Kurdish Culture and Tradition

There are many creation myths that tell the origin story of the Kurds. They are a displaced people, an entire ethnic group without a nation. In one, the Kurds were the descendents of King Soloman’s slave girls, sired by the demon Jasad. They were driven into the mountains by the angry King. [Albert]. These stories tell of an unwanted people who threw off their oppressors weighty might. It is a history meant to solidify and nurture a nation constantly at war with itself and its neighbors.

The feelings that these stories bring go hand and hand with the most celebrated holiday in Kurdistan. Newroz is celebrated on March 20th, a day that represents Kurdish identity, culture, history, and freedom of oppression. This holiday began when the blacksmith Kawa fought the King Zuhuak. He defeated the evil king on the eve of spring and lit a fire on top of the hillside in order for the world to know of his victory. To this day, bonfires are lit in the evening of Newroz to celebrate the end of winter and beginning of spring; a new hope if you will. [Austria]

Tradition holds a lot of weight in Kurdistan, primarily because it has been harder to keep. One such tradition is marriage. Marriages are often arranged at a young age. For girls, this can be a safety precaution to protect against kidnapping and eloping. A bride price (naxt) is paid to the bride’s family in different forms of riches that she will never see. The wealth is given to her father, and often reserved for her brother’s future bride. [Countries and their…] When she marries, a girl leaves her home, and will belong solely to that of her husbands. These weddings are elaborate celebrations that last several days, and often are contributed to by the village in some way. [Kashi]

Circumcision is an important rite of passage in Kurdish tradition. Boys are typically circumcised between the ages of six and ten. To get through this procedure, they are often given a chosen person from a neighboring village, whom they will form a tirib relationship with that will last a lifetime. [Kashi] As a patriarchal society, the family is run by the father, or closest living male relative. In many areas, Islamic inheritance laws are ignored and women are denied the right their inheritance. In many urban areas, where education, employment, and non-traditional marriage rates are up, there is a greater opportunity for a woman to gain power and demand legal right to the inheritance. [Albert]. Within a family dynamic, the bond between siblings is highly respected, and in the case of brother-sister, highly valued. This relationship continues after marriage out of the house and provides the guaranteed well-being of the sister in her husband’s home, as well as full inheritance for her brother. [The Kurdistan Regional…]

Traditional dress is often no longer a norm in most Kurdish society, but differs by region, gender, social class, and between urban and rural locations. Mainly reserved for occasions such as celebrated holidays and weddings, there are at least three different types of traditional dress for men. The most common is the Shal u Shapik, which entails a simple jacket and trousers. There are at least four different types of traditional wear for women which all revolve around layering colorful silks, skirts, and blouses. [Albert]

It is very common in a young Kurdish woman’s life for her to leave school in order to go through with the marriage arranged for her near birth. Likewise, in many countries where the Kurds reside, the educational provision they are given is a violation of the education requirements in international law. The banning of their language and reluctant teaching of their history is an attempt of the offending countries of linguistic and cultural genocide. However recent statistics show that there are nineteen higher education institutions that provide two semesters each year free of tuition, completing a program in between eight and ten semesters. There is a total of 94,700 students enrolled in the Kurdish region, with a female population of 48%. [Higher Education…] This focus on higher education is what many Kurdish citizens, especially women, need to obtain a foothold in the world they have been pushed into. With a greater education system, the people of Kurdistan can fight for the right to their own nation, regaining some of the values, traditions, and culture that they have lost.

3 thoughts on “Kurdish Culture and Tradition

  1. Dawn Elliott

    I have found your information about the Kurdish people to be informative. I had heard a little about them during conversations in my Minority Report class. I would have been happy to have researched them but my group had already decided to focus on the Sufi people, so I am glad I found your work.

    Well I can understand arranging a marriage for protections sack, I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Kurdish women are forced to give up their education to get married. Why can’t they finish their schooling and then get married?

    Also, I really enjoyed the creation myth about King Soloman’s slave girls, it would be an interesting tale to pass down the generations.

  2. Taylor VanDyke

    The information you present about the Kurds is very interesting. We explored similar concepts involving minority groups in my Tourism & Ethnicity in China class. Many of the 55 recognized minority groups struggle with their identity and maintaining tradition. The aspect of the Kurds losing their traditional ways of dress ties into the way minority groups in China interact with their traditional dress. Many of the minorities, specifically the Miao, are in the tourism industry. It attracts people to their small villages where they put on shows of song and dance, sell goods, and pose for pictures. During this time they wear festival clothing – it may not be clothing of their specific minority but as long as they look ethnic in some way, the tourists are happy. Thus, their traditional dress is no longer their traditional dress – but another part of making money from the visitors to their village. Because of this many of them lose the culture and tradition that distinguishes one minority group from another because they focus all of their energies on the tourism industry. It’s sad to learn about a group of peoples losing traditions that they worked so hard to create and continue – Kurds and minorities in China included. I found it very interesting to learn about these minority groups in other countries, I wonder if the situation is similar to minority groups in the U.S. – struggling with their identity, culture and traditions while trying to assimilate into the majority.


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