Introduction / History More Azeris probably live in Iran than in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. The Iranian government discourages the counting of minority groups in Iran and forbids the use of the Azerbaijani language in schools. More than a million Azeris have left their homeland of Azerbaijan and northeastern Iran. Some Azeris have found a home in Syria. Since March 2011 a civil war has been occurring in Syria. The government under Assad has been fighting the rebels who oppose the Assad Baathist regime. The United Nations estimates that at least 500,000 people have died in the fighting. Another five million people have fled Syria because of the war and 6.7 million more Syrians have been internally displaced. Due to the civil war and refugee crisis, it is impossible to estimate how many Azeris now live in Syria.
What are their lives like? Most Azeris immigrated from Iran and Azerbaijan looking for better economic opportunities in Syria. Many Azeris now are trying to leave Syria and find a more stable life in Europe or Turkey. Before the war in Syria Azeris worked in trade, small businesses, restaurants, factories, and on farms. The war has completely disrupted the lives of most Syrians including the Azeris.
What are their beliefs? Most Azeris in Azerbaijan and Iran are Shia Muslim. There is a sizable group of Sunni Muslim Azeris. Both Sunnis and Shias, the two main branches of Islam, agree that Allah is the one true God and that 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 customs was the right choice. The successor whom the Shia believe was right leader, Ali, met a violent, martyr’s death. So unlike the Sunnis, the Shias understand that a righteous man can be killed. Sunni Muslims believe that winning battles demonstrates Allah’s favor.
What are their needs? Like any group of people, the Azeris need a stable society to raise their families and to prosper. If they are able to leave Syria, they will need shelter, food, clean water, and schools for their children. Even more important is that the Azeris come to know that Jesus or Isa is much more than a prophet as He is depicted in Islam. He is the Son of God and the Lord and Savior of the world. He alone can forgive their sins and grant them eternal life.
Prayer Points * Pray for a swift and just end to the war in Syria. * Pray that Azeri parents will be able to provide for the needs of their children. * Pray that Christian agencies and churches are able to help the Azeris in their physical needs and then tell them about the Savior and His love for them. * Pray that the Lord raises up a Disciple Making Movement among the Azeris of Syria in this decade.