Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Azerbaijan : Kurds

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Azerbaijan : Kurds, 2008, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The Azerbaijani Census recorded 13,100 Kurds in Azerbaijan, accounting for 0.2 per cent of the population. Estimates from the 1990s suggested far higher figures, however, up to 200,000. Azerbaijani Kurds are heavily assimilated, with many using Azeri as their mother tongue.

Historical context

Kurdish settlement of Azerbaijan is thought to date from the seventh century AD, but only assumed a mass character in the late sixteenth century, when Shah Abbas of Iran deployed Kurdish tribes from western Iran to guard the empire's north-western frontier. In Soviet times the majority of Kurds were situated in the Lachin area of western Azerbaijan, where from 1923 until its abolition in 1930 they enjoyed the status of having an autonomous area known as 'Red Kurdistan'. A campaign was begun by the Kurdish populations in Lachin, Kubatly and Kelbajar in 1992 for the restoration of the Kurdish Autonomous Area, allegedly receiving support across the border, from militant activists from Armenia. In 1993 the Kurdish population of the Kelbajar region was forced to flee as a result of a military offensive by the Karabakh Armenians, during the dispute over Nagorny-Karabakh. Kurdish resentment against Azerbaijan has also been fuelled as a result of forced conscription of Kurds into the Azerbaijani army.

Current issues

Azerbaijan's Kurds are now scattered across the country as a result of displacement, following the war over Nagorny Karabakh. This has further increased the assimilation of this minority. Although limited Kurdish-language media are available, in the form of radio broadcasting and newspapers, a language shift to Azeri within Kurdish families is widely reported.

Allegations of potential separatism and Azerbaijan's close relations with Turkey have had a negative impact on the Kurdish national minority in Azerbaijan. Up to 2001, 32 Kurds were reportedly arrested in Azerbaijan on suspicion of membership of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). In 2005-6 Azerbaijan extradited a number of foreign citizens of Kurdish ethnicity to Turkey on the basis of Turkish extradition orders claiming their membership of the PKK. The situation of Kurds in Azerbaijan is made more precarious by the PKK's policy of criticizing Azerbaijan and praising Armenia with regard to their respective treatment of their Kurdish minorities.

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