Making up 10% of Iran’s population, there are nearly five and a half million Kurds in Iran. They are a major ethnic group, living mainly in the west of Iran. They have their own language and culture, and most are Sunni Muslims, not Shia like Iranians.
The relationship of these Kurds with the rest of Iran has not been easy. Under both the Pahlavi Shahs there were rebellions against Tehran’s rule, and from 1979 – 1983 there was a major uprising. It was ruthlessly crushed by Ayatollah Khomeini. Thousands were killed or executed. Fighting broke out again in 2005, and there have been sporadic outbursts ever since.
The latest happened last week in Mahabad, the traditional centre of Kurdish opposition to Tehran. Twenty five year old Farinaz, a Kurdish maid, fell from the fourth floor of a hotel to her death. Social media erupted with allegations: the Iranian hotel manager had locked her in a room to rape her so she jumped from the window. Another version has the hotel manager as an Iranian security guard.
Hundreds of Kurds came onto the streets in protest. Seeking revenge they torched the hotel lobby before the police brought the city back to order. The head of the police denounced the allegations, and said the maid had committed suicide.
Deeply disillusioned with their treatment by the Islamic government, some Kurds have turned to Christ. This is an important opportunity for the church. Some agencies, such as Elam, have engaged in training potential Kurdish church leaders.