Introduction / History
Herki Kurds are part of a much greater Kurdish population. The Kurds are made up of a number of clans, tribes, and tribal confederations, many of which have been in existence for thousands of years. This large people group shares several important and common ties. Not only do they speak closely related languages, but they also share a common culture, geographical homeland, and sense of identity. Kurdish people are basically more alike than are other people groups, and they feel it. The Herki Kurds are a confederacy of tribes of Northern Kurdistan. They live primarily in the mountainous area where the borders of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq meet, near Lake Urmia and the town of Reza'iyeh. These various tribes and clans are distinguished by the languages they speak. The Herki language is possibly a dialect of Kurmanji, the largest Kurdish language. Apart from the Herki Kurds of Iraq, there are other large communities in Iran and Turkey.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Before 1920 the Herkis were nomadic, but now most are farmers. Kurdish society is mainly rural, with most people making their living from farming and raising livestock. Most of them are fairly settled. However, some still practice a semi-nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place with their herds of goats and sheep. The nomadic shepherds move into the mountain areas during the summer and down to the plains in the winter. Although their farming methods seem simple and their technology outdated, the Herki Kurd are fairing well in Iraq's rugged terrain. Their daily diet is built around bread, dairy products, dates, tea, and meat. The wealthy have a more varied diet. Pork and alcoholic beverages are tabooed because they are MuslimKurdish women generally enjoy more freedom than do the Arabian, Turkish or Persian women. For example, they seldom wear veils. Although they are modest in their behavior, they are not particularly shy of strange men. The life of the woman villager or nomad is very rough and requires much heavy work. Herki Kurds are particularly noted for their elaborate national costumes. The men's costumes consist of baggy, colored trousers and plain shirts with huge sleeves split at the wrist and tied at the elbow. They also wear brightly colored vests and sashes. Women usually wear heavy clothing that is embroidered with vivid colors. Today, many rural Kurds have replaced these kinds of clothes with western style dress.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Nearly all Kurds are Muslims, most being from the conservative Shafite Sunni school of Islam. They first embraced Islam after the Arab conquests of the seventh century. Today, they look to Islam as a basis for social justice. Even so, in rural areas, some also believe in jinnis (spirits capable of assuming human or animal forms). Many are also involved in elements of animal worship. Such beliefs do not conform to any form of Islam. Mullahs (Muslim spiritual leaders) play an important role in the social and cultural life of those living in the country. Until recent times, mullahs would act as village witch doctors, performing ceremonies and reciting chants to drive out madness or cure the sick. Religious fraternities still operate throughout this region of the world. In the past, some influential sheiks (spiritual leaders) even became members of parliament. However, their authority eventually began to crumble. Today, their spiritual and economic power is being challenged.
What Are Their Needs?
Like other Kurds, the Herki need to put their identity in Jesus Christ, the solid rock.
Pray for an abundant blessing of Herki families and communities as they embrace Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords. Pray for a movement to Christ that will enrich the Herki Kurdish community. Pray for spiritual openness to Jesus Christ that will not be hindered by the false belief in religious institutions rather than the person, Jesus Christ.
Scripture Prayers for the Herki in Iraq.