Prayer Profile
The Alevica Kurdish of Turkey


The nearly 155,000 Alevica Kurd of Turkey are more commonly known as the Kizilbash. The word kizilbash literally means "red hats," and is used to describe the distinctive turbans worn by the Alevica Kurd. Their language, Kirmanjki, is one of a number of languages spoken by the Kurds. Although Turkish is the language used for religious ceremonies and for official purposes, Kirmanjki is the language used in the home.

The Alevica Kurd claim to be Muslim; however, their system of beliefs is unacceptable to the predominantly Sunni Muslim population of Turkey. The Alevica Kurd do not observe the five fundamental requirements of Islam and are thus treated with contempt by the Sunni Muslims.

Of particular distaste to Sunni Muslims is their failure to observe the cleansing rituals before prayer. The Alevica Kurd, however, insist that it is the condition of the heart and mind that is important, not the outward rituals.

What are their lives like?
Kurdistan (homeland of the Kurds) is the largest and most populous part of Kurd national territory in Turkey. This region stretches from the gulf of Alexandria and the Anti-Taurus Mountains in the west to the borders of Iran and Russia in the east. To the north, it is bounded by the Pontic Mountains, and Syria and Iraq to the south.

The Alevica Kurd are largely village people, living in the remote mountain areas of the Tunceli province or in marsh areas near the city of Marash. The Tunceli province is a rugged mountainous region with a continental climate that is subject to extreme temperature fluctuations. The southern part of the area is covered with snow about six months each year.

Kurdish society is still mainly rural, and most of the people make their living from farming and raising livestock. While a majority of the people live fairly settled lives, some still practice a semi-nomadic lifestyle. In most cases, productive farming techniques are underdeveloped. This has resulted in a very low per capita yield. The nomads migrate from place to place, following their herds of goats and sheep onto the mountains during the summer months and down to the plains during the winter.

With population growth, some Alevica Kurd have moved into the predominantly Sunni Muslim towns. There, they tend to live in their own slum quarters, remaining on the fringes of Kurdish society.

What are their beliefs?
The term Alevi is sometimes used to denote a wide variety of Shi'ite sects of Islam. The Shi'ite Muslims lean toward the ecstatic, while the Sunnis tend to be more fundamental in their beliefs and practices.

The Alevica Kurd of Turkey have mixed many elements of various religions and traditions with their Islamic beliefs. For this reason, they are basically rejected by most Sunni Muslims and regarded as heretics. Because they have always been a deprived class outside the mainstream of life in Turkey, they are the object of political as well as religious dislike. They tend to drift towards extremist politics, identifying with other antagonistic groups.

What are their needs?
Illiteracy continues to be a major problem in Turkish Kurdistan. Today, most Alevica Kurd villages do not even have primary schools. It is, therefore, not surprising to find that so few of their young people go to college. The Kurdish language has been banned since 1925, and the publication of books and magazines in Kurdish is also still illegal.

Persecution is common at the local level and in everyday life. Harassment, intimidation, arrest, and torture are common events for the Alevica Kurd. With the rise of Muslim fundamentalism in 1989 and the increase in persecution, many of them left Turkey and fled to England.

As an outcast, despised people, the Alevica Kurd need to be shown the love of Jesus in practical ways. Perhaps Christian educators will have open doors to reach these needy people with the message of salvation.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of the Alevica Kurd so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up qualified linguists who will be able to translate the Bible into Kirmanjki.
  • Pray that God will strengthen and protect the small number of Alevica Kurd believers in Turkey.
  • Take authority over the spiritual powers that are keeping the Alevica Kurd bound.
  • Ask God to raise up an army of intercessors who will faithfully stand in the gap for the Alevica Kurd.
  • Pray that Christian radio and television broadcasts will soon be made available to the Alevica Kurd.
  • Ask the Lord to call Christian teachers who will be willing to live in Turkey and work among the Alevica Kurd.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.

See also profiles on the following Kurd groups:
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 and Iran; the Western Kurd of Syria; and the Shikaki of Turkey.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Alevica Kurdish
  • Country: Turkey
  • Their language: Kirmanjki (Zazaki)
  • Population: (1990) 140,200
    (1995) 154,900
    (2000) 169,400
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Alawite) 99.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 46
  • Scriptures in their own language: None
  • Jesus Film in their own language: Available
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 0
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 29,500 (19%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 4,700 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 24,800 (16%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 125,400 (81%)
  • Country: Turkey
  • Population: (1990) 56,097,700
    (1995) 61,945,200
    (2000) 67,747,900
  • Major peoples in size order: Turk 66.2%
    Northern Kurd 8.8%
    Turkish Kurd 8%
    Crimean Tatar 7%
    Levantine Arab 1.8%
  • Major religions: Muslims 99.4%
    Nonreligious 0.3%
    Christians 0.2%
  • Number of denominations: 34

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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