Kurdish Refugees

Kurdish refugees fleeing Saddam's war against the Kurds in Iraq

The Kurdish Wars in Iraq

Kurdish Revolt1922-1924 -Rebellion by Iraqi Kurds against the British Mandate. Kurdish tribesmen, led by Sheikh Mahmud, a powerful Kurdish leader, attempted to establish an independent Kurdish nation. British forces, primarily using airpower, suppressed the rebellion.  This turned out to be the first of many Kurdish rebellions against the British Mandate and later, against the Iraqi government.  As with many of the later Kurdish uprisings, the rebels were put down with some aid from rival Kurds.

It should be noted that many similar and often related Kurdish uprisings took place in neighboring Turkey and Iran.  Government forces always succeeded in defeating the rebels in Iraq, Turkey and Iran. Though Kurds in Iraq and Iran did enjoy some successes, they almost always came with the aid of foreign nations.  When the foreign aid eventually is withdrawn, the Kurds’ success, historically, also fades away.

Kurdish Revolt1943 (July to October)-Rebellion suppressed by the Iraqi Army and the British RAF.  Led by Mullah Mustafa Barzani.

Kurdish Revolt--1945 (August 10 to October)-Rebellion suppressed by the Iraqi Army and the British RAF.  Led by Mullah Mustafa Barzani, who escaped into Iran after breaking through an Iraqi Army force. Once in Iran, Mustafa Barzani and his forces joined the army of the new “Mahabad Republic,” the first independent, though in this case, (short-lived) Kurdish state.  After Mahabad’s crushing by the Iranian Army, Barzani led his forces back into Iraq on April 28, 1947.

Kurdish Campaign1947 (May 27 to June 15)- After returning to Iraq from the failed Mahabad Republic, Iraqi government persecution (arrests, executions, etc.) caused Mustafa Barzani and 496 followers to begin a fighting retreat from the Barzan region in northern Iraq through Turkey and into Iran in an attempt to reach the Soviet Union. They reached the U.S.S.R. on June 15, 1947, followed in hot pursuit by the Iranian Army. (O’Ballance, 1973).

Kurdish Revolt1983-1988 –During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), Iraqi Kurds, aided by Iran, fought against Iraqi government forces. In 1987 and 1988, the Iraqi military used chemical weapons to kill thousands of Kurds (including many civilians) in a successful effort to break the back of the resistance.


1. Kohn, George C. Dictionary of Wars. New York: Facts On File Publications. 1999.

2. Dupuy, R. Ernest and Trevor N. Dupey. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 B.C. to the Present New York, New York: Harper & Row. 1993.

Iranian History -http://www.fouman.com

See also:

Wars of Iraq

Wars of the Middle East



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