Who are the Kurds?
The Kurds are an indigenous people of the Middle East numbering today at an estimated 45 million mostly across four countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey. Kurds are the largest ethno-national group in the world without a nation-state of their own.
The Kurds have a distinct language, culture, dress and are predominately Sunni Muslim. But Kurds follow many religions and other significant groups include Kurdish Jews, Yazidis, Christians, Shi’ite Muslims, and Zoroastrians.
Kurds live in a mountainous region in the Middle East across what they call Kurdistan or the “land of the Kurds.” The heart of the Kurdish region is centered on the Zagros Mountains and the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys.
Due to strong ties to their ethnic Kurdish identity, Kurds have frequently been targeted by the non-Kurdish countries that govern them. Kurds have faced many massacres and even genocides, including the use of chemical weapons against them. The Kurdish language has been deemed illegal at times, Kurdish colors forbidden, Kurdish holidays suppressed, among many other violations of basic human rights. However the Kurds are known to be fierce fighters and have survived a variety of empires and regimes over time.
Today, the ultimate goal of the Kurds is to govern themselves in an independent, democratic nation-state.
The Kurds share America’s constitutional, democratic values of protecting religious freedom, racial and ethnic diversity, and women’s empowerment. When given the opportunity, Kurds have cultivated stability and freedom in one of the most hostile regions of the world. The Kurds are pro-American and have proven to be strategic American partners on the ground in times of conflict. Their efforts prevented the loss of American lives during the 2003 Iraq War in the Kurdistan Region. The Kurds in Syria have also established a strong military partnership with American service members.