SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London

Marriage alliances - and beauty

The Bakhtiari, unlike the other major nomad confederation in Iran, the Qashqai, are polygamous – and polygamy means more opportunities for marital alliances. The Great Khan, Hossein Gholi Khan understood this only too well. He himself married "judiciously" – and his eight wives produced twelve daughters and six sons.

His daughters then made a total of fifteen marriages. These mainly followed the traditional 'parallel cousin' pattern (girls married their father's brothers sons), thereby strengthening intra-family alliances as well as reducing tension over inheritances. The sons' marriages were, in contrast, about "broadening alliances" – and made connections with other factions within the Bakhtiari as well as with other regional and even national power-holders:

After the 1909 invasion of Tehran, with their more national focus, many of the Khans came to live in the capital. There, they met and married more Tehrani women:

The case study section gives another example of a marriage to a Tehrani girl.