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Saturday, 28 September 2013 13:07

Iranian ethnic groups

There are many ethnic groups living in various parts of Iran.

The historical background and anthropological origin of these groups have been the subject of numerous studies, but researchers are not unanimous about several related questions, IranChamber reported.

The most important of these groups with their distinct history, culture, customs, and language are the Turks, Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs, Turkmen and Lors.

What distinguishes these Iranian ethnic groups is the fact that they have never had any conflict in their long history and are known to have lived peacefully as citizens of one nation.

There are also a number of ethnic minorities, but they have not been given much anthropological attention because of their small population and their extensive interaction with other Iranians.

The following is a general outline of the most populous ethnic and national groups:



There are two streams of thoughts concerning the origin of Iranian Turks.

The first maintains that they are the descendants of Turks who either migrated to Iran in the 7th and 11th centuries or invaded parts of Iran at various times.

The second holds that they are original inhabitants of Iran on whom the invaders have imposed their languages throughout centuries of occupation.

Iranian Turks live mainly in the northwest of Iran in East and West Azarbaijan, the Zanjan province up to Qazvin, in Hamedan, Qom and the Khorasan provinces. In fact, they are scattered throughout Iran.



The exact origin of the Kurds has not been yet been researched, even though they have an ancient history. The Kurds reside mainly in Kurdestan province.

It is a large territory extending up to the mountainous region of southeast Turkey, northeast Iraq, northwest Iran and parts of Russia, as well as Syria.

Up until 1914, the Kurds and Kurdestan were divided among Iran, Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

Under a treaty concluded between the Soviet Union and Turkey in 1921, the Kurdish-inhabited region of the Caucasus was annexed to the Ottoman Empire.

Subsequently, a part of Kurdestan was placed under Iraqi and Syrian rule when the Mosul region was annexed to Iraq.



The Baluchis reside mainly in Baluchistan, which is a dry region in the southeastern part of the Iranian plateau.

It extends from the Kerman desert to the rest of Bam and Beshagard mountains, and to the western borderline of the Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan.

Baluchistan is divided between Iran and Pakistan. Iran and Pakistan had a dispute concerning the border dividing the two parts of Baluchistan, which was resolved by an agreement in 1959.

Historically, the Baluchis moved to Makran from Kerman to flee an expedition of the Seljuk in the 11th century.

At the time, the Baluchis were nomads. They never had a centralized government and lived under a tribal system. A few tribes in the Sistan area are regarded as Baluch, but they speak Sistani.



Lor is the title of a group of Iranians living in the mountainous areas of the southwest, mainly in Lorestan province. On the basis of historical evidence, the Lor appear to be of the same ethnic origin as the Kurds.

The Lori language is affixed to the old Iranian language, which suggests the length of time that the Lor have lived in Iran. It is close to Kurdish, but is an independent language in its own right.



The Turkmen are an ethnic minority who speak the Turkish language with the Oghoz accent.

The same dialect is spoken in the Republic of Turkmenistan. They live in the Turkoman Sahra and in Gorgan Plain.

The area is a fertile plain near the Iranian border with the Republic of Turkmenistan. It extends from Atrak River in the north, to the Caspian Sea in the west, Qouchan mountains to the east and Gorgan River to the south.

Iranian Turkmen have been living in Iran since 550 AD, but they first began forming tribes from 750 AD onwards. They are the descendants of Central Asian Turks, who retained their ethnic identity during the Mongol invasion.

They were divided among Iran, Russia and Afghanistan in 1885. Not all the nine Turkmens tribes live in Iran.



Some historians maintain that the first Arab tribes migrated to Khuzestan, a section in southwest Iran where they now live, in the early centuries, probably moving in from the Arabian Peninsula.

Arab tribes are scattered in areas between the Arvandroud and the Persian Gulf in the south and Shoush in the north.

Their territory is located to the west of Bakhtiyari territory and some of them even mingle with the Bakhtiari tribe.

The most important of the Arab tribes in Iran is the Bani-Ka’b, which is also the largest. Its numerous clans inhabit Minou Island, Khorramshahr, Shadegan on both sides of Karoun River, up to and around Ahvaz.

The House of Kassir people are inhabitants of Ahvaz, west and south of Dezful River and between the Dezful and Shushtar rivers.

The Arabs have retained their Arabic language and many of their old customs, but they have lost some of their ethnological characteristics.

Information on the size of Arab population in Iran is not available. One reason for this is the extensive migration of the people from Khuzestan to other parts of Iran following the Iraqi invasion in 1980.



The Bakhtiyari tribe is composed of the clans living in the mountainous regions of Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari, Fars, Khuzestan and Lorestan provinces.

The tribe is divided into two separate branches: Haft Lang and Chahar Lang. The former consists of 55 and the latter of 24 clans.

The Arab and Lor clans mix together in the Bakhtiari tribe that is also known as the Great Lor.

Scholars have differing opinions on its origin. However, the opinion mostly extensively documented maintains that Bakhtiaris are of Kurdish origin.

The Bakhtiari overlords were influential in political developments during the era of the Safavids and Nader Shah.

Some of their leaders helped constitutional revolutionaries conquer Tehran during what is known as Minor Despotism.

That was when Qajar King Mohammad Ali Shah suspended the parliament and the constitution in 1907.

Photo: Baluchi ethnic group

Source: Iran Daily

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