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Kurds in Armenia

  • There were 1,663 Kurds in Armenia at the time of the 2022 Census, although unofficial figures may be higher. They belong to the larger Kurdish population who live in a region that stretches from Iran in the east to Türkiye in the west. Kurds are an ethnic and linguistic minority in all the countries where they reside. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslim.

    Kurdish is taught in primary and secondary education; however, there is no official data on the number of students studying these languages.

  • The first Kurdish presence in Armenia was as a result of the Kurdish Shaddadid dynasty, which ruled over the wider region from the middle of the 10th century until the end of the 12th century CE. The size of the Kurdish population in Armenia remained small, until Kurdish tribes migrated to the Ararat plain in the 18th century.

    Kurds then started arriving in larger numbers in Armenia in 1828, fleeing the Russo-Turkish wars, while many other Kurds settled there around 1918.

    In the beginning of the 20th century, Kurdish and Yezidi minority expression in Armenia could be combined. For instance, during the First Armenian Republic of 1918-20, the renowned minority member of parliament, Usub Bek Temuryan, stated that his ethnicity was Kurdish and his religion was Yezidi.

    During the Soviet era, there was a tendency on the part of the state to group the two minorities together, especially as the communist government’s espousal of atheism meant that Yezidi religious expression was suppressed. It was only with the perestroika reform movement in the 1980’s that Yezidi minority identity received some form of official acknowledgement. This in turn helped to clarify the presence of Armenia’s Kurds as a distinct minority in its own right. The 1989 Census was the first time Yezidis could opt to identify themselves as such. According to the census results, there were 52,700 Yezidis in Armenia, whereas previously around 60,000 people had been identifying themselves as Kurdish when they had no other option. It should be noted, however, that representatives of both communities stated that there was significant under-reporting.

  • Concern has been expressed that there is inadequate representation of the Kurdish minority at national and local levels. In 1998, Kurdish representatives protested that the electoral system makes no special provision for minority representation, with seats in parliament being awarded strictly according to the territorial principle. They proposed amendments to the electoral law allowing for a Kurdish representative to be elected in the Armenian National Assembly. The proposals faced the challenge that Kurds do not form local majorities in any administrative or electoral district.

    Nevertheless, 2017 proved to be a significant year for the political participation of Armenia’s minorities. Following the April elections, four minority MPs were elected to the country’s parliament, including one Kurdish representative. The election process was criticized as the four of these MPs were required to join established party lists to stand for election, raising questions as to how independent they were. As a result of the elections of the National Assembly of 2021, four representatives of the largest minority groups received mandates, including one for the Kurdish minority. However, many belonging to the country’s national minorities believe that the Members of Parliament neither represent their interests effectively nor deal with the problems faced by their respective communities.

Updated May 2024

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