From Kurdistan with love!


The writer currently working in Kurdistan shares interesting historical background of Kurdish names, and the similarities between Kurdish and Sindhi names   

By Zahid Jalbani

It was weekend of November 2019 when one of few Sindhi friends here called me around 10:00 am and asked if I am available and can go for a breakfast cum lunch with him at Pakistani restaurant (Pakistani Food Center). Without any hesitation, I said ‘yes coming there in a while’. After having very delicious lunch, we preferred to walk although it was drizzling at that time. While walking back, my friend pointed to a signboard of one of the doctors, and said ‘Look he is our Sindhi’.  I stared at that signboard and was surprised to see a word ‘Gurgaze’ inscribed there, which is a caste in Sindh. It aroused my curiosity to know if there are any more Sindhi castes in Kurdistan.

Generally, here in Kurdistan people prefer to have three names – first, second and third, which consist of name given by parents as first name, the father’s name is added as second name and the third name is of grandfather, so they don’t have concept of castes.

A research has been conducted by Lazgin Al-Barany, Lecturer Asma Albamarni , Lecturer Dilggash M. Shareef, Research Assistant- Department of English, College of Arts University of Duhok, which is purely about the Kurdish names in Kurdistan. They came up with very interesting findings about how Kurdish people name their children. Few of the fascinating things I am sharing with you. Some of the local inhabitants prefer to name their children with 1) Family Names which mean new-born babies are named after someone dear who has passed away. This may be a grandfather, a grandmother or a brother or sister. The reason behind such naming is either for the memory of those people or in the hope of having the qualities they admire in the dead person transmitted to the child through the name; 2) Rhyme and rhythmic names: these are the names that either have the rhyme or the same rhythm within the same family and they usually follow the rhyme or the rhythm of the oldest boy or girl in the family or sometimes they rhyme or rhythm with either names of the parents. For instance Viyan rhymes with Huzan, Deelan , Shilan etc. Parents name their children who were born after Viyan on the same rhyme. However, it happens that names have similar initial sounds – for example when the oldest child is named Dilkhwaz, the parents may give the rest of their children names that begin with the letter ‘D’ like ‘Dil’ such as Dilshad, Dilveen, Dilgash, Diya etc. 3) Unique names those are used for the first time in the community and have never been used before. For instance, the parents try to find names for their children which distinguish them from the rest of the community such as Laith.

Like us, they too seem superstitious and for that reason the 4th category of names has been identified as death prevention and survival names, which may have magic power and can defeat evil. These names can be Mishko (mouse) Maro (snake), Girdo (rat), Creit (ugly), Zeblu (animal shed) etc.

The fifth category of names is nature and place names. Kurdish people take these names from the nature and landmarks of Kurdistan, especially the mountains. It has been witnessed that for Kurdish, as in other cultures, it is customary to give names after elements of nature. Kurdish people consider the range of mountains such as Mateen, Safeen, Kosert, Hindreen , Halgurd, Zuzik, Aras, Azmar, Goyzha, which  are male names while Shakhwan (mountain climber) and Chia (mountain) are names used for both male and female. This type of naming reflects the attachment of the Kurds to the natural environment.

The sixth category of Kurdish names belongs to occupational and achievement names and have been inherited from the professions and occupations of their grandfathers and those who have literary and /or arts interests as well as national and political achievement tend to use names that reflect such interests. For instance Nidger (hunt), Shivan (shepherd), Berivan (the woman who milks the sheep), Jawtyar (farmer) and Kavan (cattle shepherd) are famous in Kurdistan. These names depict the life style of the Kurds in their long history who were mostly sheep-keepers and fond of shepherding.

Kurdish people also name their babies with circumstantial names, which reflect historical and /or personal events such as uprisings, revolutions and disasters etc. A baby is sometimes named after a national or a patriotic day if the birth coincides with the time of celebrating the occasion like Kawa (the Kurdish hero who revolted against the tyrant Thuhak) and a female name like Nawruz (a new day), if they are born on the 21st of March, which is the date of the Kurdish new year.

Here in Kurdistan, people generally respect religious figure and they prefer to give their names to new born babies. This 8th category is identified as honorifics names – for instance names like Khider, Zaradasht, Gilan, Choly, and Muzaffar, which are names of religious figures and are common in Kurdistan. On the other hand Kurdish people also name their babies with beauty and love – for instance parents prefer to name their babies like Halal (a flower in Spring) Yasmin (Jasmin), Nasreen (a flower), Narjes (narcissus), Gulistan (rose-land), Gulizar (rose-garden), Gulchen (a person who plants flowers) are common in Kurdistan and reflect the love of the Kurds to the beauty of their flora.

For having love and affection with flora and fauna, the Kurdish people also name their babies with of fruit trees and luxurious flowers which is reflected in the naming phenomenon following female names which are mainly names of fruit and are found mostly among Yezidi Kurds such as Henar (pomegranate), Seif (apple), Khoakhi (plum), Meawizh (raisin) and a male name like Gindoar (musk melon/antelopes) etc.

The diversity of above discussed names indicates the rich culture of Kurdish people in Kurdistan. I always thought how being Muslims their names are not very much similar to our names (Pakistanis or other Muslim countries) however gradually it became very clear to me the reasons and logic behind it.

The name of my first supervisor here was ‘Chia’. Once I asked him what is the meaning of his name. ‘It means mountain,’ he had replied.

 So, being curious to know more about Kurdistan, Kurdish people and their culture and language, I always observe such things during interaction with them. Luckily during those days I got chance to meet with one of the head of organizations and when we exchanged our business cards I found ‘Dhahar’ caste and then after few days got another visiting card through one of office colleagues – and believe, the person belonged to Mirani caste. So this is how I got chance to keep meeting with different castes settled in Kurdistan.

The reasons behind Sindhi casts found here could be the migration of people of Sindh to this region in olden days for trade and other purposes, and may be Kurds had adopted such castes due to cultural relations.

Once discussing, one of my friends shared that a famous Kurd film director Mr. Anwar is known as Anwar Sindhi, while another friend from America shared that here Kurds name them as Sindhi. The subject is very interesting and needs further research and study.

(The writer is currently working for an international non-government organization in Kurdistan. He writes regularly for Sindh Courier and different newspapers of Sindh)  

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