Bakhtiari (bäkhˌtēäˈrē, –ärēˈ, băkhˌ–) [key], tribal group, numbering around 850,000, living in SW Iran, in a mountainous region (c.25,000 sq mi/64,750 sq km) in Khuzestan and Esfahan provs. They are mostly nomadic, migrating seasonally with their livestock. The Bakhtiari are Shiite Muslims and are famed for their courage and independence. Women enjoy a high position in the patrilineal society. The group can be divided into two large branches, the Haftlang, with about 55 tribes, and the Charlang, with about 25. The Bakhtiari originally migrated (10th cent.) from Syria to Iran, and until the 15th cent. were known as the Great Lurs. In the early 20th cent., after the discovery of oil in the region they inhabit, their chiefs were courted by the British and were paid to protect oil pipelines. The Bakhtiari played a decisive part in the deposition of Muhammad Ali Shah in 1908–9. Reza Shah Pahlevi forced many of them to abandon their nomadic ways and to settle in permanent communities; after his deposition in 1941, however, many Bakhtiari returned to nomadism. Muhammad Reza Shah was married (1951–58) to Soraya, the daughter of a Bakhtiari chieftain.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.