The Kurds are one of the most ancient and populous peoples of the Middle East. Their homeland has always been a remote mountainous region, the headwaters in Turkey of the Tigris & Euphrates Rivers, and the Zagros mountains between what is now Iraq and Iran.
Recent genetic research indicates Kurds are a blend of peoples from all directions; Hittites and other Anatolians, Medes and other Iranians, Armenian and other Caucasians, and even exiled Jews from Babylonia.
Earliest evidence of a distinct Kurdish culture goes back about 4000 years. They are considered an Indo-European, as distinct from an Arabic or Turkic people.
Their language is a form of early Iranian, (part of our Indo-European language group). So is their primal religious expression, Mithraism, which later evolved into Zoroastrianism, currently surviving as Yazidism. Their New Year, Newroz, is celebrated near March 21.
Around 1000BCE Jewish exiles arrived in Kurdistan, and many Kurds converted. Their ancestors fled to Israel in the 1950’s, where about 200,000 Kurdish Jews live today.
A few Kurds converted to Christianity, and continue to convert, but the major outside religious influence is undoubtedly Islam. Conversion to Islam was gradual, and included much resistance. Today most Kurds are Sunni, but they are known to take great liberties with their practice, reflected in the saying “Compared to the unbeliever, the Kurd is a Muslim”. Sufism and other mystical practices are widespread.
Women have played a more prominent role in Kurdish culture, reflected in mixed-line dancing, not wearing veils, fighting alongside men, and assuming leadership positions.
Kurds were among the first to grow crops and domesticate animals, farming and herding are their primary traditional occupations. Kurdish carpets are famous for their beauty and durability. They have a rich and varied oral tradition. Music, poetry and dance play a central role in their culture.
The most common Kurdish dances include Delilo, Halay, & Şexani (Sheikhani).