Iranian Turkmens
ایران تۆرکمنلری
Eýran türkmenleri
Turkmens of Bandar-e Torkaman, Iran
Total population
500,000 - 1,000,000[1]
790,000 - 1,600,000[2][3]
1–2.4 million[4]
1-2% of the total population
Regions with significant populations
Golestan Province, Razavi Khorasan Province and North Khorasan Province
Turkmen, Persian
Sunni Islam

Iranian Turkmens (Persian: ترکمن‌های ایران; Turkmen: ایران تۆرکمن‌لری, romanized: Eýran Türkmenleri) are a branch of Turkmen people living mainly in northern and northeastern regions of Iran. Their region is called Turkmen Sahra and includes substantial parts of Golestan Province of Iran. The number of Turkmens in Iran is estimated at 0.5 to 2.4 million people.


Iranian Turkmens have represented a group of semi-nomadic tribes who retained a more traditional way for a long time. The following Turkmen tribes live in Iran: Yomut, Goklen, and Teke.[5]

Ethnic history

Iranian Turkmens of Ashuradeh island, Iran
A Turkmen woman of Bandar-e Torkaman, Iran

Representatives of such modern Turkmen tribes as Yomut, Goklen, Īgdīr, Saryk, Salar and Teke have lived in Iran since the 16th century,[6] though ethnic history of Turkmens in Iran starts with the Seljuk conquest of the region in the 11th century.[7][8]

Throughout the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, a process of resettlement of the Turkmen tribes took place in Iran. In the 17th century, it was associated with the intensified exploitation of Turkmens by the Khanate of Khiva and the raids of the Kalmyk feudal lords.[9]

After what Iranian ruler Nader Shah, himself an ethnic Turkmen, defeated Turkmens and Kurds in 1728, he drove part of the Teke and Imreli tribes out and settled them in Khorasan, specifically in the steppe of Astrabad. In the 1740s, Nader Shah conquered the Bukhara and Khiva Khanates. Subsequently, most of the Turkmen Yomuds were forced to move from the Khiva Khanate to the coast of the Caspian Sea and to Astrabad.[9]

Until the Russian conquest of Central Asia, the situation in the areas of residence of Turkmens was turbulent. Under the pretext of jihad, the Khiva Khan repeatedly raided Iranian territory. As an Iranian writer Reza-Qoli Khan wrote, he (the Khiva Khan) "at times led troops against Serakhs and Merv, and sometimes ordered Turkmens to raid the regions of Khorasan". In turn, Iranian troops attacked the Khwarazm, mainly the Turkmen lands, robbing and taking people into captivity.[10]

The movement of the Turkmen tribes was also affected by intertribal contradictions, which quite often turned into serious conflicts. In 1855, Teke Turkmens captured the Merv oasis. The Saryks who lived there, were expelled to the Iolotan and Panjdeh oases, and they, in turn, drove the Salurs out of Iolotan. The latter were initially located in the area of present-day Serhetabat, Turkmenistan, and then migrated to Iran, and finally settled 120 km above Serakhs. Later, Iran exploited the struggle between the Saryks and Tekes to organize a campaign to the Merv oasis in 1861. However, it ended in a crushing defeat for the Iranian troops.[11]

Modern Turkmen tribes in present-day Iran

Nearly one million Turkmens can be found living along the northern edges of Iran, just south of the Turkmenistan-Iran border. For centuries, Turkmens had lived as nomadic herdsmen. In more recent years, however, many of them have changed to a "semi-nomadic lifestyle," living in permanent homes as well as in tents. Today, most of them are farmers and cattle breeders. Turkmens still live in extended families where various generations can be found under the same roof, especially in rural areas. Many tribal customs still survive among the modern Turkmens.[12]


Iranian Turkmens speak primarily Southern Turkmen, a variant of the Turkmen language also spoken in Afghanistan.[13][14] It is currently written in the Perso-Arabic script, though some use the Turkmen Latin script, common in the Republic of Turkmenistan since its independence in the 1990s.[15]

Southern Turkmen is mutually intelligible with the Turkmen variety spoken in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, though it borrows heavily Persian loanwords. There is also a strong Arabic influence in Southern Turkmen.[13]

Notable Iranian Turkmen

See also


  1. ^ Arakelova, Victoria (2015). "On the Number of Iranian Turkophones". Iran and the Caucasus. 19 (3): 279. doi:10.1163/1573384X-20150306. The main body of the Iranian Turkophone mass generally consists of two parts: proper Turkic groups—the Turkmen (from 0,5 to 1 million), partially the Qashqays (around 300,000), as well as Khalajes (currently Persian-speakers living in Save, near Tehran); and the Turkic-speaking population of the Iranian origin, predominantly the Azaris, inhabiting the north-west provinces of Iran roughly covering historical Aturpātakān.
  2. ^ "Ethnologue". Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  3. ^ CIA World Factbook Iran
  4. ^ Potter, Lawrence G. (2014). Sectarian Politics in the Persian Gulf. Oxford University Press. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-19-937726-8. Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  5. ^ Joan Allgrove (1975). "Turcoman Finery". Costume. 9 (1). Routledge: 49. ISSN 0590-8876.
  6. ^ Logashova, Bibi (1976). Turkmens of Iran (historical and ethnographic study). Nauka (Science). p. 14.
  7. ^ Golden, Peter (1996). Suny, Ronald G. (ed.). The Turkic peoples and Caucasia, Transcaucasia, Nationalism and Social Change: Essays in the History of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Michigan. pp. 45–67.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ Ahmadi, Hamid (2013). "Political Elites and the Question of Ethnicity and Democracy in Iran: A Critical View". Iran and the Caucasus. 17 (1): 82. doi:10.1163/1573384X-20130106. Perhaps, the main heterogeneous group within the demographic texture of Iran are Turkmens who immigrated to the area at the turn of the I-II millennia A.D.
  9. ^ a b Logashova 1976, pp. 15–16.
  10. ^ Mannanov 1964, p. 25.
  11. ^ Mannanov, B (1964). From the stories of the Perso-Russian relations of the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries (in Russian). Tashkent: Nauka, Uzbek SSR. pp. 26–27.
  12. ^ Irons, W. (1969). The Turkmen of Iran: A Brief Research Report. Iranian Studies, 2(1), 27-38. doi:10.1080/00210866908701372
  13. ^ a b "Turkmen". Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region. Retrieved Aug 8, 2021.
  14. ^ "What Languages do People Speak in Afghanistan?". Retrieved Aug 8, 2021.
  15. ^ "Turkmen language, alphabets and pronunciation". Retrieved Aug 8, 2021.