Iranian Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Iran is a country made up of many different people. This includes Persians, Azeris, Kurds, Lur, Baloch, Arabs, and Turkmen. Find out a little bit about all of these different ethnic groups.

A Little Bit About Iran

Iran is a country located in the Middle East. It was known as Persia until 1935, and after the overthrow of its monarchy became an Islamic republic in 1979. In the West, Iran is largely known for its dogged pursuit of a nuclear weapons program, its likely sponsorship of terrorism, and for being placed under the thumb of Western sanctions. What's less known to Westerners is the fact that Iran isn't composed of Iranians per se. Iran is a complex country composed of many different types of ethnic groups.

In this lesson, we are going to go over and discuss the many different ethnic groups that comprise Iran's population.

The Persians, Azeris, and Kurds

The majority of Iranians are of Persian ethnicity. Even within this ethnic group, the Persians have a diverse ancestry, but all of them have one thing in common: their language. Persians speak Persian, also called Farsi, an Iranian offshoot of the Indo-Iranian language family. Farsi is the official language of Iran. Nowadays, most Persians practice Shiite Islam, although in the past most were adherents of Zoroastrianism. Today, Persians in Iran comprise everyone from successful entrepreneurs to clergymen to white collar workers to laborers to the unemployed. Many Persian craftsmen pride themselves on their world famous handwoven carpets.

Another ethnicity found in Iran are the Iranian Azeris, also known as the Iranian Azerbaijanis. These are Iranians who have Azerbaijani ethnicity. They are a Turkic people, which are people whose members speak a language that belongs to the Turkic subfamily of the Altaic languages. Azerbaijanis speak Azerbaijani. Most of them are Shiite Muslims. A lot of Azeris are sedentary farmers and herders.

Within Iran are also found the Kurds, an ethnic group that speaks the Kurdish language, one that is related to Persian. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims. Throughout their history, the Kurds have been known to be valiant warriors and, traditionally, lived a nomadic lifestyle herding sheep and goats. Although the Kurdish people have a longstanding history in a particular geographic region involving Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, a place sometimes called Kurdistan, they do not have any country of their own and have been oppressed by many nations they have had to call home. The Kurds are also well-known for granting lots of equal opportunity to women, something that distinguishes them from many other ethnicities found in the region.

The Lur, Baloch, Arabs, & Turkmen

Iran also includes the Lur people, who are Shiite Muslims that speak Luri and Laki. Luri is closely related to Persian while Laki is more closely related to Kurdish. The Luri people are traditionally nomads. But more recently in their history, they have developed an agricultural lifestyle. Nevertheless, a large proportion of Lurs are shepherds to this day and may travel for 6-8 months out of the year as nomads. Other Lur live as sedentary peasants.

Within Iran, you can also find the Baloch, which are a group of Muslim people who speak the Balochi language. The Baloch are traditionally a nomadic people. Their villages are made up of mud or stone huts. They raise everything from camels to cattle to sheep to goats. Like the Persians, they are known for making carpets. They are located in a part of Iran known to have very difficult living conditions. For most of the year there is horrendous heat and for the rest of the year there is heavy rainfall that causes a lot of flood and erosion.

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