The Qashqai Turks of Fars, Southern Iran


(Qashqai, Qashqa’i, Ghashghai, قشقایی , قاشقایی )

The Qashqai compose a community of settled, semi-settled, and pastoral nomadic households who reside mainly in the Fars region of southern Iran. They speak Qashqai Turki (Turkish). Most of them also speak, at least, Persian (Farsi). They are Shia Muslims.

Arash Shiva, 2002

The nineteenth-century Fars velayat (region or province) covered the present-day provinces of Fars, Kohgiluyeh, and Bushehr. For centuries Fars had been a multi-ethnic region in which tribal and pastoral nomadic groups composed a large part of the population.

Turkic-speaking pastoral nomadic tribal groups began entering central and southern Iran, at least, during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The historical movement of larger and smaller groups of pastoral nomadic households of different ethnic backgrounds, including Turks, into and out of Fars continued up to the nineteenth century.

The Qashqai, as a large tribal unit or tribal administrative unit, composed of pastoral nomadic households, dates back at least to the early eighteenth century, when some Turkish(Turki)-speaking tribal groups in the Fars region existed under the name Qashqai and leadership of the head(s) of a certain lineage called Shahilu.

During the nineteenth century, the Qashqai was transformed into a very large tribal unit or confederacy composed of mainly Turkic-speaking pastoral nomads. Their summer pastures stretched to areas in central Iran, and their winter pastures to areas close to the Persian Gulf. Many Turki(Turkish)-speaking tribal groups, as well as groups belonging to other ethnic groups in the region, were integrated into the Qashqai. The non-Turk groups, in time, adopted the language and other ethnic identity markers of the Qashqai.

Arash Shiva, 2002

Since the 1960s the general trend has been a sharp increase in the sedentarization of Qashqai nomads and involvement in non-pastoral and non-traditional economic activities. Presently the Qashqai form mainly settled and semi-settled households. The Qashqai population of today is estimated between one and one and a half million.

Arash Shiva, 2002