Persian in Uzbekistan

Persian
Photo Source:  Hamed Saber  Creative Commons 
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People Name: Persian
Country: Uzbekistan
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 34,000
World Population: 42,334,500
Primary Language: Persian, Iranian
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.50 %
Evangelicals: 0.20 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Persian
Affinity Bloc: Persian-Median
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

By definition, Persians (also known as Iranians) are an ethnic group native to the region known today as Iran. The Persian language, called Farsi, is part of the Indo-Iranian language family, and is the official language of Iran. Dari, the language of the elite in Afghanistan, is a dialect of modern Farsi.

Persian groups began to settle in the territory that is now Iran as long ago as 1000 B.C. The loosely associated Persian tribes later became a more cohesive political unit under the Achaimenian Dynasty, and their unity soon made them the dominant ethnic group in the region.

For 1,200 years, Persia maintained a culture that became increasingly more complex and rigid, laying the foundation for a successful Arabian conquest in the seventh century. It was not until the Islamic revolution of 1979 that massive changes came both to Iran and to the Persian people.

The vast majority of Persians now live either in Iran or in one of the nearby Middle Eastern countries. However, small Persian communities can also be found in other nations all over the globe, such as Uzbekistan.

What Are Their Lives Like?

According to official figures, around 98 percent of Uzbekistan’s Muslims are Sunni. The Persian Iranian identity centers largely around a Shia form of Islam. Shias are thought to total only a few thousand, mostly ethnic Iranians living in Samarkand and Bukhara. Their Persian language comes with many distinct dialects.

In 2020, the Persian Iranian community faced mounting pressure from Uzbek authorities, who forbid religious groups from forming outside of government approval. Uzbek officials say they aim to target Muslim radicalization. But without understanding the difficult Iranian dialects, they have pursued some Shia gatherings, arresting individuals with Shia audio teachings and literature. The Shia community legally operates and is even represented in the state-approved Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Uzbekistan yet arrests and detentions are on the rise. Some have been held for long periods without a defense lawyer and have endured abuse. Further evidence of pressure is seen in recent census data. For example, in the 1989 census, nearly 25,000 people were listed as Iranian. However, the Iranian community was not identified at all in the censuses of 2000 and 2013. Even recent surveys designate Iranians as Uzbeks.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Though they are officially Shia Muslims, many Iranians who have left Iran tend towards secularism, especially in the secularized environment of Europe. However, some have had the chance to hear about and be drawn to Jesus Christ.

What Are Their Needs?

The Lord is growing His Church in Iran, and many have come to faith in recent years. Pray that the spiritual changes will extend to Iranians in Uzbekistan as well.

Prayer Points

* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect formerly Muslim Iranians who have come to faith in Christ. Pray they will reach out to others.
* Pray that God will raise up faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Iranian Diaspora.
* Ask the Lord to call and send out people who are willing to share the love of Christ with Iranians.
* Pray for a powerful movement to Christ among Iranians in Uzbekistan.

Text Source:   Keith Carey