The Kurds are one of the world’s largest stateless ethnic groups, living at the intersection of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq..

The Kurds are an ancient people of the Middle East. They live in a mountainous region called Kurdistan, which includes parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Kurds, who are Muslims and speak a language that is like Persian, have lived in this region for thousands of years, but they have never had a country of their own. Instead they have been oppressed a lot by other people.

There are about 30 million Kurds today. Almost half of them live in Turkey, where they make up 20% of that population. Other countries in the Middle East with a large Kurdish population are Iran, Iraq and Syria. Many Kurds have come to Europe where they live in Germany, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

Kurds often live in tribes in the countryside. They are farmers who grow cotton, tobacco and sugar beets. Some of them are nomads who raise sheep and goats. They bring their animals to mountain pastures in the summer and return to their home villages in the winter. Many Kurds have specialized on the production of textiles and handicrafts, especially carpets and rugs. In the past decades some have gone to larger cities outside Kurdistan, like Istanbul or Ankara.


After the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the beginning of the 20 th century new states like Iraq or Syria were created in the Middle East but not a separate Kurdistan. At first the Kurds were promised their own country but then the new Middle Eastern states did not want an independent Kurdistan. Since this period Kurds have always fought for their independence. This has led to conflicts in the countries in which they live.

Without a nation of their own, the Kurds have been fighting oppression for centuries, all the way to the present day. In fact, Kurdish peshmerga soldiers are key forces right now in the battle against ISIS. But Kurdish history — a story of persecution, war and resilience — is largely untold. A new museum planned in Erbil, in northern Iraq, aims to change that, but the project has hit some roadblocks, like financing — and war.

In 2009, museum architect Daniel Libeskind was approached by a group of bureaucrats from Kurdistan — a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq where Kurds have a degree of self-rule. Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani wanted Libeskind’s help building a museum that would tell the Kurdish story.



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