The Herki Kurd of Iraq
The Herki Kurd 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 20,400 Herki Kurd of Iraq, other large communities can also be found in Iran and Turkey.
What are their lives like?
Although their farming methods seem primitive and their technology outdated, the Herki Kurd are fairing well in Iraq's rugged terrain.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 Kurd 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 Kurd have abandoned their native costumes for western style dress.
What are their beliefs?
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?
Four missions agencies have targeted the Herki Kurd living in Iraq; however, at the present time, there are only eight known believers among this group. Laborers and evangelistic materials are desperately needed to reach them with the Light of the Gospel.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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