Shabak

   This is a community living in several dozen villages east of Mosul whose religious beliefs are similar to the Alevis (Qizilbash) in Turkey. Although they consider themselves to be Kurds, in the recent past the Iraqi government made strong efforts to Arabize them. Approximately 20 of their villages were destroyed in the government crackdown at the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988.
   Most Shabak are multilingual. Their religious rites are in Turkish, but the mother tongue of most of them is a Gurani dialect. They are nontribal peasants who sharecrop on land that belongs to sayyid who live in urban areas and have strong moral authority over them due to the sayyid claim to have descended from the Prophet and Ali. Indeed, one of the basic Shabak beliefs is that Allah, Muhammad, and Ali constitute a trinity in which Ali is actually the dominant aspect of the divine. One of their invocations specifically refers to Haji Bektash and the Safawids as the founders of their religion. Some of the poems sung in their religious meetings are reputed to have been composed by Shah Ismail and the Anatolian saint Pir Sultan Abdal.
   The Shabaks' sacred book is known as the Kitab al-Manakib or Buyuruk. It consists of two parts, the second of which resembles the texts of the Alevis in Turkey. Each adult Shabak has a pir as a spiritual elder. The pir holds regular religious meetings in his house. There are three major annual nocturnal celebrations in which both sexes participate. Termed in earlier literature the laylat al-kafsha, these gatherings led to charges of scandalous sexual behavior. Pilgrimages to several local shrines are also an important part of the Shabak ritual.
   Their Alevi-Safawid connections help distinguish the Shabak from other neighboring heterodox communities such as the Yezidis and the Sarliyya who profess the Ahl-i Haqq religion. The nearby Badjwan are sometimes said to be a section of the Shabak, but the former are tribally organized while the latter are not. Since all these groups, as well as the Kakais and Shiite Turkomans, intermarry freely with each other, the boundaries between their religious communities have become somewhat blurred.
   See also Ghulat.

Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. .

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