Document Type : Research Paper
Professor, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Iran
A PhD Candidate, Middle Eastern Studies, Department Humanities, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
The relation between tribal/ethnic identity and national identity has become a subject of recent studies in Iran. While many consider these identities as mutually conflictual ones, this paper focuses on the mutual operational relations among them and emphasizes that this pattern has been dominant in the post-Islamic period in Iran. The Iranian tribal groups have had remarkable role in many socio-political movements in Iran. Before collapsing in its entirety, Iran’s nomadic tribes were political agents with considerable impact on the country's social and political events. Just as the Iranian Constitutional Revolution divided the tribal forces into the pro- and anti-revolutionary factions, so too the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry witnessed the same political situation among the nomadic tribes. The movement for the nationalization of the oil industry and the 1953 Iranian coup d’état in addition to the political stance taken by the leaders of Iran’s nomadic tribes in reaction to these events are of considerable importance. In the present article, we focus on a case study of Qashqa’i tribal confederacy and investigate the reasons their leaders chose to support the nationalization movement of Mohammad Mosaddegh and fight against the 1953 coup d’état.
The main research questions raised in the paper are as follows: 1. What were the political views and positions of Qashqa’i leaders on the nationalization of the oil industry in Iran? 2. What factors influenced the formation of the Qashqa’i leaders’ opinions on this issue and their attitudes towards the nationalization movement in Iran? The research hypothesis is that the Qashqa’i people’s support for Mosaddegh and the nationalization movement rests on three axes: i) a concern about the Pahlavi’s coming back into power and resuming their authoritarianism and the pattern of Reza Shah’s rule; ii) the friendly relations between the Qashqa’i leaders and Dr. Mosaddegh; iii) Qashqa’i leaders believe in the linkage between tribal identity and national identity which led the leaders to prioritize national interest over tribal interest. To answer the research questions and help understand the views of the Qashqa'i leaders towards the historical events culminating in the nationalization of Iran’s oil industry, this paper analyses archival evidence taken from the relevant documents in the National Library and Archives of Iran, specifically the records of communication between Prime Minister Mossadegh and the key Qashqa’i leaders. Furthermore, personal accounts and observations of these leaders as presented in their published autobiographies, memoirs and the interview transcripts in the Iranian Oral History Project are examined.
Theoretically, the authors rely on the identity level of analysis and cooperation, rather than on conflict between social and national identities in Iran which had been promoted in the works of the first author. According to Ahmadi’s previous research on the types and degree of influence of the Tribes in Iran’s political activism and struggles, the tribal communities in Iran have been different from the tightly knit cultural or political groups which have habitually been in permanent conflict with the governments. On the contrary, the Iranian tribal groups have had much cultural and religious communality with other Iranians on the national level and have cooperated with different Iranian governments in the past. Iran’s tribal leaders and people have not considered their tribal identity (denoted as social identity in this study) to be in constant conflict with the Iranian national identity. The case of the Qashqa’i tribe and its involvement in the 1951 oil nationalization movement reflect such constructive relations.