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Sufi Gather in Iraqi Kurdistan

Thousands of followers of an ancient Sufi sect gathered for a traditional religious ceremony on April 30 in Barzinja, a small, mountainous village in Iraqi Kurdistan.
By Metrography
  • Male followers of the Qadriya sect engage in traditional acts of worship in Barzinja, a small mountainous village,  east of Sulaimaniyah city in Iraqi Kurdistan. Sheikh Abdul-Qadir Gilani founded the sect in Baghdad in the late 11th century. Photo by Kamaran Najm/Metrography.
    Male followers of the Qadriya sect engage in traditional acts of worship in Barzinja, a small mountainous village, east of Sulaimaniyah city in Iraqi Kurdistan. Sheikh Abdul-Qadir Gilani founded the sect in Baghdad in the late 11th century. Photo by Kamaran Najm/Metrography.
  • Khalid Konapowshi, 25, of Marivan, Iran, performs self-flagellation at the Sufi festival in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, near the border with Iran. Photo by Aram Karim/Metrography.
    Khalid Konapowshi, 25, of Marivan, Iran, performs self-flagellation at the Sufi festival in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, near the border with Iran. Photo by Aram Karim/Metrography.
  • Sufi followers of the Qadriya sect take part in an annual religious event in Sulaimaniyah province. Photo by Kamaran Najm/Metrography.
    Sufi followers of the Qadriya sect take part in an annual religious event in Sulaimaniyah province. Photo by Kamaran Najm/Metrography.
  • Women and children gather outside a courtyard to watch Sufi followers participate in the annual religious ceremony. Male and female members of the Qadriya sect practice their rituals separately. Photo by Ali Adam/Metrography.
    Women and children gather outside a courtyard to watch Sufi followers participate in the annual religious ceremony. Male and female members of the Qadriya sect practice their rituals separately. Photo by Ali Adam/Metrography.
  • Male followers of the Qadriya sect engage in traditional acts of worship, including drumming, chanting and fervently bobbing their heads. Photo by Kamaran Najm/Metrography.
    Male followers of the Qadriya sect engage in traditional acts of worship, including drumming, chanting and fervently bobbing their heads. Photo by Kamaran Najm/Metrography.
  • Khalid Konapowshi, 25, of Marivan, Iran, has his tongue pierced in a ritual ceremony held each year in Barzinja. Photo by Kamaran Najm/Metrography.
    Khalid Konapowshi, 25, of Marivan, Iran, has his tongue pierced in a ritual ceremony held each year in Barzinja. Photo by Kamaran Najm/Metrography.
  • Qadr Sheikh Kama Hama is ushered to the memorial of two revered Sufi sheikhs prior to a ceremony of the Qadriya sect . Photo by Aram Karim/Metrography.
    Qadr Sheikh Kama Hama is ushered to the memorial of two revered Sufi sheikhs prior to a ceremony of the Qadriya sect . Photo by Aram Karim/Metrography.
  • Women of the Barzinja tribe prepare dolma and shifta, traditional Kurdish foods, for a picnic during the annual religious event held near the Iraq-Iran border. Photo by Aram Karim/Metrography.
    Women of the Barzinja tribe prepare dolma and shifta, traditional Kurdish foods, for a picnic during the annual religious event held near the Iraq-Iran border. Photo by Aram Karim/Metrography.
  • A woman prays in front of the holy Black Stone of the Barzinja mosque. Tradition holds that the sacred stone was revealed in a dream to revered Sufi sheikhs. Photo by Aram Karim/Metrography.
    A woman prays in front of the holy Black Stone of the Barzinja mosque. Tradition holds that the sacred stone was revealed in a dream to revered Sufi sheikhs. Photo by Aram Karim/Metrography.

During the ceremony of the Kasnazani order of the Sufi Qadriya sect, men pierce their tongues and cut themselves with swords as part of an ancient ritual.
 
Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam, in which adherents pray, meditate, chant and drum - but few orders practice acts of self-flagellation.
 
Most of the Kasnazani followers are from Iran and Iraq and gather in Barzinja each spring to perform the ritual and picnic.

All photographs by Metrography.

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