Kurdistan was erased from the world's maps after World War I when the Allied
Powers carved up the Middle East and denied the Kurds a nation-state. More than
twenty million Kurds live in parts of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.
Throughout the 20th century their struggles for political and cultural autonomy
were opposed by the region's countries and the Kurds were often used as pawns in
The Kurds' plight most recently captured the world's attention
in 1991 following the end of the Gulf War. Television around the world showed images of northern Iraq's
Kurds fleeing Saddam Hussein's Iraq through the mountains of Turkey and Iran. Since the
1920s, negotiations between Iraq's Kurds and the government in Baghdad
have always broken down over issues of Kurdish independence, and
the Kurds' wish to control the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and to have their own
In America's dealings with Saddam Hussein and Iraq, Iraq's Kurds have been a
tragic side show. For decades, they looked to the U.S. for support in
their struggle against Saddam's government. Washington's response has been
classic realpolitik - using the Kurds when it wanted to hurt Saddam and then
dropping them when their usefulness had run out. [See the chronology]
For this FRONTLINE report, "The Survival of Saddam," producer Greg
Barker interviewed key Kurdish leaders and senior American officials who
discuss the long, bitter relationship between the U.S. and the Kurds of
northern Iraq. Here are those interviews:
He is one of the veteran U.S. diplomats in the
Middle East. He describes America's treatment of the Kurds as "one of the
most tragic episodes in our nation's history."
He is Deputy Prime Minister of the
Kurdish Democratic Party and one of four Kurdish leaders who joined the Iraqi
government in 1970 after the Kurds negotiated a power-sharing agreement with
then-Vice President Saddam Hussein. He talks about U.S. betrayals and the Kurds' continuing
skepticism about U.S. support.
He is part of a three-man leadership council for the Iraqi opposition group,
the Iraqi National Congress. He offers an overview of Saddam Hussein and Iraq
the past three decades, evaluates U.S-Iraq relations, and explains the threat
Saddam still poses and the strategy required for launching a successful
attack against him.
He is former chief negotiator for the Kurdish Democratic Party in its
negotiations with Iraq and the United States.
He is a leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two largest
Kurdish opposition groups in Iraq.
This PBS Online Newshour Forum with Dr. Salah Aziz, an Iraqi Kurd by birth and
director of the Kurdish Studies Program at Florida State University, offers a
primer on the Kurds' story, examining questions such as: 'What is the role of
the Kurds in Middle East dynamics?' 'How has the history of Western policy
toward the Kurds affected the present scenario?' The Newshour site offers
related background news reports and web sites.
"The Kurdish issue at its core is simply this: A people with a distinct ethnic
heritage aspires to control its own ancestral domains, and to be recognized as
a nation-state in the modern world." But there is nothing simple about the
fate of the Kurds. In this pointed historical overview (with map), Vera
Saeedpour, a longtime monitor of Kurdish affairs, tells of: the rise and fall
of the ancient Kurdish empire; the carving up of Kurdish lands after the 20th
century's world wars; the chronic strife between Kurds and Turkey, Iraq, Iran,
and Syria; a series of betrayals by the United States over the last several
decades; and the current factional infighting among Kurds themselves that is
perhaps as serious a threat to their future survival as any.
In another pointed commentary, Katherine A. Wilkens of the Center for
International and Security Studies, dissects the failings of two U.S.
administrations to make good on promises to help the Iraqi Kurds after the Gulf
Who are the Kurds? And is there a solution to their enduring conflicts? This
transcript of a National Public Radio "Talk of the Nation" 1996 broadcast
offers background on the Kurds, as well as discussion among several experts who
put the Kurds' current plight in the region in a broader political and
This site offers a range of information on this Kurdish opposition group
including its history and goals, its leader Jalal Talabani, and related
background information and updated news stories.
This site of the other main rival Iraqi Kurdish faction , the KDP, has a
collection of information on their history, leaders and goals.
secrets of his life and leadership ·
photo album ·
the kurds' story
join the discussion ·
tapes & transcripts ·
Some Photographs Copyright FRONTLINE/Iraqi News Agency
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