ASIAN Geographic

Trailing Alongside the West Asian Tribes

IRAN

The Bakhtiari

The Bakhtiaris, a nomadic tribe of several families, still roam the mountains of Zagros, Iran, as they migrate twice a year (spring and autumn) with their flocks of goats and sheep. A southwestern Iranian tribe, the Bakhtiaris are a subgroup of the Lurs. In Iranian mythology, they are considered to be descendants of Fereydun, a legendary hero from the Iranian national epic, Shahnameh. They speak the Bakhtiari dialect, a southwestern Iranian dialect deriving from the Luri language.

Bakhtiaris primarily inhabit the Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province, and eastern Khuzestan, Lorestan, Bushehr and Isfahan. In Khuzestan, Bakhtiari tribes are concentrated primarily in the eastern part of the province, in the cities of Masjed Soleyman and Andekah.

These nomads were heroes in the past: in the country’s constitutional revolution (1905–1911), during World War II, when they stood up to the Anglo-Soviet invasion, and later when they were targeted by the Shahs that were determined to overpower them and have them show blind obedience to the central government.

Oil was first found in Iran on the winter grazing grounds of the Bakhtiari. The British, the first exploiters of Iran’s oil, knew they had to have some form of agreement with the Bakhtiari to be able to continue their oil exploitation and production. But Reza Shah, who ruled Iran between 1925 and 1941, was worried about the tribe’s growing power. He ordered that the British deal directly with the Government of Khuzestan instead of the Bakhtiari Khans.

Over recent decades, with policies designed to force them to adopt a sedentary lifestyle, they have endured many ordeals and suffered many setbacks. Their way of life is today in

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Editor’s Note
When I was a child, my grandparents used to tell me tales about tribes that would travel to their village in India, carrying with them their families, livelihoods, and homes, only to move again in a couple of weeks, leaving nothing but footsteps. I w