Religion in Iran


In 2018, according to thesciencetutor, Iran had an average population density of 51 residents per km2, but the geographical distribution is very uneven. The largest population concentrations are found in the northwest, while the population density is less than 10 residents per km2 in the southeastern parts. The country had a rapidly growing population until the 1990s, but then population growth has declined.

Iran has been a major refugee for a long time, and it is estimated that just under 1 million refugees are in the country, mainly refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan. While the country has received refugees, a large number of young highly educated have left the country. In 2019, 74 percent of the population lived in urban areas, and the largest cities are Tehran (8.7 million residents, 2017), Meshed (3 million) and Esfahan (2 million).

According to Countryaah data, Iran’s population is made up of a number of ethnic groups, which contributes to a wide range of cultural and linguistic diversity. The largest ethnic group is the Iranians (Persians). They are found in all parts of the country. About half of them feed as rural farmers, while the rest are urbanized. The latter disintegrate into a series of more or less distinct professional groups, of which the major landowners make up the economic and political elite. However, after the 1979 Islamic revolution, the clergy gradually took over the political leadership. The merchants (bazari) form a socially strongly cohesive group in Iranian society. The urban middle class consists of civil servants, entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers, etc., while industrial workers, construction workers and others. constitutes an urban proletariat.

Among the Turkish-speaking groups, there is first and foremost Azeri (Azerbaijani) in the northwestern part of the country (the number may be between 7 and 20 million). They are successful farmers and landowners. Other Turkish-speaking peoples include agricultural and livestock-feeding Turkmen (2 million) in the northeast, cadavers (25,000) in northern Iran, Afshar (300,000) west of Lake Urmia, carapaches (20,000) at the border with Turkey, chaladars (17,000) southeast of Tehran and the livestock-loving tribes of the qashqais (660,000-1 million) in the southwest and shahsevan (310,000) in the Azarbaijan province in the northwest. Most of the latter are now settled farmers.

People in Iran

Other livestock nomadic people are the Persian-speaking Bakhtiyars (1 million) and the lures (900,000) in the Zagros Mountains, as well as khamseh (26,000) in the province of Fars. The Kurds (6.5 million) are found along the border with Turkey and northern Iraq, where they feed on agriculture and livestock management. The Baluchas (1.5 million) are farmers and livestock farmers in the country’s southeast. Along the southern border with Iraq, 2 million Arabs live, and among the minorities in urban areas, there are 200,000 Christian Armenians.

Other Christian groups are Chaldeans and Nestorians, which as a result of emigration are rapidly decreasing in number. This also applies to the small remaining Jewish group, which covers a maximum of a few thousand people (most of them are in the US and Israel today). In addition, there are small contingents of mandates (10,000) as well as a number of wandering small ethnic groups, often specialized as craftsmen, among others. domari, ghurbat, kowlo, lori and karachi. In the country’s border areas there are also hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan.


The official language is Persian (Nypersian), which belongs to the Iranian languages. As a native language, this language (including dialects) is spoken by about 50% of the population, while it is used by almost the entire population for communication outside their own language group. A large number of other Iranian languages, especially Kurdish (about 13%) and Baluchi (about 4%), and dialects, e.g. gilaki, spoken in the country. Other Indo-European languages ​​are labeled Armenian. Furthermore, several Turkic languages and dialects are spoken, especially Azerbaijani and Turkmen. Of Semitic languages, Arabic and the New Aramaic languages are spoken Urmic (“Assyrian”) and Native American.


The vast majority of Iranians are Muslims, mainly belonging to the Shi’ite sect, since 1503 the country’s official religion. With the 1979 revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the Iranian state’s official connection to this form of Shiite Islam, which forms the basis of all legal practice in the country (Jafaritic law), was strengthened. The task of a special expert council is to ensure that no political decisions and laws are contrary to Islam. Kurds and Arabs in Iran are mostly Sunnis. At the Islamic New Year (Muharram), passion games are celebrated with bloody hostage (abrogated during the time of the Shah) in commemoration of the tragedy at Karbala 680 (see Ashura), when the third Imam Husayn was killed. The memory of this event permeates life in Iran. During the war with Iraq during the 1980s, notions of martyrdom played an important role.

The Christian communities are the largest minority, of which the Orthodox Armenians make up the majority; The approximately 200,000 Armenians who live in Iran are mainly resident in major cities such as Esfahan, Tabriz and Tehran. The approximately 30,000 Assyrians, who live in Tehran, Kermanshah and Ahvaz as well as in the border regions of Turkey, belong to the Eastern Assyrian church (the Nestorians). The Zoroastrians, often called gabr, preserve the traditions of ancient Zoroastrianism, which was state religion before Islam. Most are in the province and the city of Yazd, but also in Kerman and Tehran. Different sources differ in the number of Zoroastrians. The data range from about 10,000 to 30,000.

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The freedom of religion, which in principle prevailed during the time of the monarchy, ended the Islamic revolution. Although Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians in the 1979 constitution are counted as official minorities, the revolutionary spirit has disadvantaged the country’s non-Muslim population. Especially the Baha’is have been subjected to persecution, since they are counted as apostates; many have emigrated. Similarly, the Jewish population (before 1979 a significant minority) has been greatly reduced through emigration. Several thousand Mandans have been living on the Karun River in the province of Khuzestan, one of the hardest hit areas during the 1980s war between Iran and Iraq. No information on the small group of Kurdish Yazidis is known.

Iran Religion