Introduction / History
Most Azeri or Azerbaijani Turks live in the nations of Iran and Azerbaijan east of the Caspian Sea. A smaller population lives in eastern Turkey. These Turkish Azeri originated from Azerbaijan. Many left their homeland seeking economic opportunities in Turkey. A diaspora of one million Azeris live in over a dozen countries throughout the world. The Azeris in Turkey speak both Azerbaijani and Turkish. The two languages are mutually intelligible. Azeris generally feel at home in Turkish society, except for religious differences. Most Turks are Sunni Muslims while the most Azeri are Twelver Shias, the primary religion of Iran. The Ottoman Empire (1299 to 1922) was one of the longest lasting empires in history. In 1922 Turkey became a secular parliamentary republic with Kemal Ataturk as its first leader. Turkey is one of most prosperous and stable predominantly Muslim countries in the world.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Azeris in Turkey work at a number of different types of employment. One area is agriculture. Turkey is the world's leading producer of hazel nuts, figs, cherries, pomegranates, and apricots. They cultivate many other fruits and vegetables anda export them to Europe, the Middle East and China. Azeris farmers are increasingly using modern techniques to increase their yields. Some Turkish Azeris work in manufacturing electronics, home appliances, automobiles, and in the steel industry. Another leading export of Turkey is textiles and clothing. Azeris are often caught between maintaining their cultural traditions and life in the modern Turkey. Traditionally, Azeri parents chose the spouse of their adult children. Now young people, particularly in the cities, choose their spouse. Azeri parents used to have a large number of children. Now again in urban areas, Azeris have only one to three children. Most Azeri parents encourage their children to gain university degrees and enter the professions. Many Azeri young people learn English and Arabic to further their business skills. Azeri culture is famous for its dance, music, cuisine, and literature.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Azeris in Turkey are Shia Muslims. Although many Bible resources exist in Azeri Turkish, language of Azerbaijani, most Azeris have never heard a clear presentation of the gospel or know someone who can share the good news with them. Both Sunnis and Shias, the two main branches of Islam, agree that Allah is the one true God, and Mohammad was his messenger. One group, which eventually became the Shias, felt Mohammad's successor should be someone in his bloodline, while the other, which became the Sunnis, felt a pious individual who would follow the Prophet's teachings was the right choice. The successor who the Shia believe was right leader, Ali, met a violent, martyr's death. Unlike the Sunnis, the Shias understand that a righteous man can be killed. Like Christians during the Middle Ages, Muslims believe that winning battles demonstrates Allah's favor. Though there is a certain amount of justice for those without power, might makes right is the general rule for Muslims. There are no known followers of Christ among the Azeri Turkish people.
What Are Their Needs?
The Azeri Turks in Turkey need to know that the only way to God is through Jesus Christ. They cannot earn it through works or by obeying the teachings of the Koran. Salvation by grace rather than works results in a major worldview change. An Azeri who follows Christ will face persecution from both his family and society.
Pray that then Holy Spirit will produce a hunger that will overpower physical fear. Pray that churches will be planted among Azeri Turks in this decade. Pray for a "Book of Acts" type of movement to Christ to begin among the Azeri Turkish people. Pray the believers in Turkey and Iran would be led to share the gospel with the Azeris. Pray that the Lord would lead Azeris to listen to Azeris radio broadcasts or to watch Christian TV programs.
Scripture Prayers for the Azerbaijani, Azeri Turk in Turkey.