By ABDULLAH AL-SULTAN
A common man may think that Iran is populated by a single race or ethnic group, but in fact there are several ethnic groups other than Persians in Iran.
They include Arabs, Kurds, Lurs, Baluchs, Gilanis, Turkmen (Turkish), Gilakis, Azris and Mazandaranis besides other smaller communities. The Persians are in a majority. Most of the minority communities are living on the fringes of the country. Their regions were annexed by Iran in the past.
Persians regard Sunni Muslims as the second-rate citizens. Sunnis are made up mostly of Baluchs, Arabs and Turkmen. The Shiite Iranian government treats them with discrimination because of their Sunni identity. They are denied their legitimate political, legal, constitutional, social, cultural and economic rights. Their miseries multiply because of lack of support or assistance from within or outside the country. The Sunnis had sided with Khomeini in the revolution against the Shah of Iran. But he turned against them after the revolution and refused to honor his promises made to them.
Their presence in the areas close to borders of the county strengthened their affinity to the countries of their origin. Persians always drive the Sunni populations to the borders of the country because of sectarian reasons. In fact, the policy of driving out Sunni communities from central regions to distant border areas was a policy adopted originally by the Safavid rulers. (Safavid dynasty ruled Iran from 1501 to 1722.) The government’s policy till now has been to cleanse major cities and central regions of Sunni communities and relocate them to peripheral areas as much as possible.
The 20-million strong Sunnis are the largest minority accounting for 35 percent of the 70 million Iranian population. In fact, the number of Sunnis is much higher than the official figures. However, they are economically poor, less educated and live far away from the capital city. Hated by the Shiite majority, the Sunni districts are neglected — they lack utilities, basic amenities and other essential services. Sunnis are even denied the right to build mosques or religious schools. Building a Sunni school or a religious madrasa is considered an unpardonable crime. Existing Sunni mosques are subjected to close monitoring. Many of them were demolished on the pretext that they were built for purposes other than worshipping or without a specific license needed for a mosque. Some times a mosque is demolished on the pretext that its imam has foreign allegiance.
On the other hand, Shiites are allowed to build Husainiats (small Shiite mosques) inside Sunni districts to the chagrin of the Sunni population.
Large cities such as Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz do not have even a single Sunni mosque. The official explanation is that Sunnis can pray at Shiite mosques and it will promote unity among them (although a truth, in this context it is a falsehood.)
While no Sunni mosques are permitted, these cities have Jewish synagogues, Christian churches and Zoroastrianism temples. This is nothing but the arrogant oppression of the Sunnis (religions in Iran are Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Bahaism and Zoroastrianism.)
Iranians have a perverted and dictatorial Shiite regime. Its domestic and foreign policies are based on strategic politics, racist nationalism and sectarianism and the victims are non-Persian Sunnis in that country.