Asia and North Africa. It calls for the recognition of new independent states, including an autonomous Kurdistan. It is never ratified.

July 24, 1923 - (TURKEY) The Allies and the former Ottoman Empire sign and ratify the Treaty of Lausanne, which recognizes Turkey as an independent nation. In the final treaty marking the conclusion of World War I, the Allies drop demands for an autonomous Turkish Kurdistan. The Kurdish region is eventually divided among several countries.

1923 - (IRAQ) Former Kurdish Governor Sheikh Mahmud Barzinji stages an uprising against British rule, declaring a Kurdish kingdom in Sulaimaniya in northern Iraq.

1924 - (IRAQ) British Forces retake Sulaimaniya.

1943-1945 - (IRAQ/IRAN) Mustafa Barzani leads an uprising, gaining control of areas of Erbil and Badinan. When the uprising is defeated, Barzani and his forces retreat to Kurdish areas in Iran and align with nationalist fighters under the leadership of Qazi Muhammad.

January 1946 - (IRAN) The Kurdish Republic of Mahābād is established as a Kurdish state, with backing from the Soviet Union. The short-lived country encompasses the city of Mahābād in Iran, which is largely Kurdish and near the Iraq border. However, Soviets withdraw the same year and the Republic of Mahābād collapses.

August 16, 1946 - (IRAQ) The Kurdish Democratic Party of Iraq (KDP) is established.

1957 - (SYRIA) 250 Kurdish children die in an arson attack on a cinema. It is blamed on Arab nationalists.

1958 - (SYRIA) The government formally bans all Kurdish-language publications.

1958 - (IRAQ) After Iraq’s 1958 revolution, a new constitution is established, which declares Arabs and Kurds as “partners in this homeland.”

1961 - (IRAQ) KDP begins a rebellion in northern Iraq. Within two weeks, the Iraqi government dissolves the Kurdish Democratic Party.

March 1970 - (IRAQ) A peace agreement between Iraqi government and Kurds grants the Kurds autonomy. Kurdish is recognized as an official language, and an amendment to the constitution states: “the Iraqi people is made up of two nationalities: the Arab nationality and the Kurdish nationality.”

March 6, 1975 - (ALGERIA) Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran sign a treaty. Iraq gives up claims to the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, while Iran agrees to end its support of the independence seeking Kurds.

June 1975 - (IRAQ) Former KDP Leader Jalal Talabani, establishes the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The following year, PUK takes up an armed campaign against the Iraqi government.