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I found a home
Photo essay: Kurdistan

By Samuel Wooten
February 1, 2002
The Iranian

The following images were shot between 1996-2001 and are part of an ongoing photographic documentation which is being compiled into a book on religious Muslim minorities in Islam. They visually represent the beauty, simplicity and gentleness of the Kurdish Dervish communities whose cultures perennially touch and nurture my spirit.

Amazon Honor SystemFrom 1979 to 1996, I had extensively traveled through most of the Middle East, Northern Africa and Central Asia seeking constant enrichment of my spiritual well as photographic documentation of all the people encountered. However, My arrival in Iran in 1996 changed my life. After years of exploring and viewing things from the outside, I had finally found a home, a place which embraced me and made me feel I had "arrived".

I quickly came into the presence of extraordinary individuals, for the most, Kurdish dervishes. During all 5 visits of 4 months each over a period of 6 years, I have spent most of my time in the mountains between Sanandaj and the Iraqi border. Most dervishes there belong to the Qaderiye order, founded by Abdelqader Jilani (1077-1166) known as the "Lord of the Kurds".

In Tehran, I was casually befriended by a dervish who invited me to accompany him back to Kurdistan. We set off from the terminal-e-gharb bus terminal for Sanandaj the very next morning. Made his personal guest in Kurdistan, I was quickly and graciously introduced to small communities and warmly invited to document and share daily life and ritual. Speaking Farsi and being keenly interested in all matters Kurdish helped.

Within hours of my arrival, I was witnessing a Zikr, held in a Khanangha in the court of a private home. Following an initial prayer, men sat on the floor, shoulder to shoulder, quietly reciting prayers on worry beads. While many prayed and turned inward, the silence was often broken by exuberant shouting and cries in the name of Allah.

After a longer period of chanting, drumming and prayers, the elder gave a sign for all to stand and the dervishes vocalized and swayed to increasingly intense sounds of dafs and daires. The "remembrance" united all in an ecstatic trance which concluded only at the elder's discretion.

For more photographs exploring Iran and The World of Islam and beyond , please visit

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