History: 11th Century- The Qashqa’i begin entering Iran from central Asia
14th Century- The Bakhtiari arrive from Syria.
Mid-18th Century- Karim Khan Zand, ruler of southern Iran, appoints a Qashqa'i as tribal leader of a province. The Qashqa'i name means "those of a horse with a white-starred forehead" or "those who fled.”
1930’s- Reza Shah exiles, imprisons or executes nomadic leadership. The Shah goes on to confiscate their pastures and uses the military to stop their nomadic lifestyle and enforce dress codes.
1941- Allied forces banish Reza Shah and the nomads of Iran resume their nomadic lifestyle.
1957- A Tribal Teachers’ Training School in Shiraz is established, assuring that tribal identities will be encouraged rather than erased.
Languages: The Qashqa'i language, which is unwritten, is linguistically similar to Azeri (Azerbaijani). Most of the Qashqa'i can communicate in Farsi, which is the national language of Iran. The Qashqa’i call their language "Turki."
The Bakhtiari speak a dialect of Persian called Luri and are Shiite Muslims. Politically the tribe used to form a confederacy under a chief appointed by the shah, but this position has now been abolished. The confederacy was most effective in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the Bakhtiari played an important role on the national level in Iran's constitutional movement. More recently many tribesmen have left the traditional way of life for employment in the oil industry in the cities.
Lifestyle: The Nomads of Iran travel with their livestock according to seasonal weather. As they settle in the central provinces they live in large, black goatskin tents. While they subsist from their agrarian efforts, much of their income is from the tourist trade. Handicrafts and leatherworks are popular among tourists. However, the Nomads, particularly the Quashqa’i, are famous for their carpets.
Nomads often define their group and clans in terms of tents. The Nomads use the word "Tent" as a denotation for their home.
Spiritual Identity: Like most Iranians, the Nomads claim to be Shia Muslims, although few are practicing Muslims. In national political skirmishes, nomadic leaders have allied themselves with the Muslim clergy. While they keep the Islamic traditions when observing marriage and death, very few observe daily prayers. Neither do many fast during Ramadanthe Islamic holy month of fasting.
Status of Christianity: The Nomads of Iran live their lives closed off from mainstream society. Reaching them with the gospel has proved to be challenging. However, people are bringing the message to the Nomads. The bible, God’s Story and the Jesus film are among the resources in the languages of the Nomads of Iran.
There are a few believers among the Iranians. Those believers long for a church where they can be with other brothers and sisters in Christ.
In an attempt to help Nomads deal with their harsh economic situations, Christian businessmen have begun to work with Nomads to help develop Nomad businesses.