Kurds in Iran
Total population
9–10 million
Kurdish, Gorani and Persian
Shia Islam (Twelver)[1][2]
Sunni Islam (Shafi'i)[3]
(Sufi order Qadiriyya also present)[4]
Related ethnic groups
see Iranian peoples

Kurds in Iran (Kurdish: کورد لە ئێران, romanized: Kurdên Îranê,[5] Persian: کردها در ایران)[6] constitute a large minority in the country with a population of around 9 and 10 million people.[7][8]


Iranian Kurds in Marivan protest against ISIL during the Siege of Kobanî, 6 October 2014

Iranian Kurdistan or Eastern Kurdistan (Kurdish: Rojhilatê Kurdistanê), refers to the parts of western Iran inhabited by Kurds which borders Iraq and Turkey.[9] It includes the Kurdistan Province, Kermanshah Province, West Azerbaijan Province, Ilam Province, and Lorestan Province.[10][11]

Shia Feyli Kurds inhabit Kermanshah Province, except for those parts where people are Jaff, and Ilam Province; as well as some parts of Kurdistan and Hamadan provinces. The Kurds of Khorasan, in the North Khorasan Province of northeastern Iran, are Shi'ite Muslims.[12][13] The Lak tribe populate parts of Ilam Province and Lorestan Province, while Chegini Kurds reside in central Lorestan.


Main article: Religion in Kurdistan

The two major religions among Kurds in Iran are Islam and Yarsanism, while fewer Kurds adhere to Baháʼí Faith and Judaism.[14] There is disagreement on which is the largest denomination among Kurds; experts such as Richard N. Frye and Martin van Bruinessen argue that Sunni Islam (the Shafi'i branch[3]) is the majority religion,[15][16] while researcher Anu Leinonen believes it is the Twelver branch of Shia Islam.[17]

Pockets of Sunni Kurds belong to the Qadiriyya tariqa (around Marivan and Sanandaj). These orders have experienced repression from the state, including the destruction of their places of worship.[4][18] Yarsanis are also targeted by the central government.[19]

Political history

Emergence of Kurdish nationalism

While Ottoman Kurdistan has been identified as the source of Kurdish national inspiration, Iranian Kurdistan has been identified as the ideological cradle for the emergence of Kurdish nationalism.[20]

In Iran, Kurdish intellectual writings and poetry from the 16th and 17th century indicate that the Kurdish population in the country was aware of the necessity of Kurdish unity and the need to form political and administrative entities for Kurds. However, these calls for Kurdish unity did not reach the broader Kurdish population until the 20th century when it awakened and diffused as a response to the implementation of nation-state policies (Persianization) by changing Iranian rulers. These policies not only alienated Kurds but also excluded them from equal access to citizenship. An example was the Constitutional Revolution of 1905–1911, which elevated Persian above Kurdish by asserting it as official language, language of administration and language of education.[21]

Cross-border interaction (1918–1979)

Kurds have a strong cross-border ethnic linkage and few historical Kurdish rebellions were limited to the borders of a single country. For example, the rebellion of Sheikh Ubeydullah in Turkish Kurdistan around 1880 inspired Simko Shikak to rebel in 1918, while the various Barzani rebellions in Iraqi Kurdistan became a source of support for the Republic of Mahabad.[22] Other examples of cross-border interaction include the subjugation of the Simko Shikak revolt forcing Simko to flee to Rawandiz in Iraqi Kurdistan – where he sought the support of Sheikh Mahmud Barzanji.[23] Following the fall of the Republic of Mahabad in 1946, some of its leaders also fled to Iraqi Kurdistan where they were sheltered by the son of Sheikh Mahmud Barzanji. Mustafa Barzani had also supported the Republic of Mahabad by sending 2,100 soldiers which in turn also increased Kurdish self-confidence. Many teachers and military officers from Iraqi Kurdistan moreover crossed the border to support the republic.[23]

In 1944, the Society for the Revival of the Kurds/Kurdistan (JK) considered the first Kurdish nationalist movement met with a Turkish Kurdish delegation and an Iraqi Kurdish delegation at the border area near Mount Dalanpar where they signed the Pact of Three Borders which demonstrated the existence of a strong Kurdish sense of cross-border solidarity and sentiment.[24]

Cross-border interaction became difficult to sustain in the 1950s due to repression from SAVAK on the Iranian side. However, Kurds were able to reinforce the cross-border political activity, when the First Iraqi–Kurdish War commenced in 1961, as the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) gave financial support and loyalty to their counterpart in Iraq, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), while KDPI themselves accessed spatial resources. Relations between KDP and KDPI would later deteriorate greatly as KDP became a close ally of SAVAK against Iraq. CIA documents from 1963 show that the KDP rebuffed support from KDPI due to the desire to maintain close relations with Iran.[25]

In the 1970s, KDPI with Komalah and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) fought around Piranshahr, Sardasht, Baneh in the northern parts of Iranian Kurdistan against Iranian forces who received support from KDP.[26]

Cross-border interaction after 1979

After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, political infighting among Kurds increased and KDPI and Komala fought over political and spatial influence in Iranian Kurdistan as they were fighting Iran together. In the 1980s, the two political and military groups had become powerful and cross-border interaction was therefore less important.[27]


Main articles: Kurdish separatism in Iran, Republic of Mahabad, and Western Iran clashes (2016–present)

Kurdish separatism in Iran[28] or the Kurdish–Iranian conflict[29][30] is an ongoing,[31][32][28][33] long running, separatist dispute between the Kurdish opposition in Western Iran and the governments of Iran,[28] lasting since the emergence of Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1918.[31]

During the Iranian Revolution, Kurdish nationalist political parties were unsuccessful in attracting support, who at that time had no interest in autonomy.[34][35] However, since the 1990s, Kurdish nationalism in the region has grown, partly due to outrage at the government's violent suppression of Kurdish activism.[36]


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (April 2020)

Main article: Kurdish tribes

Tribe Kurdish and Persian
Geography Notes
Ali Sherwan Kurdish: عه‌لی شیروان
Persian: ئایل علیشروان
Ilam Province[37] Southern Kurdish–speaking[37]
Amar Kurdish: عمار
Persian: عمارلو
Gilan Province, Greater Khorasan and Qazvin Province[38][39] Kurmanji–speaking[39]
Arkawâzi Kurdish: ئه‌رکه‌وازی
Persian: ارکوازی
Ilam Province[37] Southern Kurdish–speaking[37]
Badreh Kurdish: بەدرە
Persian: بدره‌ای
Ilam Province[40]
Balavand Persian: بالاوند Ilam Province[37]
Beiranvand Kurdish: Bîranwend ,بیرانوەند
Persian: بیرانوند
Between Aleshtar and Khorramabad; Bayranshahr.[41] Laki–speaking.[41]
Chahardoli Persian: چاردولی Hamadan Province and West Azerbaijan Province[42] Laki–speaking[42]
Chalabianlu Persian: چلبیانلو East Azerbaijan Province[43]
Chegini Kurdish: Çengînî ,چەگینی
Persian: چگنی
Between Khorramabad and the Kashgan river.[44] Chegini dialect (Mixture of Laki and Luri)[45]
Dehbalai Persian: بالایی Ilam Province[37]
Delikan Persian: دلیکانلو Ardabil Province[46] Turkophone[46]
Dilfan Kurdish: Dilfan ,دیلفان
Persian: دلفان
Around Delfan County. Present in Ilam and Mazandaran provinces as well.[47] Laki–speaking[47]
Donboli Kurdish: Dimilî ,دونبەلی
Persian: دنبلی
Khoy and Salmas area.[48] Turkophone[49]
Falak al-Din Persian: فلک ئالدین Hamadan Province[50] Laki–speaking[50]
Eyvan Kurdish: ئه‌یوان
Persian: ايوان
Ilam Province[37]
Feyli Kurdish: Feylî ,فه‌یلی
Persian: فیلی
Ilam Province (Ilam, Chardoval, Mehran, Malekshahi, Abdanan, Dehloran).[51] Southern Kurdish–speaking.[51]
Ghiasvand Persian: قیاسوند Hamadan Province[50] Laki–speaking[50]
Guran Kurdish: Goran ,گۆران
Persian: گوران
Hawraman region Gorani–speaking.[52]
Hasanvand Kurdish: حەسەنوەند
Persian: حسنوند
Around Aligudarz, Khorramabad and Borujerd.[53] Laki–speaking.[54]
Herki Kurdish: Herkî ,ھەرکی
Persian: هرکی
Western countryside of Urmia in the Targavar and Margavar valleys.[55][56] Kurmanji–speaking.[57]
Jaff Kurdish: Caf ,جاف
Persian: جاف
From Sanandaj to Kermanshah with Javanrud as area of origin.[58] Sorani–speaking.[59]
Jalali Kurdish: Celalî ,جەلالیان
Persian: جلالی
Around Maku.[60] Kurmanji–speaking.[61]
Jalilavand Kurdish: Celalwend ,جەلیلوەند
Persian: جلیلوند
Around Dinavar and in Lorestan Province.[62] Laki–speaking.[62]
Kakavand Kurdish: Kakewend ,کاکەوەن
Persian: کاکاوند
Kermanshah, Harsin area,[63] and Kakavand District, Delfan.[64] Laki–speaking.[63]
Kalhori Kurdish: Kelhûr ,کەڵھوڕ
Persian: کلهر
Around Eslamabad-e Gharb, Qasr-e Shirin and Gilan-e Gharb.[65]
Ilam Province (Chardoval and Eyvan)[51]
Southern Kurdish–speaking.[51]
Khezel Kurdish: خه‌زه‌ل
Persian: خزل
Ilam Province[37] Southern Kurdish–speaking[37]
Kolivand Persian: كليوند Ilam Province[37]
Kordshuli Kurdish: Kurdşûlî
Persian: کردشولی
Fars Province[66] Laki–speaking[67]
Kuruni Kurdish: Kûranî
Persian: کورونی
Fars Province[68]
Malekshahi Kurdish: Melekşahî
Persian: ملکشاهی
Ilam Province[37] Southern Kurdish–speaking[51]
Mamash Kurdish: Mamaş ,مامش
Persian: مامش
Southern parts of West Azerbaijan.[69] Sorani–speaking.[69]
Mangur Kurdish: Mangûr ,مەنگوڕ
Persian: منگور
Around Piranshahr, Mahabad, Sardasht and Bukan in West Azerbaijan.[70] Sorani–speaking.[71]
Milan Kurdish: Mîlan ,میلان
Persian: میلان
North of Zurabad in northern West Azerbaijan[72] Kurmanji–speaking.[72]
Mukri Kurdish: Mukrî ,موکری
Persian: مکری
Around Baneh, Mahabad, Piranshahr and Saqqez.[73] Sorani–speaking.[74]
Musavand Persian: موسی وند Hamadan Province[50] Laki–speaking[50]
Qolugjan Ardabil Province[46]
Reşwan Kurdish: Reşwan ,ڕەشوان
Persian: رشوند
Gilan Province, Greater Khorasan and Qazvin Province[38][39] Kurmanji–speaking[39]
Rizehvand Persian: ریزه وند Ilam Province[75]
Sanjâbi Kurdish: Sencabî ,سنجاوی
Persian: سنجابی
Western parts of Kermanshah Province.[76] Southern Kurdish-speaking.[77]
Shaqaqi Kurdish: Şeqaqî ,شەقاقی
Persian: شقاقی
East Azerbaijan Province[78]
Shatran Persian: شاترانلو Ardabil Province[46]
Shekak Kurdish: Şikak ,شکاک
Persian: شکاک
Western countryside of Urmia.[79] Kurmanji–speaking.[80]
Shuhan Persian: شوهان Ilam Province[37] Southern Kurdish–speaking[37]
Torkashvand Persian: ترکاشوند Hamadan Province[50] Laki–speaking[50]
Uriad Persian: اوریاد Fars Province[66]
Zangana Kurdish: Zengine ,زەنگەنە
Persian: زنگنه
South of Kermanshah.[65] Southern Kurdish–speaking.[65]
Zola Kurdish: زۆلا
Persian: زوله
Hamadan Province[50] Laki–speaking[50]

See also


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  2. ^ Sebastian Maisel (2018). The Kurds: An Encyclopedia of Life, Culture, and Society. p. 54.
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Further reading