SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London

The Bakhtiari And The State

The Bakhtiari are much more than a localised tribe of pastoral nomads. They have been politically and strategically important at several turning points in the history of what is now called Iran. Most famously, they played a key military role in the Constitutional Revolution – even invading Tehran in 1909 – and an important political role both at that time and in the aftermath. Since then, although many Bakhtiari have ranked high in various (pre-revolutionary) government institutions, their power has dwindled somewhat.

This brief outline cannot attempt to provide a comprehensive political history of the Bakhtiari – Professor Gene Garthwaite has anyway already done this superlatively well, supplemented by Dr Stephanie Cronin in her review of the later period. I have drawn on both of these resources in the text below.

This section instead uses images – many rarely seen – to illustrate key events and individuals, including around:

To set this in context, Professor Gene Garthwaite has contributed a brief commentary on the social structure of the Bakhtiari – and how this, within a pastoral nomadic economy of shifting needs for grass and water, leads to a continually renegotiated system of internal alliances and disputes.

I am especially indebted for the images in this section to many members of the extensive and warm Bakhtiari family (see and (no longer available)). Many thanks to all of them!