Prayer Profile
The Southern Kurd of Iran

[IMAGE] The nearly 673,000 Southern Kurd of Iran are actually part of a much greater Kurdish 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. For instance, they speak a group of closely related languages; they have a shared culture; they have a common geographical homeland; and they have a common sense of identity. Kurds are basically more alike than are other people groups, and they feel it.

The Southern Kurd of Iran (also known as the Sorani) live along the Iraq-Iran border in the Iranian provinces of Kermanshah and Luristan. Though the Southern Kurd enjoy a milder climate than do their relatives farther north, both groups face many common problems. Water is scarce, and there are persistent problems with such diseases as trachoma, tuberculosis, and malaria.

What are their lives like?
The Kurds of this region make their living in much the same way as their relatives in Turkey and Iraq, farming and raising cattle and goats. The area is well wooded and a few still live the semi-nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors. However, most still live in small villages of under 2000 people.

Generally speaking, the Southern Kurd are better off than the Kurds in Turkey, especially in regard to land ownership. Since 1960, land reform has allowed 30% of the Kurds to buy their first plots of land. However, they are still culturally repressed, their language banned, and their children forced to learn Persian in schools. There is much hostility between the Sunni Muslim Northern Kurds and the Shiite Kurds farther south.

The Kurds are noted for their elaborate and colorful 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 brightly embroidered. However, many rural Kurds have abandoned their native costumes for western style dress.

The most important Kurdish national festival is the New Year celebration which is held on March 21st. This is a long ceremony that may continue for a week or more. Many specific foods and condiments are prepared in advance. Special flowers are grown for the occasion and branches covered with fresh buds are cut and made to adorn the feast. New clothes are worn, and some old pottery is broken for good luck. People visit each other's houses, and old feuds and misunderstandings are reconciled for the occasion. Gifts are given by seniors to their juniors in age, and high ranking social figures are paid visits and brought gifts.

What are their beliefs?
Nearly all the Kurds are Muslim, most being Shafite Sunnis. They first embraced Islam after the Arab conquests of the seventh century. Islam is looked to 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.

What are their needs?
Since they live in an area where water is scarce, the Southern Kurd need to be educated in irrigation and agricultural techniques. This would greatly improve their cultivation of crops and successful raising of cattle. Their persistent problems with certain diseases show the need for improved medical services. Politically, they are oppressed by the Iranian government. They need the liberty to educate their children in their own language.

The Islamic religion is very difficult to penetrate. Although portions of the Bible are now available in their language, there are still only 135 known believers among them.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Iran and share Christ with the Southern Kurd.
  • Pray that the doors of Iran will soon open to missionaries.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the few known Southern Kurd Christians.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to complete translation of the Bible into the Suleimaniyi language.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Southern Kurd 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 Southern Kurd by the year 2000.

See also profiles on the following Kurd groups:
The Alveica of Turkey; The Dimili of Turkey; The Herki of Turkey, Iran and Iraq; The Kurd of Afghanistan, Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan: The Northern Kurd of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Armenia; The Southern Kurd of Iraq; the Western Kurd of Syria; and the Shikaki of Turkey.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Southern Kurd
  • Country: Iran
  • Their language: Syleimaniyi
  • Population: (1990) 589,500
    (1995) 672,800
    (2000) 746,400
  • Largest religion: Muslims (Shafiites) 93%
    Muslims 6.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 135
  • Scriptures in their own language: Portions
  • Jesus Film in their own language: Available
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 2
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 168,300 (25%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 20,300 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 148,000 (22%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 504,500 (75%)
  • Country: Iran
  • Population: (1990) 58,946,300
    (1995) 67,283,200
    (2000) 74,643,600
  • Major peoples in size order: Persian 35.7%
    Azerbaijani 15.6%
    Luri 7.1%
    Iranian Kurd 6%
    Southern Kurd 4.5%
  • Major religions: Muslims 98.7%
    Bahai's 0.6%
    Christians 0.5%
  • Number of denominations: 26

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

This profile may be copied and distributed without obtaining permission
as long as it is not altered, bound, published
or used for profit purposes.

[Home] [Calendar] [Country List]