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The Kurds are one of the indigenous people of the Mesopotamian plains and the highlands, areas that today are contained within southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, and southwestern Armenia. Estimated at between 25 million and 35 million people, the Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East.
Here’s a brief look at their political history in the four countries where they largely live:
Iraqi Kurds estimated to make up 15 to 20 percent of Iraq’s population of 38 million people, populate a mountainous region in northern Iraq and enjoy more national rights than Kurds in the neighboring three countries. The Iraqi Kurds have gained substantial political recognition since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
In 2005, the Iraq constitution accepted Kurdish as an official language, along with Arabic, and recognized the predominantly Kurdish provinces of Irbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Duhok as a federal entity known as the Kurdistan Region, which has its own military, known as the peshmerga. The relationship between the Kurds and the Iraqi government, however, has a history of bloody confrontations and often brutal crackdowns by the central government, particularly during Hussein’s reign.
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Feeling pressured by the Kurdish resistance movement, Hussein’s forces in the late 1980s unleashed the Anfal campaign, which reportedly left 180,000 Kurds killed or missing, and about 4,500 villages destroyed. The Iraqi government campaign also used chemical weapons, particularly in the 1998 gas attack on the town of Halabja, which left nearly 5,000 residents dead.
Rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, said the Anfal campaign was a systematic ethnic cleansing program that amounted to genocide. Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and South Korea officially recognize the campaign as genocide. In March 1991, after their uprising was crushed by the Iraq government, about 1.5 million Iraqi Kurds fled into Iran and Turkey, leading to a refugee crisis. In response, an anti-Hussein international coalition established a partial no-fly zone in northern Iraq to allow the return of refugees and protect them from future aggression. For years afterward, the zone allowed the Kurds to establish their regional government and parliament.
The rise of the Islamic State (IS) terror group in 2014 weakened the Iraqi government. The Kurdish peshmerga moved into areas from which Iraqi forces retreated as IS took control. The Kurds announced they had no intention of withdrawing from these areas, which the Iraqi constitution labels as disputed territories between the Kurdistan Region and the Central Government, and requires a referendum vote on their status.
As IS started losing territory, and the Kurdish peshmergas gained international support for their role in defeating the militants, the Kurdistan Region said it intended to hold a referendum for independence. The vote in September 2017 received 93.25% support, but it was later crushed in an Iraqi government operation, allegedly backed by Iran. It was the most recent attempt by Kurds to establish a state of their own.
In Syria, Kurds make up nearly 15 percent of Syria’s 22 million prewar population. They primarily live in the north and northeastern parts of Syria, with significant Kurdish communities in major Syrian cities, such as Damascus and Aleppo. Since the establishment of a modern state in Syria in the 1920s, Syrian Kurds have been deprived of political and linguistic rights.
The first Kurdish political party in Syria was founded in 1957, influenced by Iraqi Kurds. The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria called for political and cultural rights for the Kurdish minority in the Arab-majority country, but its leading members were faced with imprisonment and persecution.
With the eruption of Syria’s civil war in 2011, Syrian Kurds were able to be in charge of their regions for the first time. The People’s Protection Units (YPG) took control of the area after Syrian government troops withdrew to focus on fighting rebel groups elsewhere in the war-ravaged country. With the rise of IS in Syria, the YPG proved to be an effective force in the fight against IS. Consequently, the U.S.-led coalition provided assistance to the Kurdish group to remove IS from other territories in Syria.
In 2015, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was established to include non-Kurdish fighters as well. With U.S. support, the SDF captured most areas from IS control, including Raqqa, the capital of its so-called caliphate. In March 2019, the SDF declared the territorial defeat of IS after pushing out the terror group from its last pocket of control in eastern Syria. The Kurdish-led SDF now controls nearly one-third of Syria’s territory, which has effectively become a semiautonomous region.
But Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the Turkish-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group designated as terrorists by Turkey, the European Union, and the United States. This month, U.S. President Donald Trump announced American forces would withdraw from northeast Syria, allowing the Turkish military to launch its long-planned offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Days after the U.S. announcement, Turkey began its operation on two Kurdish-held cities along the Syria-Turkey border. Rights groups, including Amnesty International, said the Turkish-led campaign has killed hundreds of civilians and displaced thousands of others. Despite a cease-fire that was brokered by the U.S. last week and Turkey’s assurances that it would not resume its military offensive, fighting could resume as both Kurdish forces have not agreed to all the terms of the deal.
The Kurds are the largest non-Turkish ethnic group in Turkey. They constitute up to 20 percent of Turkey’s population. For decades, the Kurds were subjected to the so-called “Turkification policies” of the state, and their ethnic identity was denied. Their language was restricted, and naming their children in Kurdish was banned. For decades, they were referred to as “mountain Turks.”
The question of an independent Kurdistan has a long history that dates back to the Ottoman Empire. In the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, the Western allies promised an autonomous Kurdistan. However, that was never fulfilled because the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 following the Treaty of Lausanne. As a unitary nation-state, Turkey considered the Kurds a threat to its national unity and pushed back on demands for equal citizenship rights.
In 1978, Abdullah Ocalan founded the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) with the aim of establishing a united, independent Kurdistan within Turkey, but also including parts of Iraq, Iran, and Syria. The group started its armed insurgency inside Turkey in 1984, and since then, tens of thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced as a result of the conflict between the Turkish government and PKK.
In 1999, Ocalan was arrested in Kenya by Turkish intelligence forces. He is serving a life sentence at an island prison near Istanbul. In March 2013, during the Kurdish “Nowruz,” or new year, celebrations, Ocalan sent a letter to supporters. He called for a cease-fire, as well as steps to disarm and withdraw from Turkey, and an end to armed struggle. The Turkish government praised the letter. In July 2015, a two-and-a-half-year cease-fire broke down, and the conflict resumed. According to the International Crisis Group, more than 4,500 people have been killed in clashes or terror attacks since 2015.
ALSO READ: Know Who Are The Kurds?
Ethnic Kurds make up nearly 9% of Iran’s 80 million population. They are largely Sunni Muslims, but there are some Shiite and Zoroastrian Kurds as well. The Kurdish political movement in Iran started with the establishment of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in 1946. Under the leadership of Qazi Mohammad, the group declared a Kurdish republic in the city of Mahabad that same year. Nearly 11 months later, however, Iranian government forces entered Mahabad to crush the new Kurdish entity. Mohammad was executed immediately.
In 1979, after the Islamic revolution toppled the last shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the new Islamist government carried on the subjugation of the Kurds. The powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) began targeting Kurdish activists at home and abroad. In 1989, Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, an influential Iranian Kurdish leader, was assassinated in Vienna, Austria. The operation was reportedly carried out by the IRGC Influenced by the Turkish-based PKK, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) was founded in 2003 in Iran. Ever since the group has been engaged in occasional clashes with Iranian security forces. (VOA/SP)
(The article originally belongs to Voice of America and is written by Ezel Sahinkaya, Sirwan Kajjo, Rikar Hussein, Mehdi Jedinia.)
The symbol of Swastika is known to signify peace, prosperity, and good fortune in the religious cultures of Eurasia. In fact, this symbol is considered very significant in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. But, at the same time, it has become one of the most misunderstood religious symbols and has been globally banned in many countries.
The reason why the symbol of Swastika is banned in many countries is because of its association with Adolf Hitler's extreme political ideology, Nazism, as Swastika as its official symbol.
Austria, France, Latvia, Spain, Germany, and Russia are amongst the many countries that have banned the display and use of the Swastika.
Moreover, last week Victoria in Australia is preparing to become the first-ever state to ban the public display of the Swastika. This is a step towards an expansion of anti-vilification laws in the state.
Representation of the Swastika on the flag of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Movement.Photo by Flickr.
Now, we must know and understand what went wrong with this symbol, which is sacred and signifies all-good things.
For a very, very long time, in India, the Swastika is the first emblem that is worshipped or even drawn before any sacred and auspicious ceremonies as this symbol in Sanskrit represents 'well-being'. But, the Swastika lost all its credibility when it was wrongfully used by Adolf Hitler.
In fact, it is believed that if this symbol is worshipped properly, then it gives positive results. But if it is abused, then it gives negative results. So, when Adolf Hitler rotated the Swastika at 45 degrees, it slowly and steadily brought misery not only to Adolf Hitler and his theory of Nazism but also to all the people who were associated with him.
Therefore, in order to give the kind of respect and credibility which the Swastika deserves, World Interfaith Harmony Week which was held in New York in February this year, interfaith groups appealed to the United Nations to recognize and acknowledge the Swastika as an important and peaceful symbol. In fact, they also differentiated it from the Hakenkreuz or "Hooked Cross" of Adolf Hitler.
India celebrated a historic day on August 7, as 23-year-old Neeraj Chopra became the first Indian to win an Olympic gold medal in athletics. In the men's javelin throw event, he achieved his greatest triumph, throwing the javelin 87.58 meters on his second try.
Neeraj Chopra was born on December 24, 1997, in Khandra village in Haryana's Panipat district. He grew up in a Haryanavi family of farmers. He is the brother of two sisters. He graduated from Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College in Chandigarh and is now enrolled in Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar, Punjab, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree. Chopra was bullied due to his obesity as a kid, which prompted his father to enroll him in a nearby gym. He then joined a gym in Panipat, where Jaiveer Choudhary, a javelin thrower, noticed his potential and coached him. When the 13-year-old Chopra finished training under Jaiveer for a year, he was enrolled at the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex in Panchkula, where he began training under coach Naseem Ahmed.
In 2018, he broke the world record in the javelin throw and became India's first-ever gold medalist in the javelin throw. He is also a laureate of the Arjuna Award for 2018. | Wikimedia Commons
Chopra's first international medal came in 2014, as he took home a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Qualification Tournament in Bangkok. In 2015, he set a world record in the junior category of 81.04 meters in the 2015 All India Inter-University Athletics Meet.
Since emerging into the public eye with a historic gold medal at the junior world championships in 2016, he has maintained a high level of performance, setting an Under-20 world record of 86.48m, which still stands. Gold medals in both the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Asian Games are among his other accomplishments, including a first-place in the 2017 Asian Championships. In 2018, he broke the world record in the javelin throw and became India's first-ever gold medalist in the javelin throw. He is also a laureate of the Arjuna Award for 2018.
Chopra has also had his share of bad events in life. In 2019, he underwent surgery on the elbow of his right throwing arm, which kept him out of the game for almost a year. However, he returned more robust than ever. In November 2019, he went to South Africa to train from Klaus Bartoneitz. He spent the following year in India training at the NIS Patiala because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was allowed to go to France with his coach after weeks of trying to get a travel visa.
Neeraj Chopra made history in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by becoming the first Indian to win a gold medal in athletics. Also, it is worth mentioning that after Abhinav Bindra, Chopra is only the second Indian to win an individual gold medal.
Keywords: Neeraj Chopra, Olympics, Tokyo2020, Gold medal, javelin, India, Haryana
The emergence of the Industrial Revolution in Victorian England brought with it many apprehensions and fears that translated into a new genre in literature: the gothic. Today, the idea of the gothic does not have to much with literature as much as it is associated with fashion.
The Victorians began to wear black more often during the Industrial Revolution to hide the stains of soot on their clothes. Many of the working class were employed in factories. They were newly introduced to technology, the idea of coal as fuel, and the working of machines to serve a certain purpose. This kind of work was hard and messy. Wearing light colours burdened the tired folk when the stubborn stains did not get washed away.
The steam engine was invented to make locomotion easier for the masses, but it brought fear to the people. They had led quiet and simple lives till now, and suddenly their world was infiltrated with loud noises and smoke. Dark places became synonymous with evil deeds and mysteries. It was from this time that horror gained a place in the imaginations of people and artists.
A man sporting gothic clothes and shock coloured hair Image source: wikimedia commons
The gothics of today are those who have held on to these practices. There is no need to fear smoke and noise anymore, but the goths wear black clothes all the time, paint their skin a pale shade, to contrast their clothes, and wear bright shades of red. The traditional gothics decorated themselves with jewellery bearing religious significances, as the belief in Dracula and vampires emerged in the Victorian period. Today, it is a trend to wear studded crosses, or crosses made of black metal either as neck chokers, or earrings.
Modern goths also wear bright monotones to show their patronage of a certain style or order of the goths. They can be seen in neon shades of green, pink, and yellow, often sporting piercings, and matching hair. Their tastes are metallic, and they have an uncanny love for tattoos.
Designers consistently include gothic tastes and styles in their clothing lines to create inclusivity for this subculture. Being gothic, or identifying with them is somewhat a concern even in today's society, and such people are often stigmatised to the extent that it is considered a mental illness associated with the dark arts. The phenomenon is mostly observed in teenagers, and often phases out when they reach adulthood, depending on their sphere of influence.
Keywords: Gothic, Fashion, Victorian, Black, Jewellery