I found Mr. Bahmanbegui at the impressive new tribal high school he has established in Shiraz, where more than 800 resident students from the Qashqai and other tribes study aca¬demic and vocational subjects. During a brief inspection of the school Mr. Bahmanbegui explained Iran’s goal of educating, and even¬tually settling, its two million nomads.
“Among non-nomadic Iranians,” he began, “the Shah has established an excellent system of conventional schools and a farsighted pro¬gram known as the Literacy Corps—a volun¬teer army of young men and women who live and teach in remote settlements. A major part of our new oil revenue is going into a massive effort to wipe out our 60 percent illiteracy rate.
“For our nomadic people,” he continued, “we have developed tent schools, each with a young teacher assigned to accompany a group of families wherever the season takes them. We call the schools ‘white tents,’ for their can¬vas covering, as distinct from the traditional black goat-hair tents of the nomads.”
Once a child graduates from the white tent, Mr. Bahmanbegui explained, he may go to the high school at Shiraz. There he prepares for university, learns a vocational skill, or trains to become a teacher among his own people.
“Except for the teachers,” Mr. Bahman¬begui said, “I tell our students, ‘Don’t go back to your people, look back at them as you make your way in life. The real power to help them lies not in the black tents but where the money and decisions are made—in government, in¬dustry, the professions. Aim there, and in time your people will have a better life.’ ”
Next morning I followed the historic route of the Qashqai southward from Shiraz in Mr. Bahmanbegui’s Land-Rover. As we jolted along a heavily rutted desert track, he explained the tribe’s migratory patterns.
“Fewer families make the long trek than in the past,” he said. “Nowadays most Qashqai shift their herds of sheep or camels shorter distances along the route, from lowland pas¬ture to higher ground.”
During a day’s travel we passed more than a score of distant encampments, most of them featuring a single conical white shape above the dark silhouettes of living tents. Along the upper slopes of rolling hills herds of sheep and goats browsed in tight clusters like enormous black beetles inching across the land. At sun¬set we reached the remote village of Farrash¬band, winter quarters of Mr. Bahmanbegui’s friends, the well-to-do Jahangiri family.