The Kurds: The Most Famous Unknown People in the World | Stephen Mansfield | TEDxNashville

The Kurds: The Most Famous Unknown People in the World | Stephen Mansfield | TEDxNashville

Translator: Ivana Krivokuća
Reviewer: Mile Živković I’d like to tell you a story, actually,
I’d like to tell you three stories, but don’t sweat it, I talk fast. My Southern cousins say
that I talk fast like a Yankee on drugs. (Laughter) So we will get through it all
in two, three hours. There is a people group on the Earth who are 35 million strong. They are the largest people group
in the world who do not have a homeland of their own. They are likely to be
the world’s next new nation. They’re called the Kurds, and I’d like to tell you
just a little bit of their story. Now, you probably know more
about the Kurds than you think you do. Perhaps you’ve seen the beautiful faces
of their lovely children all over the internet and magazines,
they’re used often. If you eat yogurt, you already know
something about a Kurd. This is the founder of the Chobani
yogurt company, Hamdi Ulukaya. He’s a Kurd. You may, even if you’re
not willing to admit it, be one of the followers
of the female Peshmerga, the guerilla fighters for the Kurds. The word “peshmerga” is the Kurdish word
that means “those who face death”. And some who face death
in Kurdistan are women, and they have many,
many Western followers. The men in Kurdistan have been known
as fierce fighters for centuries and many of them are
just ridiculously handsome. Apparently, that starts rather early. Look at this little guy.
Come on. I should stop now. What they all want
is a place among the nations. What they all want
is a country of their own. And this is what they dream of.
This is their ancient homeland. They are in the belly of the Middle East where the Zagros Mountains
form the spine of their land and where they’re between Iraq
and Iran and Turkey and Syria. This is what they want, a homeland, a free and independent Kurdistan
that they can call home, thirty-five million of them. Now, I’d like to tell you
a little bit about the Kurds and I’d like to use the stories
of three women to do it. It may sound unusual
that I would use the stories of three women, but the Kurds are proud of the fact that, thought they are
a 97 percent Muslim country, women are extremely prominent
in their society. Women sit on the Supreme Court.
Women command troops. Women are leading entrepreneurs. Women are diplomats,
as you’ll see in a bit. And they are proud of this,
so it’s appropriate with the Kurds particularly
that I would use the stories of women. Let me start with the story
of a rather unusual woman, a British woman, not a Kurdish woman. Her name is Gertrude Bell. You may not know that name,
but look into the face here for a moment of Gertrude Bell. This delicate, Victorian looking face
belongs to the woman who is credited with really being
the mother of modern Iraq. She was born in 1868,
she attended Oxford. A brilliant scholarly mind – she mastered six languages
in the early part of her life, at eight, and before she was done – she was not just a great mind,
but a courageous soul. She has mountains in Europe
named after her because she was a brilliant mountaineer. She once spent 52 hours hanging by a rope
off of a cliff during a blizzard. That’s why they named a mountain for her. And that’s also why there will be
no mountains named for me. (Laughter) She went to visit an uncle out in Persia,
fell in love with the Arab world, fell in love with the desert,
fell in love with the people, and she became really an expert
on the Arab world, recognized all throughout
the British Empire, and during World War I, she actually was asked
by the British government to take the soldiers across the desert
because she was so good at it. Now, she did it
in typically British style. Though she was
in the middle of the desert, sometimes in the middle of a war, she would insist upon stopping
and having high tea and eating her meals
off of the finest china from London. Then she would pack them back
into her saddle and storm off across. You can see in the photograph here. She’s got Arab headdress,
a dress from London, she’s sitting in an English saddle
and she’s having tea. So this is a beautiful part of who she is. She had phenomenal impact upon the configuration
of the Middle East after World War I, because she was such a brilliant woman. She also had
some very influential friends. One of them was named Winston Churchill,
who was, as you can see, minister of air and war
right after World War I. And another one is T. E. Lawrence.
You know him better as Lawrence of Arabia. These were her hanging buddies. So she had some influence
that others did not have. She would’ve had influence anyway because nobody knew as much as she did
about that part of the world. But I have to tell you,
they made a mistake. These three heroes made a mistake. They had it in their mind
to found a new country. This was during a time when the Ottoman Empire
had been removed during World War I and now the Arab’s moment was coming
in history and the Arabs were emerging, all of which was to be celebrated. But these three, these architects
of modern Iraq forgot about the Kurds. Or, if they didn’t forget about the Kurds,
they at least forgot who the Kurds were and who they had always been. Because the Kurds are an ancient people. The Kurds are people
with an incredible heritage and incredible culture. They are also not Arabs,
they’re happy to live in a friendly way, amongst their Arab friends,
but the Kurds are not Arabs, they’re from the Persian side
of the Middle Eastern ethnic tree and they have
an intense sense of identity. If you’re Bible readers, you may know that the Kurds
are descendants from the ancient Medes. They’re part of much of the story
of the Old Testament, they’re part of the story
of Prophet Daniel, for example. They were there on the day of Pentecost,
the ancestors of the modern Kurds, there on the day of Pentecost, and Jerusalem
and the Christian church was born. Just a different heritage,
a different background than a lot of those who were around them. They are a storied people,
a covenanted people, a passionate people, a people who don’t want to lose
their heritage and their background and just simply be merged
into another culture, however friendly they might be
with that culture. So, what our three European heroes did – Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia
and Gertrude Bell – was they fashioned a nation called Iraq that had never existed
before in the world. And they used the Kurds
in the northern part of the country as a buffer against Turkey, which was newly emerged
from the Ottoman Empire and still somewhat aggressive. Notice my words – they used the Kurds. And they used the Kurds
to defend and to protect, to be a buffer for the Sunni and Shia in the south. Kurds are friendly with Sunni and Shia,
many of them are Sunni and Shia, but they had no desire
to not have a homeland of their own. President Wilson had promised them one, European treaties had promised them
a homeland of their own, and so this becomes the basis
of much of the trouble that we have today. This becomes the part
of the problem for the Kurds, because they were used by Europe
to protect against Turkey and not given the homeland of their own
that they were promised. Gertrude Bell, essentially a mentor to King Faisal, who became the
European-placed king of Iraq, was well-intentioned. We can’t criticize from this distance,
we can’t look in this face, this Victorian delicate face
that I mentioned and think that any harm was intended, but it laid a basis for great harm, brilliant and magnificent,
though, Gertrude Bell was. Let me tell you about another woman. I cannot tell you her real name
and I cannot show you her real picture because it could cost her her life,
but we’re going to call her Nishtiman. Nishtiman ended up
living in the Iraq as a Kurd that Gertrude Bell and Lawrence of Arabia
and Winston Churchill fashioned for her. She was born in 1980. That means that she spent
the early years of her life under the reign of this man,
Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein hated the Kurds because they would not assimilate
into his dreams, for an Arab-Iraq dreams
for a Neo-Babylonian Empire. And so he committed
horrible atrocities against them. Let me warn you, I’m about to show you
some pretty gritty pictures. And on March 16th 1988, he decided to drop chemical weapons on Nishtiman’s hometown of Halabja. Perhaps you’ve heard of Halabja. And in 1988, on March 16th, Saddam Husein ordered his airforce to drop mustard gas, sarin gas, tabun gas, other forms of gas
on a largely defensive people – his own people, the Kurds,
part of Iraqi Kurds. You see in this photograph here
the beginning of it. He instructed his airforce to drop gas
on the perimeter of Halabja, that would hem the people in,
and then he dropped the serious gas right on them. These are the billowing clouds
of mustard and sarin gas. People died and died horribly. Their organs liquefied, they began to contort in wild ways and broke their own backs
and separated their own joints and crushed their own skulls. They went insane, literally,
some of them laughing themselves to death. It sounds horrible
to describe that in such a way, but that’s exactly what happened. Now, prepare yourself. Deaths were immediate, horrible,
5,000 people died in about two hours, 10,000 more would be
horribly disfigured and damaged, and many of them would die
in the following weeks. This is the photograph of a dead man. His two sons are alive,
but grabbing him, don’t want to leave. Grandpa is trying to get them
to leave that site. The elderly died instantly
and froze in place. The sad tragedy of this particular couple
is that they died instantly, but stayed in that vehicle for days, the neighbors thinking they were alive
and sometimes waving to them. That’s how the death occured. At this photograph, a man in a home, when the gas began to come into his home,
grabbed his son, ran to a neighbor, didn’t make it, they both died. What’s interesting is that this is now
the carving for the statue. This picture is the basis for the statue of the monument of Halabja
in Iraqi Kurdistan. So they literally took that picture
of a man holding his son as the symbol of the entire affair. Nishtiman lost her father
in that gassing of Halajba. Her eight-year-old flesh
burned for months. Some people’s burned for years. Her mother survived, but then later, her mother was taken captive
by Saddam’s troops, and buried in a mass grave. There are many of them
that dot Iraqi Kurdistan. Saddam knew how to do this well. But the Kurds are a unique people. They intend to honor their dead,
they know how to find these mass graves. Nishtiman’s mother was found
and DNA confirmed who she was, and she was buried. Nobody intends in Iraqi Kurdistan for the dead not to be honored. They grieve, they put them all,
all the remains in coffins, and they celebrate their lives
and offer them to God. This is what they do, because that is
their history and their tradition. So what happened to Nishtiman? Well, I told you she was born in 1980,
that means she’s 36 now. What is she doing? Well, you might enjoy knowing,
given what you’ve seen of her sufferings, that she is now – and by the way,
the pictures I’m about to show you, none of them are her. These are people she is like,
because I cannot show you her picture. She is one of these
awesome female Peshmerga, and her tribe of warriors
are feared by ISIS, because ISIS has an unquranic,
unusual belief that if they are killed by a woman,
they will not go to paradise. These women enjoy that thought immensely. (Cheers) (Applause) Some of them are the best marksmen
and snipers amongst the Peshmerga, and my male Kurdish friends
are going to get on my case about that, but it’s just true, I’m telling you. And they are just magnificent,
and Nishtiman is among them. What’s interesting to watch, for those of us paying attention
to these trends, is how so many of these female Peshmerga
have got Twitter accounts, how they have
a huge following in the West. Many of them, as you can see, are pretty.
You see this woman holding an iPad. She’s shooting during the day and then checking in with her friends
and followers at night. (Laughter) And for some reason
I can’t really imagine, they get many, many marriage proposals from Western men.
(Laughter) I mean, I met them,
I think they’re awesome, but you better be a good spouse,
that’s all I got to say. (Laughter) You better hang in. So that’s Nishtiman. Let me tell you
about one other woman. Her name is Bayan. B-a-y-a-n, a woman I deeply admire. Bayan was raised by the man you see
on the right and his wife, of course, Sami Abdul Rahman. It’s this man, a Kurdish hero. He was a leader of the resistance
against the regime, as the Kurds will say, which largely means Saddam,
but all of the years that the Iraqi regime was oppressive to the Kurds. This man was brilliant,
well-educated, spoke English, but because he was part of the resistance,
he ended up living in the mountains. That means that little Bayan
ended up living in the mountains, and so they, on the one hand, had their homes filled
with Western journalists, because, again, they spoke English
and could articulate their Kurdish cause. On the other hand, they lived
a hard and rugged village life of the Zagros Mountains, and you can just picture
little Bayan here, nibbling bread with hardened soldiers
and them loving her like a little mascot. This is sort of the culture
that she grew up with. Zagros Mountains are beautiful,
but hard and treacherous. This is the native homeland of the Kurds. They’re called Mountain Kurds, in fact, by those who try to be
a little bit insulting, but it’s actually true. Her father – unbelievably influential, helped to build what we now know
of Iraqi Kurdistan. When more freedom came –
Saddam was dealt with – he became a Prime Minister
of his own party. Really a pretty amazing man. Unfortunately, in 2004, there was a double bombing
by an Islamic extremist group and Dr. Sami Abdul Rahman
was killed along with his son. A very, very violent moment. Now, by that time, Bayan had gone
to England to be educated. Part of it was to keep her safe. She had become a journalist
for the Financial Times – very prestigious role. She was assigned to do her journalism
by the Financial Times in Japan, where she spent many, many years. She always thought of Kurdistan, always followed, of course,
what her father was doing, always cared for Kurdistan. But she didn’t know
exactly how she should live that out. Well, eventually she knew that she would have to live out
her parents’ legacy, that she would have to live out
her love for Kurdistan and what her parents
had embedded in her soul. And so today, little Bayan is actually
Madam Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman. She is the representative
to the Washington DC of the Kurdish regional government. She is arguably the most powerful
Kurdish woman in the world. Unbelievable. (Applause) She’s about that tall. It’s all dynamite. She’s a cross between Golda Meir
and Margaret Thatcher and Oprah and Pink, I guess,
if you want some attitudes drawn in there. (Laughter) She’s pretty amazing. She spends her time telling
the US government in Washington how they need to stand up
with the Kurds against ISIS, and how they need to be prepared
for independent Kurdistan. And that, I think,
is what is important for you today. What does this mean to you?
Why is this relevant to you? Well, you’re smart,
you’re educated, you’re here. You’re socially conscious. And 35 million Kurdish people are waiting to be born
into the family of free nations. I intend to help them.
I hope you will too. Thank you. (Applause)


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    Susie Ascroft

    God bless them all and really the west have stabbed them in the back ..They deserve their homeland .and i hope one day they will get it …

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    Konnor Ternus

    “Unqurranic belied,” implying that you are somehow an expert on the Quran or Hadith and that the theologians of ISIS know less than you. What a buffoon.

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    Friedrich Hof

    Kurdish people in Germany = bunch of no good troublemakers, the world would most probably be a better place without them.

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    Brieana Straiton

    And only 3 years later these wonderful ppl get sold out by the U.S. to Turkey. Handed over basically on a silver platter to Turkey so they can slaughter the Kurds. Condoned genocide as far as I see it. I can only pray this isn't the beginning of WW3 😔

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    James Flynn

    Look at the recent comments to this video, especially the negative replies to any comments showing support for the Kurds. Very timely isn't it? This is why you can't trust anything said on any platform with user-generated content that the platforms are not responsible for. No wonder bad actors like Russia, China, Myanmar, Turkey etc. use these platforms to spread disinformation. Time to wake up and educate yourselves people.

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    Aldo Sfalcin

    “Propergander”. The Kurds had revolted and militarily taken without permission a piece of Iraq so they were attacked and stopped in a vicious way. I blame the United Nations for not settling disputes peacefully around the world.

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    Seeker of Facts

    The word KURDESTAN is Persian, Kurds , Persians, lurestan , Baluchistan , afghans , Pakistan all were part of one larger group of people . we were together 2000 years ago and always will be a part of each other. The way Kurds lives is how greater society of iran lived prior to Arab invasion to convert all to Arabic language. IRAN itself means land of ARYANS , which is combination of the groups stated above. All invaders try to divide group to be able to conquer them , the British were infamous about divide and conquer and american policy is very similar. In reality we all need to create a new society of union of all the groups again and keep it democratic. The guy here talks about peshmarg which is Persian word , MARG itself means death in persian, Kurdish and Persian are basically the same just dialects of same initial language. Never allow divisions , Unite to be free from religion and oppression, the original religion all these groups were Zoroastrian which by far better than any force conversion by the Arabs to islam.

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    Aldo Sfalcin

    This video is made to create a false premise perhaps to use the “wonderful, beautiful friendly Kurds” as an excuse to invade Iran anther big bathtub of free oil.

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    Aldo Sfalcin

    A new nation can be created in modern times ONLY if the countries around it invite them with open arms and NOT as a military base of operations for the US/Israel for perpetual land and oil thieving wars.

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    Why can’t the people, or should I say governments, of one ethnicity leave other people ALONE? Well-intentioned or not, keep to your own business instead of screwing around with someone else’s.

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    Aldo Sfalcin

    Want to get the support and sympathy of the world and your intransigent, aggressive neighbors? The perpetually warring Kurds should turn their arms to plowshares and declare the new country will become a passive, peaceful, bread basket of the Middle East. It will have the best chance of happening. This is also a hint for Israel. The United Nations will be your guardians until peace becomes the permanent way of life there. Oh yeah, the psychopaths running those societies should be replaced with humans.

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    It's ironic how this guy talks about freedom of a group of people with the help of british power who are known for colonizing groups of people haha lol the irony.

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    Tom Wyllie

    Syria has offered a home in northern Syria but not an autonomous state. That is a generous offer from a poor country that has suffered a seven year proxy war to destabilize and overthrow their government.

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    Se Odo

    With all my sympathy to the Kurds, it should be said that Kurds are not one people. Historically, they have been nomadic tribes speaking different languages and often fighting each other. That is why they never had their own state. Before they were used by the UK and the US, they were used by the Turks and spearheaded the Armenian Genocide and extermination of the Assyrian Christians in 1915. Much of what today is defined as Kurdistan is the homeland of the Armenians and the Assyrians.

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    kim odom

    Does ANYONE think of the Native American Tribes when these oh soooo important , foreign neighbors have horror stories to be told …?

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    I'm confused…. Is the speaker here 8:05 bring facetious…? Calling Europeans that come in dividing up land that isn't theirs heroes…???

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    I found this "talk" to be very emotional…… Like Donald Trump using filler fluffy words and phrases like isn't he gorgeous, wonderful, pleasant, talking about people's facial features….. What..? Delicate Victorian looking face… What..? You start a talk about a Middle Eastern people by talking about a white woman who is known for being the "mother of modern Iraq"…??? What? What are you selling really? Showing images of massive death… Emotionalism… Glorifying colonizers and foreigners inciting division…… This talk didn't tell me about the Kurds…..

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    Right away, tRump hates her because she is a woman. I remember the bombings and at the time, the bottom fell out of my stomach I still remember. For this alone, I praised the day when Saddam Hussein was caught and ended.

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    Thomas Hastings

    I have a have a homeland called the United States, however the leftists say I do not deserve it and are trying to take it away by diversity. Maybe someone should tell the Kurds that they will be stronger without a homeland of their own because diversity is a strength.

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    Oz Kir

    Got to love American mentality, they built a county by genocide and stealing a continent ,wouldn't even let the natives of this continent into the country but love to stick their noses in to other sovereign nations business to accept them to give up their land for an ethnic group of people whom never had their own separate country through out the middle eastern history like it is as simple as having a TED talk… uuugghhh.. stop being such hypocrites..If you care so much about them and want them to have their own land why don't your give them one of your states that no one lives in!!! Bad enough that you stole a whole continent, stop stealing other countries land for your so called humanity .. US wants a county for Kurds so that they can control middle East by having a pet project there, that's where their love for Kurdistan comes from, not because they care so much about some ethnic group in middle East.. Only thing US care about is its own control of the world which is preventing US from collapsing with its corrupt system.

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    Charleston Oo

    The core problem of war…..american goverment create war or go to war legelly but there not….. Until the day all the weaponary manufacturer in America own by the goverment own then there will be war and more war is coming. Thier are the one who created war and reason for war ever is not wealth fieghting for. Both the senete and the congress will supporting for war becos those senetors and congressman also depent the money for re-electing. The capitalism in US is not working…. The democratic need to
    Overhaul….or the end of the war within will come both humanity and weaponary. the pharmaceutical are the same in America…. American is dying and more sickness is any one care….

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    Sad that recently, POTUS Don the con, AFAIK, has become the second republican President to double cross the Kurds. GHWB being the first.

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    Mustafa Ali

    100% political speech for people already had them republic in the north of Iraq by the hand of the USA but don’t declare it because of the benefits that they got from the oil they independent and also they part from the government in Baghdad in Iraq .

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    Pamela Rose

    The Bush administration militarized the Kurds when he overthrew Iraq, and promised them northern Iraq if they would help him take down Saddam Hussein.

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    Kennedy Nyangacha

    This’s how a people become brainwashed and live fighting forever; making their neighbors, countrymen enemies for life time. Kurds have four countries if not five that make their homelands. How lucky are they if only they Loved these Nations , obeying the laws of each and finally Love themselves. A Lucky people negatively brainwashed!!!!.

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    Doris lopes dulce Fernandes

    We should worry about home front Usa. Take care of the American natives n give them their proper homeland w their own government n own army. U should worry about that. Your door step. Help them

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    Doris lopes dulce Fernandes

    I think we all know that it was t Russian , Iran, turkey, hasbulah that defeated isis. Not America, not western countries

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    It's a quoranic belief that if they are killed by women in battle they don't go to jannath, what about those who blowup into pieces, how will they go to jannath? 😂😂😂😂

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    Fat man

    Why don’t you just also mention about Ankara Merasim street PKK suicide bombing that killed 29 innocent or others that cost a total 30000 lives

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    Mary Hjort

    Excellent! Thank you so much for telling us about the Kurds in such a beautiful and insightful way. I hooe this is seen by millions and that it helps these people to freedom.

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    I am sad for the Kurdish people that they don’t have a homeland yet. But, I also stand by President Trump for pulling our soldiers back. The American people have unselfishly tried to help others all over the rest of the world to live in freedom but, inevitably have been ridiculed, killed, rejected, maligned and hated for our kindness to our neighbors. I know about this firsthand as I served in the Vietnam war trying to help their people stay free. Our soldiers are/were helpless to stop the graft and thievery of the countries governments where they try to help. America is becoming tired of sending our soldiers and treasure and seeing no lasting results. I am convinced that exploited people can obtain their freedom only when they are ready to stand up against tyranny themselves. America got most of her strength from a common religious belief that said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” You will never achieve peace until that principle dominates in your societies.

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    Pieter Buys

    President Trump I support you, but please don't turn America's back on these people. It would be a mistake. Don't be stubborn and have it you way.

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    Supporting a Kurdish push for their own homeland would give the US a genuine ally in the Mid East, guess that's not going to happen…..

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    Fauzia Rauf

    So proud to be Afghan from Afghanistan no matter how poor nation we are, our ancestor made a homeland for us that no one can take. Thank God our ancestor was not dump like salahudin ayubi who was freeing Palestine and Jerusalem but never made an independent homeland for Kurds, so is this people that are mentioned here to me seems like good for nothing.

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    John Levasseur

    So your going to steal someone else land to give to someone else hahahahaha haven’t we seen this before and the fight is still on right now in Palestine

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    Luke Johnson

    I have friends that are Turkish and friends that are Kurds…
    The problem is it won't end, ever… it's been going on a long time and will continue until there is only one left.

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    bek iigilik

    If US president and EU promised Homeland for Kurds cut from your own lands from USA or from Europe. Do not touch and make problems in other countries!

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    And not a word about Assyrians, only actual historical people of the area, with history 2 centuries older than Kurdistan.

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    Sibiryalı KAZANOWA :

    Who separated this kurdish community to the four pieces?.. who is guilty?.. who had drown these border with ruler?.. england, franch, italy..all emperialist countries…. now, as if they never know this issue these countries peoples are crying… after first world war, turkey wanted all kurdish areas into turkish district with kurdish otonomi… it was the best solution.. but emperyal countries in the head of england had thought only petroil…so now kurdish areas are four pieces and always bleeding wound… when america and europe wants to sell wepons to the middle east, kurdish issue is a very nice wound to scratch.. america and europa always have duble face, crocodiles tears…

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    Sasha Pooch

    Western hypocrisy: if you are a Kurd in Iraq you're a freedom fighter, if you're a Kurd in Turkey you're a terrorist.

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    asnfhtm lzxsje

    90 % muslims !!!! Sooner or later kurds will turn into radical islam. This a very common pattern seen when muslims become majority anywhere and everywhere

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    Esias Lubbe

    What about them White S African people , they too need a homeland , a country of their own also , a homeland 3 mil of them , 100% Christian people
    What about them ?

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    R Griffin

    Mercy be upon them. May the current tragedy soon be behind them and may welcoming arms greet them in their True time of need. Please pray their way of life survives this madness.

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    göktürk ergenekon

    All you do is manipulation Mr. Mansfield. Why dont your goverment give kurds a homeland in your country or take millions of refrugee in your country. Everybody knows it's all about the oil. You are just manipulating kurds and trying to use them as a pawn

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    Kayserili Ivan

    To ALL of those writing from different countries/banana tribes etc. and fell in love with the kurds. Take them ALL. We will send them to you FOR FREE. Her Biji! Tililili!

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    Saiful Rimkeit

    An admirable and righteous People.
    Middle East countries should cede land gladly to form the Kurdistan Nation. This is my prayer.

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    Emre Karagoz

    Turks in Iraq are omitted again.. Even after all those oppressions and forced migrations between 1917-1957, they were 12% of Iraq.

    Now tell me and be honest, is there any way of 12% not showing up on any map?

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