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?
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 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?
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.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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