A Modern History of Kurds
War, Conflict, and Progress
Many atrocities have been committed against Kurdish people, but few documented. In “A Modern history of Kurds,” David McDowall describes Kurdish people in a chronological order, starting with the geography of the region, the situation of Kurds before the nineteenth century and the division of Kurdistan. He provides an insightful look into a neglected region by documenting the brutality Kurdish people have faced historically, and the rise of Kurdish nationalism.
The maps provided in the book are remarkable for those curious about the constituents of Kurdistan. In the book, McDowall illustrates that Kurdish dialects were divided into four parts; Kurmancî was widely spoken in the North, and Soranî in the Southern parts of Kurdistan. In Northwest of Kurdistan, Zaza was a common Kurdish dialect, and in Southern-western Gorani was spoken.
McDowall explains the division of Kurdistan into two parts as a result of the battle of Chalderan in 1514 between the Ottoman empire and the Safavi empire, where the ‘lion’s share’ was taken by the Ottoman empire. The Kurds were under Ottoman rule, and between the Ottomans in the West and the Persians in the East, the Kurdish areas between these two Empires established independent tribal Kingdoms in the mountains. They lived peacefully without interference, and this is because they sent their soldiers to join the Ottoman army, helping the Ottoman empire defend its borders.
Kurds have always been a multi-faith community, with Muslims, Christians, Yazedian, Jewish, Zardashte, Assyrian, Armenian, and other religious minorities in the region.
parts Kurds lived in villages, and each tribe was led by their Chief, known as Agha in Kurdish, and the Chief exerted power over most members of his or her tribe.
Kurdistan became the scene of international conflict resolution between 1800-1850. During this time the Ottoman empire was highly centralized, and had lost control of its hinterland. For nearly 600 years, a Sultan exerted power over territories on three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. The 19th century found the Ottoman borders in the process of contracting as the European powers defeated the Ottoman empire by war.
Russia and Britain had financial interest in Kurdistan during the nineteenth century. The latter wanted to use it as a road/route to reach India because during that time Britain was powerful, and had many colonies abroad, “The British did not want to lose the sight of the sun”.
Russia tried to reach the warm waters of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean White Sea for this purpose. It attempted to regain most of the Caucasus region lost in war. The Ottoman empire gave up most of its land in the region, according to an agreement called “Kuchuk Kainarji” in 1774. Russia contacted with the enemies of the Ottomans, which were the Armenian and Kurdish tribes at the time. McDowall notes that the relationship between Kurdish Muslim tribes and Russia were made in the beginning of the 19th century. McDowall explains, “Muslim Kurdish tribes had also provided a regiment against the sultan. It was the first time the Russian had made use of the Kurds, having first come into contact with them during hostilities in 1804-5”.