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Feyli Kurds

Feylis (also Faylis, Failis or Faylees) are a group of Shia Muslim Kurds[1] or Lurs,[2] whose heartland is divided between Ilam, Kermanshah provinces in Iran and Diyala Governorate in Iraq. They speak the Feyli dialect of Southern Kurdish.[3]

In his book "Ameroir of Baghdad" issued by Al-Rais publishing house, in Cyprus in 1993. The ex minister Mosa Al-Shabandar describes the life of the Feylis. It is very difficult to give an accurate estimate of the Feyli Kurdish 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 before the current war there were 1,000,000 Feylis in Iraq.[4]


  • Etymology of the name 1
  • Feyli homeland 2
  • The Feylis in the Iraqi society 3
    • Deportation from Iraq during the Saddam Hussein era 3.1
    • 2010 Trial of Baathists involved in crimes against Feylis 3.2
    • 2011 Feyli Conference in Baghdad 3.3
    • 2012 UNHCR report on stateless people residing inside Iraq 3.4
  • See also 4
  • References 5

Etymology of the name

As M. R. Izady notes in his work (The Kurds: A Concise Handbook, London, 1992):[5] 'The territory inhabited by the Pahli/Fayli Kurds was known as "Pahla" (meaning "Parthia") since the 3rd century AD. The area boasted one of the most important Parthian settlements outside Parthia proper (or Khurasan province in Iran). The name "Pahla" was also used for the area by the early Muslim geographer until the 13th century, after which when Lurs from Luristan captured the Kurdish populated regions of Ilam (old name: Pahlah)[6] and part of Kermanshah provinces the name "Luristan or Pushtkooh" gradually came to replace it. Due to the name of Luristan or Pushtkooh, the Kurdish population in Pushtkooh are called Lur wrongly. Arabic texts recorded the name as "Fahla" or "Bahla", (note: the Arabic language lacks the letter "P"). Subsequently, "Fahla" evolved to 'Faila' and 'Faili' -- the modern name of the Pahli Kurds. In fact, there is still a small town called 'Pahla' in the south of the major city of Ilam, Iran which is the heart of traditional settlement occupied by Pahli Kurds.' The name "Parthia" is a continuation from Latin Parthia, from Old Persian Parthava, which was the Parthian language self-designator signifying "of the Parthians", who were an ancient Iranian people.[7]

Feyli homeland

Since ancient times, the Feylis have lived in the border area between Iraq and Iran, which consists of both sides of the Zagros Mountains, which 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: Qasr-e Shirin, Kermanshah, Karand, Eslamabad-e Gharb (former Shah Abad), Sarpol-e Zahab, Gilan-e Gharb, Ilam, Chavar, Badreh, Dehloran, Abdanan, Darreh Shahr, Eyvan, Meymeh, Pahleh.

The Feylis in the Iraqi society

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

Deportation from Iraq during the Saddam Hussein 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 Feylis were effectively rendered into right-less foreigners.[8] 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.[9]

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 Feylis 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.

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 Feylis, deported by Saddam Hussein’s regime to Iran on the grounds that, supposedly, they were basically Persians. It was no coincidence, however, that Feylis are also Shiites. Feylis were not the only Iraqi Shiites to be deported to Iran, either during the Iran–Iraq war or 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.[10]

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 Feylis during the Iran-Iraq war (see Kurdish rebellion of 1983 and Al-Anfal Campaign), 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 Kurds. Aziz was a member of the revolutionary command council which cancelled the Iraqi nationality for the Feyli Kurds."[11] 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.[12] Of the other 15 defendants in the Iraqi High Tribunal case, three Saddam Hussein loyalists were found guilty and sentenced to death. Two, including Aziz, were sentenced to 10 years in prison. The remaining 10 were acquitted, including Hussein's two half brothers, Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan and Sabbawi Ibrahim al-Hassan. The Feyli Kurd minority comes mainly from an area in northeastern Iraq that straddles the Iraq-Iran border. Saddam Hussein's regime killed, detained and deported tens of thousands of Feylis early in his 1980-1988 war with Iran, denouncing them as alien Persians and spies for the Iranians.[12] In August 2011, The Iraqi Court of Justice, Iraqi Council of Representative, and the Iraq’s Parliament officially recognised the killings of Feyli as genocide.[13]

2011 Feyli Conference in Baghdad

On Saturday the first of October 2011, the National Conference for Feyli Kurds held a conference in the Iraqi capital Baghdad which was attended by the Iraqi Prime Minister [14]

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 Feylis and Bidoons. This figure is gradually decreasing with increasing numbers of Feylis 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 IDs and other legal documents.[15]

See also


  1. ^ "Feili Kurds in Iran seek way out of identity impasse". 28 May 2008. Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  2. ^ "Ērān, Ērānšahr". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  3. ^ "Kurdish, Southern". Ethnologue. Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  4. ^ BBC NEWS | Middle East | Crushing Iraq's human mosaic
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Parthia
  8. ^ Anonymous (2014 (acc. March 16, 2014)). "Field Listing :: Refugees and internally displaced persons.". Central Intelligence Agency (US). 
  9. ^ Anonymous (October 1, 1996 (acc. March 18, 2014)). "Iraq: Information on the Kurdish Feyli (Faily/Falli) families, including their main area of residence and their relationship with other Kurdish groups and the Iraqi regime.". Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 
  10. ^ Hiltermann, J. (2007). A new sectarian threat in the Middle East?. International Review of the Red Cross, 89(868), 795-808.
  11. ^ Anonymous (Nov 2010 (acc. March 02, 2014)). "Tariq Aziz given additional 10-year jail term for persecution of Shia Kurds.". 
  12. ^ a b Yahoo! News | Iraq court gives Tariq Aziz new 10 year sentence
  13. ^
  14. ^ Aswat al-Iraq | Over 22,000 Iraq’s Faili Kurds deported by former regime, Maliki says
  15. ^ Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit | UNHCR Iraq Fact Sheet June, 2012
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