Shahsavan Tribe
Dr P Shahsavand, Professor of Sociology at Islamic Azad University

The origin of the Shahsavan Tribe may be traced back to the nomadic tribes and Qoz Turkomans, who initially
migrated to the eastern side of the Caspian and have since lived in many parts of Iran earning their living mainly from animal husbandry.

At the beginning of the 11th century AD, Sultan Mahmood Qaznavi gave permission to the Seljuk and nomadic Qoz tribes to settle in eastern Iran. But, after the death of Sultan Mahmood these tribes moved to Mount Sabalan region, to Ardebil and to Moghan Plains, where the best pastures of Iran may be found.

From then Azerbaijan was controlled for many centuries by Turkish tribes, first by the Qara Qoyounlous (1407-1467) and later the Aq Qoyounlous (1467- 1502). Gradually they controlled larger and larger areas of Iran
including Arak, Kerman, Fars, Kurdistan, and Armenia. Also, Georgia paid tribute to these Turks.

From the time of the arrival of Qoz Turks in Iran, the power of the two great kingdoms, those of Qara Qoyounlou and Aq Qoyounlou, who were also of Turkish origin, expanded significantly. Ozoon Hasan, a powerful and wise ruler of the Aq Qoyounlou dynasty gave much importance to Turkish tribe.

Then Shah Esmail I, the founder of Safavid dynasty, defeated the Aq Qoyounlous and acceded to the throne (reigned 1502-1524). He was the first to initiate the union of the tribes. Decades later, when Shah Sultan
Mohammad Khodabandeh was on the throne, he turned to the tribes for help to defend the country against the Uzbeks and the Ottomans, and the tribes acquired an important political position.

Faced with the rebellious Qezelbash, who were themselves supposed to be the Imperial Guards, Sultan
Mohammad’s son, Shah Abbas, united a number of tribes and gave the new, large and powerful tribe the name Shahsavan, which means the “Friends of the King.” On the other hand, at the end of the 16th century, many
groups of Sunni Turk families, who happened to be out of favor with the Ottoman Turks, took asylum from the Ottoman Empire to Iran, with the permission of Shah Abbas, and jointed the Shahsavan Tribe.

They selected Moghan as their center and converted to Shism. From then on, till early 20th century the Shahsavan Tribe continued to grow. Gradually the Shahsavan Tribe was divided into different branches:
1. The Shahsavans of West Azerbaijan
2. The Shahsavans of Ardebil (the center of the Shahsavans who use the pastures of Moghan plain)
3. The Shahsavans of Meshkin Shahr (they use the winter pastures of Meshkin Shahr)
4. The Shahsavans of Saveh:
The Baghdadi Shahsavans (they were transferred from Baghdad to Saveh during the reign of Nader Shah).
The Inanlou Shahsavans (they were transferred from Shiraz to Saveh during the reign of Nader Shah).

There are other tribes in Iran in other parts of the country who consider themselves related to the Shahsavan Tribe, such as: the Doyrans in Khamseh (of Zanjan), Inanlous in Khamseh (of Fars), as well as tribes around Kabul in Afghanistan and in parts of Kashmir in India.

Organizational pyramid of Shahsavan Tribe The elements of the tribe consist of the family and clan, with the
chief at the top of the pyramid. Thus the tribe is a union of a number of clans each of which is made up of a large number of families. In migrating tribes the tent is called “obeh”. The “obeh” Tukish migrating tribes call their
tent “obeh”. The number of tents depends on factors such as: water, quality of pasture and position and character of the chief of the tribe. The better the climatic conditions the larger the number of “obeh”. The tribe is guided by its chief who used to be very powerful in the past but is no longer.

Types of “homes” besides the “obeh”

Alacheeq: A moving house; it is one of the special characteristics of the tribe’s culture.
Chambareh: A kind of wooden tent which, due to its low weight (about 63 kg), can be used in migrations.
Koomeh: A simple tent which is used by shepherds
Siah Chador: The alacheeq of Moghan Shahsavans are simplified models of Central Asian Turks’ alacheeq
which have developed in response to the ecological differences between the part of Iran in question and
Central Asia, the origin of these Turks. Migrant Shahsavans from Baghdad, i.e. Baghdadi Shahsavans, live around Saveh and use this tent. Its cover is a thick fabric made of the goat’s hair.

Tribe’s livelihood The tribe earns its living mainly through animal husbandry and dairy products. Carpet weaving, which is mostly done by women, is another source of income.

Kilim weaving is also another way of earning money, and the designs reflect the pastoral life of the tribe. In some places parts of many tribes have settled down permanently, as the land is fertile and suitable for the cultivation of wheat, grains and other agricultural products.

The Iranian government is trying hard to support the tribes and preserve their culture and identity. But trends in modern life tend to force more and more of the tribe members to villages and towns and permanent settlement, an inevitable event.

Images curtsey of: Farhang-Sara (Yassavoli) and Iranian Tribes Organization


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