MOKRI TRIBE

 

MOKRI, a Kurdish tribe of western Iranian Azerbaijan. According to Šaraf-al-Din Bedlisi (1543-1603/4), it descended “from the princes of Baban” and its name was derived from that of one of its leaders, a certain Mekkār (Bedlisi, tr. Charmoy, I, p. 347, n. 11). Henry C. Rawlinson, who visited the Mokri tribe in October 1838, described it as “one of the strongest and most powerful in Persia” (Rawlinson, p. 34). The tribe was by then already almost completely sedentary, occupying an area of ca. 65 km in length and ca. 80 km in width, to the south of the Miāndoāb plain and to the west of the Jagātu (today, Zarrina) River. It numbered more than 12,000 families, its capital was Sāujbolāq (today, Mahābād), and its tiras (clans) were: “Bābā Amireh, Deh Bokri, Khelki, Sheikh Sherefi, Selekei, Ḥasan Khāli, Kārish, Silki, Sekir, Gurik, Fekiyesi, Ables, Bārik, Soleimāni, Beyi, Omerbil, Merzink, Lētāu Māwet, and Shiwezāi” (Rawlinson, p. 34).

Presumably basing himself upon tribal lore, Ely Banister Soane wrote that several rulers of Persia, including Shah ʿAbbāsI (r. 1588-1629), “relied upon the Mokri for assistance in their various wars,” that Shah ʿAbbās ;I “made many of them high officers in his army,” and that in 1624 “the bulk of Shah Abbas’ army was composed of Mokri Kurds, who defeated the Turks in a considerable battle” (Soane, p. 375). These assertions were repeated by Basile Nikitine (p. 165), but, in actuality, the Mokri appear to have been an unusually unruly tribe, better known for its depredations than for its military accomplishments. According to Eskandar Beg Monši (ca. 1560-ca. 1633; see ESKANDAR BEG TORKAMĀN MONŠI), when the Ottomans conquered Azerbaijan in the 1580s, Amira Bey, the amir of the Mokri, declared his allegiance to the Ottoman sultan Murad ;III (r. 1574-95). The Mokri then embarked upon an orgy of looting and killing, raiding even the shah’s stud farm at Qarāčuq. When Amira Bey died, the raids continued under his son and successor, Šeyḵ Ḥaydar. When Shah ʿAbbās ;I reconquered Azerbaijan in 1603, Šeyḵ Ḥaydar pledged his allegiance to the shah. He was forgiven for his past sins and was appointed governor of Marāḡa. In return, Šeyḵ Ḥaydar participated in the shah’s campaign north of the Aras River, but was killed during the siege of Yerevan later that year (Eskandar Beg Monši, p. 1016).

Under Qobād Khan, Šeyḵ Ḥaydar’s son and successor as amir of the Mokri tribe and governor of Marāḡa, the tribesmen returned to a life of brigandage. Qobād Khan also sequestrated the estates and fiefs of Safavid officers. When in 1609-10 he failed to obey a specific order from the shah to assist Persian troops in a military campaign, the Persian ruler finally decided to take action against him. Qobād Khan was summoned to the shah’s tent, whereupon he, as well as all the relatives who accompanied him and his entire retinue, was put to the sword. Then most of the Mokri were massacred and many of the women of the tribe taken into captivity (Eskandar Beg Monši, pp. 1016-19).

When the shah’s anger had dissipated, he named a certain Šir Beg as amir of the Mokri, but he appointed a leader of the Moqaddam tribe as governor of Marāḡa. In 1624-25, Šir Beg, in turn, revolted. He marched on Marāḡa, killing and plundering many of its inhabitants. A punitive expedition was sent against him by the shah, which seized his capital, Gāvdul, and forced him to flee into the mountains (Eskandar Beg Monši, p. 1253).

After these catastrophes, the remnants of the Mokri tribe gradually settled down upon the land. Nevertheless, since then the tribe has produced several important persons, including Moḥammad-ʿAli Khan Mokri, who was the grand vizier (wazir-e aʿẓam) of Shah Ṭahmāsb ;II (r. 1722-32; see Minorsky, 1943, p. 14, n. 6); ʿAziz Khan Mokri, who served as commander-in-chief (sardār-e koll) of the Persian army from 1853 to 1857 (Bāmdād, Rejāl, II, pp. 326-35); and Dr. Moḥammad Keywānpur Mokri (1921-2007), who was a distinguished scholar.

It is said that the Mokri speak a very pure form of the Kurdish language (Soane, p. 375; Nikitine, p. 164). Oskar Mann collected specimens of that language in Saujbolāq in 1902-3 (Mann). The Deh Bokri tribe is an offshoot of the Mokri tribe. According to Gunnar Jarring (p. 39), there is a Turkmen tribe in northwestern Afghanistan by the name of Mokri. The ancestors of these Mokris were probably moved to the area by Shah ʿAbbās ;I around 1600 at the same time as most of the Kurdish tribes of Khorasan. According to Charmoy (Bedlisi tr. Charmoy, I, p. 348), there were also Mokri in the eyalet (state) of Sehrizur (today, the province of Kirkuk), but there does not appear to be any of them there today.

 

Bibliography:

Šaraf-al-Din (Šaraf Khan) Bedlisi, Šaraf-nāma, tr. F. B. Charmoy as Chéref-Nāmeh, ou Fastes de la nationkourde, 2 vols., St. Petersburg, 1868-75; repr. Westmead, Farnborough, Hants, England, 1969.

C. J. Edmonds, Kurds, Turks and Arabs, London, 1957, pp. 8, 10, 11, 88, 89, 213, and 218.

Eskandar Beg Monši, Tāriḵ-e ʿālamārā-ye ʿAbbāsi, tr. R. M. Savory as History of Shah ‘Abbas the Great: Tārīḵ-e ʿĀlamārā-ye ʿAbbāsī by Eskandar Beg Monshi, 2 vols., Boulder, Colo., 1978.

G. Jarring, On the Distribution of Turk Tribes in Afghanistan, Lund, 1939.

O. Mann, Kurdisch-Persische Forschungen: Die Mundarten der Mukri-Kurden, Berlin, 1906.

V. Minorsky, Tadhkirat al-Mul¨k. A Manual of Ṣafavid Administration (circa 1137/1725), Cambridge, 1943.

V. Minorsky-[C. E. Bosworth], “Sāwdj-Bulāḳ,” EI² VIII, 1995, pp. 92-93.

B. Nikitine, Les Kurdes: étude sociologique et historique, Paris, 1956.

H. C. Rawlinson, “Notes on a Journey from Tabriz, through Persian Kurdistan, in October and November 1838,” JRGS 10, 1841, pp. 1-64.

E. B. Soane, To Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in Disguise, London, 1912.

O. Vilchevskiǐ, “Mukriǐskie Kurdy” (Mukri Kurds), Peredneaziatskiǐ ètnograficheskiǐ sbornik 1, 1958, pp. 214-18.

(Pierre Oberling)

Last Updated: April 15, 2010