Iran country overview

The people of Iran

Geography, People, Culture, and Economic Profile

Iran information index

Ethnic groups of Iran

Iran is a culturally diverse society with generally harmonious interethnic relations. The majority ethnic and cultural group in the country consists of native Persian speakers. However, Persians, who are commonly referred to as Persians, have mixed ancestry. In addition to Persians, Iran also has significant Turkic and Arab influences, as well as the presence of Kurds, Baloch, Bakhtyārī, Lurs, and other smaller minority groups such as Armenians, Assyrians, Jews, Brahuis, and others. The Persians, Kurds, and speakers of other Indo-European languages in Iran are descendants of Aryan tribes that migrated from Central Asia to present-day Iran in the 2nd millennium BCE. Those with Turkic ancestry are descendants of tribes that arrived in the region from Central Asia starting in the 11th century CE, while the Arab minority settled primarily in the southwest of the country (in a region known as Khūzestān or Arabistan) following the Islamic conquests of the 7th century. Similar to the Persians, many of Iran’s smaller ethnic groups trace their roots in the region back to ancient times.

The Kurds, residing in the western mountains of Iran, have a diverse population that includes both urban and rural communities. They have resisted the Iranian government’s attempts to assimilate them into mainstream society and have sought regional autonomy or the establishment of an independent Kurdish state.

In the same western mountain region, there are also seminomadic Lurs, believed to be the descendants of the country’s original inhabitants. The Bakhtyārī tribes, closely related to the Lurs, live in the Zagros Mountains west of Eṣfahān. The Baloch, a smaller minority, inhabit Iranian Baluchistan, which shares a border with Pakistan.

The largest Turkic group in Iran is the Azerbaijanis, who are primarily engaged in farming and herding. They reside in the border provinces of the country’s northwestern corner. Two other Turkic ethnic groups, the Qashqāʾī and the Turkmen, are found in the Shīrāz area and Khorāsān in the northeast, respectively.

The Armenians, with their distinct ethnic heritage, are concentrated in Tehrān, Eṣfahān, and the Azerbaijan region. A community of Georgians is centered around the city of Fereydūnshahr in Eṣfahān province. In the Sīstān region to the southeast, there are a few isolated groups that speak Dravidian dialects.

Semitic groups, including Jews, Assyrians, and Arabs, make up a small percentage of the population. The Jews in Iran can trace their heritage back to the Babylonian Exile in the 6th century BCE and, like the Armenians, have maintained their ethnic, linguistic, and religious identity. Both groups tend to reside in major cities. The Assyrians are concentrated in the northwest, while the Arabs live in Khūzestān and the Persian Gulf islands.

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