Ethnic minorities in Iran
Iran is an ethnically diverse country, and interethnic relations are generally amicable. Persians form the majority of the population. However, historically the terms "Iran" and "Persia" have referred to a confederation of all groups native to the Iranian Plateau, and the speakers of Iranian languages, whether located in Iran or not (e.g. Tajiks, Kurds, Pashtuns, etc.). Therefore, historically, the use of the term "Persian" has included all the various regional dialects and subgroups of Iran.
The main ethno-linguistic minority groups in Iran are the Azeris, Kurds, Balochs, Arabs, Turkmens, Pashtuns, Armenians, Georgians, Assyrians and Jews. The tribal groups include the Bakhtiaris, Khamseh, Lurs, Qashqai, as well as others. While many Iranians identify with a secondary ethnic, religious, linguistic, or regional background in some way, the primary identity unifying virtually all of these sub-groups is their distinctly Iranian language, and/or culture. Though many of the tribal groups have become urbanized over the decades, some continue to function as rural tribal societies. According to the CIA World Factbook and other Western. sources, ethnicity/race in Iran breaks down as follows: Persian 61%, Azeri 16%, Kurd 10%, Arab 2%, Lur 6%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%. However, these statistics are largely discredited and viewed as flawed by Iranians themselves, because the Western data ignores considerable intermarriage rates over centuries between these groups, and the fact that almost all of these groups speak Persian as well as their ethnic language, and identify with their sub-identity only secondarily Moreover, there is debate as to what the definition of a Persian is. According to Western sources, such as the CIA World Factbook, anyone in Iran who associates with a regional linguistic sub-identity is deemed an "ethnic minority", even though the individual speaks Persian as their first language, and is ethnically indistinguishable from the rest of Iranians, including Persians. Conversely, Western sources erroneously define the "Persian" "ethnicity" as basically anyone living in Iran who does not claim a secondary regional linguistic identity.
|Types of Iranian Christians ethnic and non-ethnic Christians.|
While many of these ethnic groups have their own languages, cultures, and often literature they all native to Iran and majority of Iran's ethnic groups are Iranian people. Despite their overwhelming similarities, in modern times, their differences occasionally emerge as political ambitions, largely as a result of provocation from outside powers(See section foreign involvement). Some of these groups are also religious minorities. For instance, the majority of Kurds, Baluchis and Turkmen are Sunni Muslims, while the state religion in Iran is Shi'a Islam. Some of these groups however have large Shi'a majorities and the overwhelming majority of Persians and Azeris are Shi'a.
One of the major internal policy challenges during the centuries up until now for most or all Iranian governments has been to find the appropriate and balanced approach to the difficulties and opportunities caused by this diversity, particularly as this internal diversity has often been readily utilized by foreign powers. According to Professor Richard Frye:
Thus the mosaic of peoples living in Iran today reflects the central geographical situation of the country throughout history, frequently described as a crossroads of Eurasia. Although many languages and dialects are spoken in the country, and different forms of social life, the dominant influence of the Persian language and culture has created a solidarity complex of great strength. This was revealed in the Iran-Iraq War when Arabs of Khuzestan did not join the invaders, and earlier when Azeris did not rally to their northern cousins after World War II, when Soviet forces occupied Azerbaijan. Likewise the Baluch, Turkmen, Armenians and Kurds, although with bonds to their kinsmen on the other side of borders, are conscious of the power and richness of Persian culture and willing to participate in it.