Iran is an ethno-religious mosaic that includes Persian Shia in addition to a diversity of minority groups such as Azerbaijani Turks, Ahwazi, Baloch, and Kurds. Many non-Persians have felt politically and economically marginalized by the Persian-dominated theocracy in Tehran, and minority groups have been disproportionately affected by worsening state-sponsored violence and repression in recent years.
Soon, if not already, minorities will make up the majority of Iran’s total population because of higher fertility rates among minority groups than their Persian counterparts. This suggests that Iran’s internal stability and capacity for integration into the international order in coming years may heavily depend on Tehran’s willingness to decentralize governance, create new economic opportunities for all its people, and incorporate its minorities as full citizens.
Understanding both the plight and role of minorities in shaping Iran’s future is crucial for America’s policy toward the Islamic Republic. On May 16, Hudson Institute and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization hosted a panel discussion with representatives of Iran’s Azerbaijani, Kurdish, Ahwazi, and Baloch populations who are working peacefully for federalism and pluralism. The panelists discussed the status of minorities inside the Islamic Republic, and their hopes and aspirations for a better future inside Iran.