Introduction / History Herki Kurds are actually part of a much greater Kurd 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 Orumiyeh. These various tribes and clans are distinguished by the languages they speak. The Herki language is possibly a dialect of Kurmanji. Apart from the Herki Kurds of Turkey, other large communities can also be found in Iran and Iraq.
What are their lives like? 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Although their farming methods seem primitive and their technology outdated, Herki Kurds are fairing well in Turkey's rugged terrain. Cotton, sugar beets, and tobacco, are grown for both the Turkish market and export.
In recent times, particularly since the early 1930s, the primitive, tribal organizations of the Herki Kurds have been largely suppressed by the Turkish government. As a result, many of the nomads have moved from the rural, economically depressed areas into the cities. There, industry provides jobs for about a small percentage of the population, while the others are engaged in trade, services, and craft work.
The daily diet of the Kurds is built around bread, dairy products, dates, tea, and meat. The wealthy have a more varied diet. Pork and alcoholic beverages are tabooed.
Herki Kurds are 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. Brightly colored vests and sashes are also worn. Women usually wear heavy clothing that is embroidered with vivid colors. Today, many rural Kurds have abandoned their native costumes for western style dress.
What are their beliefs? Nearly all Kurds are Muslims, most being Shafite Sunnis. They first embraced Islam after the Arab conquests of the seventh century. Today, they look to Islam as a basis for social justice.
Even among Sunni Kurds, there are traces of an earlier pagan and violent type faith which sets them apart from other Muslims. In the rural areas, a few still believe in jinnis (spirits capable of assuming human or animal forms) and demons. Many are also involved in elements of animal worship.
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? The Islamic faith is extremely hard to influence with the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Turkey and share Christ with Herki Kurds.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will give missions agencies strategies for reaching these Muslims with the Gospel.
* Ask God to use the small number of Herki Kurdish believers as a clear Gospel witness to their own people.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Pray that God will open the hearts of Turkey's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Herki Kurds.