Iranian's People & Nations


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When visiting Iran, one of the lasting impressions on you willl be the enormous diversity of ethnic types. These are not to be found in one spot -the airport, for example -but will be seen during your tour of Iran. The majority of Iranian ethnic types are descendants of the Aryan tribes whose origins are lost in the antiquity. The Kurds, previously a fierce nomadic people, dwell in the western mountainous regions of Iran. Also inhabiting the western mountainous regions are the semi-nomadic Lurs, thought to be aboriginal Iranians. Closely related and known as the Great Lurs until the 1Sth century, are the Bakhtiari tribes who live in the Zagros Mountains, west of Iran. For several decades now these tribes have been induced to settle down and the effects of this policy are to be felt in every part of the country, particularly in the emigration trend to towns or richer provinces. Ways of life are changing. However, tribal dress, domestic tools, music, dances and handicrafts, are only some of the points of interest of the nomadic way of life for the foreigner. In addition to ethnic diversity there is a variety of religions. The uninitiated tourist may be astonished by the spirit of tolerance prevailing in this Islamic country where more than 90% of the population are practically Shiites. The non-Muslim visitor is among the first to benefit from this tolerant outlook: churches and temples belonging to the world's major religions function freely. Mosques can usually be visited except on Fridays and at certain hours of the day devoted to prayers.Only a small number of sanctuaries in the holy cities of Qum, Mash had, and Rey are out of bounds to non-Muslim visitors.


  The latter, however, are never subjected to any kind of ostracism. In the same officially-sponsored spirit of tolerance, minorities are completely free to practice their religion: around Esther's tomb at Hamadan, a Jewish colony which settled in Babylonian times still lives there in full freedom. The Zoroastrians, who represent the astonishing survival of the early Aryans' faith, still perpetuate the teachings of Ahura Mazda and of great philosopher Zoroaster. Several "Towers of Silence" are set on the peaks of mountains between Yazd and Kerman, a region unfortunately remote and difficult to reach. The Armenians, with a different ethnic heritage, have maintained their Indo- F.uronean linQ:uistic identitY. They are concentrated in Tehran, Esfahan and Azarbaijan, and are engaged primarily in commercial and technical pursuits. The Armenian Church and fortified monastery of St Thaddeus in northern Azarbaijan are not only excellent places for excursions but also a rallying-point for thousands of Christian pilgrims (in July). There are more than two hundred thousand Armenians in Iran. Their biggest community is in the Julfa district of Esfahan, which has fourteen parishes, a cathedral and an II Asian Catholic Museum". Sunday Mass at St Savior Cathedral is an unexpected event in the heart of a Muslim nation. Nearly 20% of the nation speaks Azari, a Turkish-sounding language.These are Azaris, or Iranian Turks, who form the largest minority of the country. Apart from Azaris, other ethnic groups are the Qashqais in the Shiraz area to the east of the Persian Gulf, Kurds to the south of Azarbaijan in western Iran, the Turkamans occupying much of the east of Mazandaran and north of Khorassan provinces in the northeast, Lurs and Bakhtiaris in the west, and Baluchis in the southeastern part of the country.


  Other ethnic groups such as Semites, including Jews, Assyrians, and Arabs constitute only a small percentage of the population. The Jews, like Armenians, have retained their ethnic, linguistic, and religious identity and have clustered in the largest cities. The Assyrians are concentrated in the northwest; and the Arabs live primarily in the Persian Gulf islands and Khuzestan. You will also find that the harsh, but often equally cheerful practicalities of daily life overlay the fantasies and mysteries that the Western imaghas attto the idea of Iran. On the whole, ethnic strife isn't too much of a problem in Iran, the government being a lot more tolerant of minorities than many in the region. Iran is a land of different nationalities. peoples, tribes, and religions, with a multi- millennial history. But there is one Iran. Here you won't come across two feuding brothers, rather, you will see a deep relationship between brothers and sisters.  That is why, after an eight-year heroic resistance against Iraqi aggression of Iran in 1980-88 Iran-Iraqi War, Iranians are doing their best to modernize their country, and it is with this in mind that the foreign visitor is hoped to board a plane for Tehran. The fact is that when one looks at Iran's 7,000-year old history -or its modern newspapers -one will find that such diversities have always acted as a unifying factor and created an attractive national landscape as beautiful as the Iranian carpet designs. Extraordinary changes are being carried out at an increasingly fast rate. The least well informed visitor is able to notice this for himself. Increasingly eloquent testimony of a new renaissance now supplement traditional tourist values: antique vestiges, monuments representing the great periods of artistic development and well-preserved crafts. Tourism in Iran has always centered on its towns. And the attraction of these towns is enhanced by the interest provoked by the discovery of a nation in full progress, building its own future.



 Naturally it is in the cities that the movement is most noticeable. It is reflected by a proliferation of new buildings: factories, schools, universities, government offices, hospitals, highways, hotels, etc. Open spaces are being cleared by municipalities and town planners to improve the flow of modern traffic, to facilitate access to monuments, mosques and palaces. Flowerbeds and fountains appear at crossroads, gardens and parks are open to the public. At night, bridges, squares, palaces and minarets are floodlit. Roads are being improved: boulevards, avenues, and diversion roads are being built; new street lighting is being installed and existing lighting improved. As a sign of the times, paid parking lots are now being made available in most towns. Tehran, the capital since 1795 AD, takes the lead, but all provincial towns are also participating in the movement towards modernization. Although most buildings are utilitarian, this does not exclude aesthetic research. Harmonization with the surrounding landscape (based both on outline and color), the use of traditional decorative materials (bricks, mosaics), the choice of classical architectural motifs (cupolas, pointed arches, towers, etc.) often identify these new buildings as offshoots of the great periods of Iranian art and architecture. Recent regulations impose the observance of traditional styles. The Bandar-e Abbas Museum, Cultural Heritage Organization (in Tehran), Faculty of Technology (University of Tehran), the Kerman Technical College, the Shiraz TV Building are, among hundreds of others,  illustrations of the trend. The visitor, having recognized the merits of modern Iran and admired its dynamism, is impatient to discover Iran's historical wealth, which he tried to visualize before he left for Iran: blue domes ornamented with intricate arabesques, minarets with balconies and lantern turrets which dart skyward in groups of four, five, and sometimes eight; the immense courtyards with apses at the four cardinal points; the deep and mysterious ivans with the luminous glaze of the mosaics reflecting all the blue of Paradise.

There are about one and a half million nomads in modem
Iran, extending from the border of Turkistan to the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. Most of these tribes, the Kurds, the Lurs, the Bakhtiaris, the Guilaks (on the Caspian Coast), the Baluchis, are the original invaders who, in the first millennium BC, swept down from Central Asia and settled in various parts of the Iranian Plateau. Most of the tribes of central Iran are from pure Aryan stock, while other tribes such as the Arabs of Khuzestan and Khorassan, the Turkish tribes of Quchan, the Qashqai tribes, the Shahsevan and Afshar tribes of Azarbaijan and the Turkamans are remnants of races that have passed through Iran at various periods of history. Traditionally, there has always existed a close link in Iran between the ruling dynasty and the domination of one particular tribe or ethnic group.
In the 20th century, some governments have in vain attempted to carry out national integration, or Personalization, of this heterogeneous population (particularly during the reign of Reza Shah), in the hope that tribal and cultural distinctions would disappear with the economic and political development of the country. There are many divisions and sub-divisions for each of the main tribes and tens of smaller tribes. With the expansion of education and better communications the young generation of Iranian tribes has made great progress supplying very intelligent engineers, medical men, administrators, scientists and even women doctors to serve the country. Today there are over a hundred different tribes, each with its own dialect, picturesque dress, dwelling-place and chief. The most important tribes are as follows:



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