Introduction / History
The Shikaki Kurdish are actually part of a much greater Kurd population. They 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 Shikaki 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, in the district of Dustan and Qotur, northwest of Lake Urmia. These various tribes and clans are distinguished by the languages they speak. The Shikaki language is possibly a dialect of Kurmanji. Apart from the Shikaki Kurds of Iran, other large communities can also be found in Turkey and Iraq.
What are their lives like?
In recent times, particularly since the early 1930s, the tribal organizations of the Shikaki Kurds have been largely suppressed. As a result, many of the nomads have moved from the rural, economically depressed areas into the cities. There, industry provides jobs for a small segment of the population, while the others are engaged in trade, services, and craft work.
Basic 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 Kurdish farming techniques are somewhat archaic, they are now being integrated into the capitalist market. Cotton, sugar, beets, and tobacco, are replacing the traditional food crops. The Kurds grow them both to sell in the market and for export. Their daily diet is built around bread, dairy products, dates, tea, and meat. 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.
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 traditional 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?
Laborers and evangelistic materials are desperately needed to reach them with the Light of the Gospel. They have not rejected the Good News; they simply have never heard.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Iran and share Christ with Shikaki Kurds.
* Pray that God will call out prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to give missions agencies strategies for reaching these Muslims with the Gospel.
* 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 vigorous Church among the Shikaki Kurds for the glory of His name!