Iranians in the United Kingdom

Iranians in the United Kingdom, consist of people of Iranian nationality who have settled in the United Kingdom, as well as British residents and citizens of Iranian heritage.[2] At the time of the 2011 census, 84,735 Iranian-born people resided in the UK. In 2017, the Office for National Statistics estimated the Iranian-born population to be 70,000.

Iranians in the United Kingdom
Total population
Iranian-born residents
42,494 (2001 census)
84,735 (2011 census)
70,000 (2017 ONS estimate)
Regions with significant populations
British English, Persian, Azerbaijani, Armenian, Kurdish and other languages of Iran. (see Languages of Iran)
Shia Islam, Non-religion, Christianity, Judaism, Bahá'í, Sunni Islam, Zoroastrianism, Other.


British-Iranian is used interchangeably with British-Persian,[3][4][5][6] partly due to the fact[7] that, in the Western world, Iran was known as "Persia". On the Nowruz of 1935, Reza Shah Pahlavi asked foreign delegates to use the term Iran, the endonym of the country used since the Sasanian Empire, in formal correspondence. Since then the use of the word "Iran" has become more common in the Western countries. This also changed the usage of the terms for Iranian nationality, and the common adjective for citizens of Iran changed from "Persian" to "Iranian". In 1959, the government of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Reza Shah Pahlavi's son, announced that both "Persia" and "Iran" could officially be used interchangeably.[8] However the issue is still debated today.[9][10]

There is a tendency among British-Iranians to categorize themselves as "Persian" rather than "Iranian", mainly to dissociate themselves from the Islamic regime of Iran which is in charge since 1979 Revolution and the negativity associated with it, and also to distinguish themselves as being of Persian ethnicity, which comprise about 65% of Iran's population.[3][11] While the majority of British-Iranians come from Persian backgrounds, there is a significant number of non-Persian Iranians such as Azerbaijanis[12][13][14] and Kurds within the British-Iranian community,[11][15] leading some scholars to believe that the label "Iranian" is more inclusive, since the label "Persian" excludes non-Persian minorities.[11] The Collins English Dictionary uses a variety of similar and overlapping definitions for the terms "Persian" and "Iranian".[16][17]


The vast majority of Iranians in the UK arrived after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In the following five years, an estimated 8,000 Iranian asylum seekers arrived in the country. The 1981 census showed 28,617 persons born in Iran (18,132 men, 10,485 women). Iranians were not separately distinguished in the 1991 census.[18] The 2001 census recorded 42,494 persons born in Iran.[19] In the 2011 census, 79,985 Iranian-born people were recorded in England, 1,695 in Wales,[20] 2,773 in Scotland[21] and 282 in Northern Ireland.[22] The Office for National Statistics estimates that, in 2017, 70,000 Iranian-born people were living in the UK.[23] In 2004, the Iranian embassy in London estimated that as many as 75,000 Iranians might reside in the country.[18] Most adults are themselves immigrants; the second generation are quite young, and so there are relatively few adults of Iranian background born and raised in the UK.[24]


Iran is a primarily Shia Muslim country with Jewish, Bahá'í, Christian and Zoroastrian communities, a fact reflected in the migrant population in the UK.[25][26] However, there is an increasing number of Iranian Atheists and Agnostics. Some Iranians in the UK have converted from Shiaism to various sects of Christianity.[27] There are also active Jewish and Christian communities among British Iranians.[28][29]

See also



  1. "Born abroad: Iran", BBC News, 7 September 2005, retrieved 29 June 2019
  2. Harbottle 2004
  3. Daha, Maryam (September 2011). "Contextual Factors Contributing to Ethnic Identity Development of Second-Generation Iranian American Adolescents". Journal of Adolescent Research. 26 (5): 543–569. doi:10.1177/0743558411402335. ... the majority of the participants self-identified themselves as Persian instead of Iranian, due to the stereotypes and negative portrayals of Iranians in the media and politics. Adolescents from Jewish and Baha'i faiths asserted their religious identity more than their ethnic identity. The fact Iranians use Persian interchangeably is nothing to do with current Iranian government because the name Iran was used before this period as well. Linguistically modern Persian is a branch of Old Persian in the family of Indo-European languages and that includes all the minorities as well more inclusively.
  4. Nakamura, Raymond M. (2003). Health in America: A Multicultural Perspective. Kendall/Hunt Pub. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-7575-0637-6. Iranian/Persian Americans – The flow of Iranian citizens into the United States began in 1979, during and after the Islamic Revolution.
  5. Zanger, Mark (2001). The American Ethnic Cookbook for Students. ABC-CLIO. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-57356-345-1. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  6. Racial and Ethnic Relations in America, Carl Leon Bankston,"Therefore, Turkish and Iranian (Persian) Americans, who are Muslims but not ethnically Arabs, are often mistakenly..", Salem Press, 2000
  7. Darya, Fereshteh Haeri (2007). Second-generation Iranian-Americans: The Relationship Between Ethnic Identity, Acculturation, and Psychological Well-being. ProQuest. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-0-542-97374-1. Retrieved 21 December 2016. According to previous studies, the presence of heterogeneity is evident among Iranian immigrants (also known as Persians – Iran was known as Persia until 1935) who came from myriads of religious (Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Armenian, Assyrian, Baha'i and Zoroastrian), ethnic (Turk, Kurds, Baluchs, Lurs, Turkamans, Arabs, as well as tribes such as Ghasghaie, and Bakhtiari), linguistic/dialogic background (Persian, Azari, Gialki, Mazandarani, Kurdish, Arabic, and others). Cultural, religious and political, and various other differences among Iranians reflect their diverse social and interpersonal interactions. Some studies suggest that, despite the existence of subgroup within Iranian immigrants (e.g. various ethno-religious groups), their nationality as Iranians has been an important point of reference and identifiable source of their identification as a group across time and setting.
  8. Yarshater, Ehsan Persia or Iran, Persian or Farsi Archived 2010-10-24 at the Wayback Machine, Iranian Studies, vol. XXII no. 1 (1989)
  9. Majd, Hooman, The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran, by Hooman Majd, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, September 23, 2008, ISBN 0385528426, 9780385528429. p. 161
  10. Frye, Richard Nelson (2005). Greater Iran: A 20th-century Odyssey. Mazda. ISBN 9781568591773. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  11. Bozorgmehr, Mehdi (2009). "Iran". In Mary C. Waters; Reed Ueda; Helen B. Marrow (eds.). The New Americans: A Guide to Immigration since 1965. Harvard University Press. p. 469. ISBN 978-0-674-04493-7.
  12. Svante E. Cornell (20 May 2015). Azerbaijan Since Independence. Routledge. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-317-47621-4.
  13. Barbara A. West (1 January 2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. Infobase Publishing. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-4381-1913-7.
  14. James Minahan (1 January 2002). Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: S-Z. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 1766. ISBN 978-0-313-32384-3.
  15. Elizabeth Chacko, Contemporary ethnic geographies in America // Ines M. Miyares, Christopher A. Airriess (eds.), Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, pp. 325–326
  16. "Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition". Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  17. "Definition of "Persian"". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  18. Spellman 2004, p. 38
  19. Country-of-birth database, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, archived from the original on 2005-05-11, retrieved 2009-01-25
  20. "2011 Census: Country of birth (expanded), regions in England and Wales". Office for National Statistics. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  21. "Country of birth (detailed)" (PDF). National Records of Scotland. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  22. "Country of Birth – Full Detail: QS206NI". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  23. "Table 1.3: Overseas-born population in the United Kingdom, excluding some residents in communal establishments, by sex, by country of birth, January 2017 to December 2017". Office for National Statistics. 24 May 2018. Retrieved 24 June 2018. Figure given is the central estimate. See the source for 95% confidence intervals.
  24. Harbottle 2004, p. 145
  25. Spellman 2004, p. 59
  26. Religion in Iran
  27. Spellman 2004, p. 147
  28. "Persian community join the US". Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  29. Spellman 2004, p. 103


  • Harbottle, Lynn (2004), Food For Health, Food For Wealth: Ethnic and Gender Identities in British Iranian Communities, The Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, Oxford: Berghahn Books, ISBN 978-1-57181-634-4
  • Spellman, Kathryn (2004), Religion and Nation: Iranian Local and Transnational Networks in Britain, Forced Migration, Oxford: Berghahn Books, ISBN 978-1-57181-576-7

Further reading

  • Spellman, Kathryn (2004), "Gendered spaces of exchange: Iranian Muslim religious practices in London", in Titley, Gavan (ed.), Resituating culture, Council of Europe. Directorate of Youth and Sport, pp. 151–161, ISBN 978-92-871-5396-8