“Zoroaster was a Kurd!”: Neo-Zoroastrianism among the Iraqi Kurds

In: Iran and the Caucasus
Edith SzantoAmerican University of Iraq, Sulaimani

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Disgusted with ISIS, some Kurds turned away from Islam following the fall of Mosul in 2014. Many became atheists, while others sought comfort in Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism, according to converts, was the “original” religion of the Kurds before they embraced Islam. In 2015, two Zoroastrian centers opened in Sulaimani, both of which are recognized by the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq. Notably, neither has tried to recreate Zoroastrianism the way it is currently and has been historically practiced in Iran and South Asia. Instead, they have created their own versions of Zoroastrianism, which is nationalist, postmodern, and liberal. Kurdish Zoroastrians argue that the reason Kurds are “backward” is Islam. They seek to rectify the present situation through a Kurdish “authenticated” and “original” form of Zoroastrianism. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork at these two centers, the present article examines this new religious movement in Sulaimani, an important city in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. It analyses the rise and distinctiveness of Kurdish Zoroastrianism looking at how Zoroastrian Kurds articulate their views on Islam, women’s rights, human rights, and Kurdish independence.

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