The Kurdish Struggle, 1920-94 by E. O'Ballance

By E. O'Ballance

Forming minorities in 5 adjoining nations for seventy four years, Kurds were combating for independence or autonomy opposed to governments reluctant to accede both. The Kurdish saga is certainly one of periodic insurrections, partial victories, misfortunes, defeats, betrayal, nationwide repression, clashing personalities, altering allegiances and a mix of heroism and expediency. This ebook examines either political and army features of the fight, and of the explanations and machinations of key figures concerned.

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Sensing a changing atmosphere and seeing litde chance of loot, the traditional bait that kept them in the field, 32 The Kurdish Struggle several small tribes withdrew their fighting contingents. These gaps in defences, especially on the main southern front, were filled by Barzanis as Barzani, seeing danger ahead, gathered his followers around him. Probably the last major Mahabad aggressive move was made on 19 July, when cavalry elements of the Shikaki and Herki tribes advanced northwards towards the town of Maku, near the Soviet frontier, and the town of Khei, to the north-east of Lake Urmiya.

Initially the Russians did help, and as they moved into Turkish regions they were preceded by Armenian irregulars, who killed and looted as they advanced. It was alleged that 'more than 600 000 Kurds were killed, between 1915 and 1918' (Arfa, 1966). Those Armenians and Assyrians who had taken up arms were soon halted, and were then driven eastwards by Turkish troops into the Persian province of Azerbaijan. The Assyrians came up against the agha of the powerful Kurdish Shikaki tribe, known as 'Simko' (Ismail Agha) east of Tabriz, whom a weak Tehran government had allowed some jurisdiction.

Further negotiations proved negative. The Kurdish Republic of Mahabad 25 A GREATER KURDISTAN The year 1944 was one in which Kurdish nationalism began to develop, mainly in Iraq and Iran but also to some extent in Turkey. In Iraq the Heva and communist factions eyed each other warily, but the communists were divided amongst themselves and one group, although it had no Kurdish members, openly backed die Kurdish cause. Unlike the Kurds in the former Ottoman Empire, who had been vaguely promised independence, which had generated sparks of nationalism, die political aspirations of those in Iran remained tribal and insular, motivated by reluctance to be subjected to central control.

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