Kurdish Christians

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Kurdish Christians
Kurdên Mesîhî
Total population
Christianity (Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy)[1]
mainly Kurdish (Sorani, Kirmanji, Palewani)

Kurdish Christians (Kurdish: Kurdên Mesîhî) are Kurds who follow Christianity.


Two Kurds with an Orthodox priest, 1873.

The earliest proselytisation of Kurds to Christianity in Kurdish lands is dated to the first Century A.D by Apostle Andrew.[2][3][better source needed][4]

In the year 338 AD, a Kurdish ruler by the name Tirdad converted to Christianity. It has been speculated that he was from the Hawraman region of Kurdistan.[5][6][7]

The early history of Christianity in Kurdistan closely parallels that of the rest of Anatolia and Mesopotamia. According to a legend, Mar Saba succeeded in converting some "sun-worshipping" Kurds to Christianity in the fifth century.[8]

Majority of Kurds adopted Islam after the Arab conquest of the Sasanian Empire but their faith sat lightly on them, it was not until the Ottoman Turks, who, with considerable political acumen, saw the sole means by which they could attach the Kurds to themselves was through their religion, and did everything possible to promote Islam amongst them. However, there were Kurdish converts to Christianity even after the spread of Islam. In the ninth century, a Kurd named Nasr or Narseh converted to Christianity, and changed his name to Theophobos during the reign of Emperor Theophilus and was the emperor's intimate friend and commander for many years.[9] During the same period, the Kurdish prince Ibn ad-Dahhak, who possessed the fortress of al-Jafary, abandoned Islam for Orthodox Christianity.[10] In return, the Byzantines gave him land and a fortress. In 927, he and his family was executed during a raid by Thamal, the Arab governor of Tarsus.[11]

In the late 11th and the early 12th century AD, Kurdish Christian soldiers comprised 2.7% of the army of fortress city of Shayzar in present-day Syria.[12]

The Armenian family of the Zakarids, whose ancestors were Christianized Kurds,[13][14] ruled parts of northern Armenia in the 13th century AD and tried to reinvigorate intellectual activities by founding new monasteries.[15] At the peak of Kingdom of Georgia the family led the unified Armeno-Georgian army. Two brothers of this family, Zakare and Ivane led the army to victory in Ani in 1199.

Kurds who converted to Christianity usually turned to the Nestorian Church.[16] In 1884, researchers of the Royal Geographical Society reported about a Kurdish tribe in Sivas which retained certain Christian observances and sometimes identified as Christian.[17]

One of the most prominent Kurdish leaders in Iraqi Kurdistan, Sheikh Ahmed Barzani who was a brother of Mustafa Barzani, announced his conversion to Christianity during his uprising against the Iraqi government in 1931.[18]

Contemporary Kurdish Christians[edit]

In recent years some Kurds from Muslim background have converted to Christianity.[19][20]

The Kurdish-Speaking Church of Christ (The Kurdzman Church of Christ) was established in Hewlêr (Arbil) by the end of 2000, and has branches in the Silêmanî, Duhok governorates. This is the first evangelical Kurdish church in Iraq.[21] Its logo is formed of a yellow sun and a cross rising up behind a mountain range. Kurdzman Church of Christ held its first three-day conference in Ainkawa north of Arbil in 2005 with the participation of 300 new Kurdish converts.[22] According to one Kurdish convert, an estimated 500 Kurdish Muslim youths have converted to Christianity since 2006 throughout Kurdistan.[23] A Kurdish convert from the Iraqi military who claims to have transported weapons of mass destruction also stated that a wave of Kurds converting to Christianity is taking in northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan).[24] Part of the English-language New Testament was first available in the Kurdish language in 1856.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/79191.htm
  2. ^ William Hanna, The Lamp that Light the Darkness In Clarifying the Service p.68
  3. ^ Coptic Synaxarium, Kiahk 4. http://www.copticchurch.net/synaxarium/4_4.html
  4. ^ Margo Kirtigar, Once apon a Time in Baghdad, Xlibris Corporation, 2011, p.224
  5. ^ Muhammad Bahadin Sahib, Elder Shalyar the Zoroastrian, Zhian Publications Sulaimaniyah, 2013, p.22
  6. ^ Hawre Bakhawan, The Hawrenameh of Kurdish History, Roon Publications, 1999
  7. ^ Muhammad Mardokhi Kurdistani, The History of Kurds and Kurdistan, As'ad Publications, Baghdad, 1991, p.75
  8. ^ G. R. Driver, The Religion of the Kurds, Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, 1922, p.208
  9. ^ I. Sevcenko, Review of New Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire, Slavic Review, p.111, 1968.
  10. ^ A. Vasilyev, Vizantija i araby. Vol. II. (Saint-Petersburg, 1902), p. 220.
  11. ^ Paul F. Robinson, Just War in Comparative Perspective, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 233pp., 2003, (see p.162)
  12. ^ David Nicolle, Christa Hook, Saracen Faris, 1050-1250 AD, 64 pp., Osprey Publishing, 1994, ISBN 1-85532-453-9, see p.7, Table A.
  13. ^ T. F. Mathews, A. Taylor, The Armenian Gospels of Gladzor: The Life of Christ Illuminated, Getty Publications, 2001, ISBN 9780892366279 ( see p.23 :

    Thirteenth century Armenian historians note that the family ancestors were Christianized Kurds

  14. ^ V. Minorsky, Studies in Caucasian History, 196 pp., 1957, ISBN 9780521057356, (see p.102)
  15. ^ A. Vauchez, R. B. Dobson, M. Lapidge, Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages: A-J, 1624 pp., Editions du Cerf, 2000, ISBN 0227679318, 9780227679319, see p.107
  16. ^ John Joseph, The Modern Assyrians of the Middle East: Encounters with Western Christian Missions, Archaeologists, & Colonial Powers, Brill Academic Publishers, 292 pp., 2000, ISBN 90-04-11641-9, p.61
  17. ^ Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, 1884, p.313
  18. ^ The Kurdish Minority Problem, p.11, Dec. 1948, ORE 71-48, CIA "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-08. Retrieved 2012-03-15. .
  19. ^ A Muslim Leader Converted to Christianity in Iraqi Kurdistan
  20. ^ "The Kurds". Urbana. Retrieved 2016-03-09. 
  21. ^ Revival Times
  22. ^ UNAMI: Iraqi Media Monitoring
  23. ^ IRAQ: Sunni extremists threaten to kill Christian converts in north
  24. ^ Kurds in Northern Iraq Converting to Christianity: Iraqi General
  25. ^ Dehqan, Mustafa (2009). "A KIRMAŠANÎ TRANSLATION OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN" (PDF). Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. 61 (1-2): 207–211. doi:10.2143/JECS.61.1.2045832. Retrieved 4 December 2016. 

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