Iranian Assyrians

Iranian Assyrians or Persian Assyrians (Persian: آشوریان ایران‎), are an ethnoreligious and linguistic minority in present-day Iran. The Assyrians of Iran speak Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, a neo-Aramaic language descended from Classical Syriac and elements of Akkadian, and are Eastern Rite Christians belonging mostly to the Assyrian Church of the East and also to the Ancient Church of the East, Assyrian Pentecostal Church and Assyrian Evangelical Church.[4]

They share a common history and ethnic identity, rooted in shared linguistic, cultural and religious traditions, with Assyrians in Iraq, Assyrians in Turkey and Assyrians in Syria, as well as with the Assyrian diaspora.[4]

The Assyrian community in Iran numbered approximately 200,000 prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. However, after the revolution many Assyrians left the country, primarily for the United States; the 1996 Iranian census counted only 32,000 Assyrians.[5] Current estimates of the Assyrian population in Iran range from 32,000 (as of 2005)[6] to 50,000 (as of 2007).[7] The Iranian capital, Tehran, is home to the majority of Iranian Assyrians; however, approximately 15,000 Assyrians reside in northern Iran, in Urmia and various Assyrian villages in the surrounding area.[4]

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, ratified in 1979, recognizes Assyrians as a religious minority and ethnic minority and reserves for them one seat in the Islamic Consultative Assembly, the Iranian parliament.[8] As of 2004, the seat was occupied by Yonathan Betkolia, who was elected in 2000 and reelected in the 2004 legislative election.

Today, scholars estimate that there are only around 5,000 Assyrians left in the historical center of the city of Urmia.[9]

Assyrians in Iran
Assyrians from Sena, Kurdistan Province of Persia
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Tehran, Urmia County, Salmas County, Sanandaj
Persian and Neo-Aramaic
Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, Assyrian Pentecostal Church, Assyrian Evangelical Church


Nestorian (Assyrian) Christian family making butter, Mawana, Persia
Assyrians producing butter in Persia

The Assyrian presence in Iran goes back 4000 years to ancient times, and Assyria was involved in the history of Ancient Iran even before the arrival of the modern Iranian peoples to the region circa 1000 BC. During the Old Assyrian Empire (c.2025-1750 BC) and Middle Assyrian Empire (1365-1020 BC) the Assyrians ruled over parts of Pre-Iranic northern and western Iran. The Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC) saw Assyria conquer the Iranic Persians, Medes and Parthians into their empire, together with the ancient pre-Iranic Elamites, Kassites, Manneans and Gutians, and also the Iranic Cimmerians of Asia Minor and Scythians of the Caucasus.[10] The home of the Assyrians in Iran has traditionally been along the western shore of Lake Urmia from the Salmas area to the Urmia plain.[11]

After the fall of Assyria between 612 and 599 BC, after decades of civil war, followed by an attack by an alliance of former subject peoples; the Medes, Persians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Scythians and Cimmerians, its people became an integral part of the Achaemenid Empire (as did Assyria itself), holding important military, civic and economic positions, and the Achaemenid Persians, having spent centuries under Assyrian domination, were greatly influenced by Assyrian Art and Architecture, modelled their empire upon Assyrian lines, and saw themselves as the successors of the great Assyrian kings. Assyrians are still attested as being extant in the north west of the region during the Parthian Empire (160 BC-223 AD) and Sassanid Empire (224-650 AD), and throughout the Middle Ages, where the Bukhtishu family of physicians were held in great regard by the Persian kings.

There were about 200,000 Assyrians in Iran at the time of the 1976 census.[11] Many emigrated after the revolution in 1979, but at least 50,000 were estimated to be still in Iran in 1987.

In 1900, Assyrians numbered over 76,000 in northwestern Iran, constituting over a quarter of the Azerbaijan province's population and were the largest non-Muslim majority in Urmia. Of the 300 villages around Urmia, 60 were exclusively Assyrians and 60 were mixed villages with Assyrian, Armenian, and Azeri communities. Nevertheless, there were over 115 documented Assyrian villages to the west of Lake Urmia prior to 1918.[10]

During the Assyrian Genocide, which took place in World War I, the Ottoman Army together with allied Kurdish, Azeri and Arab militias along the Iranian-Turkish and Iranian-Iraqi border carried out religiously and ethnically motivated massacres and deportations on unarmed Assyrian civilians (and Armenians) both in the mountains and on the rich plains, resulting in the death of at least 300,000 Assyrians.[12] In 1914 alone, they attacked dozens of villages and drove off all the inhabitants of the district of Gawar. The Assyrians defended themselves and for a time successfully repelled further attacks under the leadership of Agha Petros, seizing control of much of the Urmia region and defeating Ottoman forces and their Kurdish, Arab and Azeri allies in the process. However lack of ammunition and supplies, due mainly to the withdrawal of Russia from the war, and the collapse of allied Armenian forces led to their downfall. Massively outnumbered, surrounded, undersupplied and cut off, the Assyrians suffered terrible massacres.

By the summer of 1918 almost all surviving Assyrians had fled to Tehran or to existing Assyrian communities or refugee camps in Iraq such as Baqubah. Local Kurds, Arabs and Azeris took the opportunity of the last phases of World War I to rob Assyrian homes, murder civilians and leave those remaining destitute. The critical murder that sowed panic in the Assyrian community came when Kurdish militias, under Agha Ismail Simko, assassinated the Patriarch, Mar Benyamin Shimon XIX, on March 3, 1918, under the pretext of inviting him to negotiations, although the Assyrian leader Malik Khoshaba exacted revenge upon Simko by attacking and sacking his citadel, forcing the Kurdish leader to flee for his life.[11]

Religious communities

Most Assyrians in Iran are followers of the Assyrian Church of the East, with a minority of 3,900 following the Chaldean Catholic Church.[13] Some also follow Protestant denominations such as the Assyrian Evangelical Church, Assyrian Pentecostal Church and possibly Russian Orthodoxy due to a Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Urmia during the 1900s.


  • Holy Mary (Mart Maryam) Church - Urmia - 1st century
  • Assyrian Pentecostal Church, Kermanshah - Kermanshah - 1955
  • St. Cyriacus (Mar Kuryakus) Church - Urmia - 18th century
  • Holy Mary (Mart Maryam) Church - Urmia - CharBakhsh - 5th century
  • Holy Gabriel (Mar Gabriel) Church - Urmia - Ordushahi - 19th century
  • St. Shalita (Mar Shalita) Church - Urmia - Shirabad - 19th century
  • St. Joseph (Mar Yozep) Church - Urmia - Shirabad - 1897
  • St. Sarkis (Mar Sargiz) Church - 5 km SW of Urmia - Seir - 5th century
  • Holy Zion (Mar Sehyon) Church - 8 km E of Urmia - Golpashan
  • St. George (Mar Gevargiz) Church - 8 km E of Urmia - Golpashan - 1905
  • Holy Mary (Mart Maryam) Church - 8 km E of Urmia - Golpashan
  • Sts. Peter-Paul (Mar Petros-Paulos) Church - 10 km E of Urmia - 8th century - believed to be built by Bukhtishu
  • Holy Mary (Mart Maryam) Church - 32 km E of Urmia - Mavana
  • St. Daniel (Mar Danial) Church - 25 km N of Urmia - Nazlu River - 5th century - destroyed in World War I, rebuilt
  • St. John (Mar Yokhanah) Church - 45 km N of Urmia - Jamalabad - 5th century
  • St. John (Mar Yokhanah) Church - 24 km N of Urmia - Adeh - 1901
  • St. Sabrisho (Mar Sabrisho) Church - 30 km N of Urmia - Mushiabad - 1880
  • St. George (Mar Gevargiz) Church - 35 km N of Urmia - Sopurghan - 1830
  • St. John (Mar Yokhanah) Church - 40 km N of Urmia - Gavilan - 5th century
  • St. John (Mar Yokhanah) Church - 40 km N of Urmia - Gavilan - 19th century
  • St. Thomas (Mar Toma) Church - 30 km W of Urmia - Balulan - 7th century
  • St. Cyriacus (Mar Kuryakus) Church - Salmas - Kohneshahr - 12th century
  • St. James (Mar Yakob) Church - Salmas - Kohneshahr - 19th century
  • St. Khinah (Mar Khinah) Church - Salmas - Sarna
  • Holy Mary (Mart Maryam) Church - Salmas - Savera
  • Vank - 2 km S of Salmas - Khosrowabad - 5th century - The Holy Cross of Jerusalem was kept here for a while.
  • St. Sarkis (Mar Sargiz) Church - 2 km S of Salmas - Khosrowabad - 1869
  • St. George (Mar Gevargiz) Church - 2 km S of Salmas - Khosrowabad - 1845
  • Church - 12 km SW of Salmas - Akhtekhaneh - 1890
  • St. Sarkis (Mar Sargiz) Church - 2 km S of Salmas - Khosrowabad - 1869
  • Holy Mary (Mart Maryam) Church - Sehna
  • St. George (Mar Gevargiz) Church - Tehran (Bagh-e-Shah) - 1962
  • Holy Mary (Mart Maryam) Church - Tehran (Sarbaz St.) - 1978
  • St. Joseph (Mar Yozep) Church - Tehran (Forsat St.) - 1950
  • Holy Virgin Church - Tehran (Appadana St.)
  • Chaldean Catholic Chapel - Eslamshahr Catholic Cemetery - 1967
  • St. Thomas (Mar Toma) Church - Tehran (Amirabad) - 1967
  • Assyrian Brotherhood Church - Tehran (ShahrAra St.)

Famous Assyrians from Iran

See also


  1. ^ "انتقال مقر جهاني آشوريان به ايران". Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  2. ^ "ASSYRIANS IN IRAN – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  3. ^ Antonopoulos, Paul (21 November 2015). "Assyrian Freedoms in Iran". Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Hooglund (2008), pp. 100–101.
  5. ^ Hooglund (2008), pp. 100–101, 295.
  6. ^ Hooglund (2008), p. 295.
  7. ^ BetBasoo, Peter (1 April 2007). "Brief History of Assyrians". Assyrian International News Agency. Archived from the original on 13 October 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  8. ^ Hooglund (2008), pp. 128–129.
  9. ^ Nicholas al-Jeloo, Evidence in Stone and Wood: The Assyrian/Syriac History and Heritage of the Urmia Region in Iran. Parole de l'Orient 35 (2010), pp. 1-15.
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ a b c Iran A Country Study By Federal Research Division - Page 128
  12. ^ David Gaunt, "The Assyrian Genocide of 1915", Assyrian Genocide Research Center, 2009
  13. ^ As of 2014, when combining the populations of all the Iranian diocese together, there are 3,900 followers



  • Eden Naby, “The Assyrians of Iran: Reunification of a ‘Millat,’ 1906-1914" International Journal of Middle East Studies, 8. (1977) pp. 237–249
  • Eden Naby, “The Iranian Frontier Nationalities: The Kurds, the Assyrians, the Baluch and the Turkmens,”Soviet Asian Ethnic Frontiers, McCagg and Silver (New York, Pergamon Press, 1979).
  • Eden Naby, “Christian Assyrian Architecture of Iran,” News – Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions (Spring 1998) vol. 5, no. 2, p. 7, 10.
  • Eden Naby, "Ishtar: Documenting the Crisis in the Assyrian Iranian Community," MERIA 10/4 (2006)
Adeh, Urmia

Adeh (Persian: اده‎, also Romanized as Ādeh; also known as Ada and Ādeh-ye Bozorg) is a village in Tala Tappeh Rural District, Nazlu District, Urmia County, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 151, in 41 families.

Andrew David Urshan

Andrew David Urshan (born Andreos Bar Dawid Urshan; 1884–1967) was a Persian-born Assyrian evangelist and author. Born near the city of Urmia, early in his life Urshan was influenced by the missionary activities of the Presbyterians. At the age of 18, he decided to travel to the United States, where he commenced his religious activities, embracing Pentecostalism and later founding the Persian Pentecostal Mission.

After spending about eleven years in the United States, in 1913 Urshan returned to his country of birth, only to find himself and his fellow Assyrians soon afterwards trapped by the Ottoman invasion of World War I. Urshan then made his way back to the United States, where he settled permanently.

Known as the Persian Evangelist, Urshan was the author of numerous religious books, and also the composer of hymns. He published The Witness of God (1917), a periodical that he continued for the rest of his life. Urshan published a serialized account of his own life story in the periodical, calling it The Life of Andrew bar David Urshan. Later, the installments appeared in the form of a book. He did not leave any writings in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic. His oldest son, Nathaniel, later served as the head of the United Pentecostal Church International for more than twenty years.

Christianity in Iran

Christianity in Iran dates back to the early years of the faith, pre-dating Islam. It has always been a minority religion relative to the majority state religions (Zoroastrianism before the Islamic conquest, Sunni Islam in the Middle Ages and Shia Islam in modern times), though it had a much larger representation in the past than it does today. Christians of Iran have played a significant part in the history of Christian mission. Currently there are at least 600 churches and 300,000–370,000 Christians in Iran.

Ethnicities in Iran

A majority of the population of Iran (approximately 67–80%) consists of Iranic peoples. The largest groups in this category include Persians (who form the majority of the Iranian population) and Kurds, with smaller communities including Gilakis, Mazandaranis, Lurs, Tats, Talysh, and Baloch.

Turkic groups constitute a substantial minority of about 15–24%, the largest group being the Azerbaijani, who are the second largest ethnicity in Iran as well as the largest minority group. Other Turkic groups include the Turkmen and Qashqai peoples.

Arabs account for about 2–3% of the Iranian population. The remainder, amounting to about 1% of Iranian population, consists of a variety of minor groups, mainly comprising Assyrians, Armenians, Georgians, Circassians, and Mandaeans.At the beginning of the 20th century, Iran had a total population of just below 10 million, with an approximate ethnic composition of: 6 million Persians (60%), 2.5 million Azeris (25%), 0.2 million Mazandaranis and Gilakis each (2% each).

Evin Agassi

Evin Agassi, also written as Evin Aghassi (Syriac: ܐܝܒܢ ܐܓܣܐ, born September 1945) , is an Assyrian singer who has become one of the most prolific Assyrian singers releasing over 20 albums during his career. His music career spans for 50 years; he was most prominent in the 1980s and 1990s. Agassi is one of the most well-known Assyrian singers, having toured the continents of Oceania, Europe and Asia. The majority of his songs, other than a few, were and are written by his brother, Givergiss Agassi, both in Persian and Assyrian. His first name is generally pronounced Evan by Iranian Assyrians and Ewan by Iraqi and Syrian Assyrians, with an emphasis on the vowels.


Iran (Persian: ایران‎ Irān [ʔiːˈɾɒːn] (listen)), also called Persia (), and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran (Persian: جمهوری اسلامی ایران‎ Jomhuri-ye Eslāmi-ye Irān (listen)), is a country in Western Asia. With over 81 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. The country's central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the country's capital and largest city, as well as its leading economic and cultural center.

Iran is home to one of the world's oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdoms in the fourth millennium BCE. It was first unified by the Iranian Medes in the seventh century BCE, reaching its greatest territorial size in the sixth century BCE, when Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Empire, which stretched from Eastern Europe to the Indus Valley, becoming one of the largest empires in history. The Iranian realm fell to Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE and was divided into several Hellenistic states. An Iranian rebellion culminated in the establishment of the Parthian Empire, which was succeeded in the third century CE by the Sasanian Empire, a leading world power for the next four centuries.Arab Muslims conquered the empire in the seventh century CE. The Islamization of Iran led to the decline of Zoroastrianism, which was by then the country's dominant religion, and Iran's major contributions to art and science spread within the Muslim rule during the Islamic Golden Age. After two centuries, a period of various native Muslim dynasties began, which were later conquered by the Seljuq Turks and the Ilkhanate Mongols. The rise of the Safavids in the 15th century led to the reestablishment of a unified Iranian state and national identity, with the country's conversion to Shia Islam marking a turning point in Iranian and Muslim history. Under Nader Shah, Iran was one of the most powerful states in the 18th century, though by the 19th century, a series of conflicts with the Russian Empire led to significant territorial losses. The Iranian Constitutional Revolution in the early 20th century led to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy and the country's first legislature. A 1953 coup instigated by the United Kingdom and the United States resulted in greater autocracy and growing Western political influence. Subsequent widespread dissatisfaction and unrest against the monarchy led to the 1979 Revolution and the establishment of an Islamic republic, a political system that includes elements of a parliamentary democracy vetted and supervised by a theocracy governed by an autocratic "Supreme Leader". During the 1980s, the country was engaged in a war with Iraq, which lasted for almost eight years and resulted in a high number of casualties and economic losses for both sides.

The sovereign state of Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, NAM, OIC, and OPEC. It is a major regional and middle power, and its large reserves of fossil fuels – which include the world's largest natural gas supply and the fourth largest proven oil reserves – exert considerable influence in international energy security and the world economy.

The country's rich cultural legacy is reflected in part by its 22 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the third largest number in Asia and 11th largest in the world. Iran is a multicultural country comprising numerous ethnic and linguistic groups, the largest being Persians (61%), Azeris (16%), Kurds (10%), and Lurs (6%). Organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have strongly criticized Iran's women's rights record.

Iranian Americans

Iranian Americans or Persian Americans are U.S. citizens who are of Iranian ancestry or who hold Iranian citizenship.

Iranian Americans are among the most highly educated people in the United States. They have historically excelled in business, academia, science, the arts, and entertainment.

Based on a 2012 announcement by the National Organization for Civil Registration, an organization of the Ministry of Interior of Iran, the United States has the highest number of Iranians outside the country.

List of prestige dialects

A prestige dialect is the dialect that is considered most prestigious by the members of that speech community. In nearly all cases, the prestige dialect is also the dialect spoken by the most prestigious members of that community, often the people who have political, economic, or social power.

St. Mary Church, Urmia

St. Mary Church (Aramaic: ܩܕܝܫܬܐ ܡܪܝܡ ܥܕܬܐ‎, Persian: کلیسای ننه مریم‎), is an ancient Assyrian church located in the city of Urmia, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran. It is considered by some historians to be the second oldest church in Christendom after the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Current old building of the church belongs to Sasanian era and its interior design is a combination of Sasanian and Arsacid architecture.

It is believed by some Assyrian and Christian historians that it had been a Fire temple at first in which Zoroastrian priests used to pray. At Jesus Christ' time of birth, three priests observed a shining star moving toward east. They considered it as a sign of awaited Messiah's birth and traveled to Jerusalem to meet him. After coming back they converted the fire temple to a church.

A Chinese princess, who contributed to its reconstruction in 642 AD, has her name engraved on a stone on the church wall. The famous Italian traveller Marco Polo also described the church in his visit.

Briefly prior to the World War I, it was converted by the Russians to a Russian Orthodox church.

In early 1960s, the old church was restored and a modern church with a spire was built adjacent to the ancient church.


Urmia (Persian: ارومیه‎; Azerbaijani: Urmiya, اورمیه; Kurdish: Ûrmiye, ورمێ‎; Syriac: ܐܘܪܡܝܐ‎; (pronounced [oɾumiˈje] (listen))) is the largest city in West Azerbaijan Province of Iran and the capital of Urmia County. It is situated at an altitude of 1,330 metres (4,360 ft) above sea level, and is located along the Shahar Chay river (City River) on the Urmia Plain. Lake Urmia, one of the world's largest salt lakes, lies to the east of the city, and the mountainous Turkish border area lies to the west.

Urmia is the 10th most populated city in Iran. At the 2012 census, its population was 667,499, with 197,749 households.The city's inhabitants are predominantly Azerbaijanis who speak the Azerbaijani language. There are also minorities of Kurds, Assyrians, and Armenians. The city is the trading center for a fertile agricultural region where fruits (especially apples and grapes) and tobacco are grown.

The Christian history of Urmia is well preserved, and is especially evident in the city's many churches and cathedrals.

An important town by the 9th century, the city has had a diverse population which has at times included Muslims (Shias and Sunnis), Christians (Catholics, Protestants, Nestorians, and Orthodox), Jews, Bahá'ís and Sufis. Around 1900, Christians made up more than 40% of the city's population; however, most of the Christians fled in 1918 as a result of the Persian Campaign during World War I and the Armenian and Assyrian Genocides by Ottoman Empire.

Syriac script
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