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Bakhtiari people

Total population
Regions with significant populations
province of Chahar Mahaal and Bakhtiari and parts of the provinces Khuzestan, Isfahan, and Lorestan in Iran
Bakhtiari Lurish
Shia Muslim
Related ethnic groups
Lurs, Persians, Kurds and other Iranian peoples

The Bakhtiari (Bakhtiari Lurish: بَختیاري,; Persian: بختیاری‎‎) is a southwestern Iranian tribe, and a subgroup of the Lurs. They speak the Bakhtiari dialect, a southwestern Iranian dialect, belonging to the Lurish language.[2][3][4][5]

Bakhtiaris primarily inhabit Chahar Mahaal and Bakhtiari and eastern Khuzestan, Lorestan, Bushehr, and Isfahan. In Khuzestan, Bakhtiari tribes are concentrated primarily in the eastern part of the province.

A small percentage of Bakhtiari are still nomadic pastoralists, migrating between summer quarters (sardsīr or yaylāq) and winter quarters (garmsīr or qishlāq).[6] Numerical estimates of their total population vary widely.


  • Origins 1
    • Genetics 1.1
  • Etymology 2
  • History 3
  • Tribal Structure 4
  • Music 5
  • Religion 6
  • Famous Bakhtiaris 7
  • Books 8
  • Film 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


In Persian mythology, the Bakhtiari consider themselves to be descendants of Fereydun, a legendary hero from the Persian national epic, Shahnameh.


According to research into NRY markers, the Bakhtiari, as with many other groups in Iran, show very elevated frequencies for Y-DNA haplogroup J2 - a phenomenon that is probably, at least partially, attributable to the Neolithic diffusion of early farmers from the Near East c. 8000-4000 BCE.[7][8] The Southwest Eurasian haplogroups F, G, and T1a also reach substantial frequency among Bakhtiaris.[7]


The term "bakhtiari" can be best translated as "companion of chance" or "bearer of good luck"[9] The term has deep Persian roots and is the result of two smaller words "bakht" and "yar" complied together . "Bakht" is the Persian word for "chance" and "yar", "iar", "iari" literally means "companion".[9]

The latter designation largely relates to the nature of the tribe's annual "migration". This has to do with the harsh nature of Bakhtiari life and overcoming of countless difficulties that Bakhtiaris have faced in the Zagros ranges. In this sense, Bakhtiaris view themselves as a hardworking tribe, facing numerous obstacles everyday and yet fortunate enough to overcome each of these challenges as a solid unit.[9]

Nevertheless, the origins of Bakhtiaris are ancient and it may have very well been the case that the tribe underwent a series of name changes throughout its history. However It is mostly claimed that the designation "Bakhtiari" came largely into use some time in antiquity.[10]


Constitutional Revolution: In Iran's contemporary history, the Bakhtiari have played a significant role; particularly during the advent of the country's Constitutional Revolution (1905–1907).[11] This event was largely secured through the Bakhtari campaign which eventually deposed Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar (r. 1907-1909).[12] The Bakhtiari tribesmen, under the leadership of the Haft Lang khans Sardar Assad and his brother Najaf Qoli Khan Bakhtiari- Saad ad-Daula (also referred to as Samsam-os Saltane), captured Tehran, and as a result saved the revolution.[13][14] These events eventually led to the abdication of Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar (r. 1907-1909) in 1909, and his exile to Russia. This incident secured Saad ad-Daula the position of Prime Minister in the period that followed the abdication of the Qajar Shah. Nonetheless with Russian backing the Shah would soon return in 1911 by landing with a coalition of forces at Astarabad .[15] However, his efforts to reclaim his throne would bear no fruit.[15] In this sense, the Bakhtiaris played a critical role in saving the revolution from the Qajar forces.[12]

Pahlavi Period: With the expansion of Bakhtiari influence, urban elites (particularly in Tehran) began to worry in regards to a potential Bakhtiari takeover of Persia's affairs. Prior to this point, the Bakhtiari had largely remained within their own territorial boundaries. The Bakhtiari influence would continue to play an important role within the early 20th century politics of Iran. Reza Shah Pahlavi (r. 1925-1941) made the destruction of the Bakhtiari influence his mission.[16] The existence of oil on Bakhtiari territory further motivated the Pahlavi monarch to undermine the autonomy of the tribe and force its population to adhere to the commands of the central government.[16] Reza Shah Pahlavi would eventually execute a few noteworthy tribal leaders to crush Bakhtiari autonomy and maintain control over the tribe. Amongst the executed Khans was Mohammad Reza Khan (Sardar-e-Fateh), the father of what later became the Pahlavi Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar.[17] The latter event was a turning point for Bakhtiari and their rise within Iranian politics.[17]

Tribal Structure

A Bakhtiari nomad family

The Bakhtiari people are mainly from two tribal divisions, Chahar lang (English: Four Legs) and Haft Lang (English: Seven Legs).[18] Due to the harsh nature of their life style, Bakhtiaris have been able to keep their blood lines intact, largely marrying within their own tribe.

Bakhtiaris trace a common lineage, being divided into the Chahar Lang (The Four Legs) and Haft Lang (The Seven Legs) groups, each controlled by a single powerful family. The overall Khan alternates every two years between the chiefs of the Chahar Lang and the Haft Lang.

The famous documentary: "Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life" (1925) tells the story of the migration of Bakhtiari tribe from winter quarters in Khuzestan to summer quarters Chahar Mahaal. This film also tells the story of how these people crossed the river Karun with 50,000 people and 500,000 animals. The documentary "People of the Wind" (1975) retraces this same journey, 50 years later. The British documentary series "The Ascent of Man" (1973) in the first part of its second episode, "The Harvest of the Seasons," also shows the Bakhtiari making the annual migration to the summer pastures. This portrayal is not however, particularly positive, using the Bakhtiari as an example of a pre-agricultural tribe frozen in time. As of 2006, the migration still takes place, although the livestock are now transported in trucks, and the shepherds no longer walk barefoot in the snow between provinces.

The Haft Lang The Haft Lang tribe is larger and much more significant than its Chahar Lang counterpart.[18] The Haft Lang are primarily divided into four main sub-divisions, these include; Babadi, Dinaruni, Duraki and Bakhtiarwand.[18] Most prominent Bakhtiaris are from these sub-divisions.

Coalition Between the Two Tribes: The two clans shared ruling of their territories every two years.The region has other families of Bakhtiari descent but do not belong to the two clans who ruled the region. Chahar Lang and Haft Lang have had many marriages between their sons and daughters. The Chahar Lang and Haft Lang's are descedent from Sassanian dynasty of Persia. They were also ruled from Isfahan but some moved to south during the fight with the central government and lived in the mountains area of Izeh, Ghalatoul, and Ramhormuz and Masjed-soluman. The Sassani ( Ali-Rahm Khan), Zanganeh ( Sons of Sardar Del-anchin), Rahim-zadeh, Jahangiri (sons of Aziz Khan) family who were mix of the two clans who lived in the area.


The Bakhtiari are noted in Iran for their remarkable music which inspired Alexander Borodin.[19] The Bakhtiari dialect is the most popular dialect of the Lurish language.


The Bakthtiaris became Muslims after the Arabs invaded Iran almost 1400 years ago. They converted to Shi'ism following the Safavid invasion in the 16th Century CE. Previously, Bakhtiaris were Zoroastrian.

Famous Bakhtiaris


  • Fariba Amini. "The first moderate: Shapour Bakhtiar". 
  • Ali Quli Khan Sardar Assad and A. Sepehr. Tarikhe Bakhtiari: Khulasat al-asar fi tarikh al-Bakhtiyar (Intisharat-i Asatir) (The History of Bakhtiari). 766 pages. ISBN 964-5960-29-0. Asatir, Iran, 1997. In Persian.
  • Bakhtiari language summary[23]
  • Shapour Bakhtiar. Memoirs of Shapour Bakhtiar. Habib Ladjevardi, ed. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1996. 140 Pages. In Persian. ISBN 978-0-932885-14-2.
  • Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiary. Le Palais des Solitudes. France Loisirs, Paris, 1991. ISBN 2-7242-6593-9.
  • Ali Morteza Samsam Bakhtiari. The Last of the Khans: The life of Morteza Quli Khan Samsam Bakhtiari. iUniverse, New York, 2006. 215 pages. ISBN 978-0-595-38248-4.
  • Gasiorowski, Mark. Just like that: How the Mossadegh Government was overthrown.  in particular bullet point 2 on the role of Soraya Bakhtiari; compare with her account in Le Palais des Solitudes cited above.
  • Arash Khazeni, The Bakhtiyari Tribes in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, 25, 2, Duke University Press, 2005.
  • Pierre Loti. Vers Ispahan. Edition Calmann-Levy, Paris, 1925. 330 pages. Travelogue with Bakhtiari contact. See also Ross and Sackville-West from same period.
  • Dr. Elizabeth N. Macbean Ross, M.B., Ch.B. (1921). A lady doctor in Bakhtiari Land. London: Leonard Parsons.  Out of copyright and available at, Travelogue, see also Loti and Sackville-West from same period.
  • Vita Sackville-West. Twelve Days: An account of a journey across the Bakhtiari Mountains in South-western Persia. Doubleday, Doran & Co., New York, 1928. 143 pages. Travelogue, see also Loti and Ross from same period.


See also


  1. ^ "Bakhtyari (people)". Encyclopedia Britannica. 
  2. ^ "Bakhtiâri". Ethnologue. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "LORI DIALECTS". Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "LORI LANGUAGE ii. Sociolinguistic Status – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  5. ^ LINGUIST List
  6. ^ Bakhtiari tribe and the Bakhtiari dialect, Encyclopedia Iranica
  7. ^ a b Nasidze, I., Quinque, D., Rahmani, M., Alemohamad, S. A. and Stoneking, M. (2008), Close Genetic Relationship Between Semitic-speaking and Indo-European-speaking Groups in Iran. Annals of Human Genetics, 72: 241–252.
  8. ^ R. Spencer Wells et al., "The Eurasian Heartland: A continental perspective on Y-chromosome diversity," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (August 28, 2001
  9. ^ a b c [2]
  10. ^ Garthwaite., Gene R. Khans and Shahs : a Documentary Analysis of the Bakhtiyari in Iran. NewYork: Cambridge UP, 1933. Print.
  11. ^ "Bakhtiari Family". Bakhtiari Family. Retrieved 2012-10-11. 
  12. ^ a b "Constitution". Bakhtiari Family. Retrieved 2012-10-11. 
  13. ^ Douglas, William O. "The Bakhtiari Save the Constitution." Strange Lands and Friendly People. Hicks, 2007. 114-20. Print.
  14. ^ Lily Sardarian Bakhtiari. Bakhtiaris and the Constitutional Revolution (A Summary). 
  15. ^ a b Donzel, Emeri “van” (1994). Islamic Desk Reference.   p. 285-286
  16. ^ a b "Oil". Bakhtiari Family. Retrieved 2012-10-11. 
  17. ^ a b "Shapour Bakhtiar, Fariba Amini". The Iranian. Retrieved 2012-10-11. 
  18. ^ a b c "Overview". Bakhtiari Family. Retrieved 2012-10-11. 
  19. ^ Ullens de Schooten, Marie-Tèrése. (1956). Lords of the Mountains: Southern Persia & the Kashkai Tribe, pp. 113-114. Chatto and Windus Ltd. Reprint: The Travel Book Club. London.
  20. ^ Laleh Bakhtiar, "Muhammad", Diane Publishing (1994), 39 pages. ISBN 978-0-7567-7802-6.
  21. ^ Badawy, Manuela (2007-03-24). "Woman re-interprets Qur'an with feminist view". Reuters. 
  22. ^ Spencer, Robert (2007-03-24). "Woman re-interprets Qur'an with feminist view". Jihad Watch. 
  23. ^ "Bakhtiâri". Ethnologue. 
  24. ^ a b "". 
  25. ^ YouTube. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 

External links

  • Bakhtiaris
  • Minorities At Risk: Assessment for Bakhtiari in Iran
  • Bakhtiari - travelling in Iran 1998
  • A Bakhtiari folk-song sung by Shusha Guppy in the 1970s: The Lor Youth.
  • Web-page dedicated to the documentary The Bakhtiari Alphabet by Dr Cima Sedigh at Sacred Heart University.
    Note: Some video clips as well as some production photographs of this documentary can be viewed through this web-page. The production photographs can directly be viewed here.
  • Bakhtiari Alphabet at the Internet Movie Database
  • Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life at the Internet Movie Database
  • People of the Wind at the Internet Movie Database
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