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Barzani Family


Kurdish family of religious shaykhs and nationalist leaders.

This family is rooted in the village of Barzan, in what is today Iraqi Kurdistan (but was for centuries the Ottoman Empire). Unlike the Shemzini or the Barzinji shaykhs, the Barzanis do not claim any famous genealogy; they were uneducated and obscure mullahs until Taj ad-Din became the khalifa (deputy) of Mawlana Khalid (died 1826), who introduced the Naqshbandi tariqa (sufi order) to Kurdistan. Shaykh Muhammad (died 1903), his great-grandson, was himself a half-educated mullah but had nevertheless a considerable number of followers; after the disposition of his rival shaykh, Ubaydallah of Shemzinan, he marched on Mosul, to be captured by the Ottomans.

His sons continued the family tradition: Shaykh Abd al-Salam II (18851914), a nationalist leader and a religious shaykh revered by his followers, was hanged by the Ottomans. Shaykh Ahmad (died 1969), the second brother, led his first revolt in 1931 and gave up politics after the collapse of the Kurdish republic of Mahabad. Mullah Mustafa (19041979), the third brother, became famous under the name General Barzani. The family leadership was later split between Shaykh Muhammad Khalid, son of Shaykh Ahmad, and Masʿud Barzani, son of the general, who, after the death of his brother Idris (19441987), claimed the political heritage of his father.

see also kurdish autonomous zone; kurdish revolts; kurdistan.


Chaliand, Gèrard, ed. A People without a Country: The Kurds and Kurdistan, translated by Michael Pallis. New York: Olive Branch Press, 1993.

Chris Kutschera

Updated by Michael R. Fischbach

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