Introduction / History The Kurds are a people without a politically recognized homeland. Within this broad group of people are diverse tribal associations, lifestyles, and religious practices. However, they have retained a strong, common ethnic identity. Kurdistan, the traditional homeland of the Kurds, was a mountainous region in southwestern Asia. This area included parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and the former Soviet Union.
The Kurds arrived in Kurdistan during the 1500s and were used by the Persian shahs to guard their eastern border. In the second half of the 1700s, the Kurds slowly moved westward as far as present-day Azerbaijan. During this expansion, Kurdish villages were established throughout the region. Today, there are a number of compact Kurd settlements in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. Most of those in Kazakhstan live in small Kurdish communities in Tchimkent, Jamboul, and around Almaty.
What are their lives like? Traditionally, the Kurds of Kazakhstan were nomads; however, the arrival of Soviet rule drastically altered their lives. The nomads were permanently settled and gradually transformed into agricultural wage laborers. Shortly afterwards, their children began to go to school. As frontiers were closed, all ties that had previously linked them with their brothers in Kurdistan were broken.
The Kurds were hard workers on the Soviet collective (community) farms, but they also had their own herds and allotments of land. Even before glasnost (openness) within the Soviet Union, there was a measure of cultural freedom for the Kurds. Because they were a small minority, they posed little threat.
Soviet Kurds are among the most prosperous citizens of the former USSR. This is especially noticeable in the quality of their dwellings, which are modern houses made of stone or brick, usually equipped with central heating, and sometimes having telephones. Villages tend to have broad well-lit streets, linked to the cities by fairly good roads. They have their own schools, school books, a printing press, and various social comforts.
Glasnost and the subsequent independence of the republics have contributed to an overall revival of Kurdish identity and expression. There is a recognition of the repression that occurred during Stalin's rule, and a re-awakened national awareness. As a result, many former USSR citizens are declaring themselves to be Kurds, as they rediscover their ethnic origin.
What are their beliefs? Nearly all Kurds are Muslim, having embraced Islam in the seventh century A.D. following the Arab conquests. Most belong to the Sunni, or more orthodox, branch of their religion. However, most of the Kurds in Kazakhstan are Shi'ites, practicing the more individualistic form of Islam.
The Kurds keep the five essential duties of all Muslims: affirming that Allah is the only god, and Mohammed is his prophet; praying five times daily; giving alms; fasting during Ramadan; and making a pilgrimage to Mecca. Nevertheless, there are still traces of an earlier, pagan faith that occasionally surface among the Kurds, especially in the rural areas. Some people there still believe in jinnis (tiny, human-like evil spirits) and demons. Elements of animal worship can also be found.
Until recently, mullahs (trained Muslims holding official posts) acted as village witch doctors, performing ceremonies and reciting spells to drive out madness or to cure sickness.
What are their needs? The Kurds of Kazakhstan have some Christian resources available to them. Both the New Testament and the Jesus film have been translated into Kurmanji, their native language.
Kurds have long been a people in search of national identity. They need to know that their true identity can only be found in Jesus. Prayer for their spiritual eyes to be opened is critical if they are to find salvation.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to work among the Kurds of Kazakhstan.
* Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Kurds, with many conversions resulting.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Kurds who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray that Kurds will hunger to know Jesus and that they will find their true identity in Him.
* Ask the Lord to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Kazakhstan through worship and intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Kurds.