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Iranian Arabs (Arabic: عرب إيرانʿArab Īrān; Persian: عرب‌های ايرانArabhāye Irān) refers to the citizens or residents of Iran who are ethnically Arab. Iranian Arabs form around 2% of Iran's population which is roughly 1.6 million people.[1]

Iranian Arabs
عرب إيران  (Arabic)
عرب‌های ايران  (Persian)
Total population
~1.5 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
Khuzestan, Khorasan, Hormozgan, Bushehr, Qom
Arabic (Khuzestani Arabic, Khorasani Arabic), Persian
Twelver Shi'a Islam (majority), Sunni Islam (minority)[2]
Related ethnic groups
Arabs (Ahwazi Arabs, Khamseh Arabs, Marsh Arabs, Arabs in Khorasan), Iraqis, Bahranis, Mandaeans
Iran's ethnoreligious distribution


The Arab presence in Iran did not begin with the Arab conquest of Persia in 633 AD. For centuries, Iranian rulers had maintained contacts with Arabs outside their borders, dealt with Arab subjects and client states (such as those of Iraq and Yemen), and settled Arab tribesmen in various parts of the Iranian plateau. It follows that the "Arab" conquests and settlements were by no means the exclusive work of Arabs from the Hejaz and the tribesmen of inner Arabia. The Arab expedition to Iran began before the Muslim conquests and continued as a result of the joint exertions of the civilized Arabs (ahl al-madar) as well as the desert Arabs (ahl al-wabar).[3]

According to the Minorities at Risk Project 2001, about 40% of Arabs are unskilled workers living in urban areas. The Arabs in the rural areas are primarily farmers and fishermen. The Arabs living along the Persian Gulf coastal plains are mostly pastoral nomads. Tribal loyalties are strong among rural Arabs, but also have an influence in urban areas. These affect Arab socialisation and politicisation.[4]

Payame Noor University, which has 229 campuses throughout the country, in 2008 declared that Arabic will be the "second language" of the university, and that all its services will be offered in Arabic, concurrent with Persian.[5]


Shapur II the Great (309–379 A.D.) of the Sassanid Empire, after a punitive expedition across the Persian Gulf early in his reign, transplanted several clans of the Taghleb to Dārzīn (Daharzīn) near Bam, several clans of the Abd al-Qays and Tamīm to Haǰar (the Kūh-e Hazār region) southeast of Kermān, several clans of the Bakr ben Wāʾel to Kermān, and several clans of the Hanzala to Tavvaz, near present-day Dālakī in Fārs.[6]

Although after the Arab conquest of the Sassanid Persian empire in the 7th century, many Arab tribes settled in different parts of Iran, it is the Arab tribes of Khuzestan that have retained their identity in language, culture, and Shia Islam to the present day. But ethno-linguistic characteristics of the region must be studied against the long and turbulent history of the province, with its own local language khuzi, which may have been of Elamite origin and which gradually disappeared in the early medieval period. The immigration of Arab tribes from outside the province was also a long-term process. There was a great influx of Arab-speaking immigrants into the province from the 16th to the 19th century, including the migration of the Banu Kaab and Banu Lam. There were attempts by the Iraqi regime during the Iran–Iraq War (1980–88) to generate Arab nationalism in the area but without any palpable success.[7]


Sampling NRY diversity, it was found that the Y-DNA haplogroups F and J2 are carried at very high frequency among the Iranian Arabs—those two markers alone accounting for over half of Iranian Arab haplogroups.[8] This high ratio of haplogroup F, in particular, relates them, in a genetic sense, to peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean and of the Barbary Coast, while an elevated frequency of haplogroup J-M172 is typical of Near Eastern peoples and reflective of the genetic legacy of early agriculturalists in, and their diffusion from, the Neolithic Near East c. 8000–4000 BCE.[9][10][11] Haplogroup R1a1, and R1, typical of Indo-Iranian groups, is also important, occurring in over 11% of the sample; haplogroup G is present in over 5%.[8]

Regional groupsEdit

Provinces of Iran based on the population of Arabs, according to the survey carried out by Ministry of Culture, 2010.


Most Iranian Arabs in Khūzestān Province are bilingual, speaking Arabic as their mother tongue, and Persian as a second language. The variety of Arabic spoken in the province is Khuzestani Arabic, which is a Mesopotamian dialect shared by Arabs across the border in Iraq. It can be easily understood by other Arabic-speakers.

From the immigrant Arab tribes of Khuzestan (from the present-day Iraq), the Banu Kaab at Dawraq (the later Fallāhīya and the present-day Shadegan) and the Mawlāʾī at Hoveyzeh can be mentioned.[12]

The well-known Bani Turuf tribe is settled in the Dasht e Azadegan (formerly Dasht-e Mīshān) around the town of Hūzagān (formerly Hoveyzeh), and consists of seven tribes, the Sovārī, Marzaā, Shorfa, Banī Sāleh, Marvān, Qāṭeʿ, and Sayyed Nemat. North of the lands of the ʿAnāfeja of the Āl Katīr, in the area called Mīānāb, between the Kārūn and Karkheh Rivers, dwell several Arab tribes, of which the best known are the Kaab (probably an offshoot of the Banī Kaʿb of southern Khuzestan), the ʿAbd al khānī, the Mazraa, the Al Bū Rāwīya, and the Sādāt. These tribes gradually immigrated into Iran during and after the early years of the Qajar period.[12]


Khamseh Arab nomads live in eastern Fars Province (From Lar and close surrounding areas to Khorrambid and Bavanat). Arabs that live in eastern Fars Province and Hormozgan mostly belong to the tribes of Banu Tamim, Banu Kaab and Banu Hammed.


Most Khorasani-Arabs belong to the tribes of Sheybani, Zangooyi, Mishmast, Khozaima and Azdi. Khorasan Arabs numbering around 50,000 are mostly Persian speakers. Only a very few speak Arabic as their mother tongue. Khorasani-Arabs in the cities Birjand, Mashhad and Nishapur are a small ethnic group but most are Persianized.[13]


Elton Daniel in The History of Iran (Greenwood Press, 2001), states that the Arabs of Iran "are concentrated in the province of Khuzistan and number about half a million".[14] The Historical Dictionary of Iran puts the number at 1 million.[15] Iranian Arabs form 1-2% of Iran's population.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c CIA World Factbook Archived 2012-02-03 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Nikki R. Keddie, "Iran and the Muslim World: Resistance and Revolution", New York University Press, 1995 (3/5/09). pp. 12–13: "Many writings state that the Arabs are Sunni, but the only bases for this assertion seem to be that most Arabs in the world are Sunni, that some Arabs in Khuzestan rarely are Sunni, and the Shi’a Arabs follow some customs that Persians associate with Sunnism. In the absence of scholarly work or census surveys, it is impossible to estimate the percentages of Shi’as and Sunnis among the Arabs, but the evidence suggests that the great majority of Iranian Arabs are Shi’ite. First, the Arabs border on a part of Iraq that is, and has long been, almost entirely Shi’ite, and it would be surprising to find a Sunni pocket in such an area, especially since, second, they live in the Shi'ite state of Iran."
  3. ^ Daniel, E. L. "Arab settlements in Iran". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
  4. ^ Iran Overview from British Home Office Archived 2009-07-18 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ رادیو زمانه | خبر اول | ایران | عربی دومین زبان دانشگاه پیام نور شد
  6. ^ Oberling and Hourcade, P.and B. "Arab tribes of Iran". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
  7. ^ FRYE, Richard Nelson (May 2, 2006). "PEOPLES OF IRAN". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
  8. ^ a b Nasidze, I., Quinque, D., Rahmani, M., Alemohamad, S. A. and Stoneking, M. (2008), "Close Genetic Relationship Between Semitic-speaking and Indo-European-speaking Groups in Iran." Annals of Human Genetics, 72: 241–252.
  9. ^ Semino O, Passarino G, Oefner P J, Lin A A, Arbuzova S, Beckman L E, de Benedictis G, Francalacci P, Kouvatsi A, Limborska S, et al. (2000) Science 290:1155–1159
  10. ^ Underhill P A, Passarino G, Lin A A, Shen P, Foley R A, Mirazon-Lahr M, Oefner P J, Cavalli-Sforza L L (2001) Ann Hum Genet 65:43–62
  11. ^ R. Spencer Wells et al., "The Eurasian Heartland: A continental perspective on Y-chromosome diversity," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (August 28, 2001
  12. ^ a b Towfīq, F. "ʿAŠĀYER "tribes" in Iran". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  13. ^ History of the Arabs. Filip Hetti 1990
  14. ^ The History of Iran (Greenwood Press, 2001), (pg. 14)
  15. ^ Lorentz, J. (1995) p.172

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