De-islamization in a Free Kurdistan?

Dr. Jan Best de Vries:

Faravahar, symbol of ancient Zoroastrianism

Faravahar, symbol of ancient Zoroastrianism

I am grateful that, as an outsider from Europe, in December 2014 I had the opportunity to relate in broad terms, to staff and students at the Mesopotamia Academy in Qamishlo, the history of the Kurds. When combining all the data from archaeology, history and linguistics at our disposal, one may conclude that the Kurds speak an Indo-European language in five different dialects, belonging to the northwestern group of the Iranian languages; that, looking at the grey and black pottery in Kurdistan stemming from the Siberian steppes, their ancestors came from there with other Indo-Aryan groups to West Asia around 1700 BCE; and that their original way of life was that of transhumance with herds of sheep, cattle and horses, like that of all Indo-Europeans. This way of life is still followed by the nomadic tribe of the Bakhtiari in present-day Iran and where, outside Iran, the name of Bakhtiar turns up you may trace the original transhumance routes they have taken in the last centuries.

In historical times (6th century BCE) Kurdistan was inhabited by the Medes, a  name covering all Kurdish tribes, and the tribe’s name Kardouchoi (401 BCE in Xenophon’s Greek Anabasis) proves that the ancestral name of the Kardoi already existed. What do we know about the  original religion of the related Medes and Persians (mentioned together in the Old Testament)? The feast of Nowruz in present-day Iran and Newruz in a future free Kurdistan belongs to the IE-religion of Zoroastrianism. The continuation of this religion was until now guaranteed by the Kurdish Yezidis and by the Farsi speaking inhabitants of the desert towns Yazd and Check Check (“Drip Drip”) in Iran. However, both Islamic Sunnites and Shiites have in the last centuries given to the Zoroastrian believers a hard time: theft, rape, murder. I’m not going to expand on the subject here.

What I just want to underline is that in West Asia Kurds and Iranians are peoples who have the same Indo-European roots as most peoples in Europe and they should realize this each day!

The Islam is an Arab religion that was forced by Arabs upon Kurds and Iranians in the 7th century of our era, albeit that both peoples had completely different mind sets. Still, both in Kurdistan and Iran, children learn from their parents the basic rule of Zardosht: “Think well, speak well, do well”. From a religion of peace they were subjugated to a religion of hatred against non-believers and non-Arabs. History has proven that in West Asia the gift of Islamic Arab and Turkish rulers to Kurds has always been discrimination and slaughter, and, not to forget, for the survivors arabization and turkification. Therefore it is satisfying that since the Kurds in Hawler (Iraqi Kurdistan) got their own secular and democratic government, in the schools Islam is no longer the only religion to be taught to the children, but that all religions have equal status in the school curriculum. And it is even more gratifying that, in Rojava, Peshmergas (as I call the soldiers of YPG and YPJ) of all beliefs and with different ethnic backgrounds are defending their secular new state, in which religion is a non-issue. The American author Stephen Mansfield writes that the typically peaceful Sunnite Islam of the Kurds deviates from the Islam elsewhere in the Middle East: “At a time when Muslim fundamentalists seem to be in the ascent throughout – a time when violence reigns, revolutions produce little but pain, and Christians are systematically exterminated – the Kurds have nurtured a gentler, more inclusive, more workable brand of Islam that ought to be a model for the world” (p. 120). A Kurdish Islam? “Think well, speak well, do well”!….


Stephen Mansfield, The Miracle of the Kurds: A Remarkable Story of Hope Reborn in Northern Iraq, Worthy Publishing-Brentwood, Tennessee 2014

Dr. Jan Best de Vries is an archaeologist and historian, decipherer of the so-called Byblos Script from Aleppo and Alalakh (‘How to Decipher the Byblos Script’, Aspekt Publishers 2014, ISBN978-946-153-420-0)  

9 Responses to De-islamization in a Free Kurdistan?
  1. Ausama Anwar
    January 15, 2015 | 22:18

    Just to correct you from few historical-ideological mistakes you took above. “From a religion of peace they were subjugated to a religion of hatred against non-believers and non-Arabs.” Actually, Sasanian empire wasn’t something you’d be proud of, while their formal religion was Zoroastrianism and as Iranian Iranologist and Historian Touraj Daryayee describes their view on Kurds in his book “Sasanian Persia: The Rise and Fall of an Empire” states the following “Unlike the amount of information about the settled people of the Sasanian Empire, there is little about the nomadic/unsettled ones. It is known that that they were called for “Kurd” by the Sasanians, and were used in profitable way by them; they were often used in the military by the Sasanians, the Dailamite and Gilani nomads being the most prominent of them.” So as you see “KURDS were oppressed and used by Sasanians and those who held Zoroastrianism as their religion, and for sure Kurds were wishing a chance to get off such oppression as especially been mentioned before by other historians that even there were Kurds who made deals to Prophet Muhammed may peace be upon him to make an attack to the empire, but he passed and couldn’t make it, till the caliphate of Umer bin Khattab, so if you have a good look upon the history of how Kurds converted their religion, you’d know how they helped Umer bin khattab with that, “who would accept a religion which’s based on hatred of non-arabs while they aren’t arabs!” please correct those. Secondly, “A Kurdish Islam? “Think well, speak well, do well”!….” that’s absolutely not even close to the truth, the Kurdish Islam you’re talking about sourced within Kurdish religious leaders, at least have a look at “The Road through Kurdistan” to know better, the Kurdish Islam you’re talking to is based on the understanding of Quran and narratings(proven ones) not some ancient religion.

  2. Sissy Danninger
    January 15, 2015 | 23:04

    I met with Muslims and thus with Islam for the first time in my life in the mid-seventies of the last century – not as a scientist, just as an ordinary citizen of a European country.
    Those Muslims were Kurdish refugees in Europe. Different religions or even atheism did not matter to them at all. Political Islam has never been of any significance to them. For decades up to the present early years of this 21st century their approach to their religious belief has not conveyed to me any worries regarding Islam in the context of our (more or less) secular and (more or less) democratic societies based on (alas, more or less) respect to internationally accepted human rights. As far as those Kurds and the Kurds roughly in general are concerned I am at ease still with their attitude towards religion(s) and our European civil society.
    In the light of the developments during the last years in the Middle East up to their (preliminary) terrorist reverberations in Europe of last week in Paris I still want to remain at ease with Muslims and Islam on the whole – thanks to the Kurds I met with first with their ancient roots and traditions of religious tolerance. But all of us have to realize meanwhile that political Islam and thus Islamist terrorism are in no way restricted to “IS” and that there is not just one “Islamic State” in the Middle East.
    “Think well, speak well, do well”-humans or at least all those aspiring to that aim will have to join each other. Disregarding all their internal troubles the Kurds in their divided homeland in the Middle East and in their diaspora are the most reliable partners over there.

  3. Jan Best de Vries
    January 17, 2015 | 09:34

    Dear Ausama Anwar,
    The Sassanian Empire was no great success indeed with its political Zoroastrianism as the only permitted religion in West Asia (like nowadays the Islam) under the magus Kirdir during the reigns of Bahram I und Bahram II (273-293), but can you blame the peaceful character of a religion when it was only 20 years politically misused (instead of 15 centuries)? Before and after this short period, Zoroastrianism was characterized by its tolerance of other religions. So the advice of my last sentence implies that a Kurdish Islam simply doesn’t exist…. In all other respects I admire the book of Stephen Mansfield, which all Kurds, both in Kurdistan and in their diaspora should absolutely read!

    • Ausama Anwar
      January 17, 2015 | 15:33

      The rejection of the Kurdish Islamic form is the rejection of Islam’s diversity beliefs. The tolerance we’ve had decades ago in this land was because of those past leaders we had, Shekh Mahmood is an obvious example. Though I don’t deny Zoroastrianism’s influence of that tolerance, especially in the sufism’s side of Islam.

      • Jan Best de Vries
        January 19, 2015 | 12:15

        Dear Ausama Anwar,
        Im ‘m not a christian, I’m not a muslim, I’m not a yezidi, I’m an agnost, because I simply don’t know what makes the world turn round. In the thinking of all Islam’s diversity beliefs I’m an unbeliever, that is to say a person who by believers may be conquered, plundered and murdered, and if a woman, sold for 15.0000 dinars and raped. This is what the history of the rather late in this world appearing Islamic ideology tells me (and that’s why I know how a Kalasjnikov works when I visit Hawler and Rojava nowadays). If Arabs in the Arabian peninsula want to be muslims, so let them be. The problem in Iraq and Syria, however, through the ages, is that even moderate Kurdish believers, who don’t even realize that Islam once has been forced upon them, have been plundered, raped and murdered in the name of Allah by their Arab rulers and Arab imams because according to these non-Arabs cannot be real believers. So a Kurdish Islam? Think it over….

        • Ausama Anwar
          January 19, 2015 | 23:09

          I didn’t want to get here but anyways, I think I answered the part of religious convert, but could you get me any clue concerning any war or battle between Muslims and Kurds? could Kurds surrender that easily? what you seeking for holds irrationality – raising questions you couldn’t answer. And believe me I don’t care what faith you hold, but when you shake such topics I can’t stay silent, and not to bother friends here, if you insist and keen on the conversation about the topic you may find me online by email or social networks. Thanks

  4. Jan Best de Vries
    January 23, 2015 | 09:14

    Dear Ausama,

    The chemicals thrown from Saddam Hussein’s airplanes upon the Kurds living in Halabja were delivered by his pilots under their cries of “Allah Akbar”: my example of a war between Muslim and Kurds you asked for. In The Netherlands my Kurdish compatriots commemorate this day.
    An irrationalist by nature I visited your website, by the way.
    Best regards,

  5. Jan Best de Vries
    January 23, 2015 | 11:01

    Kurdistan, which formed part of the Sassanid Empire, has been conquered by Muslim Arab armies between 642, the year of the Battle of Nahavand and 651, the year in which the last Sassanid king Yazdagird III was murdered. In this period Iran and Kurdistan were forcefully islamized. Just like today in the Kurdish regions of Syria and Iraq, at the time Islam’s alternative for the population was decapitation. Muslim Arab regimes in the latter, by England and France constructed oil countries do prefer chemicals these days to subject the Kurds.

  6. bano
    May 14, 2015 | 00:23

    I would find it very interesting for the writer of this not so subjective article to write about how the kurds became a part of zoroastrianism in the first place

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