Thursday, May 25, 2006

10. Tribes and Tribalism

10. Tribes and Tribalism

{In the following part I am discussing "Tribes and Tribalism in Kurdestan". This section is based on different sources including a study published by Amir Hooshang Keshavarz and Mir Seyyed Ali Nazem Razavi entitled "ASHAYER VA MASAYEL-E TOWSE'AH? [Tribes and Problems of Development], published Tir, 1355, by Faculty of Social Sciences and Cooperation, Tehran University.}

In a study by two Iranians (noted above), tribes in Iran have been classified into "big" and small ones. Big tribes include Turkmans, Shahsavans, Bakhtiaris, BuyerAhmadis, Qashghaiis one-or-two tribes in Kurdestan. These tribes in turn are divided into three types according to their mode of life and production:

1) Tribes of which about 80% are mobile and have summer and winter abodes as well as migration routes, such as the Bakhtiaris.

2) Tribes of which about 50% migrate back and forth, and the rest, a greater portion lives in Summer Places, and a smaller portion in Winter Places; such as the BuyerAhmadi in Kohgiluyeh.

3) Tribes which dwell in one place but have to move their herds from place to place for grazing and feeding. Such are the Turkmen and Kurdish tribes.

Tribal mode of life and ownership was dealt a severe blow during the reign of Reza Shah, but was revived in the turbulent years of 1941-53, owing partly to the weakening of central government and partly due to the joint efforts of imperialism and domestic reaction, to frustrate the all-Iranian democratic-revolutionary movement.

Tribal chiefs carried out plunder with backing of the British in that period. For example, Mohammad Rashid Khan Baneh-i became an important figure in the area by defeating Mahmud Khan-e Kani Sanan in Mariwan.

Mohammad Rashid Khan and the like appeared as supporters of the Mahabad Republic (1945-46), but withdrew as soon as the central government forces attacked Mahabad and in the later years, they worked hand in hand with the British to suppress the people's movements in these areas.

The mobilization by the British, American, and domestic reaction of the Quashghaii and other tribes in the South (1944-46), the use of Arab tribesmen in Khuzestan in an armed clash with the striking oil workers in the Summer of 1946, the instigation of the Bakhtiari tribes in Central Iran and the Javanrudis in Kermanshah in 1952-53 are further examples of the reactionary role played by tribalism in the recent history of of Iran.

Having contributed its share to the reestablishment of a police state with the coup d'etat of August 1953, tribalism suffered another setback; for now the central government was severely in the hands of reaction and imperialism, and the services of the chiefs were no longer needed.

However, in the border regions of Kurdestan, and in Dezli, Javanrood, Sardasht, etc., the Shah's regime could not dispense with such services. In those regions armed tribesmen served as "government militia".

The Shakkak tribe, the most important in Northern Kurdestan, the Malekshahis, the Ghalkhanis, etc., now comprise the nomadic tribes of Kurdestan. These have not been satisfactorily studied as yet. What is certain is that in the Southmost and Northmost areas of Kurdestan and also in the border areas, the tribal social and economic life is still alive.

Moreover, many of the villages, where small landownership prevails, are still largely under the sway of tribal customs and traditions: blood revenge is observed in some small villages of Kamyaran, "clan heads" in Sardasht, where small landownership predominates, and they still wield great influence and even keep bands of armed attendants, and the kidnapping of girls for marriage is still practiced (this practice was very common in many old cultures of the world).

Since the downfall of the Pahlavi regime in February 1979, tribal chiefs of Kurdestan have shown various political stands. Some have shown loyalty to the central government, Islamic Republic of Iran; but this "loyalty" to a Shi?a state is neither strong nor likely to become so. Some others, notably those of Javanrud, Pawa, and Uraman in the south, and of Khoi, Salmas, and Eshnuya in the north, have tended toward "independence".? Still others have become supporters of the Kurdestan Democratic Party. Some other clan heads have become agents of the Iraq?s Baa'th government, in the violent suppression of the Kurdish people's movements. Finally some have joined it.

In different periods of Kurdestan's movement the tribal groups have existed, for example Barzani tribe was the armed forces of the Mahabad Republic in 1945-6 and also they were active in the 1961-1975 Kurdish movements. After 1975 treaty of Shah and Saddam, they were disarmed. But the remnants of the Barzani army, which had fled to Iran in 1975, were reorganized by Barzani's sons and called "Qiada-ye Mowaghat".? Soon they dropped the "Mowaghat" (provisional) from their name, and called themselves Hizb-e Democrat-e Kurdestan-e Iraq. Massoud Barzani was chosen as the first provincial head of Kurdistan of Iraq in the new provisional government of Iraq in 2005.

In summary, the tribal relations have been economically declining, although they continue to exist in social and political areas by stressing some ethnic and religious inclinations of the people. The autonomy desired by the tribal chiefs is different from federalism desired by the modern society in Kurdestan. The former want anarchy, fiefdom, isolationism and destruction of Kurdestan whereas the latter want checks and balances to ensure democratic rights at the provincial and local levels.