Iranian Identity and the Future of Iran


ACI stands for Association des Chercheurs Iraniens, or in Persian, Anjuman-i Pazhuhishgaran-I Iran [Association of Iranian Researchers].  This organization has recently conducted an interesting poll on the Internet.

image001ACI invited Iranians to fill in a questionnaire and 4,000 valid responses were received, of which half were from Iranians living in Iran.  ACI performed a preliminary analysis of this data, which was posted some time ago in Persian.  However, ACI has now presented the results of a more detailed analysis of 20-29 year-olds living in Iran (this group forms the largest centile in Iran’s population).  Of course this is a highly self-selected group and not representative of the whole of Iran’s population, but it is probably representative of what young urban people are thinking.

Although state-published figures declare 99.34% of Iranians as Moslems, almost 40% of this age group declared itself in this survey as without any religious convictions.  Furthermore, almost 22% declared that they have turned against religion.

In response to the question: “My religion is…”, 30% of men and 15% of women had said “no religion”, 3% of men and 3.4% of women had put Baha’i and it was the largest group after Islam (which had 62% of men and 77% of women).

However, in response to the section “My religious viewpoint/conviction”, if one adds together those that ticked the box “secular” and those that ticked “I have no religious conviction”, it adds up to 78% of men and 70% of women.  Only 15% of men and 22% of women ticked “I practice my religion”.  Only 6% which remained constant throughout the survey declared that their religious beliefs had grown stronger (their other answers were in support of the Islamic Republic).

Interestingly, in view of all of the anti-Baha’i material that has been broadcast on the Iranian media, when asked what media sources they trusted, only 10% said they trusted the Islamic Republic’s sources, while the majority trusted Voice of America and BBC.

In response to the question “How do you think the Islamic Republic will evolve?” only 8% of men and 0% of women thought it would be for the better – the rest ticked either “changing for the worse” or “towards confusion and chaos”. When asked “How do you view the Islamic Republic?”, 84% of men and 80% of women ticked the “negatively” or “very negatively” boxes.

With regard to the future, how they viewed the future, 79% of men and 86% of women ticked either “with complete hopelessness” or “with relative hopelessness”.

When asked “Are you thinking of leaving Iran?”, 62% of men and 56% of women ticked the box, “extremely” or “very much”. And another 20% of each ticked “a little”.

Interesting enough, in answer to the question “I agree with the mixing of politics and religion” (in other words the vilayet-i faqih of Khomeini, known as the rule of jurists), only 5.5% of men and 4.4% of women said they agreed.

In summary these results would seem to indicate that Iranians in this age group are rapidly losing their religion and are much less religious than Americans and about on a par with Europeans; that the government is widely disliked and distrusted; that most Iranians view the future very negatively and would like to leave the country.

You can read the full results in a downloadable PDF:

It should be noted that last year ACI issued a statement in defense of the Baha’is in Iran.


6 Responses

  1. Irani

    April 28, 2009 8:53 am

    This just confirms that the only achievement of the so called Islamic revolution has been to drive people away from Islam and religion. No surprise there when we have corrupt, unjust and criminals running the country.

  2. Ali

    April 28, 2009 11:57 am

    Mollah estimates completed by the Ministery of Intelligence last year confirms these same results. However it puts the number of people with Baha’i “tendancies”(Baha’i garaiee) at 12.3% of the population while it puts the regimes’ supporters as 2.4%(mostly in rural areas) and 18.6% in cities with high government employee count. Stating that “the latter supports the regime only because they are being paid to do so.”

    Basically put, Iranians prefer Baha’u’llah over Ayatollah by a margin of 6 to 1! Baha’u’llah’s record of working for world peace, equality, education, unity and freedom are more in tune with Iranians than the mollah message of killing, stoning, murder, rape, torture, hanging, beheading, amputating, terrorizing, suicide bombing, fire bombing, etc.

    In short, Baha’u’llah is cherished by Iranians by a margin of 6 to 1 while Mollahs’ dogmas, superstitions and wrongful interpretations of Quran are rejected by 98% of Iranians!

    Of course after seeing this report, Aya Ali Khamanei ordered it sealed. But apparently someone leaked it to a few majlis deputies and mollahs.

  3. Barmak

    April 28, 2009 3:53 pm

    To say this survey “is probably representative of what young urban people are thinking” is a highly doubtful and scientifically unsupported statement. I’d like to know on what basis this statement is made. If we Baha’is are to be anything, it is to be scientifically supported in our statements and conclusions on such matters.

    Online, self-selected surveys are horribly biased. This does no service to sociological research on Iranian youth and Iranians religiosity, period.

  4. ke

    April 29, 2009 6:42 am

    The full text of the report which is available through the link provided at the bottom of the article provides a comprehensive method of which this survey was conducted. The language of this section alone indicates that this survey was conducted carefully with well established knowledge of statistical analysis. The only bias that I see in this survey is the use of internet, as it was explained why, in Iran. With an 34% penetration rate in Iran there is an exclusion of majority of the core group and some bias in the responses from this group because those with internet in Iran have access to outside world and probably have a more toleraent world’s view. But to say the conclusion of this survey are totally unsupported is not justified either.

    What I find fascinating is the percentage of the people who reported to associate with the Baha’i faith in Iran. According to the article about 3% responded Baha’i, which puts the total population of the Baha’is in Iran much higher than the number typically quoted of 300,000. And even more interesting is in Ali’s comment, if it is not a typo, of 12.3% of population having Baha’i tendencies; that puts the number in millions. This is amazing!

  5. sb

    April 29, 2009 11:20 am

    I had the same thoughts as “ke”; if the percentage of “Baha’i tendencies” reported are accurate, the actual number of Baha’is in Iran would skyrocket were the country freed of repression. Our friend Ali has said as much here, several times!

    The persecutory measures of the Iranian government against its largest (and apparently ever-growing) minority are explainable as the desperate bid of a few, anxious to maintain their increasingly disasterous hold on power. Alas, but at what cost!

    As American society found in the 1960’s, it is impossible to repress the will of a large, young demographic.

  6. Barmak

    April 29, 2009 2:08 pm

    I have looked at the report and I see nothing in there in the form of a Discussion section that looks at the weaknesses and strengths of the study. The Methods section is likewise extremely sparse.

    While the conclusions make common sense, the study itself is weak, as presented and published. I stand by my earlier statement that the study needs to show what steps it has taken to minimize the response biases inherent in internet surveys. Presently, the study is not generalizable and its conclusions only apply to those who chose to respond.


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