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Bust of King Mohamed Pasha Jaff

The Jaff people (also Jahf, Jaaf, Jaf, Caf or جاف) are native to the northern and central Zagros area, which is divided between Iran and Iraq. The Jaff tribe originated in the year 1114 by Kurdish King Zaher Beg Jaff. The Jaff dialect (called Jaffi) is part of Sorani, a south-southeastern branch of Kurdish language family. The region inhabited by this tribe is southwest of Sanandaj all the way to Javanroud, and also areas around the city of Sulaimaniyah in Southern Kurdistan. Once nomadic, the Jaffs have more recently settled into a predominantly agricultural way of life and are often known as the most educated and intellectual tribe of the Kurds. They are the biggest Kurdish tribe in the Middle East.

Geographic distribution and clans[edit]

Originally Iranian Jaff (Javanrudi) had their winter quarters at Javanrud and their summer quarter near Sanandaj. Iraqi Jaff (Muradi) had their winter quarters near Kifri and their summer quarters around Penjwin.

Total population of the tribe is estimated at 3 to 5 million people in both Iraq and Iran. At present, they are settled mainly in Sulaimaniya Governorate of Iraq, especially Halabja and Kalar as well as in the Kermanshah region of Iranian Kurdistan.


The tribe is believed to have its origins in the early seventeenth century. In spite of the signing of the Treaty of Zuhab of 1639 between the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid , which defined the frontiers between the two powers, the members of the Jaf tribe continued to cross the border from side to side in search of pastures . 7 These displacements were "a constant focus of tension" in the area. 7 With an important nucleus in Halabja -the Jaf would have repopulated this city in the eighteenth century, the 9th century during which much of them left their settlements in Iran, Settled in Ottoman lands dominated by the Baban has been cited as one of the main tribal groups in this border territory.

The West began ties with the Jaff tribe during World War I, when Ely Bannister Soan established contact. After the war, the tribe opposed Sheikh Mahmud Barzanji, as well as Great Britain’s failure to grant Kurdish autonomy in Iraq.

Saddam Hussein's chemical attack on Halabje on March 16, 1988 killed at least 5,000 people and injured or sickened 7,000 more. The majority of these victims were Jaff tribe members.

Notable members[edit]

Jaff Tribal Chief, circa 1914.[1]
Sirwan al-Jaff (1988)
Leaders and politicians
  • Abdel-Qader al-Jaff, Arbil mayor 1989
  • Adela Jaff (1847–1924), called Princess of the Brave by the British; married Kurdish King Osman Pasha Jaff, was famous for her role in the region, namely in the era of Shiekh Mahmood Al-Hafeed.
  • Akram Hamid al-Jaff (1929-2010), writer, Iraqi Minister of Agriculture in 1965-1966. He resigned to protest against the atrocities committed by the Iraqi Army in Kurdistan. Ambassador of Iraq in Rome 2004-2008.
  • Jabir al-Jaff, Judge in the Kirkuk Court
  • Jalal Jaff, 1st Secretary of the Chinese Embassy 1960
  • Jawhar Namiq Salm (Jaff), Nickname; (Salim Sorani) political and military leader of the Kurdish revolution (Gulan), he was first president of the Kurdistan National Assembly in 1992, writer and philanthropist.
  • Mahmood Pasha Jaff, Kurdish King and supreme chief of the Jaff tribe, stayed in Constantinople as a 'honorary detainee' for two years in 1892-1894 in a house in Beşiktaş
  • Mahmud Pasha Jaff was born in 1845 E.C. He had been the vessel in which his father Mohamed Pasha Jaff had fulfilled his lifetime quest, which was the destruction of the Baban clan and archrival to the throne of the Jaff clan, his cousin Aziz Bey Jaff, who was a puppet to the Baban.
  • Mawlana Khalid (Khâlid-i Baghdâdî) (c. 1778–1826), a Kurdish Sufi who in the early 19th century brought the Naqshbandi Sufi order to Kurdistan.
  • Mohamed Pasha Jaff, a Kurdish King and supreme chief of the Jaff tribe, he built Sherwana Castle in 1734.
  • Mohammed Amin Al-Jaff, Ambassador to Japan 1986 and Ambassador to China 1991
  • Muhammad Beg Jaf, MP Kirkuk 1976
  • Osman Pasha Jaff, a Kurdish King, who married Adela Khanum of the old Ardalan family.
  • Salar Al-Jaff, hanged for being a convicted Persian Shah supporter
  • Sami Said Qadir Muhammad al-Jaf (born 1957), member of Iraqi National Assembly until 2003
  • Shawkat Ali Muhammad Rasheed al-Jaf (born 1964), member of Iraqi National Assembly until 2003
  • Sirwan Abdullah Jaff (born 1938 or 1940), 1986-1989 chairman of the executive council (head of government) for the autonomous region in Northern Iraq
  • Burhan Namiq Salm Jaf (born 1955), political. Ambassador of Iraq in Athens, Greece.
  • Hanna Jaff (born 1986), Deputy Secretary of Immigrants in the Institutional Revolutionary Party in Mexico, and Honorary Representative of Garmiyan in Latin America
Artists, poets, singers
  • Abdulla Goran (1904-1962), the father of modern Kurdish literature
  • El-Begi Jaf (1493–1554), poet born in Sharazor, who wrote in the Gorani dialect
  • Khanai Qobadi (ca.1700-1759), an 18th-century Jaff poet
  • Nalî (1797 or 1800-1855 or 1856), poet who contributed to making Sorani the literary language of southern Kurdistan
  • Tara Jaff (born 1958), musician specializing in harp
  • Paywand Jaff, born 1968, singer
  • ((xalifa muhammed taparashi))was a gentleman in sharazoor
Scholars and academics
  • Keffee Effendi, scholar in Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic, and Persian
  • Sardar Jaf, Natural Language Processing[2]
  • Bahrouz Al-Jaff, Molecular Microbiology[3]

Jaff rugs[edit]

The Jaff tribe is known for their rugs, woven on 3 to 4 feet (0.91 to 1.22 m)-wide looms and usually twice as long as they are wide. The colors and patterns of old rugs and bag faces are highly prized, as the quality of Jaff weaving has declined in recent decades. The photo shows the distinctive diamond lattice pattern common on Jaff rugs and bags.

Jaf Kurdish bag, Persia, mid 19th century



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  • Bruinessen, Martin van (2001). «From Adela Khanum to Leyla Zana. Women as political leaders in Kurdish history». En Shahrzad Mojab. Women of a non-state nation. The Kurds. Mazda Publishers. pp. 95–122. ISBN 9781568590936.
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