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Both, and neither

Reader comment on item: Did the CIA Fiddle With Population Statistics about Iran?
in response to reader comment: I have an answer that the CIA can use

Submitted by Michael S (United States), Jan 9, 2015 at 06:40

Hi, Daniel

Yes, you have pointed out what seem to be major discrepancies. Let me reiterate them here:

1. The Persian population is shown by the CIA to have suddenly jumped from 50 to 60%

2. The Azeris seem to have fallen by 8% of the population, and

3. The Gilakis and Mazandaranis seem to have vanished.

Before I get into too much detail on this, let me plainly state something that I only implied in the previous post: The CIA is our foremost "Intelligence" agency, and we therefore think they must be "intelligent". They're really just a little better than so-so, in a world where the Arabs believe the Blood Libel, 80% of Europeans think Israel is the greatest threat to world peace, the majority of Americans can't find Israel on the map, and many US high school graduates think the Middle East is somewhere between Kansas and West Virginia. I take ALL their figures with a grain of salt.

Moving on from there, notice that I mentioned how difficult it is even to define ethnic groups in the US. I'm about 6% Jewish, 7% Native American, 12% Scotch-Irish, bits of Norwegian, German, Huguenot, probably more English (Yankee) than anything else, a big bunch of Dutch and Plattdeutsch, about a quarter Slovenian, part Croatian, Austrian... that's about it. My wife's a bit of a mix herself, and my son-in-law is Chinese. I explained to my granddaughter, that we're like an oatmeal-and raisin cookie: not just flour or sugar, which would be sort of yucky, but this yummy mix. She really liked that explanation, but I think the CIA fact-finders would have a hard time with the likes of my granddaughter and me.

I got some emails a few years back from a newly-found relative in Slovenia -- someone from my presumed Jewish line, whose grandfather was murdered in Auschwitz as a non-Jew (triangular badge). Her grandfather was Catholic, all misched in with Slovenian, etc.; and her father's side were Croatians from opposing sides during the war. So even in Europe, folks are all mixed together.

I would guess that many Azeris, and even more Gilakis and Mazandaranis, have become Persianized, just as I and my ancestors have become Anglicized. Couple this, with a general lack of good numbers in Iran, and I'm not surprised to see 10% lurches.

The general direction of the changes that you mentioned seem to be in the right direction. Just look at the Germans, by comparison. When my Hamburg ancestor joined the Dutch Army and came to America in the mid-1600s, he natively spoke a language that was closer to Dutch than German; and he probably couldn't even understand what we call "German". Nowadays, in fact, I believe there are more Plattdeutsch speakers (the language that used to be spoken in Hamburg) in places like Illinois, than there are in Germany. People all over the world are QUICKLY becoming assimilated into the dominant culture in their countries. As an American Jew, you are probably acutely aware of this.

Here's a good example. I read recently, about an Israeli who addressed a meeting of Moroccans in fluent Arabic. He was told to speak French: because some of the Moroccans, especially the Tamazight, speak Arabic poorly, many "Arabic" speakers cannot understand standard Arabic (they speak a dialect), and many educated Moroccans speak French as their first language. Some Moroccans also speak Spanish; but the overwhelming sentiment of the Moroccan comments were that English should have been used instead of French, because more of the young people understood it. The CIA Factbook lists Morocco as:

Ethnic groups:
Arab-Berber 99%, other 1%
Languages:
Arabic (official), Berber languages (Tamazight (official), Tachelhit, Tarifit), French (often the language of business, government, and diplomacy)

Note that "Arabs" and "Berbers" have become "Arab-Berbers"; and that English isn't even mentioned. Wikipedia gives a different picture:

Official languages: Arabic (80-90%), Berber (40-50%)
Vernaculars: Riffian, Shilha, Central Tamazight, Darija, Hassanya
Main foreign languages: French (33-39%)[1][2], Spanish (21%)[3], English (14%)[4]
Sign languages: MSL

They even include a map, dividing up the country -- with no "Arab-Berber" area at all. Which one is right? Both, and neither.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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