The Kurdish state was an autonomous government in southern Kurdistan that existed from October 1918 to June 1919.
“Kurdish state” is an exonym that was used by British officials in London and the Middle East to describe this polity during its existence. Saad Eskander argues that this term is incorrect, as it was not fully independent.
With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in October 1918, Mahmud Barzanji sought to break away from the Ottomans and create an autonomous southern Kurdistan under British supervision. He was elected as the head of government by a council of Kurdish notables in the Sulaimaniya region, and as soon as the British captured Kirkuk (25 October 1918) he captured Ottoman troops present in his district and declared the end of Ottoman rule, pledging allegiance to Britain. Other Kurdish regions followed suit, such as Rania and Keuisenjaq.
The Ottoman position was that the region was still legally under their rule, despite the armistice. (Further information: Mosul Question) They did not recognize the Kurdish state. In contrast, British officials on the ground chose to accept Kurdish cooperation, despite officially lacking a well-defined policy on southern Kurdistan.
Mahmud Barzanji was designated by the British as governor of Kurdish area B, which extended from south of the Lesser Zab River to the old Ottoman-Persian frontier. Barzanji attempted to expand his influence outside his designated region, and used British subsidies, provided for salaries and to assist recovery from the ravages of war, in order to consolidate his power base, buying the loyalty of chieftains. This led to deteriorating relations with the British, and on 23 May 1919, Barzanji raised 300 tribal fighters, expelled British supervisors and proclaimed himself “Ruler of all Kurdistan”, initiating the first of the Mahmud Barzanji revolts.
Early in the rebellion, the Kurds saw some success with the successful ambush of a light British column that strayed beyond Chamchamal. On both sides of the border, tribes proclaimed themselves for Shaykh Mahmud. The rebellion was not to last: British authorities assembled two brigades which defeated the 500-strong Kurdish force in the Bazyan Pass on 18 June, and occupied Halabja on the 28th, ending the Kurdish state.
Mahmud Barzanji was the head of government when the Kurdish state was established. On 1 December 1918, British authorities recognized him as hukumdar (governor) of Sulaymaniya division.
British involvement was restricted to a role of supervision, and the local government retained autonomy in regards to matters relating to judiciary and revenue.Edward Noel was appointed by Arnold Wilson as political officer responsible for supervision.