Sorani Kurd in Iraq

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Kurds are a large ethnic group of about 25 million people who have always lived in the same region, and who trace their roots back to the Medes of ancient Persia (the frontier of what is now Iraq, Iran and Turkey) more than 2,500 years ago. In fact, the Magi, or wise men, who traveled from the East to deliver their gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn Jesus in Bethlehem were most likely Zoroastrian priests, ancestors of the modern Kurds. The Kurds are tribal people and many of them lived, until recently, a nomadic lifestyle in the mountainous regions of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Their refuge has always been the mountains, with their steep pastures and fertile valleys. They are Kurmanji speakers.
In the wake of World War I, with US President Woodrow Wilson's call for "self-determination" echoing loudly, the Kurds were promised a homeland - Kurdistan - in the Treaty of Sevres (1920). However, the victorious allies backed away from their pledge to court the new Turkish regime of Kemal Ataturk, and in fear of destabilizing Iraq and Syria, which were granted to Britain and France, respectively, as mandated territories. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne thus abrogated Kurdish independence and divided the Kurds among Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. Ataturk's discrimination against Turkey's Kurdish population began almost immediately, with Kurdish political groups and manifestations of cultural identity banned outright. In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the Kurds of Iran, with Soviet support, succeeded in establishing the first independent Kurdish state (the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad). But this was quickly crushed by Iranian troops.
Today, Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world without a state of their own. They are unevenly distributed between Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan. If the Middle East map were to be redrawn to give the Kurds their own boundaries, Kurdistan would be as large as France, stretching over 200,000 square miles.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Kurdish society consists mainly of tribes that arose from a nomadic and semi-nomadic way of life in previous centuries. It is strongly fragmented and is often split by internal disagreements. So far in history, the Kurds have never really managed to unite in their common cause. Their primary loyalty is to the immediate family, and then to the tribe. Tribe allegiance is, however, based on a mixture of kinship and territorial loyalty. Many Kurds of the lower regions are not organized in tribes, but even there, strife is common between the different clans and communities.
The Kurds of Iraq live along the country's northeastern borders with Turkey and Iran. Most are farmers and all but a few thousand have given up the semi-nomadic lifestyle of the past in favor of settled farming. The Kurds of Iraq form nearly one third of the Iraqi population
After having given their support to Iran in the war against Iraq in 1980, the Kurds experienced Saddam Hussein's terrible revenge, with the Iraqi government declaring war against the Kurds. This war would be known as "al-Anfal" ("The Spoils"), a reference to the eighth sura of the Qur'an, which details revelations that the Prophet Muhammad received after the first great victory of Islamic forces in AD 624. "I shall cast into the unbelievers' hearts terror," reads one of the verses; "so smite above the necks, and smite every finger of them ... The chastisement of the Fire is for the unbelievers."
Anfal, officially conducted between February 23 and September 6, 1988, would have eight stages altogether. For these assaults, the Iraqis mustered up to 200,000 soldiers with air support -- matched against Kurdish guerrilla forces that numbered no more than a few thousand. In this war 200,000 Kurds were killed and 5,000 of their villages and towns were destroyed. Among other incidents, 5,000 inhabitants were killed by chemical warfare when Saddam's forces attacked the Kurdish town of Halabja in March 1988. The anti-Kurdish campaign was both genocidal and gendercidal in nature. "Battle-age" men were the primary targets of Anfal, according to Human Rights Watch / Middle East. The organization writes in its book Iraq's Crime of Genocide: "Throughout Iraqi Kurdistan, although women and children vanished in certain clearly defined areas, adult males who were captured disappeared en masse. ... It is apparent that a principal purpose of Anfal was to exterminate all adult males of military service age captured in rural Iraqi Kurdistan" (pp. 96, 170). Only a handful survived the execution squads.

What Are Their Beliefs?

It has been said that Kurds "hold their Islam lightly", meaning that they are not so strongly committed to Islam, and do not identify as closely with it as Arabs do. This is perhaps due to several factors, one being that many Kurds still feel some connection with the ancient Zoroastrian faith, and they feel it is an original Kurdish spirituality that far predates the seventh century AD arrival of Muhammad. Nonetheless, most Kurds are Muslims, and today about three quarters are members of the majority Sunni branch (at least nominally). As many as four million Kurds are Shia Muslims, living mostly in Iran where the Shia faith is predominant.

What Are Their Needs?

Tribalism is still a factor among Kurds, promoting many different factions which weaken the possibility of an independent homeland. The Kurds in Iraq have hurt their own cause with infighting between the two primary parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Although the engagement of the UN in northern Iraq has necessarily also given continuity to the political cause of the Kurds, the question of Kurdish autonomy remains unresolved. One possible solution to this problem is to achieve genuine agreement on some kind of self-government.

Prayer Points

Pray for the Lord to bring peace and justice to Kurdistan as a testimony of his power and mercy.
Pray for Kurdish disciples to make more disciples who will make even more disciples.
Pray for Central Kurds to have the spiritual hunger it takes to endure persecution and rejection to find their way to the King of kings.

Scripture Prayers for the Kurd, Sorani in Iraq.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Kurd, Sorani
People Name in Country Kurd, Sorani
Natural Name Sorani Kurd
Pronunciation kerd
Alternate Names Central Kurd; Kurdish; Sorani
Population this Country 3,397,000
Population all Countries 4,028,000
Total Countries 5
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
GSEC 3  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 68
People ID 11126
ROP3 Code 101922
ROP25 Code 304412
ROP25 Name Kurd
Country Iraq
Region Africa, North and Middle East
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 16  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Northeast, south of Great Zab river, As Sulaymaniyah, Arbil, At Ta’mim (Kirkuk), and Diyala governorates; smaller area, east of Tuz Khurmatu, Salah ad Din Governorate; diaspora communities elsewhere.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Iraq
Region Africa, North and Middle East
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 16  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Northeast, south of Great Zab river, As Sulaymaniyah, Arbil, At Ta’mim (Kirkuk), and Diyala governorates; smaller area, east of Tuz Khurmatu, Salah ad Din Governorate; diaspora communities elsewhere..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Map of Kurd, Sorani in Iraq Ethnolinguistic map or other map

Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.03 %)
0.04 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
99.96 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Kurdish, Central (3,397,000 speakers)
Language Code ckb   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Kurdish, Central (3,397,000 speakers)
Language Code ckb   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Kurdish, Central

Primary Language:  Kurdish, Central

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1894-1993)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (1994-2011)
Bible-Complete Yes  (2016-2020)
FCBH NT ( Online
YouVersion NT ( Online
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name Source
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching Global Recordings Network
Audio Recordings DAVAR Partners recording, complete Bible DAVAR Partners International
Audio Recordings Online Scripture / NT General / Other
Audio Recordings Oral Bible stories One Story
Audio Recordings Oral Bible stories Story Runners
Film / Video God's Story video God's Story
Film / Video Video / Animation Create International
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Sorani Jesus Film Project
Film / Video LUMO film of Gospels Bible Media Group/LUMO
Film / Video Magdalena video Jesus Film Project
Film / Video Rock International: King of Glory Rock International
Film / Video Story of Jesus for Children Jesus Film Project
General Bible for Children Bible for Children
General Biblical answers to your questions Got Questions Ministry
General Faith Comes By Hearing - Bible in text or audio or video Faith Comes by Hearing
General Scripture Earth Gospel resources links Scripture Earth
General YouVersion Bible versions in text and/or audio YouVersion Bibles
General Zume Training Zume Project
Mobile App Android Bible app: Kurdish, Central YouVersion Bibles
Mobile App iOS Bible app: Kurdish, Central YouVersion Bibles
Text / Printed Matter Bible Gateway scripture Bible Gateway
Text / Printed Matter Jesus Messiah comic book General / Other
Text / Printed Matter Rock International: King of Glory Rock International
Text / Printed Matter Tools for faith conversations Campus Crusade for Christ
Photo Source 
Map Source People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.  
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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