KĀKĀʾI, a term used both for a tribal federation and for a religious group in Iraqi Kurdistan. The word Kākāʾi (also spelled Kākaʾi) derives from Kurd. kak ‘brother’ and means ‘belonging to the brotherhood’. It is reminiscent of the terms Ṣoḥbatiya ‘circle of friends’, an ancient name for the group that came to be called Yezidis, and Yāres(t)ān ‘circle of friends’ which denotes the Ahl-e Ḥaqq. The term Kākāʾi is widely used in Iraq as a synonym of Ahl-e Ḥaqq, particularly for Ahl-e Ḥaqq groups living in that country. In Iraqi Kurdistan, however, the term is sometimes used to include the communities of the Šabak, Bājalān, and Sārli, as well as those who are called Kākāʾi in a narrower sense. It has been pointed out (Leezenberg, passim) that all these groups are religious minorities, who have several characteristic features in common. Moreover, dialects, belonging to the Hawrāmi (see AVROMANI) or Gurāni group, play a role in the culture of each of these communities, although some of their speakers live in the regions of Mosul and Kirkuk, far away from the Hawrāmi heartlands in western Iran. In a recent publication (Fattah, p. 63), the links between these communities are described in political, rather than religious terms; they are referred to as members of “the Kākāʾi tribal federation.” The present state of our knowledge does not permit us to do more than speculate as to the precise implications of these data. It seems clear, however, that close links once existed between the groups that now appear to be more or less unrelated.


I. K. Fattah, Les dialectes kurdes méridionaux: étude linguistique et dialectologique, Louvain, 2000.

M. R. Hamzeh’ee, The Yaresan: a Sociological, Historical and Religio-historical Study of a Kurdish Community, Berlin, 1990.

M.M. Leezenberg, “Between Assimilation and Deportation: History of the Shabak and the Kakais in Northern Iraq,” in Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East, eds., B.Kellner-Heinkele and K.Kehl-Bodrogi, Leiden, 1997, pp. 155-74.

Idem, “The Shabak and the Kakais: Dynamics of Ethnicity in Iraqi Kurdistan,” available online (accessed August 20, 2009).

(Philip G. Kreyenbroek)

Originally Published: December 15, 2010

Last Updated: April 19, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XV, Fasc. 4, p. 355

Cite this entry:

Philip G. Kreyenbroek, “KĀKĀʾI,” Encyclopædia Iranica, XV/4, p. 355, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/kakai (accessed on 30 December 2012).