are an estimated 30,000 Kurds living in Armenia
in some 21 villages, mostly in the Aragatsotn
region about 20 miles northwest of Yerevan.
If, as expected, the war in Iraq reaches the
northern part of the country, it is likely that
the number of Kurds in Armenia will increase,
as residents from the towns and villages could
flee across Turkey and into the more peaceful
existence of life in the Kurdish community here.
The Kurds in Armenia are largely segregated from
common society. Some say they are persecuted by
Armenians who don't understand their culture.
Most, though, say they are simply left alone,
if not ignored.
Kurds in Armenia have their own newspaper "Rya
Taza" (New Way), published in Kurdish, using
a Latin font.
There are different positions of the Armenian
Kurdish community on the war in Iraq. Most opinions
center around the national interest linked to
the main sacred place of their community, Lalesh,
in the part of Iraq known as Kurdistan.
Two years ago the newspaper's editor Amarike
Sardar who is also chairman of the Union of Kurdish
Intelligentsia visited Iraqi Kurdistan (which
has been out of the control of Saddam Hussein
since 1991) at the invitation of Secretary General
of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Jalal Talabani.
"There, at every step, we were shown places
where thousands of Kurds murdered by Saddam shed
their blood," Sardar says. "As a human
being I'm against bloodshed, but Saddam's regime
is a malicious regime, which must be abolished.
It would be good if it happened in a peaceful
way, however, it is impossible."
The Kurds in Armenia are Yezidi, a religious
minority that speaks the same language as Mohammedan
Kurds, but with a different religion. They are
primarily shepherds, who in summer live in tents
while minding flocks along the hillsides near
Yezidism, with roots originating from Zoroastrianism,
is a religion of Sun-worship. Communities of Yezidi
believers live in a caste system.
to the Union of Kurdish Intelligentsia in Yerevan,
there are about 500,000 Yezidis worldwide. The
majority live in Iraqi Kurdistan and some part
of them live in other territories of Iraq. Some
left Iraq for Europe.
The first Yezidi Kurds came to Eastern Armenia
from Turkey together with Armenian emigrants in
1828 after the Russian-Turkish War (aimed at ridding
the region of Moslems).
During the years of the Armenian Genocide, about
7,000 came here from Turkey.
During the 1930s-40s there was a Kurdish State
Theatre and Caucasian Kurdish Technical School
operating in Yerevan. It was also during that
time (1930) that the newspaper was founded. Even
today there is a Department of Kurdish Linguistics
at the Academy of Sciences and also a division
of Kurdish writers at the Union of Writers.
During Soviet times, one Kurdish deputy was necessarily
in the Supreme Soviet (Parliament) of Armenia;
one of the members of Supreme Court was necessarily
In Independent Armenia, however, there are no
"We are not persecuted but nobody pays any
attention to us," says Amarike Sardar.
According to the last official census report,
in 1989 there were 56,127 Yezidis and Kurds living
in Armenia, 51,976 of them were Yezidis and 4,151
- Mohammedan Kurds.
Between 1988-1990, as the Karabakh conflict mounted,
the Mohammedan Kurds left Armenia along with (Moslem)
When Armenia became independent, serious discord
spread in the Kurdish community here over national
belonging. Some of the community's representatives
regarded Yezidis as a separate nation called Yezidi
and others regarded themselves as Kurds professing
Yezidis who consider themselves to be Kurds,
have three non-governmental organizations and
those who regard themselves as Yezidis, have two
The Union of Kurdish Intelligentsia is more neutral
concerning external policy, it believes that Kurds
of Armenia must be concerned with internal issues
of the community most of all. That organization
has relations with the community of Iraqi Kurds.
"Talabani has warm relation to Armenia.
He told that whatever they do they wouldn't be
able to come near to merits of Kurds of Armenia,"
Sardar recalled of his trip.
believes the war in Iraq is advantageous for Kurds
as it holds out a hope that with the assistance
of the United States Iraq will become a federative
country, one of which three full-fledged members
will be Iraqi Kurdistan.
On the other hand, he has apprehensions that
Turkey will bring troops into northern Iraq and
there will be clashes between Turks and Kurds.
"The Kurds have an army of 80,000 and can
resist the Turks," he says. "But in
any case the clashes are dangerous. If the USA
restrains the Turks then the war will be useful."
"Kurdistan Committee" non-governmental
organization leads the policy of KADEK (former
Kurdish Labor Party headed by Abdullah Ocalan
who is in prison in Turkey) illegally functioning
in Turkey and "Kurdistan Committee"
can be considered as its branch. It publishes
"Mijagetk" (Mesopotamia) and the editor
in Armenia Charkiaze Rash is also a member of
"In this war neither countries of Middle
East nor USA's coalition represent interests of
local nations, so neither Saddam nor the war launched
by USA will solve problems of the Kurds,"
says Trans-Caucasus representative of KADEK from
Kurdish Community of Turkey Yeliaz Shiar (who
also represents the viewpoint of "Kurdistan
"Sooner or later Kurdish interests in Iraq
will be restored. We agree to have it later but
without war. In the 21st century national problems
must be resolved by solidarity, mutual understanding,
and peaceful ways."
Hasan Tamoyan, a member of the National Union
of Yezidis, National Minority Council affiliated
with the Armenian President, and head of Yezidi
language programs on public radio says he is worried
about the security of Yezidis in this war and
that Yezidi settlements are not bombed.
"If that country is the center of danger,
some solutions have to be found. I cannot remain
indifferent towards that war, as the majority
of our nation resides in Iraq," he says.