KURDISTAN

Our encounter with an ancient land without formal recognition

> Journeying nearly 1 month across the Kurdish regions of Turkey & Iran <

"Why would you go to Kurdistan? Is it even a real country?". As we started planning the journey this was the typical questions we would face. Knowing that Kurdistan is completely unique, we feel privileged to be ambassadors for this slice on earth. We have traveled extensively in Kurdistan and it is easy to see and sense that the Kurds form a distinctive community in the Levant and greater Middle East. They seem united through race, culture and language, even though they have no standard dialect. They also adhere to a number of different religions and creeds, although the majority are Sunni Muslims. Another striking characteristic is that they are - seriously! - among the most friendly and hospitable people on Earth.

The Kurds are one of the indigenous people of the Mesopotamian plains and the highlands in what are now southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and southwestern Armenia. Between 25 and 35 million Kurds inhabit this mountainous region, and they make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East. From 1920 to 1923, an independent Kurdistan existed, but in 1923, the land split up between the two countries that are Iraq and Turkey today. Since then, the Kurds have struggled to build an independent nation, but they have yet to obtain a permanent nation state.

 

There are only a few larger Kurdish towns such as Diyarbakir (a sort of capital for Kurds) and Van in Turkey; Erbil and Kirkuk in Iraq; and Mahabad and Sanandaj in Iran. Traveling around Kurdistan, we saw that most Kurds live in small villages in remote mountain regions. A typical Kurdish house is made of mud-brick with a wooden roof. In the summer, the family sleep on the roof where it is cooler. Some homes have under-ground rooms to use in the winter to escape the cold. There is rarely indoor plumbing or heating. Water is carried into the house in jars and cans from a central village well. Around Van, we saw how a few remaining nomadic Kurds live in tents made of blackened hides. Traditional Kurdish dress is becoming rare but it can still be seen many places. Kurdish women wear colorful skirts and blouses. Men wear baggy, colorful pants with a plain shirt having very full sleeves, tied at the elbow. Bright-colored vests and sashes are worn over the shirt. Most men wear a silk turban on their head. One striking thing about Kurds, which we saw very clearly, is that Kurdish women freely associate with men in most gatherings.

 

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© Anders M. Pedersen & Jakob M. Pedersen

All photos have been taken by Anders & Jakob.