A majority of the struggles in the Middle East over the past one hundred years can be tied back to the Sykes Picot Agreement. Drafted in the final years of WWI, the Sykes Picot Agreement was a secret document negotiated by British officer Mark Sykes and French diplomat François Georges-Picot. The agreement was ratified by France and Britain in 1916, splitting the Levant region into two spheres of influence after the end of WWI, and changing the map of the Middle East forever.
Sykes Picot Agreement and the Treaty of Sèvres
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the borders drawn in the Sykes Picot agreement were signed into law with the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. This treaty originally set aside part of Turkey as Kurdish territory, however this decision protested aggressively by Turkish nationalists, who went so far as to relocate thousands of Turks into Kurdish-majority parts of Turkey.
Sykes Picot and the Treaty of Lausanne
In 1923 the Treaty of Lausanne was signed by the Allied Powers which amended the previous treaty. Forming the present day Turkey, Lausanne set the northern borders of Syria and Iraq, separating ethnic groups and effectively dashing the Kurdish dream of forming a sovereign Kurdistan.
Today, more than 30 million Kurds, and millions of Assyrians, Yezidis and other stateless ethnicities straddle the makeshift borders originally created by Mark Sykes and Francois Picot 100 years ago.
Lasting Impacts for Kurds
The Kurds in Turkey were denied basic citizenship until the late 1990’s, and are locked in a decades-old civil war against the Turkish government. Syria’s Kurds had lived without cultural or linguistic freedoms for decades under the Assads. They were not granted full voting rights until the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011.
Iraq’s Kurds suffered from a genocide conducted by Saddam Hussein in the late 80’s, and while the Kurds in Iran attempted to establish a Kurdish government in 1946, it was quickly and brutally suppressed by the Iranian government.
Reflecting on the past one hundred years of borders drawn by a secret agreement, you may ask yourself, what would the Middle East look like today, if the Sykes-Picot had been drawn differently. Share this video with the world to honor those who have been oppressed and without a voice for the past 100 years.