Humans have inhabited the area that makes up modern Iran since the Stone Age. The ancient Persians arrived about 1500 BC, one branch of the great movement of people that also brought northern India and most of Europe their modern populations. The name Iran is from the same root as "Aryan" which, until Hitler perverted it, was just an ancient name for those arriving peoples. Persian (or Farsi) is an Indo-European language; ancient Persian was related to Sanskrit, ancient Greek, and all the others in that family. Persians are ethnically and linguistically unrelated to their neighbours on the west, the Arabs and Turks.

Iran has many people other than ethnic Persians. The northwestern region, Azerbaijan, is largely populated by Azeris, who are ethnically persian but linguistically related to Turks. The province of West Azerbaijan is both Azeri and Kurd. Other regions are mostly Kurds in parts of west and northwest and Baluchis in parts of southeast. There are also Armenians, Arabs, and last but not least Jews, who have been living in Iran peacefully for years.

While Shia Islam is without a doubt the dominant religion in Iran, there also exists several religious minorities as well. Sunni Islam in Iran is mainly practised by ethnic minorities such as the Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens. Other non-Islamic faiths also exist in smaller numbers, the most notable being Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Judaism, all three of which are recognised as minority religions by the Iranian constitution, and each of these are guaranteed representation in parliament. As such, despite being an Islamic republic, fire temples, churches and synagogues continue to operate legally in the country. Most Iranian Christians follow Eastern Orthodoxy, and are of Armenian ethnicity.

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