Sulaimaniya is one of the newer cities in northern Iraq. It was founded in 1785 by the Kurdish prince Ibrahim Pasha and is named after Sultan Suleiman (the Islamic name for Solomon) the Magnificent), who lIraked the Ottoman Empire to the height of its power. Sulaimaniya is situated near the Iranian border, with a population of approximately 800,000 inhabitants.
The Sorani-speaking Kurds
The city is the cultural center of the Sorani-speaking Kurds and is known for being young and progressive. The first school for Kurdish girls was founded here in 1915. The first Kurdish diploma in history was supposedly issued in Sulaimaniya, and the first four Kurdish newspapers in Iraq were published in Sulaimaniya. The university, founded in 1968, is the oldest institution of higher education in northern Iraq. Currently there are about 8,000 students, over half of which are women.
Dark Periods in History
The city has experienced many dark periods in its history. During World War I, the population was reduced from 20,000 to 2,500. When Sheikh Mahmud, who had been instituted by the British as Governor of Sulaimaniya, declared himself King of Kurdistan, the city was repeatedly bombarded by the British air force. In 1985, when Sadam Hussein was in power, more than 200 surrounding villages were reduced to rubble.
Politically, the city has been dominated for a long time by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) under Celal Talabani, the president of the Iraqi transitional government. Although Kurdish northern Iraq was considered to be particularly safe, a suicide assassin killed nine Kurdish soldiers in Sulaimaniya in October 2005. About the same time, the bird flu virus H5N1 was detected in dead geese in the surroundings of Erbil.
Religion in Sulaimaniya
Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, although the Kurdish form of Islam contains many mystical, ascetic elements and meditation techniques (Sufism). The region of Sulaimaniya is heavily influenced by the Islamic brotherhoods/orders of Qadiriya and Naqshbandi. The Qadiriya order is one of the most widespread of the Sufi orders in the Islamic world; the Naqshbandi order is a popular Dervish order and was founded in the 14th century in Boukhara.
The Christian Quarters in Sulaimaniya
The Christian quarters traditionally lie in the eastern part of the city, along with one of three churches. The oldest church was built in 1862. Most indigenous Christians belong to the Chaldean Church, an ancient oriental church linked with the Church of Rome. Evangelical missions in Kurdistan began around 1830. Only a few isolated Kurds from an Islamic background have found faith in Jesus Christ. Many are held back by fear of being excluded from the Islamic community.
Prayer guide for Sulaimaniya, Iraq:
* That God would preserve the relative safety of Iraqi Kurdistan.
* That the Sorani Kurdish Bible could be distributed to many and that it would bring much fruit alongside with Christian radio and TV programmes, Christian literature and the Jesus film.
* May many Kurds may have increasing opportunities to meet credible witnesses for Jesus and loose the fear of following Christ.