A Brief Summary of the Occupation, and What the Occupation Entails
Edited by Brendan S.
Eastern Kurdistan (Rojhalat): Iranian-occupied
Northern Kurdistan (Bakûr): Turkish-occupied
Southern Kurdistan (Başûr): De facto autonomy, Iraqi-occupied in some parts
Western Kurdistan (Rojava): De facto autonomy, Turkish, Syrian, Russian, and jihadist-occupied in some parts
This essay brings to light the overprotection, insecurity, and feeling of constantly being unsafe that exist in Kurdish society.
There is a common grievance among Kurdish youth, about how their parents often don’t allow them to be free in making decisions, independent in their own lives, and following their dreams. These behaviours from their parents have made them depressed, disappointed, insecure, and unconfident about their goals, talents, abilities, skills, and lives in general. This has created so many social issues among Kurds.
There are reasons behind this issue, deeply rooted in historical context, which will be discussed in this essay.
During the last 100 years there have been so many epochal phenomenons and disasters in Kurdistan.
With the establishment of the Republic of Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923 following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, two major ethnic cleansings and massacres were committed by the newly established Turkish state against the Kurdish people. A Turkification campaign in Northern Kurdistan ensued as Kurdish rebellions against Turkish occupation sprang up. The first major massacre in 1930, known as the Zilan massacre, resulted in the deaths of up to 55,000 Kurds in Zilan Valley, Northern Kurdistan. The second one, known as the Dersim massacre in 1937 resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds in Dersim, Northern Kurdistan. In addition, it’s worthy to mention the Marsh Massacre which ended in the deaths of nearly 200 Kurdish civilians in 1978 and the Roboski massacre with 34 victims in 2011 in Shirnakh.
Kurds have had to deal with extreme racism, discrimination and persecution from the Turkish state since its establishment.
After the collapse of Qajar Dynasty in 1925 and the establishment of modern-day Iran by Reza Shah Pahlavi, a new resistance era began in Eastern Kurdistan, firstly by Simko Shikak from 1920-1930 in Urmia, then the establishment of Republic of Kurdistan in Mahabad in 1946. Both resulted in the death and displacement of thousands of Kurds and the destruction of their villages and towns by Persian forces.
Later in 1979, during the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Kurds were some of the only people who opposed the new Islamic Republic regime. Because of this, heavy fighting occurred between Kurdish Peshmerga and Iranian forces. On August 19, 1980, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa order and declared jihad against Kurds, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 25,000 Kurdish civilians, destruction of thousands Kurdish villages, and the assassination of two major Kurdish leaders, Dr. Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou in 1989 and Dr. Sadegh Sharafkandi in 1992.
Since the mid-1990s, when the Kurdish resistance slowed down in Eastern Kurdistan, nearly 3,000 Kurdish civilians have been executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Just like in Northern Kurdistan, Kurds under Iranian occupation have had to deal with all forms of racism, discrimination, and persecution.
In 1979, the same year Saddam came to power, Kurdish resistance led by Mullah Mustafa Barzani was also occurring in Southern Kurdistan against the Baathist regime of Iraq.
From 1986-1988 the Baathist regime committed a genocide that ended in the deaths of 182,000 Kurdish civilian, destruction of nearly 4,500 villages, and mass exodus of hundreds of thousands Kurds to Eastern Kurdistan, Iran, Northern Kurdistan, Turkey, Europe, and North America.
Later in 1991 during the Gulf War’s ceasefire, the Kurdish people started an uprising against the Baathist regime. Saddam saw this as another opportunity to commit genocide on Kurds, so he did. As a result, 1.8 million Kurds fled their cities and villages, and tens of thousands of Kurdish civilians were killed yet again.
In 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria known as ISIS attacked Shengal region and massacred up to 12,000 Yazidis, who are a religious minority in Southern Kurdistan. They kidnapped thousands of Yazidi women, forced them into sex slavery, and sold them in slave markets.
The people of Southern Kurdistan have faced similar issues as Kurds from North and East and West.
Since the establishment of Arab Kingdom of Syria in 1920, which would become the Syrian Arab Republic in 1961, Kurds in Western Kurdistan have also faced immense injustice, persecution, torture, and murder. In 1960, nearly 300 Kurdish school children in the city of Amuda were ordered by the Syrian government to watch a film on the Algerian Revolution. After they entered the theater, the cinema staff left the building, locked the doors, and the projector burst into flames. Up to 283 of the children burned to death in the massacre, most of whom were under the age of 14.
In 2004, riots ensued during a chaotic football match in Qamishli. Some fans of the Arab guest team started raising pictures of Saddam Hussein, an action that angered the fans of the Kurdish host team. During the riots, up to 100 Kurdish civilians were killed, 2,000 were arrested, and 5,000 were displaced. With this event came a new phase of Syrian oppression against Kurds.
In 1971, Hafez al-Assad’s rule began in Syria. Since his death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad has been the president of the Syrian Arab Republic. Under the Assad family’s rule, Kurds in Western Kurdistan, being non-Arabs, were never considered as actual citizens, and were excluded from nearly all civil liberties enjoyed by Arabs.
In March 2011, the Arab Spring uprisings began in Syria, igniting a devastating civil war. The Kurdish people found a new chance to fight for their rights, one which would lead to fierce conflict against the Assad regime, the opposition, ISIS, and the Turkish Army. As a result, thousands of Kurdish civilians have been killed, hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
According to Dr. F. S., a Kurdish social and environmental crisis management researcher at Beheshti University of Tehran, these devastating wars, genocides, persecutions, poverty, etc. have all had an immense impact on the Kurdish peoples’ mental health over the last century. He states that these events are one of the several reasons that many Kurds are insecure and overprotective. There is always a lingering fear of getting arrested, tortured, jailed, murdered, executed, and persecuted for no logical reason by the regimes that occupy Kurdistan.
This persistent fear which has transferred from generation to generation has led Kurdish parents to be overprotective and take care of their children in an excessive manner, which in turn may hamper the ongoing development of Kurdish civil society.
For example, many Kurdish parents often try to keep their children close to themselves and almost never let them go to other cities and countries to work, study, or travel alone. They do this because they are afraid that something bad will happen to their children when they are alone, and they do not want to be far from their children if something bad were to happen to them.
Taking everything into consideration, the psychological patterns we see all boil down to one major concept: the fear of persecution for simply being a Kurd. This fear, which is imposed on our people by the oppressive nation-states of Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, has damaged the Kurdish peoples’ mental health to an extent where the scars can be seen in virtually every aspect of our lives.
It will take a lot to find effective solutions to this psychological and generational issue, which is less discussed and studied by Kurdish intellectuals. Reaching Kurdish sovereignty, under empathetic leadership, would obviously relieve these issues by ensuring the safety and security of the Kurdish people. However, in the meantime, the issue of mental health must be studied more scientifically by experts to reach a better understanding and possible solutions while the occupation of Kurdistan remains an enduring stain on humanity.