Introduction / History
The Herki Kurds are actually part of a much greater Kurdish population, comprised 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 Reza'iyeh. 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 Iran, other large communities can also be found in Iraq and Turkey.
What are their lives like?
Kurdish society is mainly rural, with most people making their living from farming and raising livestock. Most 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Although their farming methods seem primitive and their technology outdated, the Herki Kurds are fairing well in Iran's rugged terrain. Their daily diet is built around bread, dairy products, dates, tea, and meat. The wealthy have a more varied diet. Pork and alcoholic beverages are tabooed.
Kurdish women generally enjoy more freedom than do the Arabian, Turkish, or Persian women. For example, veils are not generally worn. Although they are modest in their behavior, they are not particularly shy of strange men. The life of the woman villager or nomad is very rough and requires much heavy work.
The Herki Kurds are particularly 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 the 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 Herki Kurds of Iran have had very little exposure to the Gospel message. Laborers and evangelistic materials are desperately needed to reach them with the Light of the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Iran and share Christ with the Herki Kurds.
* Pray that God will call out prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to use the few 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 Iran's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Herki Kurds.