One of the characteristics of the Iranian society is the existence of different cultures and ethnic groups. Some Iranologists and tourists believe that this cultural diversity has made Iran more attractive. Northern, southern, central, eastern and western parts of Iran have their own specific subcultures due to Iran's vastness. Climatic features influence these cultures to a great extant. Each part of Iran has its specific subculture and because of recent communications between people, some subcultures have been influenced by others.
Ethnic group of Kurds, Lurs, Arabs, Turkomans, Azeris, Bakhtiariz and Balouchis live in full peaceful coexistence. Due to geographical situation, Iran has always been a bridge between the East and the West; while different ethnic communities have crossed this region. Different nations have settled in Iran with different characteristics. Before the Aryan's arrival and their settlement in Iran, some indigenous ethnic communities lived here. Iran's ethnic communities are as follows:
1) Persian (Fars) : More than 65% of Iranian population are Persian (Pars). The Persians are descendents of Muslim or Aryans, who settled in the central plateau during the second millennium BC and called Iran as Pars (Persia).
2) Azaris: The Azari Turks are demographically the largest minority of Iran. Although most of them live in provinces of East Azarbaijan, West Azarbaijan, Zanjan and Hamedan, some others live in other provinces and are also scattered all around the country.
[I’ve yet to meet an Iranian who identifies as an “Azari”. There’s no such thing. We have St. Stalin (in a failed attempt to Balkanize Iran) to thank for “Azerbaijan”.]
3) Kurds: The Kurds are scattered in a vast area of the Middle East, from east of turkey to northeastern Iraq and from some parts of Syria to the west and northeast of Iran. Kurds are the oldest ethnic communities in this geographical region and have been living here from the second millennium A.D.
4) Lurs: They are descendants of Aryans mixed with Kashi or Kasit race. In the course of history, some Arab and Turk groups were intermingled with Lurs but generally speaking, they are a pure race. Constituting 2% of Iran's total population inhabit in Lurestan and Hamedan.
5) Arabs: Most of Iranian Arab populati0n live in Khuzestan and Persian Gulf islands. Arabs living on southern coastal areas, have many characteristics common with the Fars population, and besides the Persian language, they also speak Arabic as well.
6) Qashqais: Most of the Qashqais live in the Fars province, while they migrate during summer and winter to different regions. Similar to many other ethnic minorities, the Qashqais are of Turkish origin.
7) Turkomans: Having common roots with the Turkish ethnic community, the Turkomans constitute a small population of Iran. They live in Turkoman Sahra (a plain in eastern Mazandaran and north of Khorasan with Turkmenistan as neighboring Republic).
8) Bakhtiaris: The Bakhtiaris are settled in Chaharmahal-o-Bakhtiari and some parts of Khuzestan. As one of the oldest ethnic communities, the Bakhtiaris have been among the strongest and most influential ethnic communities in Iranians history.
9) Balouchis: The Baluchis are among few ethnic communities that have preserved their semi-Bedouin lifestyle. Perhaps it is because of the very dry climatic pattern of their geographic area. Balouchis are settled in vast thinly populated deserts covering southeastern extremity of Iran and remote places of West Pakistan. They have famous camel races.
There are two Christian minorities living in Iran since the pre-Islamic era.
1) Armenians: Iranian Armenians live in Azabaijan, Isfahan, Tehran, Khuzestan and other places. They are considered the greatest population of Christian minority in Iran. According to Iran's constitution, they have two representatives in the Iranian parliament, elected from amongst Armenians of north and south. The Armenian prelacy in Iran, has three areas: Tehran and north; south and Isfahan; and Azarbaijan.
2) Assyrians: Assyrians or Kaledanians are the descendants of the ancient Kaledonians, who have been living in Iran since 2500 years ago. During the period of Ashkanian and Sassanid, they converted to Christianity and one of its old religious groups namely Nasturi. Assyrians with 25,000 population, have one representative the parliament. The Iranian Assyrian community has two associations which conduct their artistic, sports, social and political activities. These associations are: Tehran Assyrian Association; and the Orumyeh Assyrian Association.
In addition to above-mentioned groups, Catholicism and Protestantism are other Christian groups living in Iran.
About 27 centuries ago, during the period of Achaemenian Cyrus, the Jews arrived in Iran, fleeing persecution in other places
. They settled in Shush, Nahavand, Hamedan, Isfahan and Shiraz; after the occupation of Palestine by the Zionist regime, some of Iranian Jews migrated to the occupied lands. Most of Iranian Jews are engaged in economic-commercial activities, just like other Iranians.
Jews in Persia
Iranian Jews are among the oldest inhabitants of the country. The origin of Jewish Diaspora in Iran is closely connected with various historical events.
At the time of Assyrian Emperor, Tiglath-Pileser III (727 BCE), thousands of Jews were brought from Palestine and forced to settle
in Media to the northwest of Iran. According to the annals of another Assyrian Emperor Sargon II, in 721 BCE, Jewish inhabitants of Ashdod and Samaria were resettled in Media after their failed attempt against Assyrian dominance. The records indicate that 27,290 Jews were forced to settle
in Ecbatana (Hamedan) and Susa, in the west and southwest Iran, wrote Cais-Soas.
[Who forced them to settle?!]
The next wave of the Jewish settlers arrived to escape persecution
from Assyrian Emperor Nabuchadadnezzar II. Many were settled in Isfahan around 680 BCE.
The conquest of Babylon by Cyrus the Great--the founder of the second Iranian dynasty-- the Achaemenids, also brought many Jews into the mainland. In 539 BCE, King Cyrus entered Babylon with little resistance. The temple of Marduk, their major deity, was restored.
The Jewish slaves
in Babylon were freed and permitted to go home.
The kind treatment Iranians accorded their conquered subjects was part of the imperial doctrine led by Cyrus the Great which was influenced by his Zoroastrian faith. The policies of the central administration encouraged autonomy in internal affairs with little intervention from the Iranians. For instance, the Satrap (Governor General) of Judah, which constituted the Fifth Satrapy, had his own local governor in Samaria with the right of supervision over the deputy in Judah.
From 516 BCE, there was no Iranian deputy in Judah. At first, Shabazzar from the ancient Davidic House was the regional leader in Beit-ul-Moqaddas. He was followed by Zerubbabel another Jewish aristocrat. In the 5th to 4th century BCE, the rulers of Judah where also appointed among the local residents. In 458 BCE, the Jew Ezra is appointed the deputy of Judah. The same Ezra had served up to this time as a scribe in the central administration in Susa, the second imperial capital of the Achaemenid dynasty.
Correspondence left by Ezra and his successor Nehemiah, who likewise had been in Susa prior to this, indicates a strong Jewish community, united around the local temple and headed by the high priest. This community had its own organs of self-administration, in whose affairs the Iranians did not intervene.
Gradually, the high priest became the governor of Judah. Semi-autonomous temple communities were not exclusive to the Jews. They existed throughout the Persian Empire. Cyprus, Cilicia, Lycia and other Phoenician cities and principalities in Asia Minor had their own local rulers. Even such remote tribes as the Arabs, Colchians, Ethiopians, Sakai, etc. were governed by their own local chiefs. All kept their religion with little interference from the Achaemenian administration.
Iranians occupied the highest positions in the state apparatus. At the same time, they extensively utilized cultural, legal and administrative traditions of the conquered nations. In the Murashu family documents (ancient Babylonia) of the 23 high royal officers, only eight have Iranian names. Various ethnic and religious minorities followed their own legal code in personal matters such as marriage and family law. For example, Jewish settlers of Elephantine (Egypt) under Iranian administration remained monogamous and the husbands did not have the right to take a second wife. Monetary and property disputes were settled and decided by the special “court of the Jews.”
The conquered people were also given land in exchange for taxes and military service. Among these settlers were all groups such as Babylonians, Aramaeans, Jews, Indians and Sakai, etc. In Susa itself, besides the local population and the Iranians, there were large number of Babylonians, Egyptians, Jews and Greeks. There were no restrictions with respect to religious freedom and practices. Hundreds of objects regarded sacred by various ethnic and religious groups are discovered both in Susa and Persepolis.
In the Fortification texts discovered at Persepolis, many foreign deities are mentioned. These cults and their priests received rations and wages for maintenance. In 500 BCE, the priest Ururu, having received 80 bar of grain from the storehouse, exchanged it for eight yearling sheep, of which two were used for sacrifices to the god Adad.
The Iranian religion was against offering of livestock for sacrifices and Prophet Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) banned the practice. However, others were not prevented from practicing such primitive rituals.
In short, freedom of religion, movement, occupation and marriage were guaranteed under the Achaemenian Empire.
Tolerance and Freedom
In the ancient Near Eastern religions, there is a complete absence of the concept of false faith or any form of heresy. Nor there seems to be any notion of racial hatred or any feeling of the superiority of one people over another. Nations conquered would be treated as such, not because of their ethnic makeup or religion. Even captive Jews
brought into Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar II, retained their faith in Yahweh and practiced their rituals and prospered economically.
Zoroastrian religion was also geared to tolerance, for it made a place for foreign gods as helpers of Ahura Mazda. One Aramaic inscription of the time speaks of a marriage between the Babylonian god Bel and the Iranian goddess Dayna-Mazdayasnish. In this document. Bel appeals to his spouse with the words: “You are my sister; you are very wise and more beautiful than the other goddesses.”
Iranian conquest is greeted with enthusiasm and Iranians are praised and mentioned in the books of Daniel, Ezra and Ezekiel. The Book of Esther tells of the fate of the Jewish Diaspora under Xerxes (486-465 BCE).
According to Jewish textual references, Esther the niece of Mordecai, an assistant to the Iranian emperor, takes the place of Queen Vashti, who is banned, from the palace by the emperor’s order. The Jewish population of Susa is not liked by some and the emperor is persuaded to order their total eradication. Esther intervenes with several Iranian noblemen who pretend to be Jews[?]
. The decree is reversed and all are saved. Though the account is not supported by historical evidence, the writer is very accurate in his description of the Iranian court life and costumes. This occasion is still celebrated by all Jews as Purim Festival.
Purim, which means ’lots’, is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people of the ancient Persian Empire from Haman’s plot to annihilate them, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther (Megillat Esther). According to the story, Haman cast lots to determine the day upon which to exterminate the Jews, Wikipedia wrote.
Purim Festival is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (Adar II in leap years), the day following the victory of the Jews over their enemies. As with all Jewish holidays, Purim begins at sundown on the previous day.
In cities that were protected by a surrounding wall at the time of Joshua, including Shushan (Susa) and Beit-ul-Moqaddas, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month, known as Shushan Purim. Purim is characterized by public recitation of the Book of Esther, giving mutual gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor and a celebratory meal.
Jewish exiles from the Kingdom of Judah, who had been living in Babylonian captivity
(6th century BCE), found themselves under Persian rule after Babylonia was in turn conquered by the Persian Empire.
According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus planned to kill the Jews, but his plans were foiled by Esther, who was made queen after his previous queen Vashti was dismissed.
The Jews were delivered from being the victims of an evil decree
against them and were instead allowed by the king to destroy their enemies. The day after the battle was designated as a day of feasting and rejoicing.
Source: Iran Daily
http://www.iranreview.org/content/Docum ... itions.htm