Iranian Sunnis: Ethnic and Cultural Diversity

Sunni Muslims constitute approximately 9% of the Iranian population. Major population of fellow Iranian Sunni muslims reside in Sistan and Balouchistan, Kurdistan, Western Azerbaijan, Radawi Khorasan, Northern Khorasan, Southern Khorasan, Bushehr, Fars, the eastern region of Golestan province and some communities of them in Guilan and few in other provinces. They are often from Baluch, Kurdish, Turkmen, Talesh, Arab and also Persian ethnicities.


Sistan and Balouchistan province

Sistan and Balouchistan province is home to the largest population of Iranian sunnis who are most adherents of Hanafi school and from the Baluch ethnicity. Zahedan, Chabahar, Iranshahr, Khash, Saravan, Sarbaz, and Kenarak are Sunni majority. The Baloch people mainly speak Balochi language which itself is a branch of the Iranian languages, and more specifically of the Northwestern Iranian languages. The Baluchi language has the closest similarities to Avestan and old Persian.

Iranian Balochistan has had some of the earliest human civilizations in history. The Burnt city, near Zahidan, dates back to 2000 BC. The region was mentioned in Iranian ancient historical books and in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh as well.

Balouch dance in the festival of Iranian nomads

Balouch dance in the festival of Iranian nomads

Baluchi customs and traditions are conducted according to codes imposed by tribal laws. These strong traditions and cultural values are important to Baluch people and have enabled them to keep their distinctive ancient cultural identity and way of life with little change to this day.  The culture and traditions of the Baluch have historically been passed down from mother to daughter, and from father to son. The dress worn by Baluch women is one of the most interesting aspects of Baluchi culture. They are of strong significance to the culture of Iran and hold a special place in the society.


Kurdistan province in western Iran on the borders with Iraq comes second in the list of largest Iranian Sunni community. Iranian Sunnis in Kurdistan are followers of Shafi’i school and from the Kurdish ethnicity. Most of the Iranian Sunni Kurds reside in Sanandaj, Sardasht, Marivan, Baneh and Naqdeh. While Iranian Shia Kurds are mainly in Ilam and Kermanshah province. Kurds are classified as an Iranian people. They speak Kurdish language which belongs to the northwestern sub‑group of the Iranian languages. Kurdistan has been historically part of Iran and Kurdish culture is closest to that of other Iranian peoples.

Kurds in Uramanat

Iranian Kurds in Uramanat village, Kurdistan province

Western Azerbaijan province

Mahabad and Ushnoyeh and some other cities in Western Azerbaijan have Iranian Sunni communities. Majority of them are from Iranian Kurdish ethnic group while there is a minority of Iranian Sunni Turkish/Azeri among them as well.

Turkmen of Golestan

In northeast Iran province of Golestan, in Gonbad and Bandar Turkmen, the majority of population are followers of Hanafi school and of Turkmen ethnicity, an ethnic minority of Oghuz Turkish descent living in Iran.

Iranian Turkmen playing music in a festival in Tehran

Iranian Turkmen playing music in a festival in Tehran

Talysh in Guilan province

Northeast province of Gilan on the shores of Caspian sea is resident place to Talysh Sunni community. They speak the Talysh language, one of the Northwestern Iranian languages and adherents to Shafi’i school.

Bride and groom dance at their wedding wearing traditional Talysh costume

Bride and groom dance at their wedding wearing traditional Talysh costume

Hormozgan Province

Iranian Sunnis in Hormozgan are of Persian and some of Arab ethnic group. Majority of Iranian Arabs are followers of Shia school but there is also minority of Iranian Sunni Arabs mainly in Hormozgan and few in Bushehr on the Persian Gulf seacoast. They speak a dialect of Arabic and are followers of Shafi’i school.

Hormozgani women

Typical outfit of Hormozgani women

2 Responses to Iranian Sunnis: Ethnic and Cultural Diversity

  • Nesla says:

    Hello, I really enjoyed your Pictures, since I am Iranian myself. (I’m a Kurdish Yazdan Girl from Kermanshah who lives and works in Germany now). I wanted to ask for the Permission to use your Pictures for my Pinterest Board. Of course I will provide a Link to your Blog. That will be really nice. Greets from Germany, Nesla

    • Dream Of Iran says:

      Hello Nesla. Thanks for your comment. Sure you can repost the pictures providing link to my website.
      Greets from Iran.

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