Following the collapse of the world's great empires and the birth of a whole slew of new nations from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, it's fair to say the Kurds got a raw deal. Their homeland was carved up by the borders of Iran, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. To this day, the majority of the world's Kurdish population (some 30 million) live in this contiguous territory as ethnic minorities in other nations.
In a bid to subdue Kurdish identity, Turkey's founders deemed Kurds "mountain Turks" and forbade the use of the Kurdish language until 1991. An outlawed Kurdish guerrilla group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party or the PKK, waged a high-profile insurgency starting in the 1970s that led to over 30,000 deaths in Turkey. Hostilities have died down in recent years, though tensions remain. Kurds have fared somewhat better in neighboring Iraq. Following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan in the north which already had de facto autonomy from Baghdad ever since the end of the 1991 Gulf War has seen relative stability and an economic boom. Much to the chagrin perhaps of dyed-in-the-wool Kurdish nationalists, the biggest economic sponsor in the region is currently Turkey.