Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Religion in Kurdistan

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Religion in Kurdistan

Religious diversity has been a feature of Kurdistan for many centuries. Main religions that currently exist in Kurdistan are as follows: Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Yarsanism, Yazidism, Alevism and Judaism. However, the majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslims.



Zoroastrianism was one of the dominant religions in Kurdistan before the Islamic era. Furthermore, in 20th century the Kurdish nationalists mentioned Zoroastrianism as a Kurdish religion to oppose the political oppression of Turks, Persians and Arabs. Currently, Zoroastrianism is an officially recognized religion in Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran. Many Kurdish individuals converted from Islam to Zoroastrianism especially after ISIS attacks to Kurdistan.

On 21 September 2016, the first official Zoroastrian fire temple of Iraqi Kurdistan opened in Sulaymaniyah. Attendees celebrated the occasion by lighting a ritual fire and beating the frame drum or 'daf'. Awat Tayib, the chief of followers of Zoroastrianism in the Kurdistan region, claimed that many were returning to Zoroastrianism but some kept it secret out of fear of reprisals from Islamists.


Ahl-e-Hagh or Yarsanism is another religion that is associated with Kurdistan. Although most of sacred Yarsanism texts are in Gorani and all of Yarsan holy places are located in Kurdistan, but this religion has some followers among other ethnic groups as well.


Most of the ethno-religious group of the Yazidi people live in Iraq and Turkey. For centuries they have been subjected to persecution and many of them have converted to Islam and Christianity.


There used to be Jewish minority in most parts of Kurdistan, but most of them migrated to Israel in 20th century.


The Christian population is mostly made up by Assyrians, particularly living in Erbil, Dohuk and Zakho.


The majority of Kurdish people are Muslim by religion.

Sunni Muslim

The majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslim.

Shia Muslim

There is a minority of Shia Muslims in southern parts of Kurdistan in Kirmashan, Khanaqin and Ilam region.


Alevi community that sometimes are called Qizilbash, mostly live in north western parts of Kurdistan. They are mostly concentrated in Dersim region.

Secularism as a polity principle

In the 21st century, Kurdish polities gained a reputation for spearheading secularism as a polity principle in the Middle East. This is not least due to the modernizing Kurdistan Communities Union movement and their radically secular Rojava model project in Syria as well as opposition to islamist domestic and foreign policies of Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan.


Religion in Kurdistan Wikipedia

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