AḠĀČ ERĪ, a tribe of mixed ethnic origin living in eastern Ḵūzestān. The name Aḡāč Erī (“People of the Forest” in Turkic) is very ancient (cf. Rašīd-al-dīn, Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ, ed. A. A. Ali-Zade, Moscow, 1965, I/1, p. 35; V. Minorsky, “Äḭnallu/Inallu,” RO 18, 1953, p. 4; Nozhat al-qolūb, p. 81; Jordanes, The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Princeton, 1908, p. 11; G. Nemeth, A honfolgaló magyarság kialakulása, Budapest, 1930, pp. 32, 138, 168; J. Marquart, Osteuropäische und ostasiatische Streifzüge, Leipzig, 1903, pp. 40-41; G. Moravcsik, Byzantino-turcica, Budapest, 1943, II, p. 65). Z. V. Togan writes that in A.D. 460 a branch of the Ḵazars, or a closely related group by the name of Aḡāč Erī, came to southern Caucasia (“Azerbaycan,” İA II, p. 98). Later, we find a tribe by that name in the Maras mountains, in eastern Anatolia, living alongside a group of Afšārs and a group of Bayāts. In 1246, these tribesmen fought against Bayču Noyan (ibid). Yet another group of Aḡāč Erīs was for many years a ruling tribe in the district of Ḵalḵāl in eastern Azerbaijan, where they were neighbors of the Daylamīs. This group is said to have been with Holāgū Khan when that ruler captured Alamūt (ibid). Finally, there were tribes by the name of Aḡāč Erī in the Qarā Qoyunlū and Āq Qoyunlū tribal confederacies (F. Sümer, “Ḵᵛārazm-Koyunlular,” İA VI, p. 293; M. H. Yınanc, “Ak-Koyunlular,” İA I, p. 253). Togan believed that the name Qāǰār is a variation of the name Aḡāč Erī (“Azerbaycan etnoğrafisine dair,” Azerbaycan yurt bilgisi 2/15, March, 1913, p. 101), but this is very unlikely. The present-day Aḡāč Erīs, especially those who are not Turkophone, believe that the name of their tribe comes from the Persianized word āḡā/āqā (“gentleman”) and ǰarī (“bold”). So firmly ingrained is this notion that they usually misspell, and mispronounce, the name in such a way that it comes out Āqā Jarī; hence also the names of towns such as Āḡā-ǰārī (q.v.).
Minorsky classified the Aḡāč Erī tribe of southwestern Iran as a branch of the Kohgīlūya Lurs, but he pointed out that it was of composite character and that four of its clans (tīras) are Turkic: the Afšārs, Jaḡatāʾīs, Begdelīs, and Qarabāḡīs (“Lur,” EI1 III, p. 42). Both Fasāʾī (II, p. 270) and G. Demorgny (“Les réformes administratives en Perse,” RMM 22, 1913, pp. 111-12) described the Aḡāč Erīs of Kohgīlūya as an amalgamation of Turkic, Tajik (Iranian), and Lur elements. In any case, it seems that at least some of the Aḡāč Erī clans (especially the Afšār clan) are remnants of the once powerful Kohgīlūya branch of the Afšārs of Ḵūzestān, most of whom were dispersed by Shah ʿAbbās I after the rebellion of 1005/1596-97 (Eskandar Beg, pp. 524-25). It also appears that there is a connection between the Aḡāč Erīs and the Kaškūlī Bozorg tribe of the Qašqāʾī tribal confederacy which inhabits western Fārs, for both contain clans by the names of Begdelī and Jāma Bozorgī.
Around 1820, most of the Aḡāč Erī clans were forced to settle down in the neighborhood of Behbahān to protect that town from the incursions of the Baḵtīārīs,
Boir Aḥmadīs, and other predatory nomads (P. Oberling, “The Turkic Tribes of Southwestern Persia,” Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher 35, 1963, p. 174). The Aḡāč Erīs who remained nomadic were later absorbed by the Boir Aḥmadī tribal confederacy and are today known by the name of Āqāʾī (for details on this Boir Aḥmadī tribe, see M. Żarrābī in FIZ 9, 1962, p. 284). In 1913, Demorgny estimated the number of Aḡāč Erīs in the Behbahān area at 2,000 families (op. cit., p. 112). In the 1950s, they still numbered well over 1,000 families. Their clans were: Jāma Bozorgī, Tīlekū, Jaḡatāʾī, Begdelī, Afšār, Lor Zabān, Šeʿrī, Aqbāḡī, Bašīrī, Daylamī, Gaštīl, and Dāvūdī. Some of the tribesmen still spoke Turkic, but most spoke Persian and Lori. Many of the Aḡāč Erīs have moved to Ābādān, Bandar Maʿšūr, and Āqāǰārī, where they are employed by the National Iranian Oil Company and the Consortium (Oberling, op. cit., pp. 175-79).
See also G. Doerfer, Turkische und mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen II, Wiesbaden, 1965, pp. 73-74.
J. Qāʾem-maqāmī, “Āḡāǰarī,” Dāneš-nāma, fasc. 1, pp. 105-06 (with additional bibliog.).
Originally Published: December 15, 1984
Last Updated: July 28, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 6, pp. 605-606
P. Oberling, “AḠĀČ ERĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/6, pp. 605-606; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/agac-eri-a-tribe-of-mixed-ethnic-origin (accessed on 15 March 2014).