Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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IRAQ: Sufi rituals in Kurdistan

April 20, 2008 |  1:02 am


More than 2,000 Kurdish Sufis gathered Saturday at religious shrines in Barzanchi, a village 37 miles east of Sulaymaniya in Kurdistan. The followers of the mystical Islamic sect practiced their rituals. Worshippers beat drums and chanted Allah (God) as dervishes swallowed swords and then cut themselves with the blades.Others ate light bulbs and swallowed fire.


Khalid Abed Alaa Konafarosh, 24, has practiced Sufism since he was 10-years-old and joined in practicing the religious rituals which celebrate God. "When I hit myself I don’t feel any pain or fear,” he said. "Why should we be afraid. We gave out allegiance to God and his Prophet.... I hit myself with swords on my back. You don’t  see any blood! It  has gone with the will of God.”


A Sufi leader, named Sheik Qadir  Kaka Hanna, said: ”During this ritual, a Sufi's heart will be with God... When a Sufi cuts himself ,with the help of God, his  wounds will heal .”

—Asso Ahmed in Sulaymaniya

Photos: Sufi practioners perform rituals in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniya. Credit: Asso Ahmed