The exhibition includes objects and artefacts that carry Kurdish symbols that have survived oppression. Costumes representing different regions of Kurdistan and an audio visual of proud young Kurds who speak of their enthusiasm for maintaining their culture freely and openly in Australia.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
Question: Where do Australia’s Kurdish migrants come from if the nation of Kurdistan is no longer recognised?
Answer: Kurdish people in Australia trace their origins back more than 10,000 years to Kurdistan, an area as large as France, of mountains and wide plains in the northern regions of the Middle East.
In the 16th century Kurdistan was divided between the Safavid and Ottoman Empires. Kurdistan was further divided under the treaty of Laussane, after World War 1. The Allied powers and the newly established Republic of Turkey sectioned Kurdistan between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Today, despite living in the same geographical area, a Kurd may be a citizen of any of these countries, or the newly formed nations of Armenia or Azerbaijan.
It is difficult to find official statistics regarding the Kurdish population. The different governments that now preside over Kurdistan either ignore the Kurds as a separate group or under report their number. It is estimated that the Kurdish population, including diasporic Kurds, is 40 million.
Since the partition, there has been much conflict and violence in the Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian parts of Kurdistan. Continuous fighting and the associated hardships of living in the Kurdish regions of these countries has seen many Kurds leave their homeland in the hope of better lives elsewhere.
Australia’s first Kurdish migrants arrived in the 1960s, the majority coming from Turkey. In the 1980s and 1990s Kurdish people from the Southern and Eastern parts of Kurdistan fled the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War. Many of them were accepted under the Humanitarian Program.
Today the Kurdish community in Australia is made up of Kurds that have come from all parts of Kurdistan as well as from other countries such as Lebanon, Georgia and Armenia to which they first fled. Victoria is home to one of the largest Kurdish communities in Australia. In 2006, around 2000 Victorians claimed Kurdish ancestry. Many members within the Kurdish community, however, believe the actual number of Kurds in Victoria is much higher. Despite coming from different countries and backgrounds, Australia’s Kurdish community seek to come together through a shared culture and history.