Fayli Kurds

Feylis are a group of lurish tribes located mainly in Luristan,Kermanshah and Ilam (Iran).[1] Feyli lurs are a community living in Baghdad and the Diyala Province of Iraq around Khanaqin and Mandali, and across the Iranian border, mainly in the provinces of Luristan, Kermanshah and Ilam. They number an estimated 6.000.000. people. The Fayli are an important community within the wider luri people. Faylee (Faylee, Faili, or Feli) are, according to some, part of the lurish population in Iraq and an integral part of the lurish nation, though others believe they are much more related to Persians. Faylee have themselves shown, over the years, and still show this fact and reality by words and deeds. They speak Feyli, a dialect that belongs to the luri language, which some argue is a dialect of middle Persian. Feyli is spoken particularly on both sides of the border areas between Iraq and Iran .[2]

The roots of the Feyli go back to the Parthian/Pahlawi/Pahlawanid settlements of the 2nd century BC. Archaeological evidence from the Ilam Province in Iran indicates that some proportions of Fayli might have been Nestorian Christians until the 18th century. The conversion to Shia form of Islam seem to have begun under the Safavid dynasty (1507–1721) of Persia/Iran, Faylis today are primarily Imami Shias like the Persians, kurds and the Azeris, as well as the majority of the Iraqi Arabs.

In modern times the Feylis have been subject to state persecution.[3][4] They are considered as a stateless people, with both Iran and Iraq claiming they are citizens of the other country.[5] In the mid 1970s, Iraq expelled around 40,000 Feyli's who had lived for generations near Baghdad and Khanaqin, alleging that they were Iranian nationals.[6] in iranica enceclopedia :


group of Lor tribes located mainly in Luristan.

FEYLĪ, group of Lor tribes located mainly in Luristan. During the two centuries in which the whole of Luristan was ruled by hereditary wālīs [7] all the tribes in the region were called Feylī, but, at the beginning of the 19th century, the situation changed. Moḥammad-ʿAlī Mīrzā, eldest son of Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah Qājār (1212-50/1797-1834) and governor-general of Kermānšāh, seized Pīš-e Kūh (the eastern part of Luristan), leaving to the wālī only Pošt-e Kūh (the western part). Because the name Feylī had been previously associated with the Solvīzī dynasty, it came to denote only those tribes in the Pošt-e Kūh [8].

There is little reliable information on the Feylī of the Pošt-e Kūh (for the most detailed reports, see [9]. The two major Feylī tribes in the region are Kord and Mahakī (for a list of their subdivisions, or tīras, see [10]

In the 19th century H. C. Rawlinson (p. 107) estimated the population of Feylī in the Pošt-e Kūh at 12,000 families, A. H. Layard (pp. 99-100) at 10,000 families, George Curzon (Persian Question II, p. 274) at 210,000 individuals, H. L. Rabino (p. 40) at 10,000 families. More recently Henry Field (p. 184) has estimated it at 50,000-60,000 individuals and Masʿūd Kayhān [11] at 40,000 individuals.

Some of the Feylī of Luristan had supported Karīm Khan Zand (1163-93/1750-79) and accompanied him to Fārs (Oberling, p. 85), where their descendants are still to be found. In 1849 they were estimated at 100 families [12].In time these Feylī joined the ʿAmala tribe of the Qašqāʾī confederation; they were mentioned by Ḥasan Fasāʾī in Fārs-nāma [13].Since then some Feylī of the ʿAmala tribe have settled in and around Fīrūzābād. In 1956 they numbered approximately fifty individuals[14]. Others have settled in Shiraz, where they live in the Maḥall-e Feylī. These Feylī were mentioned by Kayhān, who estimated their number at 150 families [15], and by Field, whose estimate was 100 families (p. 222). In 1956 they comprised between 800 and 1,000 individuals (Oberling, p. 86).


C. A. de Bode, Travels in Luristan and Arabistan II, London, 1845, p. 290.

H. Field, Contributions to the Anthropology of Iran, Chicago, 1939.

A. H. Layard, “Description of the Province of Khuzistan,” JRGS 16, 1846, pp. 99-100.

O. Mann, Die Mundarten der Lur-Stämme im südwestlichen Persien, Berlin, 1910, pp. xxiv-xxv.

V. Minorsky, “Lur,” EI2 V, pp. 820-26.

P. Oberling, The Turkic Peoples of Southern Iran, New York, 1960.

H. L. Rabino, Les tribus du Louristan, Paris, 1916.

H. C. Rawlinson, “Notes on a March from Zoháb…to Kirmánsháh, in the Year 1836,” JRGS 9, 1839.

Ḥ.-ʿA. Razmārā, Joḡrāfiā-ye niẓāmī-ye Irān: Pošt-e Kūh, Tehran, 1320 Š./1941.

M. L. Sheil, Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia, London, 1856.

A. T. Wilson, Military Report on South-West Persia, Simla, 1912, pp. 27-28.

(Pierre Oberling)

Originally Published: December 15, 1999

Last Updated: December 15, 1999

Etymology of the name

A likely explanation is given by M. R. Izady.[16] He claims that the Arabic Feyli is a corruption of Pahla, meaning Parthia, a kingdom based in modern day Iran, contemporaneous with the Roman Empire. The change occurred because Arabic alphabet lacks the letter p, rendering it as an "f" instead (this sound change can also be seen in Palestine/Philistin فلسطين and Persian/فارسي), but sometimes also as a "b". Early Arabic texts recorded the name as Fahla or Bahla, the former of which became the more common, corrupting eventually to Faila, of which the adjective is Faili or Feyli.

Feyli homeland

Since ancient times, the Feylis have lived in the border area between Iraq and Iran, which consists of the Zagros Mountains and cliffs. They live on the two sides of this mountain in Iran and Iraq and they call it Kabir Kuh, "the great mountain".

The areas on the Iraqi side from north to south are the following: Khanaqin, Shahraban (now called Al-Meqdadia), Mandali, Badrah, Zorbateyah, Jassan, Al–Kut and Al-Azizyah. They also reside in a number of cities in the area of Shaikh Sa’ad, Ali Sharqi, Ali Gharbi and Al–Kofah, which is 170 kilometres (110 mi) south of Baghdad.

However, as early as the first decade of the 20th century, many Feylis moved to Baghdad and lived in its center. Consequently, there are some areas which are named after them, such as the Kurdish quarter, the Kurdish alley, and the Kurdish Street.

On the Iranian side, the Feylis live in the following areas, from north to south: Qasre Shirin, Kermanshah, Karand, Islam Abad e Gharb (former Shah Abad), Sarpol-i Zohab, Gilan e Gharb, Ilam, chavar, Saleh Abad, Badreh, Dehloran, abdanan, darehshahr, eyvan, shirvan va chardavol, malekshahi, meymeh,ilam, zarin abad or pahleh. The word of pahleh can be related with feyli.

As for the weather, it is dry in summer but the mountains are usually covered with lays of snow, which melts in summer to irrigate the lands. In summer, many people move with their sheep to the tops of the mountains because there are wide areas of grass; when the winter comes, they go back to their villages. Some lurs work in trade and goods exchange and other free works (urban professions).

The Feyli people have proved to be so persistent and civilized as they studied hard to join the universities of the main cities and got good jobs. In his book "Ameroir of Baghdad" issued by Al-Rais publishing house, Cyprus 1993 the ex minister Mosa Al-Shabandar describes the life of the Feylis. It is very difficult to give an accurate estimate of the Failis' population, as many of them in Iraq have been deported and ethnically cleansed; however, some estimate that about 2.5 millions lived in Iraq and 3 million in Iran. The Iraqi Minorities Council and Minority Rights Group International estimate that prior to the current war there were 1,000,000 Feylis in Iraq[17]

Tribes and clans

Feylis consist of many tribes and clans. Their names are sometimes based on the name of their tribal leader or where they live but sometimes they take vocational names. Here are listed some of them: Ali Sherwan (he was from the tribe of Sanjabi and established Beyrey tribe) tribe and his four sons Cheragh, Safar, Heydar or Hiar, and Dara — each one of these four established a tribe in his name like Cheragh Wandi, Safar Wandi, Hiar Wandi, and Dara Wandi) Malek Shahi tribe Jamal Vandi tribe Ansari tribe Kalhur tribe Zouri or Zhohairi clan Qaitoli clan Khezell or Khaza`al clan Shuhan clan Mousi clan

Ali Sherwan is the name of a prominent Feyli tribe inhabiting mainly Ilam in Iran. Members of the tribe believe themselves to be descendants of Ali Sherwan. Feyli are composed of several clans. Their names can tell about where they are from, what clan they belong and where they live. According to Najm Suleiman Mahdi in his book "The Faily Kurds, Who are they," is the most important Feyli clans following;

Laki, Kordali, Ali Sherwan consisting of (his four sons/clans Cheragh Wandi, Safar Wandi, Herwandi, Darawandi), Malek Shahi, Jaberi, Ansari, kalhor, Zouri or Zhohairi, Qaitoli, Khezell, Showhan, Mousie, Warkoz, Kalawai, Bolia, Maliman, Zangana, Bakhtiari, Zand, Soria-Mori, Mamsani, Jgangi, Papi, Bojarahmad, Kahlgilija, Mishkhas, Hasanwandi, Pirawandi, Kakwandi, Dinawandi, Dohsan, Zouri, Bawe, Larti, Heni-meni, Qazi, Qalawlaws, Aljoi, Mafi, Warizwand, Amreri, Panchseton, Wazrgoush, Tolabi, Siljurzi, Shola, Qaderhama, and Kaka

The Feylis in the Iraqi society

The existence of the Feyli's in Iraq has never been marginal. On the contrary, they have participated in all political, social, cultural, and economical activities.

Economical role

The Feylis have had a great economical and commercial weight, especially in Baghdad. They owned and operated merchant, logistics, construction business. Also after the Baghdad Jews left during the fifties, some Jews sold their business (mostly in trading) to Feylis. The wealth pushed Saddam to confiscate their capitals and properties and expel them to Iran, claiming that they are not genuine Iraqis but instead that they're Iranians. The injustice that happened to the Feylis is similar as what happened to the Jew during the II World War in Europe.

Political role

The Feyli's suffered severe oppression under Saddam Hussein and his Baathist government. They joined others in opposing the dictatorial government in Iraq and fighting alongside other Iraqis and also joined national Iraqi parties such as the Iraqi Communist Party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the National Kurdish Association.

Social role

The Feyli's have had a very effective role in social life as they have established social centers, clubs, and youth and women associations. That has been made possible due to the presence of many famous Feylis in different fields.

Deportation from Iraq during the Saddam era

During the 70s and 80s a large segment of the Feyli population in Baghdad were forcibly deported to the Iranian border by Iraqi police and intelligence units on the order of the authorities. Their properties seized as well as being stripped of their legal documents and citizenship, the Feyli's were effectively rendered into right-less foreigners. Most of the targeted families were of significant influence on a large spectrum of Iraqi society. Having a high level of education, commercial success and ranking positions in the military. The Baathist regime fearing potential dissidence and opposition, implemented deportation policies against Feylis. The official claim was that Feylis were Iranian nationals.

Adult males between the ages of 18-55 were detained and sent to various prison complexes in the country, with no legal procedures such as trials being taken before incarceration. It is estimated that between 13,000-30,000 Feyli's died under the conditions of captivity and systematical murder by the Baathist intelligence apparatus. These human right violations were only recognized after the fall of the regime, when access to documents and testimonies of former inmates and personnel became available. The underlying pretext for this act, was that Shiite Feylis would become potential recruits for the Iranian government, post-deportation.

Joost Hiltermann points to the old SafavidOttoman struggle, as the leadership of each country used religious references to characterize themselves, their enemies and their battles, unfailingly casting these in sectarian terms. One group of victims of this practice were Feyli lurs, deported by Saddam Hussein’s regime to Iran on the grounds that, supposedly, they were basically Persians. It was no coincidence, however, that Feyli lurs are also Shiites. Feyli lurs were not the only Iraqi Shiites to be deported to Iran, both during the Iran–Iraq war and before it. The practice affected any Iraqi Shiites who were listed in Iraq’s population register as ‘‘of Persian origin’’ (taba’iya Faresiya), as opposed to ‘‘of Ottoman origin’’ (taba’iya Othmaniya). This designation stemmed from Ottoman times, when citizens who sought to evade extended military service used a Persian ancestor to claim they were not Ottoman subjects. The modern Iraqi state inherited this system in the early 1920s. Post-1958 republican regimes used it as the basis for deportation policies designed to serve political agendas. [18]

2010 Trial of Baathists involved in crimes against Feylis

On Monday 29 November 2010, an Iraqi court found Saddam Hussein's longtime foreign minister Tariq Aziz guilty of terrorizing Feyli lurs during the Iran-Iraq war, sentencing him to 10 years in prison. Mohammed Abdul Saheb, a spokesman for Iraq's high criminal court, said: "Today a judge found Tariq Aziz guilty and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. The evidence was enough to convict him of displacing and killing Feyli lurs. Aziz was a member of the revolutionary command council which cancelled the Iraqi nationality for the Feyli lurs."[19] The spokesman also said Aziz was spared a death sentence for the crimes against humanity because he had a lesser involvement than some of his co-defendants in the atrocities against the Feyli Kurds.[20] Of the other 15 defendants in the Iraqi High Tribunal case, three Saddam loyalists were found guilty and sentenced to death. Two, including Aziz, were sentenced to 10 years in prison. The remaining 10 were acquitted, including Saddam's two half brothers, Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan and Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan. The Feyli Kurd minority comes mainly from an area in northeastern Iraq that straddles the Iraq-Iran border. Saddams regime killed, detained and deported tens of thousands of Feyli lurs early in his 1980-1988 war with Iran, denouncing them as alien Persians and spies for the Iranians.[20]

2011 Feyli Conference in Baghdad

On Saturday the first of October 2011, the National Conference for Feyli lurs held a conference in the Iraqi capital Baghdad which was attended by the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Maliki said in a speech "the Feyli lurs have been targets for harming, similar to other Iraqi communities". He also called "for the unity of Feyli lurs under a common tent, uniting them and organizing their activities, together with other Iraqi communities". He ended his speech by saying "we shall support the rights of the depressed Feyli lurs , beginning with the restoration of their official documents and their presence in their homeland and ending with the paying back the funds that were confiscated from them (during the former regime)". The Iraqi Prime Minister also recognized "that over 22,000 Feyli lurs had been deported from Iraq by the former regime, calling for the restoration of their rights".[21]

2012 UNHCR report on stateless people residing inside Iraq

An estimated 120,000 persons are believed to be stateless in Iraq as of 2012. These are mainly Faily lurs and Bidoons. This figure is gradually decreasing with increasing numbers of Faily lurs regaining their Iraqi citizenship in accordance with the Nationality Law of 2006. UNHCR is assisting in the identification of stateless persons, raising awareness about their problems and facilitating their access to ID and other legal documents.[22]


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