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Elderly Iraqi Kurdish men in traditional Kurdish garb sit in the bazaar of Suleimaniyeh, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)-controlled city, some 340km northeast of Baghdad, 17 October 2002

Between 20 and 30 million Kurds make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained statehood. Here is a guide to some key issues about the Kurds.

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Syria: Former model turned soldier returns to battle

Canadian former model Hanna Tiger Böhman joined the Kurdish all-female military units, the YPJ, to fight so-called Islamic State.

Part 3: Retreat to the Mountains

The story of the Kurds of Iraq, told by BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

The story of the Kurds of Iraq, told by BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen. They were brutally oppressed by Saddam Hussein after rebelling against him in 1991. "In towns and villages men and boys were taken away and killed," he remembers. "25 years ago I visited a Kurdish village that had no males over the age of 12." Today, Iraq's Kurds enjoy independence in their own de-facto mini-state in the north of the country. In this series, Jeremy reflects on the present and the past of the Middle East, after reporting from the region for more than a quarter of a century. He combines first-hand accounts from the front line with an in-depth look into the region's history. Bowen started reporting on the region in the lead up to the Gulf War back in 1990. Since then, he has witnessed endless wars between individuals, religious groups and full-sized states, jostling for military, political and economic power. He has interviewed dictators, fanatics and fundamentalists as well as the ordinary people caught up in their dangerous games. In that time, the past has always been present, providing motivation and political ammunition. Bowen has made headlines himself and he has paid a personal price, coming under fire and losing a colleague in the course of reporting - on the worst day, he says, in his life. Producers: Mark Savage and Cara Swift.