- Sometime in the 1840s, the Naqshbandi sheikh Seyyid Taha of Nehri apparently sent one of his khalifas, or disciples, Sheikh Abdul Rahman (also known as Tajuddin, an Arabic honorific that means Crown of Religion), to the remote village of Barzan to spread his order's tariqa, or school of thought. Despite its obscurity, Barzan was probably a good place for a sheikh to establish himself as a mediator because it was situated between various disputing tribes at the very time that the last Kurdish emirates were being terminated. Sheikh Abdul Rahman thus became the first Barzani of the famous modern family and what eventually emerged as a new tribe out of the various refugees the family welcomed. The sheikh's arrival also set off a lengthy struggle between the Barzanis and the powerful Zibari tribe near whose territory Barzan lay.Although the Barzanis' power was originally founded on their religious authority as Naqshbandi sheikhs, they also developed into a tribe noted for its fighting abilities. Barzani tribal members still wear a distinctive turban with red stripes. Some Barzani sheikhs (such as Sheikh Ahmad Barzani) also gained a reputation for their religious eccentricity. Since Barzan served as a sort of utopian society in which refugees were welcomed, the Barzanis (despite their inherent conservatism and tribal allegiances) also became a center of emerging Kurdish nationalism.Mulla Mustafa Barzani, arguably the most famous Kurd of the 20th century, was an excellent example of this development. His elder brother, Abdul Salam II, was hanged by the Ottomans in 1914. His son Massoud Barzani is the current Barzani and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader. Massoud's son Masrour Barzani heads the intelligence services of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), while Massoud's nephew Nechirvan Idris Barzani prominently served as the prime minister of the KRG from 2006 to 2009. Nechirvan is now one of the KRG's two vice presidents.The KDP is very closely associated with the fortunes of the Barzani family. In dominating much of the politics of the KDP and now also the KRG, the Barzani family has also been accused of nepotism, corruption, violations of human rights, and other misdeeds. According to a report in The Daily Star (Beirut), 18 November 2005, the family had amassed a fortune up to US$2 billion since 1991. Despite these accusations, the family remains very popular among the Kurds, as illustrated by Massoud Barzani, the current head of the Barzanis, winning nearly 70 percent of the popular vote when he was reelected president of the KRG on 25 July 2009. This popularity and respect are clearly based on the many important services and sacrifices the family has performed for the Kurdish nation. In 1983, for example, Saddam Hussein's regime rounded up several thousand Barzani men and executed them for their perceived disloyalty. Ayoub Barzani, a scion of the family currently living in Switzerland, has become one of its unofficial historians.
Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. Michael M. Gunter.
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