Imam Khamenei

The Islamic Revolution and its view on ethnic diversity

How do the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic view ethnicity? This is an important question for many people and institutions that are curious about the Islamic Revolution, the Islamic Republic and, basically, its policies and ruling system in Iran today. Many want to know what approach the post-Revolution Iran has taken in its ruling toward ethnic identities with its particular slogans and features and what approach it has taken toward the ethnic groups. Do the two leaders of the Islamic Revolution of Iran - Imam Khomeini and Imam Khamenei - believe in the superiority of a particular ethnic group or race? And do they advance or have they advanced their goals by making this superior group dominant over others or they negate ethnicity based on a particular interpretation of Islam and attempt to eliminate it? In this article, we try to elaborate on this issue.

Today, after forty years from the revolution of Iranian people and passing from secular monarchy to a religious republic, the truth-seeking audience in the world has become aware of the true propositions of this revolution. It is obvious to everyone that Iran and Iranians fight against arrogance and strongly refuse to accept foreign domination. Examining the behavior of the arrogance and the world domineering powers shows that they have spared no attempt to make this nation surrender and quit this assertion and idea. However, how has Iran survived in its confrontation with the arrogance and emphasized the slogans of its revolution despite the fact that it did not belong to the well-known Left Bloc (of which there is no trace now), which was an effective movement against the West, and even being sanctioned and rejected by it (the Left Bloc) and even fighting against some of its military equipment as in the case of the equipment given by the Soviet Union to Saddam in the eight-year imposed war?

The answer is not hard to find though some aspects of it are still uncovered particularly with regard to Iran as a country that is not dependent on any power. In other words, any country which has a name and fame in today’s world, is either dependent on another power or its distinct presence is unreal. It is obvious that the foundation of Iran’s power cannot be based on any other thing unless we draw on the Hollywood Industry and say that aliens are helping the independent Iran. But what does Iran’s self-reliance mean and what is it that Iran relies upon? Does it rely on its academic and technological power, on its oil resources and mine reservoirs and economic foundation, on its cinema, media and propaganda tools, or on its missiles and military capabilities?

In any of these fields, there are other countries with a considerably higher level of development in these respects but that are captive to the domineering powers and, except in some marginal issues, are not able to resist and stand against the anti-human arrogance. However, with regard to Iran, the answer to this question lies in “people power”. A country that has no one to help it will naturally depend only on its own body cells for moving and taking a step. Iran was not inflicted by classic colonialism and advanced its goals in the process of revolution adopting independence as its slogan with the purpose of becoming independent of the world hegemonic powers and reliance on the power of its own people, a people with a particular local identity, language, and ethnic and linguistic identity of its own.

A particular expression is used for Iran that describes it as the paradise for different ethnic groups and Divine religions. Although this seems like a poetic expression that gives a sense of pride, it carries a subtle point, that the key to understanding Iran’s power is its great ethnic diversity. The word paradise evokes a land of flowers that are rooted in one soil and have green stems and leaves with unique blooms and color depending on their talents and type. It is clear to the gardener that the greatness and beauty of this garden lies in its diversity.

A brief look at the Iranian ancient history reveals that, despite its ethnic diversity, Iran is not a land and culture of ethnic groups pinned together or the union of ethnicities. Accordingly, any Iranian person introduces and knows him/herself primarily as Iranian irrespective of his/her identity and history and only if s/he is asked about his/her ethnicity, s/he will mention it. This has been true about Iran from old times and whenever any disintegration or division occurred, the fault lay with politicians and their colonial agreements rather than the people.

Besides the global arrogance, which has not been able to understand the Iranian identity and Iranian ethnic groups despite making a vain attempt in this regard, even the Iranian political groups and the rulers before the Islamic Republic sometimes failed to understand the Iranian ethnic identity. The Islamic Revolution, however, recognized the ethnic talents and attempted to increase its area of influence by developing these talents.

The slogans and ambitions coming out of the Islamic Revolution, the most important of which is to create a new Islamic civilization, provide evidence for the fact that Iran’s view of ethnicity is basically directed at achieving a transcendent goal. There is much evidence to show that the issue of ethnicity in Iran particularly during the Islamic Revolution has turned into a valuable and effective process in its social and homeland structure and directed at desirable pursuit and attainment of justice.

The security and peace in Iran today, despite the hostility of the US, the Zionist regime and the Wahhabis toward Iran and their attempt to put the different ethnic groups in opposition to each other and to the Iranian and revolutionary identity, shows that there is an integrated unity among Iranians of any ethnic identity and the Islamic Revolution has created such a motivation and attitude in them that they have remained resistant and are making progress despite launching many campaigns by the mentioned disruptors. The security in Iran particularly in the bordering regions with majority of their population and the military being Sunnis is a good proof for this claim. During the imposed war against Iran, although the war was in Western Iran, out of the first five provinces with the largest number of martyrs, the first three ones and the fifth one are in eastern and central Iran. These statistics shows that the Shias in Khorasan (eastern Iran) sacrifice their lives for the security and life of Kurdish Sunnis (in the west).

The ethnic identity of the authorities in the Islamic Republic is also an indication of the intertwined identity of Iranians and an equal treatment of the ethnic groups. The current leader of the Islamic Revolution is originally Turkic; his father is Turkic; the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran is an Arab; secretary of the Expediency and Discernment Council is a Bakhtiari Lor, and Kiumars Heydari, commander of the Iranian army ground forces, is Kurdish. In the same way, the political, military and cultural authorities are from different ethnic groups. More interestingly, Iranian people are not aware of the ethnicity of their authorities and even their friends because it is not a concern for Iranians.

When the corpse of Martyr Qasem Soleimani entered Iran, nobody wondered what ethnic group he belonged to and all the provinces from different ethnic groups requested that his holy corpse be transferred to their city so they would carry it on their hands and participate in his funeral and bless their city with his holy corpse.

Another measure taken by the Islamic Republic was the attempt to create scientific and cultural justice in different parts of the Iranian land with their particular ethnicities. A large number of universities and scientific and research centers and provincial channels in local languages were established across Iran. Currently, each part of Iran has turned into a scientific and cultural center of excellence in a particular field.

Irrespective of its internal security, the Islamic Revolution has established its regional security via trusting its ethnic groups to stabilize its cultural and economic relations with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Azerbaijan, etc. in this way.

The civilizational view of the Islamic Revolution on this idea does not emphasize the need to use the talents of all ethnic groups for the sake of Iran alone and is based on this policy that western Asia can achieve sustainable peace, progress and resistance drawing on such a view. That is why Qasem Soleimani, the Shia commander of IRGC’s Quds Force, said we provide as much support to the Shia Hezbollah as we do to the resistance groups from Palestinian Sunnis. This originates from the civilizational view of the political and military leaders of Iran toward the ethnic groups.

It seems that, based on the Islamic view that considers taqwa[1] as the criterion for valuing humans rather than race, color and language (Quran: al-Hujurat, verse 13), the Islamic Revolution has been able to find the key to integration and use of common human power. This is a capability of Islam and the Quran that views all ethnicities as equal and recognizes their variety. More interestingly, the Quran recognizes other divine religions and calls their followers blissful (al-Baqarah, verse 62; al-Maidah, verse 69).

Accordingly, besides the ethno-linguistic varieties, after the Islamic Revolution, protecting the rights of religious minorities was not forgotten about. According to principle 64 of the constitution, Zoroastrians, the Jewish, and Ashouri, Keldani and Armenian Christians have their own representatives in the parliament. 

Taking care of this unity of the ethnicities is also very important to the Iranian leaders. In a religious order, Ayatollah Khamenei announced any ethnic jokes and joking about and imitating and making fun of the accents of the ethnic groups as haram (religiously forbidden). Maybe the best final word on the view of the Islamic Revolution about the ethnic groups can be these statements from Ayatollah Khamenei:

“The Islamic Republic (of Iran) considers ethnic variety in our great and victorious country as an opportunity. Different traditions and habits and the variety of talents is an opportunity for any part of this nation to complement each other: by appropriate interactions and complete coexistence and unity. This is an honor for our nation to have such a view on the issue of ethnic variety. The reason behind this is that Islam is the source of inspiration for this system and, from an Islamic perspective, there is no difference between different races and languages even though they are from different nationalities, let alone between different ethnic groups within a nation. This is the view of Islam and the Islamic Republic has the same view.”



[1] . The Quranic term taqwa does not have a single exact equivalent in English; however, it contains meanings such as “righteousness”, “dutifulness”, and “Godawareness”.