Iran’s National Minorities”

By: Rahim Bandoui (Balochistani)

Presented on 15th June 2008

 At the “HOPI” ‘Week End School in London University


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a privilege to be here amongst you, the worldwide caring activists and organisations on important and vital issues of human rights, equal opportunities and social justice.

Special thanks to Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI),  the organisation that campaigns for peace and social justice based on democracy in Iran.

 By bringing us together, discussing our different views HOPI is playing a constructive role for understand and analysing the complicated situation of the area, in order to organize the collective valuable efforts of peace-loving organised activists.

In order to address the issue of the nationalities in Iran, I need to briefly refresh you of the general back ground, then current situation.

The Plateau of Iran’s ecologic conditions and its geopolitics in relation with its neighbours’ political and cultural give and takes has been the habitat of many ethnics who co-exist with their own dignified identities. Within thousands of years they have identifiably evolved their different language and culture while at the same time having “UNITY IN their DIVERSITY”.

It was the power of this UNITY IN DIVERSITY which created vast empires in the past history of the region.

Decentralised political structure of these empires made it possible for all the native ethnics of the plateau, to live peacefully coexisting and have their contribution towards the empires that had no interference to the self ruling areas’ life style, culture, education and languages.

In the beginning of the 20th century (1905 to 1911) while the Qajar dynasty was ruling Iran, people of Iran campaigned and succeeded a revolution known as “The Iranian Constitutional Revolution.”

The right of self governance for the multi ethnic Iran is clearly mentioned and structured as to different self governing states within Iran called “ mamaaleke Mahroosaye Iran= Protected territories of Iran”


Ladies and Gentlemen;

There exists a question that needs to be re-addressed by the experts: Although Iran is the land of naturally multi-lingo ethnic groups of people where they have lived and evolved for thousands of years, but, here in the western Medias and societies, Iran is synonym with Persia and Persia stands for Iran.

This misconception or call it deliberate misinformation has even worsened after the First World War.

With the emergence of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics = USSR, the Western powers needed to use Iran and as a barrier for reducing the influence of the Soviet Union in the Middle East. At the same time the discovery and protection of the huge oil reservoirs in the region made Iran an important strategic country.

In the mean time, Iran had started to move towards democracy after the constitutional revolution. The western powers led by the British Empire to have their interests protected in the region, wished to have a powerful, centralized but obedient, dependent and totalitarian, government in Iran.

Hence, they planned a successful military coup d’état in 1925 against the constitutional revolution and brought into power Mr. Rezaa Khaan, who became Reza Shah , abolished the new constitution and established  a new dynasty  known as Pahlavi Dynasty. This dynasty was a totalitarian dynasty run by Persian elites in close consultation with British advisers. Hence, instead of democracy, a new highly centralised and a national chauvinist dictatorship shaped to protect the interests of the western capitalists vs Eastern Socialists.

 For the first time 14 centuries after the defeat of the Sassanid dynasty by Moslem Arabs, Persian elites, with an extreme Pan Farsism ideology started ruling Iran. Since then a new era started in the plateau of Iran to shape this region’s new history.

In order to control the vast and divers nationalities in Iran, the think tank of the new chauvinist government pursued the plan of forceful assimilation of all nations into a single nation called the Nation of Iran. In order to form one great nation they had no choice but to choose a single language and a single culture for the whole country which of course was chosen to be Farsi or Persian language and culture.

The government systematically used the Iranian national media, the educational system and all other means of communications nationally and internationally, to promote just the Persian Language and the Persian Culture banning all the other languages and cultures in the country.

It was formally banned to teach writing and reading from primary to higher education as well as speaking at public places the language of other nationalities but  Persian .  No doubt that systematic economics and social discriminations were unavoidable consequence of the One Country, One Nation strategic policy. The result of the policy of forceful assimilation is the existence of the most back warded communities of the region in Iran.  According to the UNICEF’s research, Balochi children have the highest IQ in Iran, but they have the lowest number of students in the Iranian Universities and consequently falling behind in the job market competition. Obviously, not having the right of teaching Baloch children in their mother language has played a great role in this failure.

Most of the Iranian native ethnics have been kept deprived of their historical national sovereignty and human rights and dignity that consequently facing a gradual and slow motion genocide. Manipulating of the oppressed nationalities population via facilitating the migration in big numbers of different nationalities’ to different parts of Iran has been another policy of speeding up the forceful assimilation by the totalitarian and national chauvinistic regimes in Iran.

For the non-Persian nationalities the disparity in equal opportunities became even harder when the Ruling National Chauvinists in the Pahlavi regime were replaced by the religious national chauvinist and totalitarians of Khominism. Though the aim of the people’s uprising in 1970s was for the achievement of the absent democracy in Iran, but the religious forces which used the traditional facilities of religion and helped through the western media hijacked the people’s revolution and unfortunately established a theocratic and totalitarian system Instead.

It should be noted that emerging of the reactionary religious forces into power in the recent history of the Middle East, is deeply rooted to the western imperialistic cold war policies in the region. They used and nourished the Islam and the Islamic forces in parallel with national chauvinists of pan Farsism, pan Turkism and pan Arabism as a strong barrier against the ex Soviet Union’s influence in the Middle East. Khominism, Talebanism and Binladenism were the only outcome of that circumstances and the only alternatives to any political changes in the dictatorship hit region.

The reactionary political replacement, practically added another intolerable discrimination on Iranian citizens i.e. religious discrimination.

In Pahlavi’s tyrannical era all regime’s opponents falsely alleged to be the agents and collaborators of  the Soviet Union, now, all non twelver sheia religions are doubted and easily can be prosecuted under the allegation of being the agents and collaborators of the western anti Islam powers. Bahais, Jewish, Soofis, Eizadis and many others are being discriminated. Nevertheless Sonnies are Muslim and make the second religious population in Iran but constitutionally are not entitled to be nominated for  high ranking posts in the government. Sonnies even are not allowed to have a mosque in any big city where is a shia dominant area. Many old Sonnies mosques in Shia dominants cities such as Mashhad, have been demolished and the sonnies rallies in Balochistan opposing the regime’s acts has ended in blood sheds by the regime’s helicopter gunships and security forces.

Not only the names of the cities, streets, places, and famous land marks in the area of oppressed nationalities have been changed to Persian and sheia myths by the previous and the current ruling elite’ even they have formally banned Balochis and other nationalities to name their children after their national and historical symbol and heroes. They are forced to choose from a list of names given by the regime or they cannot get birth certificate and consequently deprived of education and other national services provided by the government.

To short the story of the current situation under the ruling theocratic mafias of Iran, the people of oppressed nationalities practically feel that people of Iran are favoured and classified by the ruling religious and national chauvinists as the 1st class citizens that are Persian Shias, 2nd class citizens the non Persians shias, and the 3rd class citizens  that are non Persian and non shias. If class and gender discrimination taken into account then, unfortunately Baloch and other oppressed nationalities workers and women will fall under the 4th class citizens.

Struggle for justice by the discriminated nationalities, gender discriminated women, socially and economically discriminated workers and other painstaking, and campaign for democracy by the Iranian intellectuals, especially by the young generation students of the Universities in Iran has never rested but engaged with a continuing struggle.




 Map of minorities’ regions noting the deliberate political overlapping









Map of ethnic minorities’ regions and provinces in Iran.



Basically there has never been any census on the number of Iran’s ethnic minorities. In the national census of 1986 there was a box asking people about the language spoken at home. But later, the officials changed their mind and asked people not to check that box. But it is necessary to have a census to find out the exact number of minorities in Iran.

Iranian ethno-linguistic minorities have no cultural and civil forums, no political parties are allowed to be built on their own, no state’s Radio and TV stations in their languages and even no private one too, literary and academic curricula in their languages are violently banned. Religious minorities are oppressed too. About 82% of Iranian Population is Shia, 13% is Sunni, and 5% is others (Christian, Baha’is, Zarathustra, Jews, Sufism, Yarsanism / Ahli-haq, Assyrian, Caldanian, …).









Table 1: Estimated Population and percentage of the Ethno culture / language habitants in their historical land located in the present country of Iran.







Fars= Persian

Farsi= Persian


24.8 millions


Azari Turks

Azari Turkish









Lor & Bakhtiaari

Lori/ Bakhtiaari









Maazendaraani/ Tabari

Maazendaraani/ Tabari














Khorasani Kurds

Kurmanji Kurdish















Qashqaayi Turkish





 Such as: Aarmenian, Asyrian,taati, Sangsari.




11 ethnicities

11 languages




The figures in this table are the average  from different sources which their accuracy are debatable as the current borders are not drawn according to the historically evolved natural ethno linguistic factors, but  instead politically manipulated borders ignoring or omitting the population of the overlapped regions in favour of one or another ethnic group.





                Illustration of Iranian ethnic minorities’ percentages, 2008.


                   Graph 2: The percentages (%) of Iranian minorities’ population as plotted, 2008. ­­­



30 administrative purposes created Provinces of Iran with their populations, census 2006


Dear friends

Iran as a multinational society is an undeniable reality beyond the doubts.

The fact that in the full of energy reservoirs Middle East region, dividing nations into pieces between different countries with overlapped boarders, was the continuation of the well known policy of “ divide and rule” since the presence of the British Empire in the region. They left a deliberate national boundaries mess and crises behind.

Kurds, Arabs, Baloch, Azerbaijani Turks, Turkmen, …  Despite of having their own dignified historical ancestral land, language, culture and lifestyle are making the surrounding boarders of Iran while a big population of them left another side of the borders in neighbouring countries.

Since the forceful annexation of  pieces of the most of these nationalities by the Pahlavi dynasty representing the Persian Elites’ chauvinism with  the enforcement of assimilating policies, they have always resisted with one or another way of resistance to the colonialist policies of the rulers of Iran.
The resistance has always existed in depth and comes to surface when it finds the space to breath.  The emergence of the Republics of Azerbaijan and
Kurdistan in mid 1940s by the Democrat Parties of Azerbaijan and Kurdistan and again the resistance of Kurdistan for their national rights paralleled with Arabs in Ahwaz, Baloch in Balochistan, Turkmen in South Turkmenistan during and after 1979 revolution are the vivid examples of this resistance. During the recent decade the movement for equal ethnic rights in Iran by the Azerbaijani Turks has strengthened this movement. As long as there is no national right equalities in the multinational country of Iran, the struggle by the nationalities will continue regardless of any other even radical changes. 

Now the regimes jails are full of not only workers, women, human and civil right activists but form equal ethnic right activists as well. A glance on the regime’s opposition media will clearly show daily execution and hangings in different corners of Iran belonging to the oppressed nationalities. The crisis of the oppressed nationalities is so deepening that for the first time in the theocratic regime’s life, two well known religious leaders and nationalist Balochis were hanged in the Prison of Zahedaan two months ago. There are over 1000 Balochi prisoners in Balochistan sentenced to death, usually transferred to the neighbouring provinces for execution.

The situation for Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Azari Turks is not better either.


What to do?

The struggle for “the right of self determination” and the campaign against national rights discrimination in Iran is the most prominent factor in the democratic process. The achievement of equality for all the discriminated nationalities in Iran is a challenge for all human rights and progressive political activists, if they are serious in establishing a long lasting democracy in the region! This issue needs to be addressed carefully and seriously by the progressive forces of Iran, supported by the global progressive forces too. An acceptable solution should be found to these political crises in the Middle East which is overshadowing the democratic process in the region.

Because of the past and present regimes’ policy of “nationality based discriminations”, the bridges to link the nations have to be built strong to have a firm national coexistence in the region. There is little or no bilateral trust between oppressed nations and the ruling national and religious chauvinists. Furthermore, since “the territorial integrity” is in the highest priority for the nationwide political organizations of Iran than establishment of democracy and justice for all, the trust between the oppressed nations and Iranian progressive political Organisations has greatly been deteriorated. Many of these organizations deliberately ignore and neglect national resistance forces and movements for the “right o self determination”. However the mentality of social chauvinism of those organisations who accept “the right of self determination” in theory, are practically doing nothing but ignorance. 

Dear friends especially my Iranian friends; Remember” defending “the right of self determination” for the oppressed Baloch nation was the only slogan that attracted Baloch young generation to the Iranian left and progressive organisations. Otherwise it is quite clear that the vast majority of Baloch people are poor, rural peasants with a huge unemployed population left with nothing but engaged with illegal export and import of goods on the border areas. There is no a single industry or factory in the entire Balochistan province to speak about existence of a Baloch working class! We all know that industrial factories are concentrated only in the central Iranian Persian populated big cities.

About one century of ethnic discrimination has contributed to an attitude and belief of national superiority to many of Persian elites and intellectuals. Unfortunately it seems that this long run institutionalized and systematic education of national superiority has been remarkably effective to the conscience of even the progressive and leftist forces of Iran. For many of them “the right of self determination” is nothing but a slogan against Iran’s territorial Integrity coinciding with imperialistic war against Iran. Despite of their admittance to the presence of national oppression and gross human right violation against the oppressed nationalities that no radical changes can happen successfully without their serious participation nevertheless they do not principally accept “the right of self determination” for the multinational Iran.  Having the experience of working for decades together, many of the none Persian nationalities’ activists who were members or supporters of these nation-wide Iranian political  organisations have deserted and established their own national and regional political organisations and parties. This should be a big drawback for the nation-wide progressive organizations and should make them to revise their political stances regarding the crisis of the oppressed nationalities in parallel with the class and gender struggle for social justice in Iran.

I strongly believe that Iranian nation-wide socialist and democratic forces, need to put one step back in order to be able in the near future of Iran to put two steps forward for the sake of the people of Iran’s struggle for democracy that will accelerate the class polarisation  for social justice . 

 Please take a look on the long list of just recent few years executed, killed and amputated hands and legs in resistance that amounts to hundreds of young Balochis national right activists in Iran.

The chauvinist rulers of Iran even cannot stand the civil right activists amongst oppressed nationalities keeping them in jails under inhuman conditions and sentencing them to death.

The harsh discrimination of oppressed nationalities in Iran has seriously damaged the trust and weakened the links between the workers, painstaking and hard working people in different parts of Iran. We strongly believe that ethnic based discriminations in Iran have seriously slowed down the process of economical and social evolution, class polarisation and struggle for democracy in general.

Unfortunately it is a reality that a Baloch worker, a peasant, a business man and even a university lecturere feels that for nearly a century has been and still being treated as a 3rd class citizen of Iran and needs the hurt and damaged human dignity and national sovereignty of him/her to be reinstated before joining voluntarily hands in hands for the struggle of social justice in a united multinational Iran.

Taking into account the Iranian theocratic regime’s atrocities, the regional and the international crisis, the issue of the nationality based discriminations needs immediate attention by all caring political and human rights organisations nationally and internationally.  The crisis exists and cannot be solved by exclusion and ignorance.

During the recent decade, the opposition forces of the oppressed and discriminated nationalities of Iran, have closely worked together. As a result “The Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran ” is the outcome of this successful coordination.

The CNFI includes almost all major national and regional political organizations which are striving to establish a federal, secular and a democratic common country, based on equal rights and recognition of the “right of self determination” for all nations in a united and strong federative Iran.

We strongly believe that no single party or organisation can bring democratic changes in Iran. The key issue for a successful democratic campaign is a popular united front combined of all democratic forces.

Workers Movement, Women Movement and National Minorities Movement which all equally suffer from not having observed their democratic rights are the main social movements that bring radical democratic changes in Iran. These Movements need to be coordinated in parallel to achieve the best for the people of Iran. It is the duty of the political organisations that are representing these movements to be in closer contact and coordinated.

Your support is needed especially in these days’ critical and sensitive Middle East circumstances.

With Solidarity

Rahim Bandoui (Balochistanni)

Spokesperson for the “Balochistan People’s Party ;

Member of Executive Bureau of “The Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran



1- Dr. Afrasiab Shekofteh, Cultural & Civil Society of Khorasani Kurds,


3 -