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Introduction / History
The Tyemur (or Timuri) are a mixture of Iranian, Mongolian, and Central Asian. They are largely considered semi-nomadic, Aimaq-speaking people of Afghanistan and Iran, fully nomadic before the floods and erosion in the 20th century. This part of the world has been a crossroads of armies, including Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the British and Russians.
The Nestorian Christians brought the Gospel to this area around 400 A.D. and there were many Syrian Christians in the area until the invasion by Tamerlane, "Teymurelang", in 1370. Their name possibly comes from Timur Baktior who was the emir of much of the Islamic world in the late 14th century. After the conquest, he forced Islam upon the people and they embraced the Persian culture.
Where are they Located?
The Tyemur are part of a larger group called the Char Aimaq (or "four tribes" in Mongolian). These people are made up of four tribes of Aimaq speakers: the Taimani, the Ferozkhoi, the Jamshidi (named after a Persian ruler Jamshid), and the Timuri.
At one time the Timuri were the most numerous and powerful of the tribes. They are now located in the rural mountains on the Iran—Afghanistan border, primarily in the Khorasan province south of Mashhad, the main Aimaq speaking city.
There are approximately 300,000 Timuri, in Iran and Afghanistan. The language is classified as Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, and Persian. It is a synthesis of languages, although most speakers would understand the Farsi language. Literacy is much lower among the Timuri because of the location and persecution of this people. Traditionally, story telling is considered a great art among oral people in Asia.
What are Their Lives Like?
The Timuri are agriculturalists and pastoralists who treasure their animals. Wealth is measured by the quality and quantity of the animals one owns. Most no longer possess sizeable herds, but sheep can be grazed year-round in this climate. They eat and live very modestly. The staple food is a whole wheat bread baked in mud ovens. Wheat, grapes, rice, barley, oats, melons and vegetables are the main crops raised, and surplus produce brings income to markets in Herat, Afghanistan.
The landscape is arid, dry, and mountainous. It is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. During the winter when they are settled in towns, they live in brick huts, their herds eating stored grain. During the rest of the year they live in Mongolian style yurts as they travel with their herds.
Clothing is wool-based and comes from their animals. They have access to cotton and other materials. They wear large shawls which provide versatility and layering for colder weather. They generally wear loose fitting cotton pants with longer shirts. The style and fabric quality depend on the climate and location. Men still wear the round turban hat, and women cover themselves from head to toe in a long dark dress (chaddar namoz). In Herat the head-covering (burka) is also part of the attire.
Many women are carpet weavers. The Timuri are known for their elaborate Heart Baluch rugs. Mothers teach their daughters to create rug patterns of their ancestors from wool on portable looms. When the people go through economic hardships, they will sell one of the coveted rugs to buy food. The carpets may also be used as marriage payments.
Traditionally, a khan is the head of a Teymur tribe because he has ancestral ties to the founder of the tribe. Today the Iranian government is pushing to break up this ruling system. Girls maintain much of their independence and can meet with the men in spite of being forced into the Islamic religion. They may choose their husband and usually marry at age 18.
What are Their Beliefs?
Iran is an Islamic theocracy run by religious leaders who are hostile toward Christianity. The country has been ravaged by internal revolution, war with Iraq, and religious upheaval. These horrors are blamed on evil Western influences, considered synonymous with Christianity. The previous Christian population has been exiled.
The Timuri people are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims. The radical Iranian government has forced the Timuri to convert to its dominant Shi'ite beliefs. Muslims are uninhibited in talking about religion since it is very much part of their being.
What are Their Needs?
The Timuri struggle to stay healthy and keep their herds alive. Strategies including help from veterinarians or other animal care specialists in animal husbandry might prove beneficial.
Soil conservationists could assist in training how to prevent land erosion. Establishing farming and food relief projects should be investigated. The national government of Iran seems to be concerned about the environment, being part of many global environmental groups.
Medical missions could be effective to address the following: 19 percent of the children under the age of five are undernourished; Tuberculosis, malaria, and waterborne illnesses continue to be problematic. Other challenges include lack of health and sanitation education, and community welfare needs. (Since Iran has suppressed the Timuri for years, they may not be cooperative with these efforts. Help may have to be provided through Afghanistan.)
Strategies should incorporate story-telling and music as the Timuri are an oral and musical people.
To improve economic conditions businessmen, and some missions agencies such as the Women's Missionary Union of the Southern Baptist Convention, might go in with the carpet buyers to set up import/export businesses.
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