Iraq (Bashur or Southern Kurdistan)

Kurdish Boy Making Carrot Juice - Erbil, Iran

© Michelle May

The Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq, or Iraqi Kurdistan, is a geopolitical region in northern Iraq.

History of Iraqi Kurdistan

The history of the the Kurdish people in Iraqi Kurdistan dates back to ancient times. Before the region was conquered by Arab Muslims in the 7th century AD, numerous Kurdish tribes and small Kurdish empires flourished.

Islamic rule over the Kurdish homeland by the Ottoman Empire came to end after WWI, but the Iraqi Kurds, who had lived between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, were segmented into different countries as a result of the Sykes-Picot agreement that split the Middle East into British and French “influence zones.”

This resulted in a large population of Kurds seeking refuge in the cities and towns in Northern Iraq. While these Kurds were of different tribes, they would continue to seek sovereignty.

Kurdistan Regional Government

Today, Iraqi Kurdistan is governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government or KRG. The KRG is located in the city of Erbil, which is also known in Kurdish as Hewlêr. Revenue for the Kurdish government is generated primarily from oil, although the KRG and the Iraqi government contest the ownership of this resource.

iraqi kurdistan

Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The army of Iraqi Kurdistan is the Peshmerga, and this army is protecting Iraqi Kurdistan from direct advance from the so-called Islamic State.

Iraqi Kurdistan’s Quest for Sovereignty

Iraqi Kurdistan

Columbia University

The Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan have mounted numerous attempts at sovereignty during the mid-20th century, including revolts against the British after WWI, and during the First Iraqi-Kurdish War in the 1960’s.

An autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan was finally established in 1970, when the Iraqi government and Kurdish opposition forces signed an autonomy agreement, however the agreement fell apart by 1974 and the region devolved into violence.

Throughout the next decade, the Kurdish people engaged in both civil conflict, and in conflict with the Iraqi government. During this time, Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government infamously used chemical weapons on both Kurdish combatants and civilians, killing thousands of Kurds.

During the early 1990’s, the Iraqi government withdrew their armed forces from the region, but continued to oppress the Kurdish people. After the Ba’athist government was overthrown in 2003, elections were held and the region began to be governed independently by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

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