Kurdification is a cultural change in which people, territory, or language become Kurdish.[1] This can happen both naturally (as in Turkish Kurdistan) or as a deliberate government policy (as in Iraq after the 2003 invasion).[2][3]

The notion of Kurdification is different from country to country. In Turkish Kurdistan, many ethnic Armenians,[citation needed] Bulgarians,[4] Circassians,[5] Chechens,[6] Ingushs,[6] and Ossetians have become Kurdified as a result of fleeing to the region and having subsequently assimilated to the Kurdish culture and language.

In Iraqi Kurdistan, territories belonging to minorities such as Turkmens and Assyrians were subjected to Kurdification policies until 2017 in the disputed territories of northern Iraq, when the Kurdistan Regional Government administered the area.[7]


Turkmen tribes

Throughout history, many Turkic tribes either settled or were forced to settle in Kurdish-inhabited areas. In an interview from 1996, Kurdish writer Yaşar Kemal described his visit to a large Afshar Turkmen village in Diyarbakır. There were overall 8 such villages which also didn't know any Kurdish and were exiled to the region after the Kozanoğlu rebellion in 1865. As historically 30 thousand tents were exiled to the region, Kemal asked the elders why they were only 8 villages. The elders responded that the rest got Kurdified, because they were Sunnis, while these last 8 villages were Alevis and didn't interact with the Sunni Kurds.[8]

Caucasian refugees (1860s–1910s)

Main article: Chechen Kurds

When refugees from Caucasus reached the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople decided not to settle these in Kurdistan due to the extreme poverty and lack of material resources for the refugees. Yet after some time, the Ottomans started seeing the refugees as a chance to diminish the Kurdish claim to the region and allowed the refugees to settle in the region.[9] In 1862, Circassian refugees from the Shapsug tribe arrived in the Kurdish areas of Ahlat and Adilcevaz and settled in the three Kurdish villages of Yoğurtyemez, Xanik (Çukurtarla), Develik and founded the village of Koxiş (Yolçatı).[10]

The first big wave of Caucasian refugees to Kurdistan was in 1864 when 15,000 to 20,000 refugees settled in Sarıkamış, founding new villages and settling in abandoned Greek and Armenian villages.[11] The largest group of refugees were Circassias who fled the Circassia region (part of the Russian Empire) during the ethnic cleansing of Circassians.[12] Concurrently with the Circassian migration, Ossetians settled in the villages of Xulik (Otluyazı) and Ağcaviran (Akçaören) in Ahlat.[13][14] According to the Russian intelligence officer Aleksandr Kolyubakin, no less than 1,500 Ossetians lived in the Sanjak of Muş in the late 1880s.[13]

Chechens and Ingushs mostly settled in Varto area, in the villages of Arincik (Kıyıbaşı), Çarbuhur (Bağiçi), Tepeköy, Artet (Serinova), Ulusırt and Arinç (Çöğürlü).[6]

From early stage on, these Caucasians went through a process of Kurdification and thereby had Kurdish as their mother tongue.[15][5][16]

Urbanization of Kurds

With the departure of non-Muslim populations of many cities in regions with significant Kurdish population, the native urban Muslim populations also migrated to cities such as Gaziantep, İzmir, Adana, Ankara, and Istanbul. The tractorization in rural Kurdish communities during the 1950s and the later abandonment of villages due to the Kurdish-Turkish conflict caused many Kurds to migrate to nearby cities that were losing their native population such as Diyarbakır but also to distant cities like Mersin, either mostly or partially Kurdifying the ethnic makeup.[17] The aim of the resettlements and depopulation of the Kurdish population from villages to the cities were the Turkification of the Kurdish population[18] or according to İsmail Beşikçi the destruction of the Kurdish nation.[18][19]



On 21 August 2006, Shabak Democratic Party leader Hunain Qaddo, proposed the creation of a separate province within the borders of the Nineveh Plain, arguing that the move was to combat the Arabization and Kurdification of Iraqi minorities. The Iraqi government voted against the proposition.[20][21]

After 2011

Some Assyrians in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq complained that construction plans are "aimed at affecting a demographic change that divides Assyrian blocs". Also some Yazidis, Shabaks and Turkmens have reported that they are facing a policy of cultural and security control against them.[22]

In 2016, David Romano, Professor of Middle East Politics, said that without the YPG and Peshmerga, the Assyrians of northern Syria and Iraq would likely all be dead, lying in some jihadist-dug mass grave.[23]

During the Iraqi Civil War, Iraqi army troops fled their posts around the Nineveh Plains while ISIL attacked. Later, KRG forces, with the support of coalition airstrikes, captured these areas from ISIL. Since then, there have been disputes between pro-government Assyrians and Kurds, as the former have either asked the Kurds to leave or promised them autonomy.

In 2011, some Yazidi activists voiced their "concern over forced assimilation into Kurdish identity". Some have accused the Kurdish and Iraqi parties of diverting US $12 million of reconstruction funds allocated for Yazidi areas in Jebel Sinjar to a Kurdish village and marginalizing them politically. According to Sweden-based economist David Ghanim, the goal of some tactics of the KRG had been to push Shabak and Yazidi communities to identify as Kurds, which has been strongly denied by KRG authorities. He also claimed that the Kurdish authorities are working to impose Kurdish identity on the Yazidis and the Shabaks.[24]

The Kurdish regional government has also been accused of trying to Kurdify other regions such as the Nineveh Plains and Kirkuk by providing financial support for Kurds who want to settle in those areas.[25][26]


See also: Kirkuk Massacre of 1959

While Kurdish forces held the city of Kirkuk, Kurdish authorities attempted to Kurdify the city. Turkmen and Arab residents in Kirkuk experienced intimidation, harassment and were forced to leave their homes, in order to increase the Kurdish demographic in Kirkuk and bolster their claims to the city. Multiple Human Rights Watch reports detail the confiscation of Turkmen and Arab families' documents, preventing them from voting, buying property and travelling. Turkmen residents of Kirkuk were detained by Kurdish forces and compelled to leave the city. Kurdish authorities expelled hundreds of Arab families from the city, demolishing their homes in the process.[27][28][29]

United Nations reports since 2006 have documented that Kurdish authorities and Peshmerga militia forces were illegally policing Kirkuk and other disputed areas, and that these militia have abducted Turkmen and Arabs, subjecting them to torture.[30]


Küresunni Turks

In the southwest of Khoy, there are Kurdicized groups of Küresünni Turks.[31]

Tilku Tribe

A group of Kurdicized Tilku Turks live around Santeh and Zagheh of Saqqez County.[32]


During the Syrian Civil War, the Syrian Democratic Forces, have been accused of Kurdification. [33][34] During 2016, Fabrice Balanche reported that the PYD was aiming to connect Kobane and Afrin cantons in the Manbij area between the Euphrates River and Afrin, where Kurds represent less than a quarter of the population, believing that various Kurdification methods could help subdue a large portion of the Turkmen and Arab population.[35] Liz Sly of the Washington Post stated:

"The Kurds formally renamed Tal Abyad with a Kurdish name, "Gire Spi", and proclaim its new identity in signs throughout the town — written in the Latin script used by Turkish Kurds but not readily understood by Syrian Kurds or Arabs. They have also unilaterally detached it from the existing Syrian province of Raqqa and made it a part of their newly formed autonomous enclave, carved from areas traditionally inhabited by Kurds but steadily encroaching also on territories that were historically Arab."[36]

— Liz Sly, "They freed a Syrian town from ISIS. Now they have to govern it.", The Washington Post

Likewise, YPG is accused of Kurdifying the names of the villages, especially the Arab villages in Raqqa.[37] World Council of Arameans has also accused PYD of Kurdifying the region and terrorizing the Christians.[38]

More recently during the Syrian Civil War, many states, NGOs such as Human Rights Watch,[39] and more than a dozen of Syrian rebel groups[40] accused the Syrian Democratic Forces of Kurdifying traditional Arab[33][34] and Turkmen lands.[40][39] In 2015, Amnesty International disclosed allegations of unjustified forced displacement, demolition of homes, and the seizure and destruction of property of Arabs and Turkmens (including the destruction of entire villages in some cases) through a field research.[41]

In a report published by the United Nations' Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic on 10 March 2017, the Commission refuted Amnesty International's reports of ethnic cleansing, stating that "'though allegations of 'ethnic cleansing' continued to be received during the period under review, the Commission found no evidence to substantiate reports that YPG or SDF forces ever targeted Arab communities on the basis of ethnicity."[42][43][44] In interviews, YPG spokespersons acknowledged that a number of families were in fact displaced. However, they placed the number at no more than 25, and stated military necessity.[45] They stated that the family members of terrorists maintained communications with them, and therefore had to be removed from areas where they might pose a danger.[45] They further stated that IS was using civilians in those areas to plant car bombs or carry out other attacks on the YPG.[46]

See also


  1. ^ Frye, Richard Nelson (1984). The History of Ancient Iran. C.H.Beck. p. 30. ISBN 9783406093975.
  2. ^ Al-Ali, Pratt, Nadje Sadig, Nicola Christine (2009). What kind of liberation?: women and the occupation of Iraq. University of California Press. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-520-25729-0.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Preti Taneja, Minority Rights Group International (2007). Assimilation, exodus, eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003. Minority Rights Group International. p. 19.
  4. ^ Harmen van der Wilt. The Genocide Convention: The Legacy of 60 Years. p. 147.
  5. ^ a b Yeldar Barış Kalkan (2006). Çerkes halkı ve sorunları: Çerkes tarih, kültür, coğrafya ve siyasetine sınıfsal yaklaşım. p. 175.
  6. ^ a b c Caucasian battlefields: A History of the Wars on the Turco-Caucasian Border, 1828–1921. Cambridge University Press. 2011-02-17. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-108-01335-2.
  7. ^ "On Vulnerable Ground | Violence against Minority Communities in Nineveh Province's Disputed Territories". Human Rights Watch. 2009-11-10. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  8. ^ Gürbüz, Macit (1 March 2021). Eskiden Türk'tük, şimdi Kürt'ük: Kürtleşen Türkler (4 ed.). p. 218. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  9. ^ Janet Klein (2011). The Margins of Empire: Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-7775-9.
  10. ^ "Unutulmuş Ahlat Çerkesleri-1" (in Turkish). Cerkes-Fed. 16 August 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  11. ^ Georgi Chochiev and Bekir Koç (2006). "Migrants from the North Caucasus in Eastern Anatolia: Some Notes on Their Settlement and Adaptation". Journal of Asian History. 40 (183). Harrassowitz Verlag.
  12. ^ Anita L. P. Burdett (1998). Armenia: Political and Ethnic Boundaries 1878–1948. Archive Ed. p. 1017. ISBN 978-1-85207-955-0.
  13. ^ a b Anthony Gorman (2015-05-29). Diasporas of the Modern Middle East. ISBN 978-0-7486-8611-7.
  14. ^ Çerkes fıkraları (in Turkish). University of Wisconsin – Madison. 1994. p. 10.
  15. ^ Ahmet Buran Ph.D., Türkiye'de Diller ve Etnik Gruplar, 2012
  16. ^ Dursun Gümüşoğlu (2008). Anadolu'da bir köy: Eskikonak : antropolojik inceleme.
  17. ^ Yanmış, Mehmet (11 April 2017). Yakın Dönemde Kürtler: Kimlik, Din, Gelenek. eKitap Projesi & Cheapest Books. pp. 81, 82, 121. ISBN 9786059496377. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  18. ^ a b Jongerden, Joost (2009). "Crafting Space, Making People: The Spatial Design of Nation in Modern Turkey". European Journal of Turkish Studies.
  19. ^ Jongerden, Joost (2009).p.2
  20. ^ "Hizballah Cavalcade: Quwat Sahl Nīnawā: Iraq's Shia Shabak Get Their Own Militia". JIHADOLOGY: A clearinghouse for jihādī primary source material, original analysis, and translation service. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  21. ^ "Iraqi Turkmen take up arms in Kirkuk - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East". Al-Monitor. 2014-06-18. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  22. ^ "Iraqi Kurdistan Must Ensure Minority Rights". Al-Monitor. 2013-09-23. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  23. ^ "Assyrian Bitterness and the Kurds". Rudaw. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  24. ^ Ghanim, David (2011-09-12). Iraq's Dysfunctional Democracy. Abc-Clio. p. 34. ISBN 9780313398025.
  25. ^ Hashim, Ahmed (2005). Insurgency and counter-insurgency in Iraq. Cornell University Press. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-8014-4452-4. Archived from the original on 2016-01-07. Retrieved 2015-10-12.
  26. ^ Taneja, Preti (2007). Assimilation, exodus, eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003. Minority Rights Group International. p. 20. ISBN 9781904584605. Archived from the original on 2016-01-07. Retrieved 2015-10-12.
  27. ^ "Iraq: Kirkuk Security Forces Expel Displaced Turkmen". Human Rights Watch. 7 May 2017.
  28. ^ "KRG: Kurdish Forces Ejecting Arabs In Kirkuk". Human Rights Watch. 3 November 2016.
  29. ^ "Iraq: Arab's homes destroyed in Kirkuk". Human Rights Watch. Archived from the original on 2021-12-22.
  30. ^ "Uncertain Refuge, Dangerous Return: Iraq's Uprooted Minorities" (PDF). Minority Rights Group International.
  31. ^ The most important Kurdish tribes in that region are ..., Korahsunni Kurdicized Turks, southwest of Ḵoy
  32. ^ iranicaonline:Tilakuʾi (Kurdicized Turks, around Sonnata and Zāḡa)
  33. ^ a b "The Future of the Kurds in Syria". Council on Foreign Relations. 2019-11-14. Retrieved 2021-02-16.
  34. ^ a b "Have the Syrian Kurds Committed War Crimes?". Council on Foreign Relations. 2017-02-07. Retrieved 2021-02-16.
  35. ^ Balanche, Fabrice. "Rojava's Sustainability and the PKK's Regional Strategy". The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  36. ^ "They freed a Syrian town from ISIS. Now they have to govern it". The Washington Post. 2015. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  37. ^ Sivrikaya, Halil Atilla (November 2019). "ARAP BAHARI'NIN SURİYE SAHASINDA ARAP DİLİNE OLAN YANSIMALARI: PYD/YPG ÖRNEĞİ". Güvenlik Bilimleri Dergisi. 8 (2): 335. doi:10.28956/gbd.646356. S2CID 213975513. Retrieved 16 July 2022.
  38. ^ "Kurdish PYD-YPG Shamelessly Terrorizes Christian Churches In Northeast Syria". World Council of Arameans (Syriacs). Retrieved 16 July 2022.
  39. ^ a b Phillips, David L. (2019). The Great Betrayal: How America Abandoned the Kurds and Lost the Middle East. New York: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd. p. 224. ISBN 9781786725769. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  40. ^ a b "Syrian refugees 'return to Tal Abyad' after IS defeat". The New Arab. 17 June 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  41. ^ "Syria: 'We had nowhere to go' – Forced displacement and demolitions in Northern Syria". Amnesty International. 12 October 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  42. ^ "Syria and Islamist groups guilty of war crimes, YPG cleared: UN report". Kom News. 15 March 2017. Archived from the original on 17 March 2017.
  43. ^ Antonopoulos, Paul (15 March 2017). "UN report counters Amnesty International's claim that Kurds are ethnically cleansing in Syria". Archived from the original on 18 May 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  44. ^ "UN report refutes ethnic cleansing claims against Syrian Kurdish YPG, SDF". 14 March 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  45. ^ a b "We had nowhere else to go, Forced displacement and demolition in northern Syria" (PDF). Amnesty International. October 2015. p. 28. Retrieved 20 October 2021. In some dangerous areas there are some specific cases that are very small, resulting from the terrorist threat, where families were sent away from the area ... Only 25 families were forced to leave across Rojava ... (They are told) 'Folks, remove your things please, and if you leave from this area until the war ends it will be a good thing ...' You have terrorists in al-Raqqa and their families – the uncle, and brother, and sister – are here, and they are in communication, giving them information. We were forced to distance these families. Not detain them. Distance them. Take them outside of the area.
  46. ^ "We had nowhere else to go, Forced displacement and demolition in northern Syria" (PDF). Amnesty International. October 2015. p. 29. Retrieved 20 October 2021. He added that IS was benefiting from the presence of civilians in these areas, and using them to plant car bombs or carry out other attacks on the YPG.

General references