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Tribes of Iran

It can be stated that from the very long past, majority of the people in Iran were engaged in pastoral subsistence and animal breeding. Thus earning their livelihood in various parts of the country mostly. The herds were taken to the seasonal summer or winter quarters, where the herdsmen lived in tents. These decamping differentiated this community from the others who were permanent dwellers. Thereby bringing about trivial conflicts amongst them at times. Moreover, this community could not be categorized as nomads in general, as some were semi-tribal.


The latter stationed a part of their clan in their distinct realm regards their summer or winter quarters. Whereas their respective chieftains, dwelled in the cities or. villages for part of the year. Though the life of these communities or tribes intermingled with their decamping conditions, which made them adapt to their surroundings; certain factors are not distinct. It is not clear as from when this mode of livelihood be-came distinguished in the plateau of Iran, apart from the Mesopotamia and Central Asia. Not much is known in this sphere, specially in the pre-Islamic era, though, these types of activities could hold a strong ground even then. As during the Achaemenian, Parthian and Sassanide eras, these monarchs ruled from seasonal capitals. Thus, the herdsmen would move their herds to vicinities around these capitals or cities, in order to cattle grazing.
As it has been mentioned, there is no definite evidence as to tribes or their lifestyle if the pre-Islamic period, because their numbers were in a state of constant change. Sometimes, mutual disagreements arose, and a few of these groups merged into the larger ones, or a part settled in one area. Endogamy and tribal marriages caused the emergence of a larger community. These, therefore, gained hold of the weaker lot. The sovereigns of the times, were content with such an arrangement, as this compelled the tribes to disintegrate into smaller and weaker unions scattered in various parts of the territory.
Ancient geographers have mentioned that the structural evidences of tribes in the early Islamic period reveal the flourishing of villages, and activities such as agriculture and animal husbandry, that these inhabitants were engaged in. But there is a strong, possibility that these tribes played an important role, both in the political and military spheres of the times.
In the year 23 AH, during the Arab conquests in Iran, when the country came under-their strong hold for a lengthy period, the tribes of Fars came to the aid of the Iranian commanders. Thus, breaking the siege. In the 3" century AH, a part of the militia of Yaqub Lais was composed of tribes. During the Samanian rule, the Ghaz or Turk tribes were assigned to power in the territory of Rhorasan.
In the late 4*.century AH, a group of the Ghaz Säljooghi community decamped to the Transoxiana (beyond the Oxus River). Whereas, another group moved to Khorasan in the 5* century AH. In the beginning of the Saljooghi reign, these tribes composed of a large portion of the Saljooghi army. In the 7" century, the forces of the Attabakan of Fars consisted of tribes such as the Kurds, Lors and Shools. In the pre-Islamic era, the Shabankareh tribes formed the group of commanders or Espahbodans of Fars. These tribes were engaged in the breeding of horses, in the wilderness of “Roon', where due to pleasant and suitable climatic conditions, vegetation was in plentiful.
Furthermore, in the 9th century AH, the rule of the Aaq Goyoonloo encompassed the tribes of Azarbaijan. In the 10th century AH, Shah Esmail Safavid brought about the unity of seven large tribes, thus forming the Qizilbash.Corps. In the early 11th century AH, Shah Abbas Safavid divided the Qajars into three. One group of which were señt to Ganjeh and, Georgia, in order to curb the 'Lesgian unrest there. The second group moved towards Marv or the borders of Khorasan, to, quench the differences of the Ozbaks in that vicinity, whereas the third group. settled in Astar Abad, to confront the Turkmen attacks.
In the early part of his reign, amongst other, smaller tribes and locals, Shah Abbas weakened the Afshar tribe, who were scattered around the south of the Attrak River, and decamped them to the territory of Azarbaijan. Here, they dispersed within the limits of Bijar to Zanjan, and were famously called (Afshar-eQasemloo'. This coincided with the period when the Afshars were also pre-sent in such areas as, Khuzistan and, Kokhilooyeh. It was in..this period that the tribe formed the seat of power in the territory that it inhabited.
The census taken of these tribes in the, year 1128 AH revealed that approximately 110,000 persons of these tribes were engaged in the government army, but were not on..the pay roll. Their honorary services were taken-advantage of in the infantry division whenever there was war. During the reign of Fathali Shah Qajar, about 36,000 tribal persons served in his army of which 60% were infantry forces and the rest were riders. These were usually from the Bakhtiari tribe, who numbered to about one-third of the approximate 60% serving in the army. One of the vital and important territories, which were in conflict with the central government in the 19th century, was the Bakhtiari region. In the year 1909, this tribe played an important part in re-es-tablishing a constitutional government. Moreover, it was during these years that the Qashgha'ie tribe took a stronger foothold. The power was in the hands of the Ilkhan' with an UIlbeg' to represent the government as well. as the tribal chief-trains. In the Fars region, besides the Qashgha'ie, Turks (Khamseh) and other tribes with a Turkish language, such as the Khalaj also existed in Ghonghari.
In the mid-eighteenth century that is, 1740 and 1750 AD, the Cha'ab tribe in Arabia increased in power, and thereby encroached on the vicinity of Jarahi and the Afshar jurisdiction surrounding it in Khuzistan, which naturally brought about a wider area under their power in Iran. Thus promoting their position in the social circle in this country. Various tribes or clans existed in the east of Iran. A part of the tribal community of the Afshar and Atta-ol-Lahi in Kerman in the 19th century AD comprised of 15,000 and 3,000 tents respectively. Whereas, in the southeast of Iran, the Balooch tribe was considered as important, and generally were in the region of Sistan and Baloochistan. However, a minor portion- existed in the Qa’emat region of Khorasan. The said tribes did not come under the central government rule in the early Qajar period, and thus were not liable to charges or taxes. However, occa-sionally used to dispatch tributes for the governor of Kerman. Even so, in the beginning of the Qajar reign, tribes such as Teymoori, Meymani, Firooz Koohi, Jamsheedi and Zangi refrained from coming under the central power, and created unrest during the reigns of Fathali Shah and Mohammad Shah.
Alike the former dynasties, the Qajars found the management of the borders of the country in Central Asia, and the control of tribes in the plains of Turkmen an extremely difficult task. Thus, drawing a strong hand on the Ozbak and Turkmens in order that they are subdued was not a minor problem. The most im-portant of the Turkmen tribes in this period within the country was the Gug-lan.and Yamoot tribes, each of which was followers of the Sunnite sect. The former were the decamping type and on the move, whereas the latter existed on both sides of the border, and were en-gaged in agricultural activities as well as being nomads or a desert tribe.
In the mid 19th century, the region of Tehran had various tribes, amongst which the Shahsovan tribe proved the largest and comprised, of 9,000 tents. The said would shuttle between Qom, Tehran, Qazvin and Zanjan within seasonal periods of the year, and scattered in these areas. Whereas the other smaller groups who ultimately struggled with poverty, refrained from decamping to other regions, and spent the cold winters in their clay dwellings. There were two large tribes such as the Garoos and Shahsovan, the former comprising of 4,000 - 5,000 families, and the latter comprised of 2,500 tents. In the beginning of the 20th century, all these tribes, except for the Talesh tribe of the Gilan region and a minor portion of the Shah sovan tribe were settled down. The most important tribe of Hamadan, Malayer, Toiserkan and Farahan regions was the Gharahgozloo tribe with a Turkish language, In the Assad Abad area and part of the plains of Hamadan was the realm of the Afshar tribe, besides which about 1,500 families of the Lak tribe and its various branches resided here too. The Kurds resided in Khorasañ and other areas like Kermanshah, Ardalan tribe resided in the south of Lake Orumiyeh, This group existed on the borders of Iran and Turkey, crossing the borders whenever the need arose.
The most highly populated tribes of this area were the Kalhor tribes, with 11,500 tents and dwellings, the Sanjabi tribe comprising of 1,000 tents and settlements and the Guran tribe comprising of 3,300 tents and hduses. The Kurd settlements on the south of Lake Orumiyeh, on the surface seemed to abide by the Shah, but in fact remained segregated from the central government rule. The Hakari tribe, which maintained a Kurdi ish dialect, resided in the west of Orumiyeh, near Salmas and the borders of Iran and Turkey.
In the Azarbaijan region, the Shahsovan tribe, which was a Turkish dialect speaking tribe, was one of the largest with a population of about 11,000 to 12,000 families. Of which 6,000 to 7,000 families resided in the Meshkeen vicinity and the rest in Ardabil. The Inanloo clan was the most important of the Shahsovan tribe. Coincidentally, a part of the Shamloo clan was integrated in the Shahsovan tribe, and another part of it, known as the Baharloo tribe was settled in a minority in the Fars region, being a section of the Khamseh tribe. At the beginning of the Qajar period, clans such as Gharajedag, Gharabagh and Talesh who were at the borders of Iran and Russia played a vital role in settling disputes between the two governments...Furthermore, tribes such as Chalabianloo, Gharachorloo, Haj Aliloo, Baibordi and Begdaloo existed in over 500 tents and dwellings as was reported. However, at the beginning of the 20" century, the tribal scene witnessed a change caused by various factors. Many of the chieftains of such tribes served in the government, and were drawn to city life or again held ransom in the capital. In addition to which, a few went abroad. Alto these elements helped in weakening the strong hold and unity of the tribe itself.
On the revolt of the people for a constitutional government' (Constitutional Movement), a new phase over took their life-style, as well as that of the tribes. In connection with the latter, some took the side of this government, whilst others favored the despots. According 'to .the general election law of the year 1906, there were.six constituents. Bésides the Qajar, the other tribes were not distinguished and were considered as one of the inhabitants residing in particular vicinity. However, in the year 1908, this rule altered in regards to tribes such as Shahsovan, Qashgha'ie, Khamseh of Fars, Turkmens and the Bakhtiari. "According to article 63 of the general elections, each of these tribes nominated a representative for the parliament. In the early years of the constitutional government, together with the upheaval that followed, and the suspension of the Constitution in the year 1908 - 1909, the ruling power, was unable to control the tribal vicinities. This prompted the Iran and British Oil Company to engage such, tribes like the Arabs and Bakhtiari to protect the oil fields that were discovered. During World War I, tribal areas were in turmoil and unrest.
After the war, Reza Khan with the aid of the government settled the tribes throughout the country, such as the Kurds who were disarmed. In the year 1924, the Bakhtiari and Qashgha'ie tribes were disarmed to a consid-erable extent. The Turkmens too were taken under central power to a certain limit. These activities continued until the tribes were well and proper settled. However, World War II brought an emergence of self-rule in the Bakhtiari, Kurds and rebellious tribes of the south of Iran in the year 1946.
In accordance to statistical records of the year 1987, Iran has 96 tribes (that is 180,223 families comprising of a population of 1,152,099). These are settled tribes, which are continuously decreasing. According to the census of 1996 of the Statistical Center of Iran, the number of non-residents is approximately 2,110,406.
Though the tribes and clans are scattered in distinct areas of the country, this in itself denotes the influence of the central rule on such realms. At times, due to political reasons tribes were compelled to migrate to other regions. Such an example can be the Kurds of Kordestan who migrated to the territory of northern Khorasan. However, it can be stated that each tribe witheld its own cultural and social traditions where ever they resided; such as the Shahsovan tribe of northern Azar-baijan and the Kurds of Kordestan. Even so between the Qashgha'ie and Bakhtiari tribes.
Historical surveys reveal that some of the tribes’of Iran have a common ancestor. Large portions of the tribes of central and western Iran are of the Lor dialect. These are divided into two groups, that is the Lor-e-Bozorg (Greater Lors) and Lor-e-Koochak (Smallere Lors), Branches of these tribes were decamped to the mountainous regions of central Iran. Tribes such as the Bakhtiari, Kohkilooyeh, Mamasani and Booyer Ahmad are of this group, and yet are completely distinct from each other.
During the Safavid era, groups from the Afshar tribe were decamped from Khorasan to Azarbaijan, and yet another group to Kohkilooyeh and Khuzistan. On the conquest of the Fars tribes by Aqa Mohammad Khan Qajar in the year 1206 AH, 12,000 families that proved rebellious were decamped from the surrounding regions of Shiraz and were settled near Tehran.
During the reign of Nasereddin Shah, the Hezareh tribe were decamped to Khorasan, but due to unrest and turmoil, were compelled to scatter in smaller groups. Formerly, this dispersion depended solely on the acquirement of pastoral vicinities. But gradually this gained a political aspect, thus conserving limits and distinctions as to the jurisdic-tion of tribes. Currently, the tribes are dispersed in the following regions:
The north and northwestern tribes of Iran, comprising of various clans such as the Turkmen tribes. The same are within the limits of the provinces of Golestan and Khorasan. The northwestern tribes of Iran, envel-oping such tribes as the Shahsovan, Arasbaran, Afshar-eQizilbash, Garah-gozloo and various clans of the Khamseh tribe. These are within the limits of east-ern and western Azarbaijan, Hamadan, Ardabil and Zanjan. The western tribes of Iran,comprising of those having a Kurdish dialect, Kalhor, Sanjabi, Gurkani and...
The said reside in the provinces of Kermanshah, West Azarbaijan and Kordestan. The southwest and southern tribes of Iran, comprising of various clans such as the Khamseh, Qashgha'ie, Arab and the Lor-e-Koochak. These are settled in the provinces of Fars, Khuzistan and Lore-stan. The southeastern tribes of Iran, comprising of the Balooch tribes rsiding in the province of Sistan and Baloochis-tan.
The tribes of central Iran, these are namely, the Bakhtiari, Booyer Ahmad, Doshman Ziyari,Charam, Bavi, Bahmehyi, Tayebi, Mokran and... The same reside within the limits of the provinces of ChaharMahal and Bakhtiari, Khuzistan, Kokhilooyeh and Kerman. The eastern and northeastern tribes of Iran, which comprise of various clans settled in the province of Khorasan.

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