Flag used by most Shabaks
|Regions with significant populations|
Mosul, Gogjali, Bartella
|Shia Islam (and Shabakism)|
The Shabak people are an ethno-religious group in Iraq, who speak Shabaki, a Northwestern Iranian language of the Zaza–Gorani group. They have been recognized as a distinct ethnic group in Iraq since 1952. Shabaks are culturally distinct from Kurds and Arabs. They possess their own traditions and language. The Shabaks live in a religious community (ta'ifa) in about sixty-five villages to the east of Mosul. The primary Shabak religious text is called the Buyruk or Kitab al-Manaqib (Book of Exemplary Acts), which is written in Turkmen.
The origins of the word Shabak are not clear. One view maintains that Shabak is an Arabic word شبك meaning intertwine, indicating that the Shabak people originated from many different tribes. The name "Shabekan" occurs among tribes in Tunceli, Turkey and "Shabakanlu" in Khorasan, which is located in the northeast region of Iran.
Austin Henry Layard considered Shabak to be descendants of Kurds originating from Iran, and believed they might have affinities with the Ali-Ilahis. Other theories suggested that Shabak originated from Anatolian Turkomans, who were forced to resettle in the Mosul area after the defeat of Ismail I at the battle of Chaldiran.
Deportation and forced assimilation
The Shabak people have suffered from both deportation and forced assimilation in recent years. The geographical range of the Shabak people was drastically changed by massive deportations during the Al-Anfal Campaign in 1988 and the refugee crisis of 1991. Many Shabaks along with Zengana and Hawrami were relocated to concentration camps (mujamma'at in Arabic) located in the Harir area of Iraqi Kurdistan. An estimated 1,160 Shabaks were killed during this period.
In addition, increasing efforts have been made to force the Shabak to suppress their own identity in favour of being either exclusively Arab or Kurdish. The Iraqi government's efforts of forced assimilation, Arabization and religious persecution put the Shabaks under increasing threat. As one Shabak told a researcher: "The government said we are Arabs, not Kurds; but if we are, why did they deport us from our homes?" Salim al-Shabaki, a representative of Shabaks in the Iraqi parliament, said "The Shabaks are part of the Kurdish nation", emphasizing that Shabaks are ethnically Kurdish (2016). On 21 August 2006, Shabak Democratic Party leader Hunain Qaddo proposed the creation of a separate province within the borders of the Nineveh Plain to combat the Kurdification and Arabization of Iraqi minorities. On 20 December 2006, ten Shabak representatives unanimously voted for the non-inclusion of Shabak inhabited areas of the Mosul region into the Kurdish Regional Government. A number of Shabak village aldermans noted that they were threatened into signing the incorporation petition by Kurdish authorities. On 30 June 2011, the Nineveh provincial council distributed 6,000 lots of land to state employees. According to the head of the Shabak Advisory Board Salem Khudr al-Shabaki, the majority of those lots were deliberately given to Arabs. Hunain al-Qaddo, a Shabak politician, was quoted by Human Rights Watch that: "The Peshmerga have no genuine interest in protecting his community, and that Kurdish security forces are more interested in controlling Shabaks and their leaders than protecting them."
A majority of Shabaks regard themselves as Shia Muslims, and a minority identify as Sunni. However, despite this, their actual faith and rituals differ from Islam's, and have characteristics that make them distinct from neighboring Muslim populations. These include features from Christianity including confession, and the consumption of alcohol, and the fact Shabaks often go on pilgrimage to Yazidi shrines. Nevertheless, the Shabak people also go on pilgrimages to Shia holy cities such as Najaf and Karbala, and follow many Shiite teachings.
Shabaks combine elements of Sufism with their own interpretation of divine reality. According to Shabaks, divine reality is more advanced than the literal interpretation of Qur'an which is known as Sharia. Shabak spiritual guides are known as Pirs, and they are well versed in the prayers and rituals of the sect. Pirs are under the leadership of the Supreme Head or Baba. Pirs act as mediators between divine power and ordinary Shabaks. Their beliefs form a syncretic faith similar to the beliefs of Yarsanism.
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Media related to Shabak people at Wikimedia Commons