Read this Paragraph on Iran

Iran is a multilin­gual and culturally diverse society in which less than one-half (45.6 percent) of its 61.2 million people speak Farsi (Per­sian) of the Indo-European family.

Farsi speakers are the descendants of the Aryan tribes who probably moved from Central Asia as early as the first or second millen­nium B.C.


Besides the Persian people, other groups such as the Kurds, Luris, Gilakis, Mazandaranis, Baluchis, and Bakhtiaris form substantial minorities.

Their languages also belong to the Indo- European family. The Kurdish speakers account for about 9 percent of Iran’s popu­lation. They are a fiercely independent and nomadic people inhabiting the Kurdistan Mountains along the western borders of Iran, and the adjacent region in Iraq and Turkey. The Iranian government has tried to bring them into the mainstream of na­tional life, but has had little success.

The Semi-nomadic Lurs and other groups such as the Bakhtiaris live in the Zagros Mountains. These groups speak a language distinct from, but related to, Farsi. The Baluchis, a small minority (about 2 percent of the population) inhabit the southeastern region of the country that borders on Pakistan. A very small minor­ity of the Armenians numbering half a million have also maintained their Indo- European identity, and are concentrated in major cities, and are engaged in commer­cial activities.

About one-fifth of Iran’s population speaks Turkic languages, the largest of which, Azerbaijani, is spoken by 17 per­cent of the country’s population, and Turkmen, occupying the two border re­gions in the northwest and northeast corners of the country respectively.


A few scattered remnants of Brahui-speakers (re­lated to the Dravidian tongues of Southern India) are found in the Sistan region to the southeast. The Arabs form the largest group, over 1.4 million, in the Semitic fam­ily occupying primarily the Persian Gulf islands and the Khuzistan area close to the Iraqi border. The Arab demand for auton­omy was among the factors that led to the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. The Jews have retained their linguistic and religious iden­tity and are clustered mostly in the large cities.

Most of the ethnic groups are con­centrated in certain regions, the Persians in the Elburz, much of the Zagros, and the peripheral areas of the central plateaus; the Turkish groups in the northwest; the Ar­abs in the southwest; and the Baluchis in the southeast. In practically every instance, however, these groups overlap. There are substantial numbers of each group living in the major areas of the others.

Although Iran is predominantly an Is­lamic nation, it is not free from divisive religious forces. The majority of the popu­lation (93.5 percent) professes the Shiite branch of Islam (it is also the state relig­ion), while Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen belong to the Sunni tradition. Other relig­ious minorities include Christians, Jews, and Parsis (Zoroastrians).

The Parsis are largely concentrated in Yadz in central Iran, Kerman to the southeast, and Te­hran. However, the preponderance of the Shia sect and the strong official backing ac­corded it has done much to subdue the ethnic differences. Since the Islamic revolu­tion in 1979 and change in the administration, much of the religious tol­eration practiced under the monarchy suddenly came to an end.

While Chris­tians, Jews, and Zoroastrians are recognized in the constitution of 1979 as official minorities, the revolutionary at­mosphere in the country is not particularly conducive to equal treatment of non-Muslims. Most of the Jews, who formed a significant minority in the cities, have left. Under such circumstances, a strong, cohesive national identity covering all ethnic groups has yet to develop in the country.

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