Censuses of Pastoral Nomads and Some General Remarks about the Census of Nomadic Tribes of Iran in 1998

Article excerpt


Les statistiques sur les societes de pasteurs nomades d'Iran ont toujours ete problematiques, non seulement parce que ces societes etaient difficiles d'acces, mais aussi parce que les chiffres annonces representaient un enjeu politique. Avec leur sedentarisation, il est devenu indispensable de chiffrer avec precision les tribus par leurs lieux de transhumance. C'est ainsi qu'en 1987 un premier recensement a ete effectue: 96 tribus, 547 clans et 180 223 families, soit 1 152 099 hommes et femmes. Un second recensement a eu lieu en 1998.

L'auteur met en evidence les ambiguites et les problemes qui entourent la parution de ces premieres donnees solides sur les societes nomades pastorales.


A great uncertainty exists about the accuracy of statistics, particularly those concerning nomadic tribes who are difficult to reach by census-takers. But the increasing need for attention to be paid to these communities, specially after the Revolution, has necessitated the collection of accurate statistics about them. Therefore, the first stage of a plan for an independent census of nomadic tribes was implemented in 1985, and their first public census was conducted in 1987: a second public census on nomadic tribes was repeated in 1998, after an interval of eleven years. The present article tries to briefly review the data of these two censuses, while pointing to some of the shortcomings of the second stage of the nomadic tribes' census.

Public Censuses and Nomadic Tribes

Although the first public census conducted for housing and population in 1956 did not distinguish between tribal, rural and urban populations, about 224,000 persons (i.e., 1.2 per cent of the entire population) were registered as nomads. The National Commission of UNESCO registered the population of Iran at 21 million in 1963, of whom two million (9.5 per cent) were nomads and potential nomads.

According to the second public census on housing and population conducted in 1966, the population of the country was 25,789,000, of whom 709,000 (2.7 per cent) were mobile individuals who were members of tribes. The public census of 1976 put the entire population at 33,709,000 and the mobile and nomadic population at 348,000, which is about one per cent of the total population. Some researchers estimated the tribal community at about 4.8 million, i.e., 14.2 per cent of the total population, and the nomadic and potential nomadic tribes at 2.4 million, that is, 7.1 per cent of the total population of the country in the same year (Moussavi-Nejad 1990: 35).

Ad Hoc Censuses on Nomadic Tribes

Despite their shortcomings, public censuses act as a full-scale mirror of society. Due to the huge size of the statistical community covered by the censuses, overestimations have always been inevitable; so are underestimations, and thus in some cases, they have neutralised each other. The extension and comprehensiveness of public censuses made the possibility of interference by some individuals with intentions of giving an unrealistic direction to the process irrelevant. The care, with which the censuses were conducted and the trustworthiness of the Iran Statistics Centre have lent the results a general credibility, and the results of their application have proved the accuracy and reliability of their method of execution.

Public censuses for housing and population were conducted regularly at five ten-year intervals between 1956 to 1996, and although nomadic tribes have been one of the tripartite communities in the country, they have not been recognised directly. Only part of the nomadic population has been included in the census under the heading 'unsettled population' which includes pastoral tribes, gypsies and other spatially mobile groups. Figures were often given for nomadic tribes, but they never represented their proportion in the country, since these statistics were not comprehensive nor was the way in which the consensus was conducted adapted to the annual nomadic cycle. …


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