Qashqa'i - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Qashqa'i nomads live in small tent encampments in winter and summer pastures; during the long seasonal migrations, they travel in larger groups for purposes of defense and security. Their social groups at the local level are based primarily on patrilineal ties, but ties of economics, social compatibility, and politics are also considered relevant. Qashqa'i villagers live in similar social groups, although larger, and they lose the flexibility and the seasonal social changes that the nomads appreciate.

Political Organization. The Qashqa'i confederacy consists of a ruling dynasty (the Janikhani [var. Shahliu] family), five large tribes (Amaleh, Darrehshuri, Kashkuli Bozorg, Farsi Madan, and Shesh Boluki), and some smaller tribes. Different tribally organized people in Fürs Province have allied with the confederacy and its component tribes during certain historical periods, and thus both confederacy and tribal forms of membership have varied. The leader of the confederacy is the ilkhani, or paramount khan, a member of the Janikhani family and a direct descendant of the first Qashqa'i ilkhani. He is assisted by the ilbegi, the deputy khan, also a Janikhani. Each Qashqa'i tribe except the Amaleh has its own ruling family of khans. The ilkhani appoints one khan from each tribe as kalantar, or leading khan; he is responsible for liaison with the ilkhani. The last functioning ilkhani, Khosrow Khan Janikhani, was captured and executed by the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guards in 1982, at the end of the insurgency that he had formed and led. All of the other members of the Janikhani family who could possibly succeed Khosrow Khan are either under house arrest in Iran or in involuntary exile abroad. Despite these restrictions, the Janikhanis and other Qashqa'i still animatedly discuss the possible successors, in case the political situation in Iran should change and they could return to Qashqa'i territory. Most of the khans of the component Qashqa'i tribes were still living in Qashqa'i territory in 1992, but the current regime restricts their political activities, and they are no longer the mediators and brokers they once were.

Each Qashqa'i tribe consists of many subtribes, each of which is headed by a kadkhoda, or headman. Until the late 1960s, these men were appointed by the khans of their tribes, who usually recognized the men whom the tribal people themselves desired as their headmen. Since the late 1960s, the government has recognized headmen by following the same practice. Headmen rely on and respect the advice and wishes of the "gray beards," the elders of the community. Throughout the 1980s, the Islamic Republic encouraged local Qashqa'i groups to form councils and to rely on them instead of relying on individual headmen, who, by 1992, had greatly diminished power and authority.

Social Control. The nomads regulate among themselves their relationships to others and may also seek assistance from elders, headmen, and—since the 1980s—from councils, when necessary. The small groups in which the nomads live are formed on a voluntary basis and can easily be disbanded when problems arise. The elders, both men and women, exercise influence and some control over others, and men exercise some control over women. Until the 1980s, Qashqa'i people sought help from their tribal khans, but, since then, the regime has discouraged them from doing so.

Conflict. Traditionally, conflicts were regulated by representatives of a progressive order of authority: nuclear families, extended families, lineages, subtribes, tribes, and the confederacy. Since the late 1960s, government agents—the rural police, the army, and various government agencies—have become involved when problems reach the higher levels.

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