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Top Insights

Insights Kurds' complex ties in the Middle East and beyond

CGTN | Thu,2017-05-18


With Kurdish groups having emerged as a key force in the fight against ISIL militants in recent years, the ethnic group has some complex relationships with various nations in the Middle East and beyond.

The Kurds make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, with 25-35 million Kurds inhabiting mountainous areas across the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia.

While the ethnic group has never had a permanent nation state, in recent decades, Kurds have become an increasingly significant voice in regional issues.

In northern Iraq, Kurds are fighting both against ISIL militants, and for their own independence. They have established the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, which administers three Iraqi provinces.

In Turkey, Kurds constitute 15-20 percent of the total population, and the Kurdish PKK group has long been fighting for autonomy from the Turkish government. Their struggle has continued for decades, amid several failed peace talks and ceasefires.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Kurdish YPG group and its armed PYD wing have been playing an important role in the fight against ISIL.

The PKK is officially considered a terrorist organization by the EU and the US, but the latter sees the YPG as distinct from the PKK, as a key ally against ISIL.

Turkey insists the YPG is a terrorist organization and an affiliate of the PKK, and has been shelling both YPG fighters and ISIL militants in northern Syria.

Balancing relations between Kurdish groups and Turkey will be a key challenge for the Trump administration's policy in the Middle East.