A “Persian” Iran?: Challenging the Aryan Myth and Persian Ethnocentrism


A “Persian” Iran?: Challenging the Aryan Myth and Persian Ethnocentrism
by ajammc

I am often confronted by the question “Are you Iranian or Persian, and what’s the difference?” and it has become something of a bonding ritual among Iranians I know to discuss the various ways in which we answer that question. For many years, I answered that there existed little difference between the two besides a political connotation, “Persian” being the adjective of choice for those who avoided any connection to the Islamic Republic. Noted Iranian comedian Maz Jobrani, similarly, points to the historically alluring and exotic sound of “Persian,” as well as its connection to [Persian] cats and rugs, in order to explain why many people prefer to use this word instead of “Iranian.”

This worked pretty well for me until the day I met a young Iranian-American of mixed Azeri-Bakhtiari Iranian heritage. While flippantly describing us jointly as “Persian,” I was pointedly informed that besides the language she spoke and a mainstream Iranian culture we shared, there was not much “Persian” about her. I had been describing myself and other Iranian-Americans I knew as Persian not merely because it was convenient, but in fact because we were Iranians of Persian ethnicity. And this was the day I found out that Iran is not, in fact, a wholly “Persian” country, contrary to popular belief and the continued insistence of many Iranians.


In fact, Persians- here defined as those whose mother tongue is Persian and identify themselves as such- make up about 49% of Iran’s population, the rest being composed of Azeris, Arabs, Balochis, Kurds, Gilanis, Mazanderanis, Loris, Qashqais, Bakhtiaris, Armenians and a whole host of other ethnic groups who collectively identify as Iranians and speak the Persian language but but whose ethnic identity is other than Persian. In addition to these ethnic and linguistic minorities, there exists a host of religious minorities- Sunni Muslims, Christians, Jews, Bahais, Zoroastrians, etc- who also fit across the ethnic mosaic described above, some identifying as Persians and others not.

On some level, I had always known Iran was not a “Persian” country. I grew up hearing jokes about “Turks”- meaning Iranians of Azeri extraction, sometimes called “Azeri Turks” because of their cultural and linguistic affinities to Turkey- and noticed that I could not always understand languages I heard spoken on Tehran streets. And yet, despite this, every journalist and every Iranian I knew insisted Iranians were Persians, in the process denying the existence of 49% of Iran’s population.


For the entire article, please visit:



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Study Avestan

by alimostofi on

The word Persian is a rooted in Greek and Latin languages. We Iranians' own language Avestan which is older than both Greek and Latin uses the word Aryo Vaeja. Iran means land of the noble people. As such the use of the word Persian is a problem of Europeans languages.

Now if you want to say you are an Iranian in our own language there is no confusion. You say that you are Irooni. If you want to say you are not a moslem you say dorood when you greet someone.

FB: astrologer.alimostofi



by robertborden54 on

I did read the article.  I didn't see any reference to any identity creation by the Pahlavis.  I think you are seeing what you want to see.  And yes I know ethnicity is a construct we all read the same stuff in school.  In fact that was the point I was making.  The blood reference means we're all mixed up genetically.  Other things determine what we think of ourselves.  So please do read stuff before making irrelevant comments.  Anyhooo, is seyyed a construct as well or is blood involved?


Silly Article ...

by GojehSabz (not verified) on

"The piece dives into the history of identity creation under the Pahlavi regime." Author of this Blog.

Sorry, but the Pahlavi regime did not create the Aryan character of Iran -- The Aryan linguistic groups did which include most of the subdivisions of the Iranian groups you've listed in your silly article.  

The Indo-Aryan languages (within the context of Indo-European studies also Indic[1]) constitutes a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family. Indo-Aryan speakers form about one half (approx 1.5 billion) of all Indo-European speakers (approx 3 billion), also Indo-Aryan has more than half of all recognized Indo-European languages, according to Ethnologue. 

Look dude: you can buy books on it instead of pretending to be a scholar on some blog: //www.amazon.com/Indo-Aryan-Languages-Cambridge-Language-Surveys/dp/0521299446

 "The Indo-Aryan Languages (Cambridge Language Surveys) by Colin P. Masica"




Read the full article

by Seyyedreza on

Maybe if you read the whole artticle you would realize the topic is much more in depth than you are suggesting. The piece dives into the history of identity creation under the Pahlavi regime.

Dunno what point you're making about Kurds or "blood," ethnicity is a construct to begin with and has nothing to do with blood, it has to do with identity, history, and culture. Also, this has nothing to do with the word "Persian" as a term for Iran.

 Read things before you make irrelevant comments... 


Petition For Persian Gulf Name Change

by karoon1 on



by robertborden54 on

Yet another person who suddenly figures out Iran is made up of different ethnicities.  I can't figre out what the persian ethnicity is since many whose mother tongue is persian may in fact come from Kurdis, Turkic, Arab ancestry.  As has been said a billion times Persia is merely the old Western (i.e. Greek) name for Iran.  Some in the Iranian diaspora adopted it after the Islamic revolution to distance themselves from what was going on in Iran (and also sound more exotic).  This was clever since it took advantage of the ignorance of the US population about history and geography.  So when we say I am persian we are using the western name for Iran.  Just as we call Greece Yoonan, even though Greeks are not just Ionians, or the Netherlands Holland, even though Holland is only part of the country, persia is an acceptable but inaccurate name for Iran.   What your friend meant was merely that persian was not her mother tongue.  I'm pretty sure she can't be sure she has no persian blood same as you can't be sure you don't have any Arab or Kurdish blood.  Finally, the Aryan thing has nothing to do with persian since Kurds consider themselves Aryan as well.