Lady Adela Jaff, also known as Adela Khanem, was a prominent Kurdish ruler of the Jaff tribe and one of the earliest well-known female leaders in Kurdistan's history. Born around 1847 into the aristocratic Sahibqeran family in Sanandaj, the second-largest city in Iranian Kurdistan, she married Kurdish King Osman Pasha Jaff and ruled in his absence from the headquarters in Halabja.
Lady Adela exerted significant influence over the affairs of the Jaff tribe in the Sharazor plain. During World War I, when the British invaded German Ottoman Iraq and sought to establish Kurdish autonomy, Lady Adela played a crucial role. She defended British captives, providing them refuge and support, which earned her the title "Khan-Bahadur" and the nickname "Princess of the Brave" from Major Fraser. This support continued even beyond the death of her husband in 1909.
The Jaff tribe, known for its Jaffi dialect as part of the Sorani branch of the Kurdish language family, originally led a nomadic lifestyle but transitioned to agriculture. They were considered one of the most educated and intellectual tribes among the Kurds.
British politician and writer Gertrude Bell described Lady Adela in a letter in 1921, emphasizing her role as a powerful and intriguing leader. Major Soane, in his book "To Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in Disguise," hailed Lady Adela as a unique woman in Islam, highlighting her effectiveness in wielding power and transforming a part of the Turkish Empire under her rule.
Lady Adela Jaff's historical significance lies in her leadership of the Jaff tribe during a pivotal period, her alliance with the British during World War I, and her role in the socio-political transformation of the region she governed.