Who are the Kurds? Why is Turkey invading Syria? How should Christians respond?


A Kurdish woman participates in a demonstration outside European Parliament in Brussels on Oct. 9, 2019.

When cultural or geopolitical events warrant, we publish website articles intended to explain the issues and offer biblical perspective. In this context, we’ll look today at the escalating conflict in Syria involving Turkey and the Kurds.

Who are the Kurds? 

Though not a formal country, Kurdistan represents the areas in which the Kurds live throughout Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Armenia.

Between twenty-five and thirty-five million people known as Kurds live in a region straddling the borders of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Armenia. They are indigenous to the Mesopotamian plains and form a distinct community united through race, culture, and language. The exact origin of their name is unclear. 

The Kurds may be mentioned on a Sumerian clay tablet dating to the third millennium BC. Many consider themselves to have descended from the Medes, an ancient Iranian people. The majority today are Sunni Muslims. 

Their traditional way of life was nomadic, revolving around sheep and goat herding. The enforcement of national boundaries after World War I impeded the seasonal migrations of their flocks, forcing most of them to abandon their traditional ways for village life and settled farming. 

They also became famous as warriors and mercenaries. The sultan Saladin, known for his victories during the Crusades, epitomizes their military reputation. 

After the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres. However, the Treaty of Lausanne, which was signed three years later and set the boundaries of modern Turkey, made no provision for a Kurdish state. 

As a result, because they live in an area that crosses several borders, the Kurds have majority status in no country. For instance, they constitute 15 to 20 percent of the population in Turkey, 7 to…

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