Introduction / History
The Kurds are the largest people group without their own homeland. They are spread across the towering mountains and barren plains of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. This oil-rich area is known as Kurdistan.
The Kurds of Iran live in the most rugged part of Kurdistan along the Turkey-Iran border. In the winter, temperatures drop to minus 30C. In the summer, they reach 45C. Water is in short supply, and there are problems with malaria, trachoma, and tuberculosis. This area is twice as densely populated as the rest of Iran.
For a brief period after World War II, this part of Iran was home to the independent Kurdish Republic of Mahabad; however, this ended in 1946. Many Kurds still wait hopefully for an independent homeland. In July of 1989, the leader of the Iranian Kurdish Democratic party was assassinated in his hotel room in Vienna, Austria. The Iranian government is suspected in the murder.
What are their lives like?
The Kurds of Iran make their living by farming and raising livestock, much the same way as their relatives in Turkey and Iraq. Although a few Kurds still live the semi-nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors, most now live in small villages of less than 2000 people.
The Iranian Kurds are better off than their cousins in Turkey. Land reforms since 1960 have allowed roughly a third of them to buy their first plots of land. However, they are still culturally repressed. Iranian schools are ill equipped and there are not nearly enough of them. Medical care is inadequate in the towns and almost non-existent in the rural areas. There is also constant hostility between the Sunni Muslim Kurds in the north and the Shiite Muslim Kurds farther south.
Large families are still the norm for Kurds. Each household usually has five or six members. The disintegration of the "tribal system" began at the turn of the century, and entered its final phase in the seventies. Massive migration to the cities has also contributed to the extinction of a tribal society.
What are their beliefs?
Nearly all the Kurds are Muslim, most being Shafiite Sunnis. They first embraced Islam after the Arab conquests of the seventh century. They look to Islam as a basis for social justice.
Despite being predominantly Sunnis, religion has created deep rifts among the Kurds. These differences also have prejudicial overtones towards the lower class. Many of the dispossessed Kurd minorities have become associated with the secret and unorthodox sects of Islam--the most fervently rebellious people in Kurd society.
Even among the Sunni Kurds, there remain traces of an earlier pagan, violent-type faith. This occasionally surfaces and has set the Kurds of Iran apart from other Muslims. In rural areas, many still believe in jinnis and demons, and practice such things as animal worship. According to Muslim legend, jinnis are spirits capable of assuming either human or animal form, and exercising supernatural influence over people. Until recent times, mullahs (Islamic religious leaders) acted as village witch doctors. They would perform ceremonies and recite incantations to drive out madness or to cure the sick.
What are their needs?
The Northern Kurds of Iran are living in poor conditions. Good water supplies are scarce, and they are exposed to diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. Politically, the Kurds are oppressed by the Iranian government. They need the liberty to educate their children in their own language.
The Kurds have followed Islam for many years. Although the New Testament is now available in their language, there are still only a few known Northern Kurdish believers in Iran.
* Pray that God will provide clean water for the Northern Kurds of Iran.
* Ask the Lord to raise up Christian medical teams who can bring supplies and expertise to the Kurds.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts and open their ears to the Gospel.
* Pray that the Lord will send laborers into Iran, to reap a harvest among the Kurds.
* Pray for the small number of Kurdish Christians and ask God to give them open doors of ministry to their own people.
* Pray that a strong Christian church will be raised up among the Kurds of Iran.