Introduction / History
The Kurds are the largest people group without their own homeland. They are spread across the towering mountains and barren plains of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq. This oil-rich area is known as Kurdistan. In Iran, the Kurmanji speaking Kurds are a smaller group than those who speak other Kurdish dialects. The Iranian government violently suppresses any sign of Kurdish separatism. The Kurds of Iran live in the most rugged part of Kurdistan along the Turkey-Iran border. The area has temperature extremes, very hot in summer and cold with snow in the winter. Water is in short supply.
What Are Their Lives Like?
For a brief period after World War II, this part of Iran was home to the independent Kurdish Republic of Mahabad; however, this ended in 1946. Many Kurds still wait hopefully for an independent homeland. The Iranian government does not officially recognize the Kurdish people. They are classified as Persians, the dominant people group in Iran. A complete Bible in Kurmanji became available in 2008. Kurds in Iran usually speak Farsi as well as their own language of northern Kurdish or Kurmanji. Well educated Kurds also speak English.
Most Kurds of Iran make their living by farming and raising livestock, much the same way as their relatives in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Although a few Kurds still live the semi-nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors, most now live in small villages of less than 2000 people. About one fifth of Kurds live in Iranian cities. The Iranian Kurds are often better off than their cousins in Turkey. Land reforms since 1960 have allowed roughly a third of them to buy their first plots of land. However, they are still culturally repressed. Iranian schools are ill equipped and there are not nearly enough of them in the region where the Kurds live. Medical care is inadequate in the towns and almost non-existent in the rural areas. There is also constant hostility between the Sunni Muslim Kurds in the north and the Shia Muslim Kurds farther south.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Large families are the norm for Kurds. Each household usually has four or more children. Sons and daughter are seen as the blessings of Allah. The disintegration of the "tribal system" began at the turn of the 20th century and entered its final phase in the seventies. Immigration to the cities has also contributed to the extinction of a tribal Kurdish culture.
The father is the head of the Kurdish home. In traditional Kurdish society the wife stayed home to take care of children. Today as Kurdish women become more educated, they are taking jobs outside the home. Kurdish men normally marry one wife although a wealthy man may have up to four wives. The Iranian church may be the fastest growing church in the world. In 1979 there were only a few thousand followers of Jesus Christ in Iran. Today the number is estimated to be over one million. Most of this growth has been among the Farsi speaking population although the church among the Kurds is seeing signs of life. Many young people are turning to Christ as they are disillusioned with the Islamic regime.
The majority of the Kurds in Iran are Sunni, the largest branch of Islam. The other Kurds in Iran are Shia. Sunnis and Shias try to obey the teachings of the Koran and the prophet Mohammad. Both believe that by following the Five Pillars of Islam that they will attain heaven when they die. However, Allah, the supreme God of the universe, determines who enters paradise. Muslims pray five times a day facing Mecca. They fast the month of Ramadan. They attend mosque services on Friday. If a Muslim has the means, he or she will make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his or her lifetime. Muslims are also prohibited from drinking alcohol, eating pork, gambling, stealing, using deceit, slandering, and making idols.
What Are Their Needs?
The two main holidays for Muslims are Eid al Fitr, the breaking of the monthly fast and Eid al Adha, the celebration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah. The most important holiday for Kurds is Newroz or Nowruz, the New Year festival that begins March 19-21. Kurds wear special clothing, eat festive meals with family and friends, dance, sing and jump over bonfires.
Most Kurmanji Kurds of Iran are living in poverty. Clean water supplies are scarce, and they are exposed to diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. Politically, the Kurds are oppressed by the Iranian government. They need the liberty to educate their children in their own language. Since missionary activity is illegal in Iran, Christians will need to come as humanitarian workers. Every Kurd in Iran needs to hear and respond to a clear message of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Pray that God will provide clean water and food for the Kurmanji Kurds of Iran.
Ask the Lord to raise up Christian medical teams who can bring supplies and expertise to the Kurmanji Kurds.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften Kurdish hearts and open their ears to the gospel.
Pray for spiritual growth among small number of Kurdish believers and ask God to give them open doors of ministry to their own people.
Pray that a strong church planting movement will be raised up among the Kurmanji Kurds of Iran.
Scripture Prayers for the Kurd, Kurmanji in Iran.