Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s was cited by Western powers as one of the justifications for the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion that toppled him.

Once again, the perilous situation of the Kurds – this time attacked by Islamic State fighters -- has spurred the US and its allies in Europe and the Gulf to use military force in Iraq and Syria. And once again the stateless Kurds are on the move.

Reuters photographers have chronicled Kurdish refugee crises over the years. Pictures from 1991 show men, women and children carrying their possessions, gathering firewood and burying their dead in a refugee camp in Cukurca, Turkey, just across the border from Iraq.

Reuters pictures taken in a refugee camp in Suruc, Turkey in October of this year show familiar scenes – a line of people stretches into the distance as they walk from their homes in Kobani, across the border in Syria, where Islamic State has besieged the town.

Kurdish refugees then and now
Left: Iraqi Kurdish refugees carry their belongings as they arrive in the Cukurca refugee camp in Turkey on April 8, 1991. Right: Turkish soldiers stand guard as Syrians wait behind the border fences on September 18, 2014Srdjan Zivulovic/Kadir Celikcan/Reuters
Kurdish refugees then and now
Left: An Iraqi Kurdish woman sits with her child in the medical treatment tent in Cukurca refugee camp in Turkey on April 8, 1991. Right: A Kurdish Syrian woman cares for her child in a temporary medical facility near the town of Suruc in Turkey on September 24, 2014Srdjan Zivulovic/Murad Sezer/Reuters
Kurdish refugees then and now
Left: A young Iraqi Kurdish refugee holds loaves of bread in Cukurca refugee camp in Turkey on April 8, 1991. Right: A young Kurdish Syrian refugee eats bread on the Turkish-Syrian border on September 25, 2014Srdjan Zivulovic/Murad Sezer/Reuters
Kurdish refugees then and now
Top: Iraqi Kurdish women carry their children in the Cukurca refugee camp in Turkey on April 8, 1991. Bottom: Kurdish Syrian refugees carry their belongings after crossing the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc on September 25, 2014Srdjan Zivulovic/Murad Sezer/Reuters
Kurdish refugees then and now
Top: Iraqi Kurdish refugees sit in front of a tent in Cukurca refugee camp in Turkey on April 8, 1991. Bottom: Kurdish refugees from the Syrian town of Kobani sit near a makeshift tent in a camp in the Turkish town of Suruc, on October 25, 2014Srdjan Zivulovic/Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
Kurdish refugees then and now
Top: An Iraqi Kurdish refugee buries her child with her bare hands in Cukurca refugee camp in Turkey on April 8, 1991. Bottom: Women mourn on the Turkish-Syrian border near graves of Kurdish fighters who died in Kobani, on October 15, 2014Srdjan Zivulovic/Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
Kurdish refugees then and now
Top: Iraqi Kurdish refugees carry their children and their belongings in Cukurca refugee camp in Turkey on April 7, 1991. Bottom: A Kurdish Syrian refugee carrying her child waits for transport during a sand storm on the Turkish-Syrian border on September 24, 2014Srdjan Zivulovic/Murad Sezer/Reuters
Kurdish refugees then and now
Top: Men throw bread from a truck to Iraqi Kurdish refugees in Cukurca refugee camp in Turkey on April 9, 1991. Bottom: Syrian Kurdish refugees sit in a truck after crossing the Turkish-Syrian border on October 16, 2014Srdjan Zivulovic/Murad Sezer/Reuters
Kurdish refugees then and now
Top: Iraqi Kurdish refugees wait with children receiving medical treatment in Cukurca refugee camp in Turkey on April 8, 1991. Bottom: A medic examines a Kurdish Syrian refugee child inside a temporary medical facility for children in Turkey, on the border with Syria, on September 24, 2014Srdjan Zivulovic/Murad Sezer/Reuters
Kurdish refugees then and now
Top: Iraqi Kurdish men bury the dead in Cukurca refugee camp in Turkey on April 8, 1991. Bottom: Turkish Kurdish men bury Kurdish fighters killed during clashes against Islamic State in the Syrian town of Kobani, at a cemetery in Suruc, on October 24, 2014Srdjan Zivulovic/Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

The Kurds number up to 30 million people spread through Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, but with no state of their own. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, but tend to feel more loyalty to their Kurdishness, rather than their religion.

After the fall of Saddam, the Kurds' semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq became a haven of relative peace in a war-ravaged country – until the Islamic State offensive that started in Iraq in June and turned against the Kurds in August.

The battle for Kobani has become a focal point, not just for the plight of the Kurds, but of the West's confrontation with global Islamist militancy.