Introduction / History
The Northern Kurds are actually part of a much greater Kurdish population. They 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.
The Kurds of Azerbaijan live in the beautiful Caucasus Mountains, which are located in southeastern Russia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. They originated in modern Turkey and Iran. Large numbers of Kurds arrived in the Caucasus during the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were seeking refuge from the wars between Ottoman Turkey and Tsarist Russia. Unlike the Kurds of nearby Armenia and Georgia, who are mainly Yezidi Muslims, most of the Northern Kurds of Azerbaijan are Sunni Muslims.
What are their lives like?
The Northern Kurds of Azerbaijan enjoy a higher standard of living than their cousins in Turkey and Iran. Although they still farm and care for animals, many now live in cities.
While the Kurds in Turkey are relatively poor, Kurds living in the former Soviet countries are among the most prosperous citizens. They face no discrimination, and many even hold high political offices. They enjoy the use of utilities, roads, housing, and medical facilities that would be considered luxurious in their homeland of Kurdistan. The Kurds of Azerbaijan are also more educated than Kurds of other countries. Consequently, illiteracy disappeared from among them in the 1930s.
The daily diet of most Kurds centers around bread, dairy products, dates, tea, and meat. The wealthier Kurds have a more varied diet and consume more rice, meats, and fruits. In accordance with their Islamic beliefs, Kurds are forbidden to eat pork and drink alcohol.
Any difficulties in Kurdish society are camouflaged by family ties, religious beliefs, and tribal traditions. These factors still shape the Kurds' ideas, despite the almost total collapse of their tribal structures. Kurdish women in Azerbaijan enjoy more freedom than the neighboring Arabs, Turks, and Persians. Although they are still modest in behavior, Kurdish women are not required to wear a veil and are not particularly shy of strange men. Some women have even been able to engage in politics within their tribes and have become very successful.
Although the distinct Kurdish communities within the former USSR are separated by religion, places of origin, and distance, many Kurds still dream of a united Kurdistan. Customs and traditional dress have been maintained in many areas, and the Kurds have been encouraged to use their national language. Also, nearby Armenia has become a cultural center for Kurds. There are radio broadcasts in the Kurmanji dialect and there is a Kurdish publishing house.
What are their beliefs?
Nearly all Kurds are Muslim, most being Shafiite Sunnis. They first embraced Islam after the Arab conquests of the seventh century. Today, they primarily look to Islam as a basis for social justice. However, despite being predominantly Muslim, religion has created deep rifts among the Kurds. Many of the dispossessed Kurd minorities have become associated with the secret and unorthodox sects of Islam.
What are their needs?
The Northern Kurds of Azerbaijan have a strong sense of family values; tradition runs deep within their communities. Because of their firmly held beliefs, the Kurds have been resistant to evangelization.
The New Testament has already been translated into Kurmanji. There are only a few known Northern Kurdish believers living in Azerbaijan.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Azerbaijan and share the Gospel with the Kurds.
* Ask God to give Kurdish believers opportunities to share the love of Jesus with their own people.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Kurds so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Pray that God will open the hearts of Azerbaijan's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
* Pray that God will raise up strong local churches among the Kurds.