The Shikaki of Iraq
The Shikaki 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, in the district of Dustan and Qotur, northwest of Lake Urmia. These various tribes and clans are distinguished by the languages they speak. The Shikaki language is possibly a dialect of Kurmanji. Apart from the Shikaki Kurd of Iraq, other large communities can also be found in Turkey and Iran.
What are their lives like?
Basic Kurdish society is mainly rural, with most people making their living from farming and raising livestock. Most of them are fairly settled; however, some still practice a semi-nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place with their herds of goats and sheep. The nomadic shepherds move into the mountain areas during the summer and down to the plains in the winter.
Although Kurdish farming techniques are somewhat archaic, they are now being integrated into the capitalist market. Cotton, sugar, beets, and tobacco, are replacing the traditional food crops. The Kurds grow them both to sell in the market and for export. Their daily diet is built around bread, dairy products, dates, tea, and meat. 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.
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?
The Bible has not yet been translated into the Shikaki language, and there are no Christian radio or television broadcasts available. Laborers, a translation of the scripture, and other evangelistic materials are desperately needed to reach them with the Light of the Gospel. They have not rejected the Good News; they simply have never heard.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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