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Eşiret , Kurdish also ešîret, eşir , in Kurdistan , the approximate settlement area of ​​the Kurds in the Middle East , denotes a tribe , a tribal confederation and membership of a tribe. The Turkish equivalent is aşiret , derived from Arabic ʿašīra , Pl. ʿAšāʾir for "tribe". The term not only differentiates patrilinear kinship groups from outsiders, it also historically refers in a second level of meaning to the upper class of nobles and military members, who stood out from non-tribe farmers (gûran) and other dependent population groups within a two- class society .

Differentiation of terms

For some Islamic forms of society in North Africa and the Middle East , the common schematic classification is: A tribe represents the higher-level unit of a clan , the members of which refer to a more or less fictitious ancestor. This is followed by the lineage (ancestry group), within which a common real ancestor can be named. The lowest social unit is the household or family. No clear Kurdish names can be found for this ethnological model, because on the one hand the Kurdish language is divided into a multitude of regional dialects, some of which differ greatly from one another, and on the other hand no vertical delimitations of this kind are made.

Kurdish society was and is still partly organized through tribal structures. Larger tribes were under the leadership of a Mīr (prince) or a large landowner titled Agha ( kurmandschi aẍa ). In some areas tribal members were in the minority compared to the Kurds who were not part of a tribe, with tribesmen almost everywhere having political and economic supremacy. The name eşiret is known throughout the Kurdish settlement area, but it only plays a subordinate role in practical social organization, as tribes rarely appear as a closed unit. In the past, this only happened when it came to armed conflicts against other tribes and the state army, or when there was collective opposition to administrative bodies. In Turkey and Iran there is still the word îl (or êl ) for tribe, which, unlike eşiret, does not refer to an upper social class in the second meaning, but rather represents an administrative unit.

At the clan or lineages level, there is the approximate Kurdish equivalent of hoz for a group named after a common ancestor. This can be historical or fictional. Hoz was equated with the name taîfe (from Arabic tāʾifa , plural tawāʾif ). In some areas, especially in the Iranian province of Kordestān , taîfe also includes unrelated communities, for example Sufi brotherhoods (Arabic tarīqa ).

The Iranian word tîre does not fit into this structure. It can be translated as lineage, as it can be understood as a sub-unit of a larger form of organization. At the same time it also means trunk as a whole. Likewise, taîfe stands for trunk in a broader sense . The plural tewayefê in conjunction with kurd means "the Kurdish tribes". Tîre and taîfe are not used in the northern Kurdish dialect Kurmanji.

In central Kurdistan , the level of the clans is denoted by the Arabic word qebile (from qabīla, plural qabāʾil ). A synonymous term is ocax or ocak ("stove"). In the northeastern Syrian al-Jazira region in particular , it is called fexr (from Arabic fakhdh ) instead .

Smaller lineages arranged below the clans are called bavik or babik by sedentary Kurds . The group up to a maximum village size is related by relatives and can also include unrelated members. The word for “house”, Kurdish times, is roughly equal or at the lowest level . It describes the family living in a household.

Social organization

Mal means family or household. These families, which are based on patrilineal ancestry, can have up to a hundred members. The next higher level in the social structure is the Oxaq (from Turkish Ocak for hearth) or the Kabile ( clan ). The units consist of different times that are related to each other through brothers or cousins. Finally comes the Eşiret (tribe). The demarcation between an Oxaq and an Eşiret is sometimes difficult to determine. Belonging to an Eşiret can be based on actual common ancestry. Eşirets, for their part, can join together to form tribal confederations such as B. with the tribes from Hakkari , who were then called Hakkariya . The confederations were often led by a mir - a ruler or prince. It also happened that some esirets were led by women. That happened when the Führer died without a successor. The women were then respected as leaders as much as a man. One example is the Kara Fatma ("Black Fatma") leader of an Eşiret, who came from Sivas to Istanbul to demand that the Ottoman government of the time release her husband. The Jaf in Iran were also temporarily led by the Adile Hanim . After the fall of the Kurdish local dynasties in the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 19th century, spiritual leaders - called sheikhs - took the place of secular rulers. Examples are B. Sheikh Said and Seyit Rıza . However, esirets are unstable structures. An Eşiret can completely dissolve, with the former members switching to other Eşirets, or it can emerge from scratch from scratch.


Many Eşirets derive their descent from a mythical person or from a high and recognized Islamic clergyman. In most cases, these are invented lineages that serve to strengthen the position vis-à-vis other Eşirets. The Eşiret regulates the use of pastures for the herds of cattle among the Kurds, who used to live nomadically . This regulation was binding. Furthermore, the (semi) nomadic part of the population organized in Eşirets mostly exercised a kind of rule over the settled, non- tribally organized peasants ( reâyâ ) living in the respective tribal territory until the 20th century .

The attachment of the Kurds to their tribe is still evident today in the feudal structures in the Middle East. It is not uncommon for MPs from the Kurdish provinces to be elected again and again thanks to their position in their Eşiret. Although membership of the Eşiret is interrupted in large cities, it is still strong in rural areas. The conflicts between the tribes also repeatedly lead to long feuds with blood revenge . These feudal structures are seen by many Kurds who represent Western or socialist ideologies as the main obstacle to the failure to develop a feeling of community.

After the fall of the Kurdish rulers through the centralization of the Ottoman Empire, the influence of the sheikhs ( Şex ) grew . There are several characteristics of the sheikh. First a sheikh immigrated to a new area from elsewhere. He then excelled through social and religious engagement and gained influence in local families through marrying. After all, each sheikh surrounded his spiritual status with a cloak of myths about himself or his ancestors, which were used to portray him as a superman. The subordinates' obedience was often very high; they blindly followed the orders of the sheikhs, who were endowed with divine infallibility and invulnerability. Famous Sheikhs were Sheikh Ubeydallah , Sheikh Said , Seyit Rıza , Mahmud Barzanji . Even Mustafa Barzani carried the title of Molla as the leader of his esiret .

Examples of esirets

Surname meaning area
Abdalan,, Avdelan, Avdeliz ... Erzincan, Dersim, Erzurum, Bingöl, Muş, Bayburt
Alan, Alans ... Dersim, Van, Lorestan, Ardalan , Hawraman
Alikî / alkane ... Batman, Bitlis, Siirt
Areyiz, Areli ... Dersim
Atma, Atmanqi ... Malatya
Baba Mansur, Ba'Mansur, Bawe Mansur a person Baba Mansur , Arabic for "father Mansur" Dersim, Erzurum, Mus, Sivas, Erzincan
Badikan ... Diyarbakir
Balabanu, Balavanu Persian for "viewer" Dersim, Erzincan, Malatya, Erzurum, Sivas, Elazığ, Kahramanmaraş, Şanlıurfa, Konya, Gaziantep, Adana, Istanbul, Adiyaman
Barak ... Gaziantep
Barzani named after the village of Barzan (Iraq) Arbil
Beritan ... Diyarbakır, Ağrı, Şırnak, Dersim, Mardin, Elazig
Bidri ... Batman, Bitlis, Mus
Bucak ... Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır
Çarekan, Çareku ... Dersim, Erzincan, Bingöl, Erzurum, Sivas, Malatya, Hatay, K. Maras
Çelebi an honorary title from the Ottoman period Mardin
Coskun ... Dersim, Kirsehir, Erzincan, Sivas
Demenan ... Dersim, Malatya, Elazığ, Erzurum, Sivas, Adana, Erzincan, Kayseri
Dimili , Dunbuli, Dumbulî ... Erzurum (Hınıs), Dersim, Mus, Bingöl, Ağrı, Erzincan, Hakkari, Diyarbakir, Sivas
Fikriderin ... Mardin, Şanlıurfa, Syria, Adana, Mersin
Garmiany, Germiyanî named after the Germian region in Iraq Kirkuk , Silemani ( Sulaimaniyya )
Haydaran, Heyderü, Heyderan, Heyderij, Heyderî ... Dersim, Erzurum, Erzincan, Muş, Van, Ağrı, Diyarbakır, Kars, Balıkesir, Elazığ, Malatya, Mersin, Sivas, Kahramanmaraş
Kalhor karakecili "black goat" (S. Urfa, Siverek) Western Iran and Eastern Iraq
Karabal ... Dersim
Keçel ... Dersim
Kirganli ... Dersim
Koçgiri Koça Gır "Great Hike" Dersim, Sivas, Kayseri, Erzincan, Yozgat, Kahramanmaraş
Kori named after the village of Kore (Iraq) Arbil
Kureyşan, Kureş, Kureşu Kureyşan "Koreishites" ( Quraish ) from the tribe of Mohammed ( Hashimites ) Dersim, Erzincan, Erzurum, Muş, Çorum, Amasya, Elazığ, Kahramanmaraş, Malatya, Büngöl, Adiyaman, Sivas, Gümüşhane, Konya, Ankara, Adana, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa
Lolan, Biradost named after the Kurdish principality of Biradost Dersim (Hozat), Erzincan, Mus, Kars, Hakkari, Bingöl, Erzurum, Gaziantep, Gümüşhane
Mala Ismail House or gender of the ismail Mardin, Midyat, Ağrı
Mala Zoro House or tribe of Zoros Urfa, Viransehir, Syria, Iraq
Milli milli "national" Kars, Erzurum, Elazığ, Şanlıurfa, Yerevan, Mardin, Şanlıurfa, Sivas, Van, Çorum, Istanbul, Konya
Mukri ... Urmia
Mziri, Mala Mustafa House or family of Mustafas, from what is now Dohuk-Itite Dohuk
Şadî, Şadilî, Sahdeli, Şadlu, Şadiyan, Şadû Shaddadid dynasty Dersim, Bingöl, Erzincan, Elazig, Diyarbakır, Sivas, Kayseri, Mus, Erzurum, Mardin, Hakkari, Kars, Ağrı, Adana
Shikak ... West Azerbaijan and Turkey
Sindî ... Zaxo, Duhok, Hakkari, Sirnak
Sinemilli "People of the cemetery" Elazığ, Sivas, Erzincan, Malatya, Kahramanmaraş, Dersim, Mus
Sur, Suran ... Dersim, Elazığ, Bingöl
Talabani ... Silemani, Kirkuk
Tilkiler, Pazarcık one of the 12 tribes from the Atmalılar tribe ...
Tirkan Sub-tribe of Milli Elazığ, Erzurum, Sivas
Tori, Rami ... Mardin, Batman, Şırnak, Ağrı, Diyarbakır
Uluer ... Elazig, Bingöl, Kovancilar, Caybagi
Xiran, Haran ... Dersim, Erzincan, Malatya, Sivas, Muş, Erzurum, Ardahan, Kars, Şanlıurfa, Batman, Bingöl
Xormekan, Hormekan, Alxas ... Dersim, Kahramanmaraş, Malatya, Erzincan, Varto, Erzurum, Sivas, Bingöl, Elazığ
Yusufan ... Dersim, Erzincan, Batman, Bingöl
Zand ... Hamadan, Luristan, Khorasan, Baluchistan, Chanaqin
Ziriki "The Enlightened One" Erzurum, Diyarbakir, Mardin
Surname meaning area

There can be several tribes with the same name but different origins, e.g. B. the Haydaran who live in Van and Tunceli. From the names you can see that some Eşirets take their name from areas such as B. the Barzanis from the village of Barzan , or point to other peoples, such as the Bakhtiars . The Eşiret of Baba Mansur derives the name from an important spiritual person. Likewise, the Eşiret Koçgiri could have been named after Koçkar Ata (Koçger-i Hoca). The Kureyşan are derived from the Koreishites , the tribe of Muhammad , but this cannot actually be proven, especially since the Arabic spelling Quraishقُریشin the Kirmanci Qureyş ( i.e. with Q) should correspond. Many explanations of the origins of the tribal names cannot be proven beyond doubt, so that there are often controversial interpretations.

Examples of historical esirets

  • Ardalan , a semi-autonomous Kurdish principality in the northwest of what is now Iran, from the Middle Ages to the middle of the 19th century
  • Shabankara , a Kurdish tribe from southern Iran, where it played an important role as a regional power factor, and also the name of the settlement area of ​​this tribe


  • Martin van Bruinessen : Agha, Sheikh and State. Politics and Society of Kurdistan. Berlin 1989. (New edition: editionParabolis, 2003, ISBN 3-88402-259-8 ).
  • Stephan Conermann: people, ethnicity or tribe? The Kurds from a Mamluk point of view. In: Stephan Conermann, Geoffrey Haig (Ed.): The Kurds. Studies on their language, history and culture. (Asia and Africa. Vol. 8. Contributions from the Center for Asian and African Studies at the Christian Albrechts University in Kiel). EB-Verlag, Schenefeld 2004, pp. 27-68.
  • Wadie Jwaideh: Kürt Milliyetçiliğinin - Tarihi Kökenleri ve Gelişimi. İletişim Verlag, Istanbul 1999. (Turkish edition of The Kurdish national movement: its origins and development )
  • Martin Strohmeier, Lale M./Yalçin-Heckmann: The Kurds. History, politics, culture. 2nd Edition. CH Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-42129-6 .
  • Lale Yalçin-Heckmann: Tribe and Kinship among the Kurds. Peter Lang Publishers, Frankfurt a. M. 1991, ISBN 3-631-42702-6 .

Individual evidence

  1. Strohmeier / Yalçin-Heckmann, p. 209.
  2. ^ Bruinessen, pp. 71-76.
  3. ^ Behrendt, Günter: Nationalism in Kurdistan - Prehistory, conditions of origin and first manifestations up to 1925. German Orient Institute, Hamburg 1993, p. 46 f.
  4. ibid, p. 45.

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