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Turkic peoples /
Iran / Peoples
Qashqais
Other spellings: Ghashghai; Qashqay; Qashqai; Qashqa'i; Kashkai


Turkic speaking people in Iran counting about 1.7 million, in the southwestern regions. Some estimates go down to 1 million. Qashqais live only in Iran.
The Qashqai inhabit the Zagros Mountains, in the provinces of Fars, Khuzestan and southern Esfahan. Their main region is the that of the city of Shiraz.
The core groups of those calling themselves Qashqai today are believed to have migrated into the Iranian highlands from Central Asia, between 11th and 13th centuries. Over time they mixed with other neigbouring peoples, like Lors, Kurds and Arabs. The process of defining a large Qashqai identity began in the 18th century, tribes joining the federation led by the Shahilu family. Non-Turkic tribes also joined this federation, tribes that did not join the Qashqais were the Tajiks and the Tats.
The origin of their name is not clear. It is sometimes told to come from the Turkic word kashka, "a horse with a white star on its forehead", or from the oasis of Kashgar (now China), or that it is an ancient word meaning "fugitive".
Today they are defined to belong to specific tribes: Amalaeh, Darreh-Shuri, Kashkuli, Shesh Baluki, Farsimadan, Qaracheh, Rahimi and Safi-Khani.
The economy of the Qashqais is originally based around nomadic pastoralism, and even in modern times this is of great importance. Traditionally they sought summer pastures in the high mountains, travelling to the southern side of the Zagros Mountains for winter. This used to be the largest annual migration in Iran. Handicrafts are also central, and they produce high quality pile carpets, often called Shiraz. Other wool products are also produced, of equally high quality. Today, most Qashqai are settled, a trend beginning especially in the 1960's.
They were long known as most able warriors, and banditry was an important part of their economy. Qashqais represented an important part of Iranian resistance towards foreign powers in the 20th century, but in the 1960's they would rebel against the central government in Teheran, following the White Revolution. This fight the Qashqais lost against the Iranian military.
They have their own language, Qashqai, which is very close to Azerbaijani. Practically all Qashqai also speak Persian, in its Western dialect.




By Tore Kjeilen