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Kurds are an ethnic group mainly in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. They live in the north of the Middle East along the Zagros Mountains and the Taurus Mountains in the region that the Kurds call Greater Kurdistan. Today they are parts of north-eastern Iraq, north-west of Iran and North East of Syria and southeast Turkey.
There is a lot of controversy about the Kurdish people from their origins, their history, and even their political future. Kurds are one of the largest ethnic groups that do not have an independent state recognized universally.
Kurdish (Kurdî) is part of the North-Western division of the Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family.
The Kurds have a rich folkloric tradition which is increasingly endangered as a result of modernization, urbanization, and cultural repression. Kurds celebrate the new year on Newroz, and its celebration was often banned by authorities in Turkey and Syria. A well known Kurdish tale is Mem û Zîn.
Zembilfrosh (Kurdish for "basket seller") is a folktale popular in Turkish Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdistan. Zembilfrosh was the son of a powerful Kurdish ruler who left his home and life behind to seek a spiritual life as a dervish. He wanders the countryside with his faithful wife, surviving by making and selling baskets. One day they arrive in the capital of a Kurdish emirate, where the prince's wife sees Zembilfrosh and falls in love with him. She summons him to the castle, where she declares her love for him and tries to seduce him. Zembilfrosh declines, but she presses, promising him many riches. Zembilfrosh is not persuaded and she locks him in a castle tower, from which he eventually escapes. The prince's wife then disguises herself and starts searching for Zembilfrosh, and eventually finds him. She then deceives Zembilfrosh's wife, convincing her to lend her her clothes and leave the house. When Zembilfrosh returns that night, it is dark and he does not recognize the prince's wife, who welcomes him into bed. However, a silver anklet gives her away, and he runs off, chased after by his would-be-lover. As Zembilfrosh sees that escape is impossible, he prays to God, supplicating to be released from a world of misery, and God complies. Reaching Zembilfrosh's lifeless body, the prince's wife is so heartbroken that she dies as well. They are then buried side by side. Their resting place is claimed to be located at the contemporary town of Batifa, a subdistrict of the district of Zakho, Duhok governorate, in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Kurdish folk music is an important part of Kurdish culture and has traditionally been used to transmit stories about Kurdish history by Dengbêj (bards). According to thekurdishproject.org, 'The word ‘deng’ means voice and ‘bej’ means ‘to sing.’ Dengbej are best known for their “stran,” or song of mourning.' Many popular Kurdish musicians of the 20th century like Hassan Zirak and Ahmet Kaya sang in Turkish or Persian as well as in Kurdish.
Food is widely recognized to be a fundamental part of what it means to be Kurdish. Foods such as Dolma (rice stuffed in grape leaves), kfta (spiced minced meat cased in thin layer of mashed pudding rice), Ser u pe (goats head, tongue and feet), shifta (meat patties), are traditional Kurdish foods. Lamb and chicken have been stapled meats in Kurdish cuisine for centuries. Vegetables, pilaf, and dairy products also comprise a large portion of traditional Kurdish food. Tea is also staple to a Kurdish diet. It is commonly drunk 2-3 times a day as a social activity. Kurds also drink Mastaw/Do'h/Ayran, a yogurt-based drink.
The Kurdish people have different religions depending on the country in which they live in or they have cultural and ethnic links to that religion, the most common religion among Kurds is Sunni Islam, practiced by 98% of Kurds living in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurds of Turkey are 30% Alevi out of a population of approximately 15-22 million Kurds and 68% follow Sunni Islam.
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- Folktale collections
- Nikitine, B.; Soane, E. B. (1923). "The Tale of Suto and Tato: Kurdish Text with Translation and Notes". Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies. University of London. 3 (1): 69–106. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00000069. JSTOR 607166. S2CID 162669858. Accessed 14 May 2023.
- Nikitine, Basile (1926). "Kurdish Stories from My Collection". Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies. University of London. 4 (1): 121–38. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00102642. JSTOR 607408. S2CID 176857434. Accessed 14 May 2023.
- Lescot, Roger. Textes Kurdes - Première partie: Contes, proverbes et énigmes. Institut Français de Damas, Collections de Textes Orientaux. Tome I. Paris: Librarie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1940.
- Курдские сказки [Kurdish Fairy Tales]. Запись текстов, пер. с курд. и предисл. Margarita Rudenko и И. Фаризова [I. Farizov]. Составитель [Compiler]: Е. Дружинина. Moskva: Гослитиздат, 1959. (In Russian)
- Spies, Otto (1973). "Kurdische Märchen im Rahmen der orientalisch-vergleichenden Märchenkunde". Fabula (in German). 14 (2): 205–217. doi:10.1515/fabl.19126.96.36.199. S2CID 162302910.
- Wentzel, Luise-Charlotte; Spies, Otto [in German] (1986). Kurdische Märchen (in German). Jena: Eugen Didierichs Verlag.
- "Курдские сказки, легенды и предания" [Kurdish Fairy Tales, Legends and Traditions]. Ордихане Джалила, Джалиле Джалила и Зине Джалил. Moskva: Главная редакция восточной литературы издательства «Наука», 1989. ISBN 5-02-016783-5. (in Russian)
- Thackston, W. M. (1999). "Kurdish folklore". The International Journal of Kurdish Studies. 13 (2).
- Edgecomb, Diane. A fire in my heart: Kurdish tales. Retold by Diane Edgecomb; with contributions by Mohammed M.A. Ahmed and Çeto Ozel. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007.
- Dehqan, Mustafa (2009). "Qisey Giranba: A Sôranî Folktale from Mukrî Kurdistan". Journal of Folklore Research. 46 (1): 101–11. doi:10.2979/JFR.2009.46.1.101. JSTOR 40206942. S2CID 144077762.
- Lyavdansky, Alexei (2022). "Mîrza Mihemed / Mirza Pamat: The Tales of the Fabled Hero in Kurdish and Neo-Aramaic Oral Sources". Oral Tradition. 35 (2): 419–40..
- Khan, Geoffrey; Mohammadirad, Masoud; Molin, Dorota; Noorlander, Paul M.; Hanna, Lourd Habeeb; Al-Zebari, Aziz Emmanuel Eliya; Abraham, Salim Abraham. Neo-Aramaic and Kurdish Folklore from Northern Iraq: A Comparative Anthology with a Sample of Glossed Texts Volume 1. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2022. ISSN 2632-6906 doi:10.11647/OBP.0306
- Khan, Geoffrey; Mohammadirad, Masoud; Molin, Dorota; Noorlander, Paul M.; Hanna, Lourd Habeeb; Al-Zebari, Aziz Emmanuel Eliya; Abraham, Salim Abraham. Neo-Aramaic and Kurdish Folklore from Northern Iraq: A Comparative Anthology with a Sample of Glossed Texts Volume 2. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2022. ISSN 2632-6906 doi:10.11647/OBP.0307