This is a term from Arabic used throughout Kurdistan to denote an entire tribe or even confederation of tribes. Ashiret also conveys the meaning of being tribal as opposed to being nontribal. In recent decades the number of tribal Kurds has dramatically declined due to the forces of modernization. In Iraqi Kurdistan, for example, around 60 percent of the Kurds claimed a tribal affiliation as recently as 1960. Early in the 21st century, however, this proportion had fallen considerably. A similar pattern exists elsewhere, especially in Turkey. On the other hand, the governments sometimes encourage pro-government tribes as a divide-and-rule tactic. The pro-government Bucaks in Turkey remain an excellent, but not unique, example. Tribal affiliation also still explains a considerable amount of the continuing success of such families as the Barzanis, Talabanis, and others.
   Kurdish tribes are not easy to define because they vary in time and place, and in size, structure, and internal organization. In the 19th century, for example, the very term Kurd meant tribespeople who spoke Kurdish. This imprecision regarding tribe is indicated in the various words used by Kurds to denote a tribal group: il, ashira, qabila, taifa, tira, oba, hawz, and so forth. In general, these different terms range from tribal confederations down to clan, septs, or sections. Tribes are usually defined by kinship, real or mythical. Most Kurdish tribal groups claim descent from a hero of the early Islamic period.

Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. .

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  • Tribe —    See Ashiret …   Historical Dictionary of the Kurds

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