Barzani Tribe: Origins, History, Identity, Religion, and Connection to the Yazidis

The Barzani tribe is a prominent Kurdish tribe with historical and political significance in the Kurdistan region. This article explores the origins, history, identity, religion, and demographics of the Barzani tribe, as well as their connection to the Yazidi people, who have faced significant persecution in recent years.

Origins and History

Early History

The Barzani tribe is believed to have originated in the 14th or 15th century in the Kurdistan region, which spans present-day Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. The tribe takes its name from the village of Barzan, situated in the rugged mountains of northern Iraq. The Barzani people are predominantly Kurds, and they share a common language, culture, and history with other Kurdish tribes.

Political Influence and Leadership

The Barzani tribe has played a significant role in shaping the political landscape of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Barzanis have been at the forefront of the Kurdish nationalist movement, advocating for the rights and autonomy of the Kurdish people. The family has produced several influential leaders, including Mullah Mustafa Barzani, the founder of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and his sons Masoud and Idris Barzani, who have held various political and military positions.

Identity and Religion

Ethnic Identity

As Kurds, the Barzani people share a distinct ethnic identity that transcends national borders. The Kurds, including the Barzanis, have faced discrimination and marginalization in the countries where they reside, often fueling their desire for self-determination and autonomy.

Religious Identity

The Barzani tribe is primarily Sunni Muslim, adhering to the Shafi’i school of Islamic jurisprudence. They share this religious identity with the majority of Kurds in Iraq, which has played a role in shaping their political alliances and affiliations.


The Barzani tribe is concentrated in the Barzan region of northern Iraq, particularly in the governorate of Erbil. Exact population figures are difficult to determine, but the Barzanis constitute one of the largest and most influential tribes in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Connection to the Yazidis

Although the Barzani tribe is predominantly Sunni Muslim, they share a common Kurdish identity with the Yazidis, an ethno-religious group that has faced significant persecution. The Barzanis have played a crucial role in advocating for the rights of the Yazidis and other minority groups in the Kurdistan region.

Support for Yazidi Rights

The Barzani-led Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has made efforts to protect and promote the rights of the Yazidi people, particularly in the aftermath of the 2014 ISIS onslaught against the Yazidi community in Sinjar. The KRG has supported the establishment of the Sinjar District Council, which aims to represent the interests of the Yazidi people and ensure their access to basic services and resources.

Military Assistance

The Barzani-led Kurdish Peshmerga forces have played a significant role in the fight against ISIS, particularly in the defense of the Yazidi people. In August 2014, the Peshmerga, along with other Kurdish forces, engaged in a military operation to break the ISIS siege of Mount Sinjar, where thousands of Yazidis were trapped. The operation allowed many Yazidis to escape the mountain and find refuge in the Kurdistan region.

Challenges and the Future of the Barzani Tribe

As with other Kurdish tribes, the Barzanis face several challenges related to the broader political and security situation in the Middle East. The pursuit of Kurdish autonomy and self-determination remains a contentious issue that has led to conflicts with neighbouring states, particularly Turkey and Iraq.

The Barzani tribe’s influence in the Kurdistan region also faces internal challenges. Political rivalries, such as those between the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), have led to divisions within the Kurdish political landscape. These divisions have, at times, threatened the unity and stability of the Kurdistan region.

Despite these challenges, the Barzani tribe continues to play a significant role in advocating for the rights and interests of the Kurdish people, including minority groups such as the Yazidis. Their continued leadership in the political and military spheres is likely to shape the future of the Kurdistan region and the broader Kurdish cause.