The Rebellion Of The ‘Multinational Iran’

The Uprising Of The 'Multinational Iran'

Quickly after taking energy within the 1921 Persian coup d’état, Reza Shah launched into a marketing campaign to impose a uniform Persian identification as a part of his ambition to switch the heterogeneous Dowlat-e ‘Aliyye-ye Irân (“Chic State of Iran”) of the Qajar dynasty with a unified, territorially bounded Kešvar-e Šâhanšâhi-ye Irân (“Imperial State of Iran”). This empire-state was to be reworked right into a nation-state of “Persian-speaking Shi’ite Iranian folks”[1] by pressured assimilation and deportation campaigns, which spurred many rebellions within the ethnic areas of Iran.[2]


Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, when Iran underwent this transition, based on Iranian scholar Mehrzad Boroujerdi, “maybe not more than 50 p.c of Iranians really spoke Persian” and “near 80 p.c of Persian-speakers themselves have been illiterate.” He added that “Though Persian turned the language of the political and literary elite, it by no means changed the native languages… Evidently, the marketing campaign to outline ‘Persian’ because the pillar of Iranian nationalism alienated Azeri Turks, Kurds, and different ethnic minorities in Iran.”[3]

The Islamic Republic continued to deal with its minority populations extra as topics than as residents. Just like the Pahlavi regime earlier than it, the Islamic Republic has sought to Persianize the “Iranian nationwide identification,” whereas additionally strengthening the Shia element to it. The Persian nationalists have tried to equate “Iran” with “Persia” – which is the southern area of Iran – and “Iranian” with “Persian.” Persian language, music, historical past, and tradition are referred to as “nationwide,” whereas the languages and cultures of different ethnic teams are referred to as “tribal” and “native.”

Though Iranian ruling elites have been profitable in “colonizing” ethnic areas by violent repressions, they failed in forging a real sense of nationwide cohesiveness amongst Iran’s ethno-nations that by no means have embraced or built-in totally throughout the Iranian society. This has grow to be extra evident throughout the present nationwide protests, wherein the marginalized ethnic minorities, that are main the rebellion, face the harshest crackdowns by regime safety forces.

Nevertheless, many Persians inside and outdoors Iran – together with the figures which have emerged as representatives of Persian opposition within the diaspora – refuse to acknowledge the plight of ethno-nations and their reliable calls for of fundamental human and ethnic rights. The minoritized ethnic teams that comprise nearly half of Iran’s inhabitants are fully not noted of discussions about Iran and the political way forward for the nation. This may be understood as a political technique to deprive ethnic teams of claiming nationhood and self-governance but additionally subsuming them underneath the imposed Persian-centered Iranian identification.

The erasure of minorities’ calls for and identities by Persian nationalists is a deliberate and systematic try to painting the rebellion as an “Iranian” revolution in opposition to the “Islamic Republic,” thus channeling the efforts of minorities towards a “regime change” that will retain the Persian hegemony in Iran: one language, one tradition, one historical past, and one identification.

In the meantime, the minorities criticize these politics of denial and emphasize that their wrestle is for establishing unbiased ethno-states or a decentralized entity, based mostly on democratic confederalism, which may work as a short lived, transitional, intergovernmental challenge in post-Ayatollah Iran till the institution of latest ethno-states within the Kurdistan, Balochistan, Khuzestan, and Caspian areas, based mostly on mutual respect and customary pursuits.[4]

On this regard, in November 2022, Hussein Yazdanpana, Head of the Kurdistan Freedom Get together (PAK), whose group endured “heavy losses” in Iranian missile and suicide drone assaults on the bases of Kurdish-Iranian political events and residential areas in southern Kurdistan (Iraqi Kurdistan) in September, stated in a video: “In 1979, when the Islamic Revolution unfold throughout Iran and the vast majority of Iranians adopted Khomeini, Kurdistan took a unique path.” He then harassed: “Right now, our slogans should stem from our sufferings and calls for, which is undoubtedly the independence of Kurdistan. Iran and the entire world should take heed to the calls for and acknowledge the rights of the Kurdish folks.”[5]

Additionally, in response to a number of tweets by outstanding Iranian opposition figures on New 12 months’s Eve, who talked about that 2023 would be the yr of victory for the “Iranian nation,”[6] Yazdanpana remarked: “There is no such thing as a nation referred to as ‘Iranian Nation.’ There are such a lot of nations with completely different languages, identities, lands, historical past, and emotions in ‘Multinational Iran.’ Denying this truth is an entire contradiction to the freedom-loving spirit of the rebellion of the Iranian nations in opposition to the Islamic Republic. Might the yr 2023 be blessed for the nations of Iran.”[7]

*Himdad Mustafa is a Kurdish scholar and knowledgeable on Kurdish and Iranian affairs.


[1] Jeffrey Mankoff. Empires of Eurasia: How Imperial Legacies Form Worldwide Safety. Yale College Press, 2022. P.157.

[2] The ethnic areas of Iran, particularly Gilan, Luristan, Balochistan, Kurdistan, Khuzistan and Azerbaijan.

[3] Mehrzad Boroujerdi. Contesting Nationalist Constructions of Iranian Identification. Critique Essential Center Japanese Research 7(12), 1998, pp.43-55

[5], November 17, 2022.

[6] On December 31, 2022, famend Iranian opposition figures within the diaspora issued a New 12 months’s message, which acknowledged: “The yr 2022 was a wonderful yr of solidarity for Iranians of each perception, language and orientation. With group and solidarity, 2023 would be the yr of victory for the Iranian nation. The yr of freedom and justice in Iran.” The message was launched concurrently on social media by dissident Masih Alinejad, the son of the ousted shah Reza Pahlavi, actress Golshifteh Farahani, actress Nazanin Boniadi, soccer star Ali Karimi, social activist Hamed Esmaeilion and actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi.

[7], January 2, 2023.