The Kurds of Weigh

Background Update

Whether it's Bosnia, Chechnya, or the Kurds, we all are becoming increasingly aware of conflicts involving the Muslim world. There is much going on in the Islamic world that bears prophetic implications. For example, reports on the tensions in the Middle East and Central Asia frequently mention the Kurds. Few have any awareness of their complex background, which can be significant for the Biblically informed.

A People Without a Country

The Kurds live in contiguous areas of Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, with a dream of again forming their own independent country of Kurdistan ("Land of the Kurds"). They number approximately 10 million, including those in Armenia and Syria. Unlike their Shi'ite Iranian neighbors, most Kurds are Sunni Muslims.

They have a traditional reputation for military prowess and have been successful mercenaries and professional soldiers in many armies. Saladin, the famed Kurdish warrior of the 12th century, fought against Richard I of England in the Third Crusade and created the Ayyübid Dynasty of Egypt (1169-1250 a.d.). There had also been brief Kurdish dynasties in the 10th and 12th centuries. Divided and abused by the Ottoman and Safavid empires until World War I, the Kurds continue as a growing problem in the Muslim world. They've suffered a tradition of abuse and disenfranchisement in each country they've resided in.

Kurdish nationalism had been reflected in frequent uprisings against the Ottoman and Persian governments. After the first World War, the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) provided for an autonomous Kurdistan, but that treaty was never ratified. In the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), France and Britain divided up Ottoman Kurdistan between Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Iran kept theirs. Thus, Kurdistan has been divided by five sovereign states, with the largest portions of the land being respectively in Turkey (43%), Iran (31%), Iraq (18%), Syria (6%), and the former Soviet Union (2%).

The Kurds have remained the only ethnic group in the world with indigenous representatives in three world geopolitical blocs: the Arab World (in Iraq and Syria), NATO (Turkey), the South Central Asian bloc (Iran and Turkmenistan) and, until recently, the Soviet bloc (in the Caucasus-now Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia). Uprisings in Iraq and in Iran have continued and the indigenous Kurdish population has continued in refugee/guerilla status throughout the region.

The Kurds of Iran

The Kurds appear to have descended from the Medes of ancient history, who joined with the Persians and conquered Babylon in 539 b.c. This Medo-Persian Empire was the second of the four great empires predicted in the visions of Daniel Chapters 2 and 7. The Medes, an Indo-European people, settled in the plateau land in northeastern Iran as early as the 17th century b.c. The ancient country of Media had their capital city at Ecbatana (modern Hamadan).

Cyrus II ("the Great") was part Persian and part Mede: his mother was Mandane, a daughter of Astyages, king of Media (585-550 b.c.). When his father, Cambyses I, died in 559 b.c., Cyrus inherited the throne of Ansan, and after unifying the Persian people, he captured his father-in-law Astyages, took the capital city of Ecbatana, and then welded the Persians, with the Medes as honored but subservient subjects, into a unified nation. His capture of Babylon is detailed in Daniel Chapter 5. (Daniel was later appointed as the chief over the hereditary Median priesthood known as the "Magi," a sect of which become prominent at the birth of Christ.)1 The Medes disappear from history to re-emerge as the mountain people known today as the Kurds.

The Kurds of Turkey

Turkey, after 70 years of Westernization and its continued rejection by the "New Europe," is now again swinging to the east and re-embracing Islam. Turkey, too, is struggling with a militant Kurdish population. In Turkey, Kurds can have no Kurdish names, are not allowed to use the Kurdish language, and there is no Kurdish instruction allowed in the schools. Turkey is annoyed with Syria in not honoring their agreement to liquidate the Kurdish rebel bases in Lebanon and Syria.

The Kurds of Iraq 

The Kurds comprise approximately 18% of Iraq's population. Iraq created an administrative district called Kurdistan in 1974, comprising three northwestern governorates of Iraq that border Turkey to the north and Iran to the east. Iraq was the cradle of the Shi'ite branch of Islam, with about 55% being Shi'ite, although Saddam Hussein and his cohorts, presently in control, are Sunni's, as are most Kurds. Saddam Hussein has continued to oppress the Kurds in Iraq, having even used chemical weapons against their civilian population in recent years. In March of 1988, 4,000 men, women, and children were gassed in just one town, Halabja. (No wonder the Kurds will enthusiastically participate in the ultimate destruction of Babylon.)

The Recent Crisis

By creating a no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel, the Gulf War victors gave the Kurds a small de facto Kurdistan, with its own parliament, administration and militia. With Arbil as its capital, and protected from Saddam Hussein, they served as a rallying point for his enemies. Unfortunately, two of their leaders elected to start a civil war by renewing a tribal fight that is destroying themselves.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is the party of the urban middle class and intellectuals. It is headed by Djalal Talabani and encompasses 70% of the population.

The Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK) is led by Massoud Barzani, son of the legendary hero Mustapha Barzani. It held the mountains and passes through which trucks carried Turkish exports north and brought Iraqi oil to Turkey. This contraband trade brought Barzani and his DPK $150,000 per day. In July, Talabani solicited the aid of Iran and drove Barzani's men from Arbil. In August, Barzani called on the Iraqis. That gave Saddam Hussein the opportunity he was waiting for. On August 31, Iraqi tanks and planes hit Arbil while 30,000 troops stood poised at the no-fly zone.

(Saddam Hussein's moves had been predicted several months earlier: "One way Iraq might stop cooperating is by taking military action in the protected zones in the North and South of Iraq. Saddam could launch a military offensive against the U.N.-protected Kurdish enclave in the northern Iraq and/or move Iraqi forces below the 32nd parallel. Since Washington has allowed Turkey to launch large-scale military assaults against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, any U.S. military intervention to block Iraq aggression in the U.N.-protected enclave will constitute a clear double-standard. Thus, Saddam can seek to demonstrate how his country is a victim of Western imperialism and hypocrisy by attacking the Kurdish north and thereby provoking U.N.-ordered retaliation by U.S. forces.")2

What makes the crisis in Iraq rather enigmatic is that U.S. State Department reports out of Stockholm-just prior to Saddam Hussein's aggression-indicated that "The U.S.-brokered cease-fire of August 27 between the PUK and the DPK appears to be holding." There seems to be another agenda hiding behind the headlines.

Saddam's secret services ransacked the HQ of the CIA- sponsored Iraqi National Congress (which cost the CIA over $100 million since the Gulf War ended). The 10 CIA operatives were able to be evacuated, but the files were seized and hundreds killed who were suspected of aiding the Americans.

Saddam knew Clinton wouldn't send in ground troops. Our own "Mother of Political Opportunists," to ratchet the polls a bit and show he was not a foreign policy lightweight, sent 27 cruise missiles on September 3, which were safely targeted to the south. Saddam's flagging support at home, as well as the Islamic morale in general, soared as he again defied America, and Clinton's tone softened. The cost to the U.S. has already been in the billions.

All of this is viewed by some as a strategic prelude to creating a context to bring Russia into an eventual attack on Israel. The lack of "coalition" support for this recent U.S. response has punctured some of the fictions supporting the Gulf War. There are reports that Saddam is positioning some new adventures to the south. (Iran, incidentally, has just ordered $4.5 billion of planes, missiles, and other arms from China. We'll be summarizing an update on "The Kings of the East" in a future issue.)

The Prophetic Destiny

It may well be that Kurdish nationalism may also play a key part in the end-time scenario. They certainly seem to appear as a major player in the ultimate destruction of Babylon. Don't confuse the destruction of Babylon with the fall of Babylon to the Persians in 539 b.c. The Persians conquered Babylon without a battle and made it a secondary capital. Two centuries later, Alexander conquered the Persians and made Babylon his headquarters. Alexander died there. It atrophied over the succeeding centuries and is beginning to re-emerge under Saddam Hussein.

The destruction of Babylon is prophesied in Isaiah 13 and 14 and Jeremiah 50 and 51. Isaiah 13:17 alludes to "the Medes" as participants in Babylon's destruction (and this is one of the reasons some scholars have assumed that it refers to the fall of Babylon in 539 b.c.). However, both Isaiah and Jeremiah describe a destruction "like Sodom and Gomorrah," and after which it is never to be inhabited, etc. All of which is future and appears as a climactic event in the Book of Revelation.5 Now more than ever it's critical for each of us to do our homework.


  1. See The Christmas Story briefing pack
  2. J. Adams, May 23, 1996.


  1. Intelligence International, Stoney-hill Centre, Brimpsfield, Gloucester, GL48LF, U.K.
  2. Hilaire duBerrier, 20 Blvd., Princesse Charlotte, Monte Carlo. Monaco.