The Qashqais are the second largest Turkic group in Iran. The
Qashqais are a confederation of several Turkic-speaking tribes
in Fars Province numbering about 250,000 people. They are pastoral
nomads who move with their herds of sheep and goats between summer
pastures in the higher elevations of the Zagros south of Shiraz
and winter pastures at low elevations north of Shiraz. Their migration
routes are considered to be among the longest and most difficult
of all of Iran's pastoral tribes. The majority of Qashqais are
The Qashqai confederation emerged in the eighteenth century when
Shiraz was the capital of the Zand dynasty. During the nineteenth
century, the Qashqai confederation became one of the best organized
and most powerful tribal confederations in Iran, including among
its clients hundreds of villages and some non-Turkic-speaking
tribes. Under the Qashqais' most notable leader, Khan Solat ad
Doleh, their strength was great enough to defeat the British-led
South Persia Rifles in 1918. Reza Shah's campaigns against them
in the early 1930s were successful because the narrow pass on
the route from their summer to winter pastures was blocked, and
the tribe was starved into submission. Solat and his son were
imprisoned in Tehran, where Solat was subsequently murdered. Many
Qashqais were then settled on land in their summer pastures, which
averages 2,500 meters above sea level.
The Qashqais, like the Bakhtiaris and other forcibly settled
tribes, returned to nomadic life upon Reza Shah's exile in 1941.
Army and government officials were driven out of the area, but
the Qashqais, reduced in numbers and disorganized after their
settlement, were unable to regain their previous strength and
independence. In the post-World War II period, the Qashqai khans
supported the National Front of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq.
Following the 1953 royalist coup d'état against Mossadeq, the
Qashqai khans were exiled, and army officers were appointed to
supervise tribal affairs. The Qashqais revolted again in the period
1962 to 1964, when the government attempted to take away their
pastures under the land reform program. A full-fledged military
campaign was launched against them, and the area was eventually
pacified. Since the mid-1960s, many Qashqais have settled in villages
and towns. According to some estimates, as many as 100,000 Qashqais
may have been settled by 1986. This change from pastoral nomadism
to settled agriculture and urban occupations proved to be an important
factor hindering the Qashqai tribes from organizing effectively
against the central government after the Revolution in 1979 when
exiled tribal leaders returned to Iran hoping to rebuild the confederation.
By the 1980s, the terms Qashqai and Turk tended
to be used interchangeably in Fars, especially by non-Turkic speakers.
Many Turkic groups, however, such as the urban Abivardis of Shiraz
and their related village kin in nearby rural areas and the Baharlu,
the Inalu, and other tribes, were never part of the Qashqai confederation.
The Baharlu and Inalu tribes actually were part of the Khamseh
confederacy created to counterbalance the Qashqais. Nevertheless,
both Qashqai and non-Qashqai Turks in Fars recognize a common
ethnic identity in relation to non- Turks. All of these Turks
speak mutually intelligible dialects that are closely related
to Azarbaijani. The total Turkic-speaking population of Fars was
estimated to be about 500,000 in 1986.
Data as of December 1987