Zoroastrians of Iran

Demographics of Iran

Iran's population was declared 70,049,262 in the 2006 census, with nearly one quarter of its people being 15 years of age or younger. Iran is also ethnically and linguistically diverse, with some cities, such as Tehran, bringing various ethnic groups together.

In addition, there are over 4 million Iranian citizens abroad (est.), mostly in North America, Western Europe, Turkey, the Persian Gulf countries and Australia.

Ethnic groups

According to the CIA World Factbook, Iran's ethnic groups consist of: Persians 51%, Azeris 24%, Gilakis and Mazandaranis 8%, Kurds 7%, Arabs 3%, Lurs 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%. Other sources mention different statistics, for example the Library of Congress has Persians 60%, Azeris 20%, Kurds 7%, Lurs 3%, Arabs 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmens 2%, Turkic tribal groups (e.g. Qashqai) 2%, and non-Persian, non-Turkic groups (e.g. Armenians, Assyrians, and Georgians) 2%. This source however disreagards the Gilaki, Mazandarani and Talyshi population along the Capsian sea coast.. Another estimates are: Persians 49%, Azeris 18%, Kurds 10%, Gilakis 6%, Lors 4%, Mazandaranis 4%, Baluchis 2.4%, Arabs 2.4%, Bakhtiaris 1.9%, Turkmens 1.6%, Armenians 0.6% Zaza 0.1.


The term “Persians” refers to the people speaking the Western dialect of Persian and living in the modern country of Iran as well as the descendants of the people who emigrated from the territory of modern-day Iran to neighboring countries, such as the UAE, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, and more recently, to the West (notably USA, Turkey, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada…).

Iranian Azeris

Iranian Azeris, who are mainly Shi’a Muslims, are the largest ethnic group in Iran, after the Persians [and are] believed to constitute twenty to twenty-four percent of the population. The "Azeri" (also known as "Azerbaijani") population of Iran is mainly found in the northwest provinces: East Azarbaijan, West Azarbaijan, Ardabil, Zanjan, and in some regions of Kordestan, Hamadan and Markazi. Many others live in Tehran, Karaj and other regions. Generally, Azeris in Iran have been, "a well integrated linguistic minority", according to academics such as anthropologist Patricia Higgins. In fact, until the Pahlavi period in the 20th century, "the identity of Iran was not exclusively Persian, but supra-ethnic", as much of the political leadership, starting from the 11th century, had been Turkic. The Iranian and Turkic groups were integrated until 20th century nationalism and communalism began to alter popular perception. Despite friction, Azerbaijanis in Iran came to be well represented at all levels of, "political, military, and intellectual hierarchies, as well as the religious hierarchy." In Iran the term "āzari" is used formally; however, informally, Azaris and other Turkic speaking Iranian populations are colloquially referred to as "tork" (Turks).

Iranian Kurds

The Kurds constitute approximately 7% of Iran's overall population. Kurds in Iran have resisted the Iranian government's efforts, both before and after the revolution of 1979, to assimilate them into the mainstream of national life and, along with their fellow Kurds in adjacent regions of Iraq and Turkey, has sought either regional autonomy or the outright establishment of an independent Kurdish state.

In the seventeenth century, a large number of Kurds were deported by Shah Abbas I to Khorasan in Eastern Iran and forcibly resettled in the cities of Quchan and Birjand. The Kurds of Khorasan, numbering around 700,000, still use the Kurmanji Kurdish dialect. During nineteenth and twentieth centuries, successive Iranian governments crushed Kurdish revolts led by Kurdish notables such as Shaikh Ubaidullah (against Qajars in 1880) and Simko (against Pahlavis in the 1920s).

Iranian Arabs

The CIA World Factbook estimates that approximately 3% of Iran's citizens are Arabic-speakers. A 1998 report by UNCHR reported 2 million of them live in Khuzestan Province, most of whom being Shi'a. Sunni Muslim Arabs live along the Persian Gulf coastline.There are smaller communities in Khorasan and Fars provinces. Iranian Arab communities are also found in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Iranian Turkmen

There are over 2 million Turkmen who are primarily concentrated in the provinces of Golestān and North Khorasan.

Iranian Armenians

The current Iranian-Armenian population is somewhere around 500,000. They mostly live in Tehran and Jolfa district. The Armenian-Iranians were very influential and active in the modernization of Iran during the 19th and 20th centuries. After the Iranian Revolution, many Armenians immigrated to Armenian diasporic communities in North America and western Europe. Today the Armenians are Iran's largest Christian religious minority.

Iranian Georgians

Iranian Georgians are an ethnic group living in Iran. They are Twelver Shia Moslems. The Phereidnuli Georgian dialect is still spoken in Iran.

The number of Georgians in Iran is estimated from 50,000 to over 100,000. According to Encyclopaedia Georgiana (1986) some 12,000-14,000 lived in rural Fereydan prior to 1985 but these numbers are obvious underestimations. The Georgian alphabet is also known to some in Fereydunshahr.

The Georgian language is still used by some people in Iran. The center of Georgians in Iran is Fereydunshahr, a small city, 150 km to the west of Isfahan. The western part of Isfahan province is historically called Fereydan. In this area there are 10 Georgian towns and villages around Fereydunshahr. In this region the old Georgian identity is retained the best compared to other places in Iran. In many major Iranian cities, such as Tehran, Esfahan, Karaj and Shiraz live Georgians too.

In many other places such as Najafabad, Rahmatabad, Yazdanshahr and Amir Abad (near Esfahan). In Mazandaran Province in northern Iran, there are ethnic Georgians too. They live in the town of Behshahr, and also in Behshahr county, in Farah Abad, and many other places, which are usually called Gorji Mahalle. Most of them no longer speak the Georgian language, but retain aspects of Georgian culture. Some argue that Iranian Georgians retain remnants of Christian traditions, but there is no evidence for this.

Iranian Jews

Judaism is one of the oldest religions practiced in Iran and dates back to the late biblical times. The biblical books of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, and Esther contain references to the life and experiences of Jews in Iran.

Today, the largest groups of Jews from Persia are found in Israel, which in 1993 was home to 75,000 people, including second-generation Israelis.[1] and the United States, which is home to a community of some 45,000 people, of first-generation only - especially in the Los Angeles area and Great Neck, New York.

By various estimates, 10,800 Jews remain in Iran, mostly in Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz. BBC reported Yazd is home to ten Jewish families, six of them related by marriage, however some estimate the number is much higher. Historically, Jews maintained a presence in many more Iranian cities. Iran supports by far the largest Jewish population of any Muslim country.[2]

There are also smaller communities in Western Europe, Australia, Pakistan and Canada. A number of groups of Jews of Iran have split off since ancient times. They are now recognized as separate communities, such as the Bukharan Jews and Mountain Jews. In addition, there are several thousand in Iran who are, or who are the direct descendants of, Jews who have converted to Islam and the Bahá'í Faith[3].

Iranian Kazakhs

Iranian Kazakhs live mainly in the Golestan province in northern Iran. According to ethnologue.org, however, there lived 3000 Kazakhs in Iran in 1982 in the city of Gorgan. The number of Iranian Kazakhs might have been silightly higher, because many of them returned to Kazakhstan after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, from where they had immigrated to Iran after the Bolshevik October Revolution.

Population Density & Most populous cities

The following is a list of the five most populous cities in the country.

Rank City (Province) 2007 (/2006)
1. Tehran (Tehran Province) 14,000,000 (conurbation and commuter towns included)
(7,705,036 in the actual city itself)
2. Mashad (Razavi Khorasan) 2,868,350 (this does include suburban population)
(2,410,800 in the actual city itself)
3. Isfahan (Isfahan Province) A population of around 3,430,353 including it's metroplitan and the population live witin the Isfahan conurbation
(1,583,609 in the actual city itself)
4. Tabriz (East Azarbaijan) 1,597,319 (city proper and main suburbs)
(1,378,935 in the actual city itself)
5. Karaj (Tehran Province) 1,377,450
6. Shiraz (Fars Province) 1,204,882

Iranian citizens abroad

The term "Iranian citizens abroad" or "Iranian/Persian diaspora" refers to the Iranian people born in Iran but living outside of Iran.

The Iranian diaspora is estimated at over four million people, who emigrated to North America, Europe, Turkey and Australia, mostly after the Islamic revolution in 1979. In particular, the Los Angeles area is estimated to be host to approximately 500,000 Iranians, earning the Westwood area of LA the nickname Tehrangeles, a portmanteau of Tehran and the latter two phonemes of Los Angeles. Other metropolises that have large Iranian populations include Dubai with 300,000 Iranians, London with 100,000 Iranians, Toronto, San Francisco Bay Area, Washington D.C., Stockholm, Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt. Their combined net worth is estimated to be $1.3 trillion .

Migrant Iranian workers abroad remitted less than two billion dollars home in 2006.

Note that this differs from the other Iranian peoples living in other areas of Greater Iran, who are of related ethnolinguistical family, speaking languages belonging to the Iranian languages which is a branch of Indo-European languages.

People of Iranian Ancestry

There are perhaps some 100-million people around the world who have Persian ancestry.


The Parsis are the close-knit Zoroastrian community based primarily in India but also found in Pakistan. Parsis are descended from Persian Zoroastrians who emigrated to the Indian subcontinent over 1,000 years ago. Indian census data (2001) records 69,601 Parsis in India, with a concentration in and around the city of Mumbai (previously known as Bombay). There are approximately 5,000 Parsis elsewhere on the subcontinent, with an estimated 2,500 Parsis in the city of Karachi and approximately 50 Parsi families in Sri Lanka. The number of Parsis worldwide is estimated to be fewer than 100,000 (Eliade, 1991:254).


In Pakistan and India, the term "Irani" has come to denote Iranian Zoroastrians who have immigrated to Pakistan and India within the last two centuries, as opposed to most Parsis who arrived in India over 1000 years ago. Many of them immigrated during the Qajar era, when persecution of Iranian Zoroastrians was rampant. They are culturally and linguistically closer to the Zoroastrians of Iran. Unlike the Parsis, they speak a Dari dialect, the language spoken by the Iranian Zoroastrians in Yazd and Kerman. Their last names often resemble modern Iranian names, however Irani is a common surname among them. In India they are mostly located in modern-day Mumbai while in Pakistan they are mostly located in modern-day Karachi. In both Pakistan and India, they are famous for their restaurants and tea-houses. Some, such as Ardeshir Irani, have also become very famous in cinema.

Ajam (Bahrain)

The "Ajam" are an ethnic community of Bahrain, of Iranian origin. They have traditionally been merchants living in specific quarters of Manama and Muharraq. The Iranians who adhere to both the Sunni or Shiite sect of Islam are Ajam, and they are different from the Huwala, who have Arab origins.

In addition to this, many names of ancient villages in Bahrain are of Persian origin. It is believed that these names were given during the Safavid rule of Bahrain (1501-1722). i.e. Karbabad, Salmabad, Karzakan, Duraz, Barbar, which indicates that the history of Ajams is much older.


Huwala are the descendants of Sunni Arabs, and the word is also mistakenly used to call Sunni Persians, who migrated from Iran to the Arabian peninsula. The Huwala are much different from the Sunni Persians who also have migrated from their original homeland "Iran" to Arabia, except that the two ethincity share the same Islamic Sunni faith.

Linguistic Groups

Approximately 70% of Iran's peoples speak Iranian languages. The major groups in this category include Persians, Kurds, Gilakis, Mazandaranis, Pashtuns, Lurs, and Baluchis. Turkic speakers, such as the Azeri, Turkmen, and the Qashqai peoples, comprise a substantial minority. The remainder are primarily Semitics such as Arabs and Assyrians or other Indo-Europeans such as Armenians. There are also small communities of Brahui in southeastern Iran. The Georgian language is spoken only by those Iranian Georgians that live in Fereydan and Fereydunshahr. All other communities of Iranian Georgians in Iran have already lost their language.

Religious affiliations

Most Iranians are Muslims; 90% belong to the Shi'a branch of Islam, the official state religion, and about 8% belong to the Sunni branch, which predominates in neighboring Muslim countries. 2% Non-Muslim minorities include Zoroastrians, Jews, Bahá'ís, Mandeans, Christians and Yarsan. The Bahá'í Faith, Iran's largest religious minority with a population around 300 000, is not officially recognized, and has been persecuted during its existence in Iran. Since the 1979 revolution the persecution of Bahá'ís has increased with executions, the denial of civil rights and liberties, and the denial of access to higher education and employment.

Non-Muslim minorities have been shrinking in the past few decades as they have been emigrating and leaving Iran. About 11,000 to 40,000 Jews remain in Iran today, still being the largest Jewish community in the Middle east outside Israel, but it stood at about 100,000 before the Islamic Revolution. Zoroastrian, and Christian communities are seeing similar contraction.

Today, there are about 8,000 Assyrian Christians in Iran, who belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church.



Iranian architecture

Architecture is one of the areas where Iranians have made outstanding contributions. Ancient examples can be seen in the ruins at Persepolis, while in modern times monuments such as the Tomb of Omar Khayyam are displays of the varied tradition in Iran. Various cities in Iran are historical displays of a distinctive Iranian style that can be seen in the Kharaghan twin towers of Qazvin province and the Shah Mosque found in Isfahan. Iranian architecture streams over the borders of Iran and is clearly seen throughout Central Asia as with the Bibi Khanum Mosque in Samarkand and the Minaret of Jam in western Afghanistan. Islamic architecture was founded on the base established by the Persians. Iranian techniques can also be clearly seen in the structures of the Taj Mahal at Agra and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

Iranian Cinema

The cinema of Iran is a flourishing film industry with a long history. Many popular commercial films are made in Iran, and CFEDF films have won many international film awards.

Iranian film Festivals are held annually around the globe. Along with China, Iran has been lauded as one of the best exporters of cinema in the 1990s. Some critics now rank Iran as the world's most important national cinema, artistically, with a significance that invites comparison to Italian neorealism and similar movements in past decades. World-renowned Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke and German filmmaker Werner Herzog, along with many film critics from around the world, has praised Iranian cinema as one of the world’s most important artistic cinemas.


Iranian women have played an important role throughout history. Scheherazade, though fictional, is an important figure of female wit and intelligence, while the beauty of Mumtaz Mahal inspired the building of the Taj Mahal itself. While in ancient times, aristocratic females possessed numerous rights sometimes on par with men, generally Iranian women did not attain greater parity until the 20th century. However, Tahirih, the poet, had a great influence on modern women's movements throughout the Middle East. The Tahirih Justice Center is named after her. Females were given such status in ancient Irania that they were the first to ever serve in a national military.

Iranian women today serve an active role in society. Peace activists such as Shirin Ebadi have pushed for greater rights for women, while many Iranian women exiles have set examples of excellence that have no doubt inspired many Iranian women to strive for change in the conservative society prevalent in today's Iran. Even with the current climate of religious conservativism, Iranian women still tend to take a more active role in social, religious and family affairs than their Arab or Turkish counterparts. Despite the barriers imposed by the Revolution, Iranian women can be seen working in a variety of areas such as politics, law enforcement, transportation industries, etc. Universities still tend to be dominated by women in Iran and one may find a large number of female legislators in the Iranian Majlis (parliament), even by western standards. Former Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, noted for her eloquence in dealing with western media, set a new standard for aspiring Iranian female politicians while serving under President Khatami. Outstanding Iranian female academics, such as Laleh Bakhtiar have forever left a mark in the fields they contribute to.

Other Statistics

(Source: CIA Factbook)

noun: Iranian(s) -- adjective: Iranian

Population: 65,875,223 (July 2008 est.) / 70,049,262 according to Iran's 2006 census.

Shi'a Muslim 90%, Sunni Muslim 8%, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Bahá'í (largest minority) 2%.

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 80%
male: 86%
female: 73.0% (2003 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 22.3% (male 7,548,116; female 7,164,921)
15-64 years: 72.3% (male 24,090,976; female 23,522,861)
65 years and over: 5.4% (male 1,713,533; female 1,834,816) (2008 est.)

Median age:
total: 26.4 years
male: 26.2 years
female: 26.7 years (2008 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.792% (2008 est.)

Birth rate: 16.89 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Death rate: 5.69 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Net migration rate: -3.28 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.93 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 36.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 70.86 years
male: 69.39 years
female: 72.4 years (2008 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.71 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Refugee population:
Iran hosts one of the largest refugee population in the world, with more than one million refugees, mostly from Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2006, Iranian officials have been working with the UNHCR and Afghan officials for their repatriation.


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