- Middle East -

The name of the ethnic-religious minority of the Shabak in northern Iraq derives from the Arabic word “shabaka”, meaning something like “to intertwine”. They are members of several tribes with different histories. Their language “Shabaki” is related to the Kurdish dialect Hawrami-Gorani, but with influences from Persian, Arabic, and Turkish – which is why they are seen as Kurds, Arabs, or Turkmen. As there are no up-to-date statistics, it is difficult to determine the exact number of members of this minority groups. According to current estimates the heterodox community has 90,000 to 550,000 followers.

Over 70 percent of the Shabak are Shiites, and 30 percent are Sunnis – which is due to the forced conversion to Sunni Islam in the 19th century. The Buyruk, their sacred book, consists of two parts and is said to have been written in Central Asia. Similar to the Yazidis and the Alevis, their society is spiritually hierarchical: every adult has a spiritual leader, a “pir” of a particular tribe. They Shabak go on pilgrimages to the shrines of the Yazidis, and they are also threatened by the terrorist group “Islamic State”.

Further information about the Shabak people

Header photo: © Maarten Danial via Flickr