Prayer Profile
The Southern Kurd of Iraq

[IMAGE] The 1.7 million Southern Kurd of Iraq (Kurdi speakers) live primarily along the eastern border of Iraq, touching Iran. However, some have fled further north to escape the severe persecution of Saddam Hussein and the devastation of the Gulf War. Many live as refugees in the "safe zone" created after the war.

The Southern Kurd 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 region, and sense of identity. Unfortunately, they share many common problems as well. Water is scarce, and they are constantly threatened by such diseases as trachoma, tuberculosis, and malaria.

What are their lives like?
The Southern Kurd of Iraq make their living in much the same way as their relatives in Turkey and Iran, by farming and raising cattle and goats. Their homeland is also one of Iraq's major oil producing regions. Prior to the Gulf War, many of them lived in cities and worked in the oil industry.

The Southern Kurd are 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.

The most important Kurdish national festival is the New Year celebration which is held on March 21st. This long ceremony 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 homes, and old feuds and misunderstandings are reconciled. 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 Kurds are Muslims, 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. However, 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 independent people in Kurd society.

What are their needs?
The Southern Kurd have endured much suffering in recent years. Their massive exodus from Iraq brought international attention to their situation as never before. As victims of the region's recent political developments, they have suffered no less than any other oppressed people group since World War II. The Iraqi secret police have often poisoned many of their Kurdish opponents both at home and abroad. Some have even been poisoned in refugee camps. The Kurd need to know that true refuge and safety can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Poor health conditions and the scarcity of water are also problems faced by the Southern Kurd. Humanitarian aid workers and medical teams are needed to live and work among them.

Most importantly, the Southern Kurd are trapped in the bondage of Islam. Although there are six missions agencies targeting them, there are still less than 1,800 known believers living among them. Portions of the Bible have been translated into their language; however, there are no Christian radio or television broadcasts available.

Prayer Points

  • Ask God to send Christian medical teams and humanitarian aid workers to live among them.
  • Pray that God will supply clean water for the people of Iraq.
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will give the missions agencies strategies for reaching these Muslims with the Gospel.
  • Ask God to use the small number of Southern Kurd believers as a clear Gospel witness to their own people.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to complete translation of the Bible into Kurdi.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Pray that God will 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 Iran; the Western Kurd of Syria; and the Shikaki of Turkey.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Southern Kurd
  • Country: Iraq
  • Their language: Kurdi
  • Population: (1990) 1,536,600
    (1995) 1,738,200
    (2000) 2,019,000
  • Largest religion: Muslims (Shafiites) 93%
    Muslims (other) 5.5%
    Muslims (Yazidi) 0.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 1,738
  • 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: 6
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 523,200 (30%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 88,600 (5%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 434,600 (25%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 1,215,000 (70%)
  • Country: Iraq
  • Population: (1990) 18,078,000
    (1995) 20,448,900
    (2000) 23,753,200
  • Major peoples in size order: Iraqi Arab 64.0%
    Southern Kurd 8.5%
    Northern Kurd 6.5%
    Iraqi Kurd 6.0%
    Azerbaijani 5.6%
  • Major religions: Muslims 95.9%
    Christians 3.2%
    Nonreligious 0.5%
  • Number of denominations: 22

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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