Qashqa'i - History and Cultural Relations

The Qashqa'i trace their origins to the steppes of Central Asia, east of the Caspian Sea, and they state that their ancestors resided for a while in the Caucasus Mountains, between the Caspian and Black seas, before they came to Fārs Province. It is likely that the originating and ruling dynasty of the Qashqa'i tribal confederacy, the Janikhani family, did have such a history, but the majority of the Qashqa'i of the mid-twentieth century consisted of diverse peoples—Turks primarily, but also Lurs, Kurds, Arabs, Persians, Baluch, Gypsies, and others—who joined together for the first time in southwestern Iran. No historical evidence exists of a Qashqa'i group anywhere outside of Fārs. The ruling family and the many components of the confederacy have origins in what are today Central Asia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and the vast Iranian territory. The Qashqa'i tribal confederacy was formed in the late eighteenth century during or just following the rule of Karim Khan Zand in Shīrāz. It grew in power under the Qajar dynasty in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and played a military and political role during World War I, when the British and Germans competed for influence in Iran. Reza Shah Pahlavi, ruler of Iran from 1925 to 1941, imprisoned and executed Qashqa'i leaders, forcibly stopped Qashqa'i migrations and ordered the nomads to settle, disarmed the tribespeople, and assigned military governors. When Reza Shah abdicated, Qashqa'i leaders resumed power and kept it until Reza Shah's son, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, exiled them from Iran to punish them for their opposition. They remained in exile until the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979, when they returned to Iran to resume rule. After an initially good relationship with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, they fell into disfavor with other members of the ruling clergy. The Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guards arrested an important Qashqa'i leader, who, with others, had mounted an insurgency in 1980. Revolutionary Guards succeeded in stopping the insurgents and capturing the principal leaders in 1982. (See "Political Organization.") The Qashqa'i people—the vast majority of whom played no role in the insurgency—have devised various ways to cope with and adapt to the new Islamic regime.

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