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The Kurdish Culture - Referat

General Facts

Kurds are a nation, which lives in the Middle East and is mostly inhabited in a region known as Kurdistan or Mesopotamia. They do not have an own regular country and are spread in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. It is estimated that the total population of Kurds is about 35 until 45 million people. In countries, where they nowadays live, Kurds are an important ethic minority. With the exception of the Iraq, Kurdish people have no possibility to get self-administration. The Kurds are the largest stateless nation in the world today.


The Kurdish nation is one of the oldest folk in the world. The exact origins of the Kurdish people are not identified, because there are too many different opinions about their roots. The Kurds them self say that they descend from the Meder, a population who lived 728-550 BC.

Kurdish Language

The Kurdish language has a lot of different dialects. The main dialect groups are the 'Kurmanji' and 'Sorani' dialect. But there are also dialects like the Zaza dialect or the Goran dialect, which are only used by a minority group. Most Kurds speak more than one language. They are either bilingual or multilingual speaker, who also speak for example Arabic, Persian or Turkish as a second language alongside their native language Kurdish, while those in diaspora communities often speak three or more languages.


In the Kurdish population different religions are represented. Today, the majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslim. There is also a minority of Kurds who are Shia Muslims, primarily living in the Iran. The Alevis are another religious minority. They are mainly living in the northern Part of Kurdistan (Turkey). Yazidi is a minority religion practised from Kurdish communities of northern Iraq, Armenia, Georgia and Russia. Christianity and Judaism, both are still practised in very small numbers across Kurdistan. There are however 200,000 Kurdish Jews residing in Israel. In southern Kurdistan are also a small number of Christian Kurds. The Kurds were in the beginning of their exist, mostly Yazidis and be part of the Zoroastrian faith, which is one oft the oldest ancient monotheistic religions.

History of the Kurds

In the history of western Asia, Kurds played an important role. But they did not have for centuries an own country. One aspect was that the Kurds had no national sentiment. Much more their awareness was coined in their religion or tribal membership. Under the influence of European norms and values the Kurds developed their own national feeling and became more united. After the first world war a new consultation said Kurdish people should get their own country. In the Treaty of Svres (10th August 1920) a Kurdistan region was scheduled to have a referendum to decide its fate, which included the Mosul Province. However, even that plan was never implemented as the Treaty of Svres and was replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne then. The current Iraq-Turkey border was agreed in July 1926. So the dream of a united Kurdistan faded. After that decision, Kurds got angry and put up resistances. The Turkish state founder Kemal Ataturk defeated several Kurdish uprisings in the 20s and 30s, including the Kogiri Rebellion in 1920, the Sheikh Said Rebellion in 1925, the Dersim Massacre, which took place in 1937 and 1938. Atatrk did not see Kurds as an ethical minority. Also in Iran Kurds did rebellions, which were beaten down. On January 22, 1946, there was the first and only Kurdish state until today. In Iran Qazi Muhammad a patriotic Kurd announced the formation of the Republic of Mahabad, which was officially known as the Republic of Kurdistan and established in Iranian Kurdistan. The Kurdish state existed only eleven months, till Iranian forces entered and secured Mahabad on December 15th, 1946. Until the seventies of the 20th century the Kurdish people did not play an important role in the politics of western Asia. In countries where Kurds lived they tried to assimilate the Kurdish folk. Many Kurds get deported. The use of the Kurdish language was forbidden. In 1978 some patriotic Kurds founded a Kurdish organization, PKK, which has been fighting and armed struggle since 1984 against the Turkish state for an autonomous Kurdistan and cultural and political rights for the Kurds in Turkey. PKK stands for Kurdistan Workers' Party and is led by Abdullah calan, who is one of the founders. Instead of looking for a dialogue with the PKK, the Turkish state only tries in the last 35 years to defeat the Workers Party in a military way. But there was no real success still today. In all parts of Kurdistan mainly in the northern, eastern and western area, the PKK enjoys a huge authority. Iran, Iraq and Syria do not tolerate a Kurdish state. But in the Iraq the Kurdish people get their autonomy. After the invasion of Iraq, the new Iraqi constitution defines Iraqi Kurdistan as a federal entity of Iraq, and establishes Arabic and Kurdish as Iraq's official languages. In Syria the Kurds did make important achievements in the phase of the revolution. Many Kurdish cities are in the ownership of the Kurdish population now. Experts worldwide prognosticate that there will be an united Kurdish state in the next thirty years.

The way to freedom, the struggle against oppression - what shapes the political and social life of the Kurds, is reflected in their culture. Literature, film and music are often politicized and could be only produced for years in secret or in exile. The Kurdish Culture is characterized by their tradition. Kurds are traditional people, who have their norms and values, which are more than thousand years old. Just as the tribal structure of Kurdish society has lasted for centuries, also the old customs of the culture and traditions are kept alive.

Kurdish Films

Kurdish films are dominated by the fate of the Kurds as a folk without a state. It comprised social injustice, oppression, torture, human rights violations and life as a stranger. These movies have a great significance for the Kurds, as it offers the possibility to led the attention of their situation in form of an artistic manner. Because of state repression, it is not easy to make films with political issues. So most films were done in exile. The best example is Turkey, where it was not allowed to speak the Kurdish language. In the 21th century somehow Kurdish films have been often awarded. It was for the Kurdish people impossible to get permission from Turkey, Iraq or Iran for publishing their media for a long time. Information needed to be disseminated via the detour of other European countries. Later in the beginnings of the actual century the Kurds gets more rights for using their language. Kurdish radio and television stations getting broadcasting licenses, albeit under severe restrictions and limitations. Also, the internet is becoming increasingly important for Kurds, who live in exile, but in the Kurdish heartland it was, because of the bad reception, hardly to use.

Kurdish Music

Very important for the Kurds is the music. Traditionally, there are three types of Kurdish Classical performers - storytellers (rokbj), minstrels (stranbj) and bards (dengbj). Most Kurdish songs concern about love, are dance, wedding and other celebration songs and also work songs are popular. In the last centuries the music get more and more politicized. Kurdish music is the awareness of a Kurdish identity and is therefore also used for political causes. The songs contain about a dream of an united state or about the Kurdish struggle. Since the 1990s in parts of Kurdistan a kind of guerilla music emerged, in addition to the beauty of the landscape also the freedom struggle of the people are on the subject. Since the 1990s in parts of Kurdistan a kind of guerilla music emerged, in addition to the beauty of the landscape also the freedom struggle of the people are on topic of the songs. Kurdish rebels, who perished in combat are praised in these songs as martyrs. The musical instruments include the tembr (tembr, saz), biziq (bozuk), qernte (Duduk) and bilr (Kaval) in northern and western Kurdistan, şimşal (long flute), czele, kemene and def (frame drum) in the south and east. Zirne (wooden shawm) and dahol (drum) are found in all parts of Kurdistan. In Kurdish music traditions old Kurdish women sing weeping songs for death people to allow their emotions full bent. In all parts where Kurds lived, Kurdish music was forbidden. But since the 21th century Kurds are allowed to listen and make Kurdish music.

Kurdish Dance

In addition to the music also the dance plays an important role. Gowend is a traditional kind of dancing. You dance next to each other in a series, whereby the dancers hook with the little fingers, holding hands or touch the shoulders of their neighbours. Gowend is traditionally played during wedding on the zurna, supported by a davul. For Kurdish people dancing is significant, because it means that you can live out your tradition. It is also an example for solidarity. Some Kurds may say that with dancing you can alleviate stress.

Kurdish Cloth

The Şal şapik is a very traditional Kurdish clothe. It consists of large trousers, which are wide between the legs. Another traditional cloth is the shalwar. Mainly the shalwar is a local dress of the south-eastern part of Turkey and north of Iraq. The shalwar is the national pantaloons type of the Kurds. In the south eastern part of Asia the shalwar is well known under the name Salwar Kameez.

Kurdish Kitchen

Another part of the Kurdish culture is the culinary kitchen. Kurds have
very different and enlarged meals. Very important is the meat. Traditional Kurdish cooking varies according to the regions in which the Kurdish people live, and the local economies within this region. However, the cooking of the Kurds, who lived a nomadic life until the end of the 19th century, is based on animal husbandry and viticulture. These meals are served at weddings, funerals, festivals and celebrations of great importance. According to the season, these meals are served either in large halls or in gardens, and the dishes reflect the economic status of the person preparing them. Another occasion for the preparation and distribution of food is the funeral ceremony. Upon death, relatives and neighbours prepare food at the home of the deceased for three days following the burial ceremony. Condolence visits continue for three days after the funeral and visitors are served with bitter coffee and tea. The most basic foodstuffs of the Kurds are milk products such as yoghurt, butter and cheese. The most commonly consume grains and legumes such as rice, wheat, lentils, chickpeas and dry beans. The most common vegetables are eggplant, onions, radishes and cucumbers. Considered sacred by the Kurdish peoples, bread is made in many different shapes and from a variety of ingredients and also a basic foodstuff for them. Black Tea, which is called Cay, is also very popular for the Kurds, especially for women, who likely drink a warm cay after a stressfully day.

Kurdish Literature

There is a rich folk literature in the Kurdish language. The Kurdish literature was mostly handed down orally and consisted especially from folklore and seals until the 19th century. Literary Kurdish works have been written down in one of the three main dialects of Gorani, Kurmanji and Sorani. The role of the Kurds as oppressed people often played a role. One of the most important Kurdish dramas, is the story and at the same time a national epic of Mem Zn. The drama of Mem Zn (Mem Alan Zn Botan), was written in 1695 by Ehmed Xan. It is a classic love story with political aspects. Mem, one of the "Alan" clan, and Zin, one of the "Botan" clan, are two lovers. Their union is blocked by a person named Bekir of the Bakran clan. Mem eventually dies during a complicated conspiracy by Bekir. When Zin receives the news, she also wants to die while mourning the death of Mem at his grave. The immense grief leads to her death and she is buried next to Mem. Before Bekir dies, he provides that he wants to be interred beside of Zin, so he would even separate the two lovers after their death. For Kurds, Mem and Zn are symbols of the Kurdish people and the Kurdish country, which are separated and cannot come together. The development of the Kurdish literature is still dependent on the political conditions that were characterized by aggressions, attacks oppression and assimilation.

Kurdish Women

In the Kurdish culture the Kurdish woman has a real relevant status. In the last 30 years women in Kurdistan have more freedom. Although there are still some parts in Kurdistan where men oppress the women, most of them can manage themselves. Unlike Turkish, Persian or Arabic women, Kurdish women play also an important role in the policy. Also women fight in the first Kurdish rebellions. In contrast to many neighbouring Muslim populations, Kurdish women are not secluded and do not wear face veils. But for Kurdish women themselves, they think it is important to be traditionally. So if a Kurdish woman has respect for a man, then because of good education, that is what the tradition says. Still in the diaspora Kurdish women do not want to live in a permissive way. To keep tradition and the culture, these are important features of a well educated Kurdish woman. Historically, Kurdish women have lived on an equal footing with men in many areas. Women worked with men for the survival of their farms and income. They fought against external forces which sought to create in-cohesion within Kurds and oppress the Kurdish masses. In politics, women still are essential factors. So in northern Kurdistan/Turkey a lot of women are in the politics. The Peace and Democracy Party, a political party in the Turkey, which based on the Kurdish-problematic often sends women to the Parliament. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have their own women army. In the PKK are many important positions which are filled by women. Once Abdullah calan the PKK-Chairmen said that Kurdistan can never be free, when its woman are not. In demonstrations whether in Turkey, in Europe or elsewhere, Kurdish women are on the front line. The fact that women have many political rights shows that they are not domineered by male violence. In the northern part of Syria, in western Kurdistan, Kurds get major achievements, but this only with the help of their women. The fragile and weak image of women which has been created in the mindsets of many Kurds was almost non-existent when Kurdish men and women relied on each other for survival. Owing to the economic, political and social transformations, Kurdish women have made great progress. Today, the Kurdish woman is a member of parliament, a minister, a teacher, an engineer, a lawyer, a worker etcetera.


There is one day for the Kurdish people, which is most important. It called Newroz and reflects the new year for the Kurds. Newroz stands for new day : New- new/ Roz deduced from Roj-day The Newroz celebration, taking place on March 21, is New Year according to the Kurdish Calendar. It is the same for many nationalities and communities around the world whose indigenous calendar is derived from the ancient Zoroastrian calendar. Every year, Kurds and non-Kurds, for example Persian, Turk or other folks in south Asia celebrate the Zoroastrian New Year in various communities all over the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and across the Caucasus. The historical understanding of Newroz is that March 21 coincides with the March equinox and is a holy day among the green-loving Zoroastrians. Fire is another sacred symbol in the religion, and Zoroastrians in ancient Mesopotamia welcomed spring by setting bonfires on mountain peaks, symbolizing a declaration of faith and their core values of good thoughts, good words and good deeds. While the celebration is similar to many religious and cultural festivities taking place in the modern world, there is a point of difference in how Kurdish people celebrate Newroz. Celebrating Newroz is insisted upon more among Kurds, and is a more widespread event in Kurdistan than anywhere else. For Kurds, Newroz signifies unity and brotherhood for national liberation, emancipation and empowerment of the oppressed. It has become an annual event registered in every Kurds memory to further their salvation and independence in a political sense. In Kurdish legend, the holiday celebrates the deliverance of the Kurds from a tyrant, and it is seen as another way of demonstrating support for the Kurdish cause. Newroz provides this identity for modern Kurds as a result of the status quo of being Kurdish in the modern Middle East. It defines emancipation and liberation due to the long fought for cause of Kurdish independence which, in effect, amongst other things, has politicized to the core many aspects of the Kurdish way of life, including this traditional New Year. Though celebrations vary, people generally gather together to welcome the coming of spring; people wear coloured clothes and dance together. For modern Kurds, it is precisely such oppression that transformed Newroz into a focal point that today unites them to demonstrate an unbearable rage through peaceful protests, festivities and the celebration of cultural differences against countless years of national oppression and state-sponsored racism. During acts of civil disobedience and in times of conflict, or whenever the state apparatus wants to prevent Newroz celebrations, Kurds have said Bji Newroz in greeting one another through difficult times, which literally means Long Live Newroz. One of the most common Newroz greetings in the Kurdish language is Newroztan Piroz Bet, which means, simply, Happy Newroz to you all.


After this more or less short summery about the Kurdish culture you can see that the Kurdish people try to keep their traditions. Also political issues play an importance in Kurdish culture. Oppression and assimilation are just as resistance and opposition on the agenda of Kurds. In the last 2000 years Kurds had and still have a pluralistic culture. Maybe when there is a united Kurdistan, the Kurdish people also get the chance to live their traditions freely.

Source Materials

- Some of the information come from own repertoire. For Information I also ask my Parents and relatives, so many of the Materials are by worth of mouth.

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newroz_in_Kurdistan

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdish_culture

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurds

- http://selenasol.com/selena/struggle/kurds.html


- http://www.kurdmania.org/Content-Kurdische-Religionen-item-55.html

- http://kurdizan-info.blogspot.de/2013/01/sal-u-sapik-eine-weite-hose-eine-jacke.html?m=0

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