The Multiethnic State of Iran

Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Iran…,” by Razib, Gene Expression, 16 July 2006,

My friends over at Coming Anarchy have fun with ethnogeography, even involved featuring ethnic maps of China, Thailand, Turkestan (twice!). Certainly it’s time for one one Iran, especially with interesting facts like this:

Iran’s diverse population should be fertile ground for a covert operation. Iran is only 51 percent Persian. Azerbaijanis and Kurds comprise nearly 35 percent of the population. Seventy percent are under 30, and the jobless rate hovers near 20 percent.

The current Supreme Leader of Iran is an ethnic Azeri. Azeris are prominent in the military and in business. They are likely overrepresented in the clerical caste. The original capital of the Safavids, the dynasty which created the modern Shia identity of Iran 500 years ago, was in Tabriz, in the heart of Azeri country. The rulers of Iran up until the 20th century were usually Turkic, and could be argued to have been Azeri. I will admit I don’t know much about the details right now, but when I see blatantly implausible contentions being thrown out there, I smell something rotten….

The concept of a multiethnic Iran is important, because Iran’s Shia friends find themselves in Multiethnic Lebanon.

In a comment on the ensuring discussion, blogger Razib writes

1) there is a small azeri nation next door, which is poorer than they are (3 times as many azeris live in iran as in the nation-state with that name).

2) the azeris dominate the military, the current de facto head of state is an azeri ethnically, as is the head of the revolutionary guards.

3) historically azeris and their affinal turks dominated the temporal posts in the state, and it can be argued that they founded the modern nation of iran bounded with its current geography united by a shia religion.

Read the whole thing.

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