Iran’s Muslim Bakhtiari People

The colourful Bakhtiari people number between 750,000 – 1,000,000 and live in south western Iran in the clean and beautiful highlands of the Zagros Mountains. The Chahar Mahal Province has plains, snow-capped mountains, valleys, rivers and dense forests. It is the habitat of leopards, sheep and bears, and grows wild pistachio, almond, walnut, plum and ash trees.
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The Bakhtiari are divided into tribes, sub-tribes and clans. About half of the people retain their traditional lifestyle of shepherding for the men, and carpet-weaving and home making for the women. The rest are settled and involved in agriculture and a variety of commercial activities.

Bakhtiari women enjoy a high degree of freedom in this patrilineal culture. They traditionally wear beautiful bright coloured long full skirts, blouses and headscarves. For thousands of years they have undertaken a 4-6 week annual migration in the Spring, moving from their winter quarters in Khuzistan to summer pastures in the Chahar Mahal region south west of Esfahan. Men, women, children and animals – thousands of them, travel across some of the most difficult mountain country in Iran in their search for grass.

The Bakhtiari language is used across generations at home and in commerce, but many Bakhtiari also speak Persian. There are about 350,000 monolingual Bakhtiari speakers, especially among older people and women.

Like the majority of Iranians the Bakhtiari are Shi’a Muslims. There are just a few small cell churches and scattered believers throughout the region. In addition there are small numbers of Bakhtiari believers in certain places around the world. Some initial Bible translation work has begun in the United Kingdom.

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Flag of Iran

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Map of Iran

Prayer Starters

* May God soften the hearts of the Bakhtiari people towards the followers of Jesus so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.

* Pray with a prayer partner for intercessors to be raised up for the Bakhtiari people.

* Pray for the development of suitable ministry materials and means in the Bakhtiari language including: Scripture translations, radio broadcasts and the “Jesus” film.

* Pray that Bakhtiari speakers who are already believers will develop strong ministry skills and become effective in reaching out to their people.

Gospel for nations …

Jesus has told us that the Gospel will be preached to all the nations before the end of this present age (Matthew. 24:14). In Greek: the word nations in the text is “ethnos,” which is related to the English word ethnic, as in “ethnic group.” These groups have common ancestors, history, language, customs and practices.

Religious Affiliations: World Ethnic Groups
Christianity: 5,923 | 37%
Muslim: 3,109 | 20%
Ethnic Religions: 2,963 | 19%
Hinduism: 2,324 | 15%
Buddhism: 481 | 3%
Other / Undefined: 887 | 6%
Total: 15,687 | 99%
Mission Frontiers Magazine, March / April 2007

There are over 245 Muslim people groups of over 100,000 population which are completely unreached and for whom no one is actually engaged in proclaiming the Gospel.

Video: Bakhtiari Tribe Iran


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