The nomadic Bakhtiari people inhabit Iran’s southwestern province of Khuzestan. Until recently, the region had been fertile, which made it ideal grazing land for a people whose livelihood is dependent on their herds of sheep. Land development and a long drought have forced changes to the Bakhtiari lifestyle. As green pastures disappear, shepherd families must travel great distances between suitable grazing grounds. Those who can afford the expense rent trucks for transporting their herds but many Bakhtiari endure journeys on foot that can take as long as 20 days. This hardship, coupled with government pressure, has forced the Bakhtiari to consider abandoning their traditional lifestyle. Some have exchanged tents for fixed houses or sold off their herds and moved to cities.
The Bakhtiari community is dominated by men. Suitors are considered as marriage candidates for their daughters based on the value of their gifts. In the most conservative families, fathers forbid their daughters from attending school since they fear this would lead to a desire for independence. On the other hand, some parents who sense an impending end to their nomadic traditions want to send their sons and daughters to college so that they can grow to live better lives.
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