The historical development of Kurdish nationalism in Iraq

Term Paper, 2016
18 Pages

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This paper is devoted to the issue of development of Kurdish nationalism in Iraq in 1921-1946 years. The work is written from historical perspective. The research aims to explore how Kurdish nationalism has been formed under British colonial mandate system and in periods of pro-British government in Iraq. It seeks the pivotal factors both internal and external that had an impact on formation of Kurdish nationalism in Iraq. The basic assumption of the work is that Kurdish nationalism was shaped under grave pressure and manipulation by British and Iraq authorities. The paramount question of the work is what the British policy toward Kurds in Iraq was and how it provoked the Kurdish nationalism in Iraq.


Kurds in Iraq have been trapped into the great predicament after the advent of British force in Iraq. The Britain’s hasty calculations over never implemented into life Kurdish “buffer state” and some uncertainty regarding the Kurdish fate that became obvious during and after the Cairo Conference in 1921 and its final decision to install the unitary Iraq nation-state with Kurdish minority gave rise to Kurdish nationalism that opted for to do not neglect its fate and struggle for some national rights. Both Kurds and British had arguments against each other. Kurds felt to some extend deceived by British when Britain withdrew from idea to grant self-determination right to Kurdish nation. Britain in opposite utilized the argument that Kurds being multi-polarized was not able to consolidate under certain authority.

The realist aim of British toward Iraq came to the surface more apparently with the rise of Mosul question and “expansionist” demand of newly formed “anti-British” republic of Turkey. (Ali 1992). It also became obvious that Kurdish nationalism was nourished to oppose the pan-Turkish ideas among Kurds. So that the invitation of Sheikh Mahmud in 1922 took place to resist Turkish propaganda in Kurdish provinces in behalf of British. (Ali 1992) To sum up, the British interest in united and potent Iraq state could be explicated by economic and strategic reasons such as a good amount of oil reserves in Northern Iraq where Kurdish provinces are located and the fact that the power which rules in Mosul would “command” the Eastern effluent of Tigris that has been playing the great role in irrigation of the whole Mesopotamia. The strategic cause could be explicated by the demographic and ethnic and religious content of Mesopotamia.

It is of utmost importance to be aware of the British policy toward Kurds and how the local conflicts were settled at that time in order to understand what is the modern Iraq, Kurdish autonomy within it, the role of Britain in state building of Iraq and why contemporary Iraq turned to “failed” state.

Kurdish nationalism has much to do with the period of advent Britain to Iraq. Initially, Britain had a plan of granting self-determination right to Kurds. However, the further developments and transformation of inner and external conditions brought to the radical changes in “British” strategy regarding Kurds and Kurdish state. Britain referred to the absence of inner unity among Kurdish tribes that explained by the delimitation of Kurdish people by the different political attachments in sense of foreign policy. Another pivotal factor that had an impact in decision making of Britain regarding Kurds’ future was an advent of Faisal as a king of Iraq state in August 1921. The puzzle was in a tight bond between Faisal and Kurdish people due to the fact that king Faisal Sunni and Sunni population at that period of time was presenting the minority of population. The majority of Arabs were Shia who was about %80, Kurds were Sunni. In this wake king Faisal vitally needed Kurds inside Iraq to “maintain” the Sunni minority otherwise the governorship of Faisal would be questioned by Shia so that the pro-British rule would be threatened gravely. (Tripp 2007) (Marr 2011)

The vigorous involvement of Turkey into Mosul question finally forced Britain to opt for Iraq side. The first ruler of Iraq king Faisal also had played some crucial role in persuading Britain to do not legalize ad facilitate Kurdish independence and sovereignty. On the other side the active Turkish anti-British propaganda in Kurdish settlements and cities in Iraq had paved the way to prioritizing the united Iraq state under British tutelage instead of idea “buffer state” by Winston Churchill. Albeit, the notion of buffer state aimed the protection of Iraq from Turkey as well. However, it seems that after a new calculations by Britain the prospect of Kurdish state between Iraq and Turkey has possessed less guarantee of security for Iraq due to the existence of some pro-Turkish sentiments among the Kurdish population in Kirkuk and some other settlements and proximity of Turkey. Roughly speaking it was of utmost importance for Turkey whether there would be created the Kurdish state in the door of Turkey or not. So that Turkey had utilized all possible efforts to do not allow Britain to do that. (Arıkanlı 2010)

The third point that explains why Kurdish people were willingly protesting the pro-British Iraq authority’s domestic policy was sharp lack of legitimacy of Hashemite Monarchy in Iraq and sabotage of elections in 1921. There were also structural issues like a gathering of taxes by Arab authorities in Kurdish provinces and appointment non-Kurdish officials in these provinces that had provoked outrage among the Kurds. Another everlasting argument of Kurds is that Britain didn’t implement its word regarding the Kurdish state. So that witnessing the second treaty between Britain and Iraq in 1930 sheikh Mahmud arose one more time to protest the term of the treaty that simultaneously had been neglecting the promise of right for independence to Kurds. (Chaliand 1993) This is one of the bright examples of Kurdish uprising.

The last but not least important is considered to be the issue of frequent revolts by Kurdish nation. It is obvious the revolts took place due to the British as well as Iraq official constant neglecting them usually by having been addressed no peaceful measures to explore the reasons of discontent and having been utilizing no appeasement strategies such as conflict settlement, resolution and/or transformation. In this wake the revolts took a chronic character and were protracted for a long time ruining the thousands of innocent people lives. (McDowall 2005)

All the points above mentioned are important in exploring the character of Kurdish nationalism and the British and Iraq contribution in its formation in order to comprehend the delicate nuances of modern state of Iraq.


During the WWI a gradual occupation of Iraq by Great Britain took place so that there was not an independent state of Iraq: the all administrative politics that were being conducted at that period of time are considered to be British. In 1915 the war between Ottoman Empire and Great Britain occurred and in the wake of that war Britain took over Basra. On the next fight Baghdad fell down in 1917 and eventually Mosul surrendered in late 1918 (Tripp 2007). In this sense Mosul was ceded after the Mundros Armistice which had ensued by mutual consent between Britain and defunct Ottoman Empire. (Hazelton 1986)

Speaking about the reaction of Kurdish tribes who predominantly have lived in the north of Mesopotamia they welcomed British rule particularly Kurds of Sulaimaniya. So that Britain had granted indirect rule to tribes in Sulaimaniya and appointed one of the influential tribal sheikhs, Sheikh Mahmud Barzinji, as a governor of the Lower Kurdistan in December 1918. However, soon after this development Britain faced the greater ambitions of Barzinji for Kurdish national entity. As a response Britain restricted the authority of Barzinji that consequently led to the uprisings in different Kurdish settlements and ended up with the declaration of independence in 1919. For that reason Sheikh Mahmud was exiled from Iraq to India. (Aziz 2011)

The “legal” reason of why Kurds were inspired to struggle for an independence is rooted in Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen points that was proposed for the first time in the American Congress in January 1918 just after the WWI as a proposal of a new world structure for Europe in particular after the war. (Armaoğlu 2010) Its twelfth point motions the followings:

“The Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees”. (Encyclopedia Britannica n.d.)

Looking from the idealist perspective W. Wilson has viewed the eventual enduring peace under condition of demarcation of border according to nations’ geography. When every nation would have state. In his vision such a system would prevent the war in Europe and all over the world. (Armaoğlu 2010)

Speaking roughly regarding the twelfth article it implies partition of Ottoman Empire by granting the “opportunity” to “other nationalities” to Kurds in particular the right of self-determination. Later on in November 1918 the Anglo-French Declaration that expressed the W. Wilson’s twelfth point was signed. The document had induced idea to set up among “those people so long … oppressed by the Turks … national governments and administrations drawing their authority from the free choice of the indigenous populations”. (Hazelton 1986)Thus, we can see the intention of Britain and France was to grant nation-state system for the minorities under moribund Ottoman Empire so to Kurdish nation inclusively.

Another juridical basis for Kurdish demand for autonomy after the WWI was Treaty of Sevres that is a peace treaty between Ottoman Empire and Allied (Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy and Japan) and Associated Powers (the USA) signed in August 1920 but had not never been ratified by Turkish side. The 62nd, 63rd and 64th articles of the treaty are devoted to the formation of Kurdish state on the “Kurdish areas lying east of the Euphrates, south of the southern boundary of Armenia as it may be hereafter determined, and north of the frontier of Turkey with Syria and Mesopotamia”. (Hellenic Resources Network n.d.) However, Kurdish people were not at that state of unity to unify and apply to League of Nation in proposed way. Thus, the treaty didn’t come in life and eventually was superseded by treaty of Lausanne in 1923. In new treaty the question of Kurdish was neglected so that Turkey ungrudgingly signed the treaty. (Aziz 2011)

Diffusion of society, weak communication and adversary nature of Kurdish tribes make Kurdish unity unviable.(Romano 2006) The state of Turkey had anti-British sentiment. In Cairo conference the replacement of Mandate system by the treaty had been thought. Taking into account the expenditures and losses that Britain met during mandate years that include the 1920s uprisings preservation of British influence in Iraq considered being beneficial for Britain. (Ali 1992)


On 30 October 1918 the WWI was completed for Ottoman Empire by signing Mudros Armistice Agreement with Allied powers. The 16th article stated “Surrender of all garrisons in Hedjaz, Assir, Yemen, Syria, and Mesopotamia to the nearest Allied Commander; and the withdrawal of troops from Cicilia, except those necessary to maintain order, as will be determined under Clause V [immediate demobilization of Turkish army]” (German History in Documents and Images n.d.) In this way Turkey sealed its presence in Mesopotamia wholly and remained all Levant territories to Britain and France rule.

Another key article of Mudros is 7th that is read “The Allies to have the right to occupy any strategic points in the event of any situation arising which threatens the security of the Allies”. Britain was eager to preserve the East trade routes and oil rich sources so that it neglected the clandestine Sykes-Picot Agreement that had foreseen Mosul under France control. As a result Turkey ceded Mosul in 15 November 1918. (Uçarol 2013) In book of David McDowall its explained as following:

“In October 1918, British officers in Baghdad recognized that Mesopotamia’s political and economic future would be greatly enhanced by the inclusion of the vilayet of Mosul. From a military viewpoint it would give Britain control of the foothills edging the plain. The economic (and social) argument was the close commercial integration between Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. Furthermore, the Turkoman towns on the edge of the Mesopotamian plain, most notably Arbil and Kirkuk, along the peasant economies around them, fell naturally within this view of Mesopotamias since here were some of the richest wheat districts of the region. Thus the decision was made to secure Mosul while the state of war still made this possible. It followed that Britain no longer had any wish to see Mosul under French control, for which Sykes-Picot had provided”. (McDowall 2005)

Aftermath of surrender of Mosul to Britain Turkey adopted the National Pact which aimed to reassure the national borders of newly established of republic of Turkey. According to this Pact the whole areas that were not under the capture are considered to be related to Turkey: Mosul at the moment of signing the Mudros was not conquered by Britain. This is what Turkish officials utilized as the major argument against British.

With fall of Ottoman Empire in December 1918 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had adopted the National Pact in 28 January 1920. The first article of the Pact ignored Mudros Armistice conditions by stating that:

“The future of the territories inhabited by an Arab majority at the time of the signing of the Mondros Treaty will be determined by a referendum. On the other hand, the territories which were not occupied at that time and inhabited by a Turkish majority are the homeland of the Turkish nation” (ANI Armenian Research Center 2015)

In the original Turkish version of the Agreement the first article posits that all territories within and out of the demarcated borders (Mudros Armistice) were united by solidarity to each other, Ottoman-Muslim majority are considered to be united entity that could not be fractioned under by no means.

New state of Turkey having recognized the secession vilayets that predominately were resided by Arab majority Turkey, however, arose Mosul agenda which was occupied mostly by Kurds and Turkomans who are also Muslims. According to the National Pact’s first article Mosul demographic content suits to Turkish territories. (Lukitz 1995)

Looking at unfolding events in Iraq we see that by 1919 Kurds in Mesopotamia were divided into three divisions: Pro-Turkish, pro-British or pro-Allies, independent (Dersim Turks). In December of 1918 British appointed Mahmud Barzinji as a governor of Sulaimaniya to keep the whole Mosul vilayet under the strict control of British forces. However, in June In 1919 there has been happened the series of uprisings among Kurds resulted in arrest of British personnel in Sulaymaniyya. Hence early in 1920s British continued to fight against Sheikh Mahmud and finally sent him in exile to India due to his vigorous demand of independent Kurdish state in separation of Iraq state. (Stansfield 2006) In this way the Kurdish nationalism was inspired in Kurdistan. Regarding Sheikh Mahmud and his way of struggling for independence it is reported in A Modern History of Iraq: “He was a sayyid, and the language his constituency understood was the language of Islam. In 1919 he appealed for a jihad, not a national liberation struggle. Furthermore, his style was to use kin and tribal allies and his aim was the establishment of a personal fiefdom”.

Regarding to nationalist movements in Vilayet Mosul and Sheikh Mahmud’s attitude toward them McDowall states:

“Even since the early 1920s there had been a tiny handful of educated nationalists in Sulaimaniya and other main centers. A handful of townspeople had formed Komala-I Sarbakhoi Kurdistan (the Association for the Independence of Kurdistan) in July 1922. Their basic tenet was that Kurds should not be ruled by Arabs, but they were equally hostile to Sheikh Mahmud’s tribal style of rule. Sheikh Mahmud replaced it with a more openly nationalist organ, Rozh-I Kurdistan, the mouthpiece of Sheikh Mahmud himself”. (McDowall 2005)

The further significant unfolding event in the Kurdish fate had become the Treaty of Sevres in August 1920, which aimed the partition Ottoman Empire by granting all Kurdish population in Eastern Anatolia right to establish united Kurdish state. Analyzing these events it is become lucid leading European forces had been challenging the Turkey’s National Pact whereas Turkey has questioned and challenged Mudros Armistice Agreement. Allied powers following self-determination principle states in articles 62 of Sevres: “…a scheme of local autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish areas lying east of the Euphrates, south of the southern boundary of Armenia as it may be hereafter determined, and north of the frontier of Turkey with Syria and Mesopotamia [Iraq], as defined in Article 27/ii/2 and 3…” Making apparent the fate of Kurds the 64th article states:

“If within one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty the Kurdish Peoples within the areas defined in Article 62 shall address themselves to the Council of the League of Nations in such a manner as to show that a majority of the population of these areas desire independence from Turkey, and if the Council then considers that those people are capable of such independence and recommend that it should be granted to them, Turkey hereby agrees to execute such a recommendation, and to renounce all rights and titles over these areas. … No objection will be raised by Principal Allied Powers to the voluntary adhesion to such an independent Kurdish State of the Kurds inhabiting that part of Kurdistan which has hitherto been included in the Mosul Vilayet [northern Iraq]”. (Kahvé 2012)

Hence this treaty Kurdish people continued its attempt to obtain national independence within territories that predominantly settled by Kurds (North of Iraq).

In article of Zeynep Arıkanlı the year of 1920 is characterized as the uncertain policy by British ensued from controversial disputes over Kurds. In 1921 within the Cairo Conference, which main purpose was to install the indirect rule in Iraq, the Kurdish issue was discussed largely. There were major two groups sharing different view regarding the Kurdish issue. First led by W. Churchill, Young, Noel and Lawrence defended the idea that “purely Kurdish areas should not be included in the Arab state of Mesopotamia”. The second group was led by Percy Cox and Gertrude Bell who called upon establishment of autonomous Kurdish area within Iraq. In the same year Middle East department initiated a memorandum in London that was submitted to Kurdistan committee. According to the memorandum the idea of separate Kurdish “buffer state” was accepted. However, to the great astonishment some month after that the decision was replaced by the P. Cox and G. Bell idea of Kurdish region within Iraq. In the letter of Cox to Churchill he posits: "We must never lose sight of the fact that the Kurdish question is secondary to the Arab question. Unless we establish our friendly influence over Arabs of Iraq, we cannot hope to exercise any influence over ‘Iraq...‘Iraq constitutes our passage to Kurdistan”. (Arıkanlı 2010) British were in favor of granting autonomy to Kurds within Iraq borders, whereas King Faisal wished the unitary Iraq state. Churchill in his message to Faisal explained this as the step to retain Kurdish people from Turkish influence by empowering Kurds by some rights. Owing to after 1919 suppression of Kurdish revolt and iron policy aftermath that by British Kurdish nationalist turn to Turkey for help against Britain. Nationalists among Kurds also were pro-caliphate and assumed that Turkish would assist them against British forces.

As a response to unrest among Kurds in December 1922 Joint Anglo-Iraq Declaration was signed to neutralize Sheikh Mahmud influence upon Kurdish settlements. The declaration had installed “equality” Arabs and Kurds statuses by substituting the word of “administration” by “government” for Kurds within Iraq. (Lukitz 1995)

It is widely known that 1918-1926 among the current issues a Mosul question took primary place in Iraq and Turkey. The issue’s root traced back to 1918 when British captured Mosul just after the Mudros armistice signed between Turkey and Allied powers. Turkey as an attempt to preserve its remnants of the former borders initiated so called Missaki Milli (the National Pact) which demands the revision of Mudros armistice by conducting referendum and saw Mosul vilayet as a part of Turkey due to the ethnic and religious feature of Mosul population. The Ottoman Empire was de juri defeated by Kemalist forces in 1918 but the civil war between “old” and “new” Turkish government had lasted till 1922. The conclusion of the war was formation of “anti-British” Republic of Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1922. Naturally, British did not accept such approach of Turkey utilizing the argument that Mosul was given to Britain with San Remo Conference under mandate system. Finally in 1925 League of Nations committee was sent to Mosul to learn the public opinion there.

The deadlock in Mosul question that had ensued from Lausanne Conference brought Turkey to the decision to conduct plebiscite in Vilayet Mosul with consent of Britain to make sure whether Kurdish people wish to stay under British or Turkish tutelage. Hence British thought that it is better not to alienate the Kurds otherwise defending the Vilayet of Mosul would be “extremely costly” and in case of Turkey opted for offending, all Kurdistan would be impetus of Turkey.

Miss Bell and Percy Cox arguments: “Iraqi state to secure the strategic frontier of the armistice line, without which the whole of the Mesopotamian plain down to Basra would be open to the Turkish forces”. Another argument was, “if southern Kurdistan was detached from ‘Iraq, the oil fields of the area would eventually fall into the hands of Turkey to the ruin of ‘Iraq and even the oil fields of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company would be threatened”.

The strategic reason of why Britain so much eager to protect Mosul vilayet from Turkey is that newly “elected” king Faisal is Sunni albeit the majority of Iraq population is Shia. The Kurds and Turkomans living in Mosul vilayet being Sunni is considered to be impetus and tangible support for ruling Sunni elites. Hence, loosing Mosul meant loosing of the whole Iraq for British rule.

The other aspect of Vilayet Mosul is that it had played a pivotal role in further developments of Kurdish nationalism. Aftermath the first Kurdish revolt against British rule and harsh response to that by Major Soana and Captain Hay had prepared good ground for pro-Turkish sentiment. So that in 1921 some Kurdish nationalists called upon Turkey for assistance against British. These groups were attached to so called Komel-v Nihen-TKurd (Kurdish Secret Society) which concentrated in Sulaymamya and Rawahduz cities. The reciprocal invitations between Kurdish and Kemalist officials took place in 1921. The indicator of close Kurdish-Turkish cooperation is that Kurdish officials expressed the great desire to welcome Turkish militia in southern Kurdistan. (McDowall 2005)

Britain witnessing the successful propaganda by Turkey decided to counter with Kurdish nationalism. For that end Mustafa Yamulki was appointed to establish potent nationalist movement such as Jamivvat-T Kurdistan (society of Kurdistan).

However, Turkish authority fell down in the eyes of Kurdish people after the demise of caliphate in Turkey in 1924 and installation of Kemalist nation-state. And Kurds were in favor of caliphate. Simultaneously, there happened the harsh suppression of sheikh Said revolt by newly formed Turkish state. Thus, these events were crucial in choosing the side by Kurds. (McDowall 2005)

In case of Mosul question it is worth to note that Turkey motioned Britain to leave oil reserves in exchange of Mosul territory in 1925. However, the strategic goal of Britain was more important. Finally, in 1926 League of Nation committee took final decision according to which Mosul vilayet officially was attached to Iraq. (Arıkanlı 2010) But this treaty had given no assurance to Kurds regarding their future.


British policy against Turkey was profound and well-thought. British seeing the lack of Mustafa Yamulki’s effect on provoking the Kurdish nationalism finally came to conclusion that sheikh Mahmud has played a role of “glue” within Kurdish tribes best of all. So that he was asked to come to Suleimaniya and lead the Jamivvat-T Kurdistan. With advent of sheikh Mahmud Jamivvat-T Kurdistan was divided into two branches: lead by Sheikh Mahmud and Abd-Al Karim the traditional nucleus and intelligentsia called Munawars. After becoming the president of the society and consolidating the power in his hands sheikh Mahmud has shifted from the initial intention to help British keep Kurdish people under their control. Thus, the second rule of Sheikh Mahmud took place in 1922-1924 over Kurdish people. However, the second advent of Sheikh Mahmud was similar to the first one due to the constant suspicion by British that actually had a ground. British could not completely rely on him owing to his relations with Turkish authorities. (Tripp 2007) So taking into account the previous tragic experience British took a word from Sheikh Mahmud to do not expand to other settlements except for Sulaimaniya liwa and to obey to British and current Iraq authority.

Sheikh Mahmud did justify the British expectations so that after two month later in November 1922 he declared himself king of the whole Kurdistan. It also came into surface that Sheikh had relations with OzDemir pasha who was responsible for pan-Turkish propaganda in Kurdistan. Putative calculation of sheikh was to enlist Turkish support in case of secession from Iraq. (Stansfield 2006)

As a response to autonomy aspirations of sheikh Mahmud British forces bombed his quarters in 1923 and destroyed completely in 1924. Sheikh Mahmud fled to mountains and kept to concern the Iraq government till 1927. (McDowall 2005)


The first disturbance of Kurds after the Sheikh Mahmud of Iraq took place owing to Iraq government interference in Kurdish territories. Aftermath the 1926 agreement between Iraq and Turkey the Iraq authorities started to implement its right in Kurdish district. In June 1927 Iraq began to exercise administrative control constructing the blockhouses in Kurdish settlements that was badly faced by Sheikh Ahmad Barzani.

In contrast to previous brutal policies Iraq government in this turn being anxious about putative uprising had empowered Sheikh Ahmad the right to collect the taxes from its own district of Barzan.

Speaking about the leadership and character of Sheikh Ahmad it was obvious that he did not aim to acquire the independence for Kurdish nation. The bright example of that is refusal of Sheikh to Sheikh Mahmud’s proposal to require the autonomy in 1930. It seemed he was loyal the Iraq authority due to thesis “religiousness”. However, there could be also other reasons for that. The revolt nevertheless became imminent.

In 1927 Britain witnessed the uprising in the northern part of Iraq lead by religious leader sheikh Ahmad, the brother of Mullah Mustafa Barzani. He was initiator of new religion that united Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Was it sole private religious matter or the attempt to bring together the partitioned Kurds is not clear. Witnessing the second treaty between Britain and Iraq in 1930 Sheikh Mahmud arose one more time to protest the term of the treaty that simultaneously had been neglecting the promise of right for independence to Kurds. (Gerard 1993).

However his religious eccentricity led to war with an old Naqshbandi rival Sheikh Rashid of Lolan, leader of Baradust Kurds. He encouraged his followers to eat the pork and to destroy copies of Holy Koran. As a response to this disbelief Sheikh Rashid attacked Barzani villagers. In the wake of counter-raids by Sheikh Ahmad number of villages was burned through Baradust. Finally, such provocative actions by Sheikh Ahmad and his raids to Baradust pushed Iraqi government to fight against Sheikh in 1931. In this strike Iraqi army was about to be defeated if British air forces didn’t help them. The same thing happened in 1932 attacks on Barzani residents. (McDowall 2005)

Sheikh Ahmad surrendered to Turkey but his brothers Muhammad Sadiq and Mulla Mustafa continued to struggle. Finally, both of them accepted the amnesty proposed by Britain in 1933 with the consent of Sheikh Ahmad that was under detention in Turkey.

As a result of suppression operation RAF destroyed 1 365 out of 2 382 dwellings in 79 villages. Despite the brutal and disproportionate response British authority 1932 independence treaty of Iraq was amended by including the legitimacy of teaching Kurdish language in schools and right to elect Kurdish officials in Kurdish provinces. (Izady 1992)

After the death of Faisal in 1933 the vacuum in power came up so that it embolden around 40 Kurdish chief criticize the government in failure in implementing League of Nations conditions. They demanded use of Kurdish language how it was promised in 1926 by League of Nations. They demanded direct representation in League of Nations and equal share of national resources. Further their demand converted into “nationalist” demands requiring the formation of Kurdish liwa based on Dohuk. Government didn’t meet these demands. (Marr 2011)

Talking about the Kurdish political movements in 1930s there had appeared the first generation of secular educated urban Kurds who hoped for a degree of independence. At this time Komala Brayati-Brotherhood Society was established by son of Sheikh Mahmud. Another society was a Darkar – Wood-cutters who were more radical nationalists based in Sulaymaniya. It was close to the Iraqi Communist party and possessed own journal Azadi. It’s known that later Darkar became the core of Hiwa –Hope party that was willing to consolidate different Kurdish movements. Its headquarters were in Arbil, Kirkuk, Kifri, Kalar and Khaniqin and in Baghdad. Hiwa’s members soon reached 1500: young professionals, officers and NGOs and few landlords, sheikhs and tribal aghas. However there weren’t any peasants. This party had more close relations with Mahabad –Kurdish establishment in Iran than with the Iraqi government. Till the collapse of Mahabad they had conducted negotiations to form pan-Kurd solidarity. (McDowall 2005)

Bakr Sidqi’s coup in 1936 provoked the anti-Kurdish sentiment. Pan-Arabists viewed the Kurds as an obstacle to their political dreams. (Tripp 2007)


The revolt of Mullah Mustafa Barzani is characterized by the failure of new intellectual class to attract old agha class. Mullah Mustafa was kept in detention after previous rebellions. He seemed to have a close links with domestic elites rather than with nationalists. Having arrived to Barzan in July of 1943 he appealed to government for his brother sheikh Ahmad and for him to give opportunity to live in Barzan district. However the government had ignored him so that clashes between Barzanis and army became inevitable. Thus, it turned into uprising. Kurds had a deep rooted grievance in results of neglecting the 1926 League of Nations conditions. Additionally, Baghdad did nothing to alleviate the Kurdish famine of 1943.

Finally, in November Britain offered Mullah Mustafa Barzani forgiveness after his submission to authorities. In January Baghdad sent Kurdish minister Majid Mustafa to Mullah Mustafa to make agreement with him. Agreement conditions between mullah Mustafa and Government was frustrated by government and finally the issue of peace was left to negligence. So that by 1944 Mullah Mustafa left his intention to obey government. In August the government proposed another amnesty and meeting refusal it seemed that there would not be other peaceful motions. Iraq army together with other ally tribes led by Sheikh Rashid Baradustis started their strikes against Mullah Mustafa.

Looking at further unfolding events Kurdish Communist Party known as a Shurish-Revolution took role in foundation of a new party Rizgari Kurd -Kurdish Liberation in 1945. It became more popular attaining 6000 members and had close relations with Barzani in Mahabad. Rizgari Kurds were pro-unification of Kurds in Iraq. Thus, they appealed to UN for independence in 1946. (McDowall 2005)


To sum up, analyzing the series of predicaments ensuing from tergiversations, traps by British side had a great role in formation of Kurdish nationalism at the very beginning of its life.

The British brutal policy toward Kurds instead of appease policy had escalated and deteriorated the general situation in Kurdish provinces. Exploring the British policy toward Kurds one can conclude that Kurds for British were at the secondary place. In other words, British had induced and utilized Kurdish nationalism in behalf of own interest. Britain primarily pursued two aims in Iraq that were the economic gain and strategic influence over Iraq authority.

Also, it is worth to note that Kurdish leaders used to be “toy” in the hand of British to manipulate the whole provinces. Such feature of domestic politics within Iraq had its contribution to the present statehood of Iraq as well. Being aware of the past events in the scope of Kurdish nationalism help us to comprehend the nature and interethnic problems of modern Iraq and the place of Kurdish autonomous region within Iraq.


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The historical development of Kurdish nationalism in Iraq
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