Kurdish refugees

The problem of Kurdish refugees and displaced people arose in the 20th century in the Middle East, and continues to loom 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. [1][2]

In Iraq, the Kurdish strive for autonomy and independence loomed into armed conflicts since 1919 Mahmud Barzanji revolt. The displacement however became most significant during the Iraqi-Kurdish conflict and parallel active Arabizations programs of the Ba'athist regime,[3] which looked to cleanse northern Iraq of its Kurdish majority. Tens of thousands of Kurds turned displaced and fled the war zones following First and Second Kurdish Iraqi Wars in 1960s and 1970s. The Iran–Iraq War, which spanned from 1980 to 1988, the first Gulf War and subsequent rebellions all together generated several millions of primarily Kurdish refugees, who mostly found refuge in Iran, while others dispersed into 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. Refugees themselves still comprise a significant proportion of

Refugee crises

Refugees of the Kurdish-Iraqi conflict

Second Kurdish Iraqi War and the Arabization campaign in North Iraq

For decades, Saddam Hussein 'Arabized' northern Iraq.[3] Sunni Arabs have driven out at least 70,000 Kurds from the Mosul’s western half.[4] Nowadays, eastern Mosul is Kurdish and western Mosul is Sunni Arab.[5]

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.[6][7] Four days later, 1,500 refugees had died from exposure. One month later, the vast majority of refugees returned back to Iraq.[6] 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.

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,[8] an estimated 1,000,000 of which were still internally displaced as of 2009.[9]

Refugees of Kurdish-Iranian conflict

Further information: Iran-PJAK 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,[10] and at least 100 PJAK fighters had been wounded according to Iranian sources,[11] while over 800 people had been displaced by the fighting.[12]

Moqebleh (Moquoble) refugee camp

After the 2004 events in Qamishli, thousands of Kurds fled Syria to the Kurdish Region of Iraq.[13] 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.[14]

Kobane crisis

Main article: Siege of Kobane
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.[15]

Kurdish diaspora out of the Middle East

Kurds make up 80 to 90 percent of all Turkish refugees in Germany.[16][17][18] Among Iraqi refugees in Germany, about 50 percent are Kurds.[19] In the UK, about 65-70% of people orginating from Iraq are Kurdish, and 70% of those from Turkey and 15% of those from iran are Kurds. [20]

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.[21] 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.[22] There have been tensions between Kurds and the established Muslim community in Dewsbury,[23][24] 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.[25][26]

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,[27] and according to the 2011 Census, more than 10,000 Canadians spoke Kurdish language.[28] In the United States, Kurdish immigrants started to settle in large numbers in Nashville in 1976,[29] which is now home to the largest Kurdish community in the United States and is nicknamed Little Kurdistan.[30] Kurdish population in Nashville is estimated to be around 11,000.[31] Total number of ethnic Kurds residing in the United States is estimated by the US Census Bureau to be around 15,000.[32]

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.[33]

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.[34][35][36][37][38]

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."[39] 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.


As many as 50,000 Yazidi refugees from Iraq arrived in Syria during the Iraq War.[40]

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kurdish refugees.


  1. Displacements of Kurds had already been happening within the Ottoman Empire, on pretext of local rebellions' suppression, over the period of its domination of the northern Fertile Crescent and the adjacent areas of Zagros and Taurus. In the early 20th century, massive displacements were forced upon Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire (especially during the First World War and the Turkish War of Independence), but many of the Kurds, as well, suffered similar attitude as some of their tribal confederations cooperated with Ottomans, while others were opposing it and revolted in several areas
  2. . The situation for Kurds in the newborn nation of Turkey turned disastrous on the course of the 1920s and 1930s, when large scale Kurdish rebellions, resulted in massive massacres and expulsion of hundreds of thousands. Since the 1970s, renewed violence of the Kurdish–Turkish conflict created about 3,000,000 displaced, many of which remain unsettled.
  3. 1 2 "_Toc78803800 Forced Displacement and Arabization of Northern Iraq". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  4. Sunni Arabs driving out Kurds in northern Iraq
  5. The other Iraqi civil war, Asia Times
  6. 1 2 Long, Katy. The Point of No Return: Refugees, Rights, and Repatriation. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191654220. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  7. "Turkey Concerned at Growing Number of Syrian Refugees". VOA. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  8. "Conflict Studies Journal at the University of New Brunswick". Lib.unb.ca. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  9. Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) – Norwegian Refugee Council. "Need for continued improvement in response to protracted displacement". Internal-displacement.org. Retrieved 2011-04-15.
  10. Kurd rebels kill Basij militiaman: Iran agency
  11. "Deaths Reported in Fighting Between Iran, Kurd Rebels". Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  12. "Kurdish refugees from Syria languish in Iraq". YouTube. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  13. "The Fight for Kurdistan". The New Yorker. 22 September 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  14. "Syria says giving military support to Kurds in Kobani". The Daily Star. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  15. http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/asyl-in-deutschland-auffallend-viele-kurdische-fluechtlinge/14446010.html
  16. http://web.archive.org/web/20080626131005/http://www.bmi.bund.de/nn_334158/Internet/Content/Nachrichten/Pressemitteilungen/2006/01/Asylzahlen2005.html
  17. http://www.swr.de/landesschau-aktuell/bw/asylantraege-von-tuerken-in-bw-fast-90-prozent-sind-kurden/-/id=1622/did=17928552/nid=1622/1e01sgq/
  18. http://web.archive.org/web/20080626131005/http://www.bmi.bund.de/nn_334158/Internet/Content/Nachrichten/Pressemitteilungen/2006/01/Asylzahlen2005.html
  19. Begikhani, Nazand; Gill, Aisha; Hague, Gill; Ibraheem, Kawther (November 2010). "Final Report: Honour-based Violence (HBV) and Honour-based Killings in Iraqi Kurdistan and in the Kurdish Diaspora in the UK" (PDF). Centre for Gender and Violence Research, University of Bristol and Roehampton University. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  20. "The cultural situation of the Kurds, A report by Lord Russell-Johnston, Council of Europe, July 2006. Retrieved 11.01.2015.
  21. "MP: Failed asylum seekers must go back – Dewsbury Reporter". Dewsburyreporter.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
  22. Published on Tue June 12 14:33:59 BST 2007. "'I will not be muzzled' – Malik". Dewsburyreporter.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
  23. "UK Polling Report Election Guide: Dewsbury". Ukpollingreport.co.uk. 2012-06-09. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  24. "Hundreds of Syrian Kurdish migrants seek shelter in Serbia". Kurd Net - Ekurd.net Daily News. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  25. "For Iraqi, Syrian Kurdish refugees, fantastic dreams and silent deaths". Kurd Net - Ekurd.net Daily News. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  26. "2011 National Household Survey: Data tables". StatCan.GC.ca. Statistics Canada. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  27. "Detailed Mother Tongue, 2011 Census of Canada". StatCan.GC.ca. Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  28. "NPT Visits Our Next Door Neighbors in Little Kurdistan, USA". Nashville Public Television. 2008-05-19. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  29. "Nashville's new nickname: 'Little Kurdistan'". Washington Times. 2013-02-23. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  30. "Interesting Things About Nashville, Tennessee". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  31. "2006–2010 American Community Survey Selected Population Tables". FactFinder2.Census.gov. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  32. "Japan's Kurds often in limbo, despite significant community - The Japan Times". The Japan Times. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  33. "Turks and Kurds clash in Japan over Turkey elections". Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  34. "Turks, Kurds clash outside Turkish Embassy as voting kicks off". The Japan Times. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  35. Sputnik (25 October 2015). "Turks Clash With Kurds in Tokyo, at Least 4 Injured (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)". Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  36. "Several injured in violent brawl outside Turkish embassy in Japan". RT English. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  37. "PressTV-Turks, Kurds clash near embassy in Japan". Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  38. "A history of modern Palestine: one land, two peoples,by Ilan Pappé, 2004, p176". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  39. Megalommatis, Muhammad Shamsaddin (February 28, 2010). "Dispersion of the Yazidi Nation in Syria, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Europe: Call for UN Action". American Chronicle. Retrieved August 20, 2010.
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