Iran is multicultural country with ethnically, religiously, and linguistically diverse population. Shia Muslims constitute the majority of the population (90-95%: CIA Factbook 2021). After the 1979 Revolution, Iran became an Islamic Republic, and conditions for ethnic and religious minorities worsened. The country’s social cohesion was impacted by several ethnic and religious conflicts that erupted across regions.
Religious and ethnic minorities face discrimination in nearly all areas of life, especially in education, employment, housing, and political participation. In addition, negative campaigns by state-owned media often intensify negative attitudes towards religious minorities, which further aggravate the divisions within the society. Despite the Iranian constitution affirmation of the protection of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, the central government emphasizes the ethnic Persian and Shiite Muslim nature of the state (Hassan, 2007). This hinders interfaith and intercultural relations within the country.
Iran has attained an overall ICDI score of 0.34. A score of 0.62 in the component of intercultural attitudes indicates that a slightly above average degree of global social tolerance and slightly less than average degree of racist attitudes towards different ethnic groups within the population. A score of 0.11 in the component of social contact signals the lack of platforms available for intercultural participation and the erosion of indigenous and immigrant living languages.
Current Situation and Outlook
Iran has scored below average scores for all three dimensions which make up the ICDI score. Iran can improve its overall ICDI score by introducing and sustaining multicultural and anti-discrimination acts and or policies which will enhance its legislative dimension. It can also strengthen it structural dimension by creating avenues for increased social contact between different communities and increasing the access to modern communication. It can enhance its opportunities dimension by promoting minority representation. With the support of anti-discrimination acts and or policies, Iran can also reduce the degree or discrimination against ethnic minorities.