Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Iranian minorities

The textbooks I've read emphasize how politically inconsequential minorities in Iran are. Azeris are well integrated; Kurds are co-opted; religious minority communities are even guaranteed symbolic representation in the majlis. Only one of the texts, in my recollection, mentions the Sunnis, and the authors note that there's not even a Sunni mosque in Tehran.

As usual, there's more to this than meets the casual eye.

Iran mobile company indicted for ''insulting Sunnis''
Authorities in Iran have indicted the main mobile network operator, Irancell, on charges of insulting Sunni Muslims in an SMS competition.

Irancell was strongly criticised by Iran's Sunni community over the contest, which allegedly insulted the Sunni's revered Calipha, Omar.

The indictment was made by the Prosecutor General of the predominantly Sunni Province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

Iranian Sunnis have long accused the government of discrimination.

Irancell has blamed the company which provided it with questions for the competition.

The company, a religious cultural organisation [i.e., a bonyad], has since apologised for the ''unintentional" mistakeā€¦

Sunnis are believed to comprise about 10% to 20% of Iran's population, but estimates vary because there are no official figuresā€¦

Iranian authorities are wary of sectarianism in the country. Their rhetoric stresses the theme of Muslim unity, accusing Sunni radicals and foreign powers ''sowing sectarian discord''.

Sunni communities in Iran are mainly concentrated along Iran's border provinces of Sistan-Baluchestan and Kurdistan.

In recent years, these areas have seen unrest fuelled by sectarianism, ethnic tensions and drug related criminal activity.

More autonomy and equal opportunities for Sunnis has been a campaign theme of reformists and moderates within the Shia establishment.

However, Iranian Shia clerics close to government circles deny that there is discrimination against Sunnis.

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