The Bakhtiari Nomads

Today the word Bakhtiari denotes the majority of the pastoral nomads in the central Zagros mountains, as well as the regions that they occupy. The Bakhtiari constitute one of the five groups of the Lur people that reside in the west and south-west of Iran.(1) The large tribe of the Bakhtiari, buzurg-il, is made of the union of two large branches: haftlang (2) and chaharlang (3), divided into several tribes, il or bab, themselves divided into several smaller groups, tayifih, who in turn are split into several clans, tirih. The branch of the haftlang, the group of the Bakhtiari on which I have concentrated my research, is made of the tribes of Babadi-bab, Dinarani-bab, Duraki-bab and Behdarvand. The branch of the chaharlang consists of the tribes Mahmudsalih, Mamivand, Kianursi, Ziliqi and Muguyi. The Bakhtiari nomads reside in provinces such as Chaharmahal va Bakhtiari, Khuzistan, Isfahan and Luristan. Their territory is vast, but in general it is divided into two zones, corresponding to their summer pasture (sardsir) and their winter pasture (garmsir). Their summer pastures account for almost all of the province of Chaharmahal va Bakhtiari and some parts of the province of Isfahan, such as Firiydunshahr. Their winter pastures include the plains of Izih, Dizful, Andimishk, Masjid Suliyman and Shushtar. The population of the territory of the Bakhtiari haftlang and chaharlang – split into nomads, villagers and sedentary people – is, according to the census of 1986, 1.627 million inhabitants (nomadic population – 235,000; rural population – 794,000; urban population – 598,000). In mid autumn the winter transhumance of Bakhtiari nomads begins, as they move toward the pastures that are situated in the warmer regions, such as Khuzistan. In mid April they leave Khuzistan for cold regions situated high in the mountains, such as Chaharmahal va Bakhtiari. (4) The Bakhtiari nomads migrate every year between winter and summer pastures along their transhumance routes in the Zagros Mountains. Every year, more than 100,000 Bakhtiari women, children and men, accompanied by their livestock, still pass along these annual migratory routes. to deal with very high cliffs, ravines, almost inaccessible gorges and fast rivers overflowing with glacial water. During these seasonal migrations, the Bakhtiari experience thunderstorms with lightning, floods and unexpected blizzards. Bakhtiari of all ages and in all states of health are confronted with potential natural disasters, including pregnant women and mothers traveling with infants and small children, along with very old men and women suffering from rheumatism and arthritis.

Monar, Bazoft, Khuzestan© Khosronejad 2003

Monar, Bazoft, Khuzestan© P. Khosronejad, 2003

1) Major branches of nomadic Lurs are Laks, Lurs of Luristan, Lurs of Bakhtiari, Lurs of Kuhgiluyih va Buyirahmad and Lurs of Mamasani in Fars. 2)  Lit. ‘seven legs’. 3)  Lit. ‘four legs’. 4) Watch Grass to become familiar with the Bakhtiaris’ seasonal transhumance.