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Is there such ethnic group as "Persians" at all?

Reader comment on item: Did the CIA Fiddle With Population Statistics about Iran?

Submitted by gato branco (Lithuania), Jan 18, 2018 at 07:26

It is not very easy to define "ethnicity" in Iran.

First of all I even doubt that such ethnicity as "Persians" exists at all. In Persian language you even have no name for it. The people of the center of Iran who speak exclusively Persian would most likely call themselves "Iraani" (pranounced - eerawnee), but so would many people with different ethnical, regional or tribal roots (Gilaki, Mazanderani, Taleshi, Kurd, Lori, Bakhtiari, "Azeri"(more exactly "Turks"), Qashqai etc. Apparently, the impression that I got from Iranians with whom I talked that the national affiliation (namely iraani) matters for the people of Iran much more than tribal or ethnic affiliation and in this respect Iran is very unlike Afghanistan.

So that what is called "Persians" in fact are probably these people who define themselves exclusively as "Irani" as have no further tribal label, and so called "minorities" are those who have an additional tribal label but even most of them would probably define themselves as Iraani first and as tribals or ethnics secondly. So that establishing the percentage of "Persians" is mission impossible. Of course first of all you shall define exactly what you are willing to look for.

Of course you could argue that there is a label "faarsi-zabaanaan" in Persian language. However it means "speakers of Persian" and denotes all the persons that could speak Persian. It seems that virtually all population of Iran nowadays can speak Persian, some exclusively, and some as bilinguals together with some "ethnic" language or dialect (Turkic is the most widespead). And, on the other hand, Persian speakers live not only in Iran, since many of the Afghan and Tajik people also speak Persian. Persian is one of the state languages in Afghanistan (together with Pashto) and the state language in Tajikistan (using the Cyrilic alphabet).

Submitting....

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Daniel Pipes replies:

Thank you for this important point. You are pointing to the confusion that ensues when an ethnic name becomes also the name of a country. One sees the same thing in Turkey, where Turk now means two things: an ethnic Turk and any citizen of the Republic of Turkey.

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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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