The Basseri of Iran: the Tent People

Published: 2021-07-01 06:54:12
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Category: Iran, Islam

Type of paper: Essay

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The Basseri are pastoral nomads that live in Iran and migrate along steppes and mountains throughout the year. The groups they live in are typically divided by independent households referred to as tents. They have a very deliberate political structure and are well organized. Their leaders have to lead somewhat for the people because if the common Basseri do not agree or believe in the chief then they will take their herd to an alternative chief. The Basseri of Iran are a very traditional and focused community, the following pages should give you a small glimpse into their daily lives, their beliefs values and culture.
The Basseri culture is made up of individual households which are referred to as tents. Each tent has independent ownership of the property in the tent unit and the livestock. The man is the head of his own tent. For ease they will combine multiple tents and herds the animals together. The Basseri break camp and move completely every three to four days. This is not uncommon to them, it’s their way of life. The women and children typically break down camp and move to the new location and set camp back up while the men herd the animals. Headmen are leaders of a camp that are recognized by the Basseri chief.
There can also be what is called a White Beard, which is an informal leader that represents the camp if there is not a Headmen in the camp. These leaders represent each camp in political and administrative ways. Headmen can communicate much more freely with the Basseri chief than a common tribe member. The chief does not give them authority though. (Johnson, 1996) The Basseri chief is over a large centralized political system. He has extreme authority over all the members of the Basseri tribe. The chief is often own as the Khan. The Khan can give orders to anyone in the tribe and they must obey.



This is called the omnipotent Khan. The chief status is shown by his urban villas or larger tents. All the members of the tribe acknowledge his authority and treat his immediate family almost as royalty as well. The Basseri faith is Shia Muslims. However, they do not follow the customs and rituals as the other Islamic followers. Their customers and rituals are based more on the life cycles and not religion. They do rituals and celebrate births, death, coming of age, etc. The fast of Ramadan and the feast of Moharram, which are of central importance to the surrounding Muslims, are observed only by a few Basseri. (Johnson, 1996)

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