There are widespread misconception regarding the Sunni Persians, some people still think that all of the Sunni Persians in Iran are actually from Arabian descent, due to the arrival of the Huwala and Sunni Persians to Arabia and the claims of some of them to be Arabs. Some people even go so far in their ignorance to deny the existence of Persian Sunnis at all ! This post shall clarify some facts regarding the Fars (Persian) Sunnis of Iran.
Iran still has some big cities which include Sunni Muslims, else of Bandar Lengeh and Bandar Charak there is Ahvaz near the Iraqi border and Mashhad except that the latter two cities didn’t have the Huwala whom only travelled to the west cost of Persia, Ahvaz especially had and still has Arabs from Iraq. There are still Sunni mosques in both Bandar Lengeh and Bandar Charak. (with Arab and Sunni Persian inhabitants).
The other groups whom arrived to Arabia were original Sunni Persians. Their villages are many and can still be located mostly in the Fārs Province as well as Hormozgān Province. And these locations obviously still has Sunni mosques up until now. In later years Some of the those Sunni Persians left Iran to the GCC countries to work or to make Business many of them moved to the GCC countries in the same period when the Arabian Huwala tribes were exiled from Iran, thus creating a confusing issue of how to distinguish between Persians and Arabs, since both had the same faith and Persian Language as well as influence.
Of the reasons Sunni Persians left for the Arabian peninsula, was that most had the anti-relegious pressure of Iran’s former king Muhammad Reza Shah. The Shah forced everyone to accept his Liberal ideas or what he called it the White Revolution, and he disliked religious people from both faiths. Furthermore Sunni Persians and Sunni Iranians in general were discriminated for not being twelver Rafidhite Shi’ites as the majority of their folk was.
This led many Sunni Persians to leave Persia, not only to the Arabian peninsula, but to other parts of the world too. But because the GCC countries were the nearest point, it was the Persians first choice to leave for. It had also many job opportunities by that time so they could start a new life.
Until recent years, Iran official census still shows such coastal areas as mostly populated by Arabic ethnic people which confirms origins of Huwala that migrated back to Arabia are Arabs since they lived in same areas. This however is useful to distinguish between sunni Persians and Sunni Arabs in Iran.
Sunni Persians are therefore present in the neighbour areas of Iran such as the Gulf countries. There are many Sunni Persians in the Khaleej (Gulf), they make out about half of the inhabitants of the UAE ! and all of them got the citizenship and even some of them became ministers like the minister of Education who is originally from Bastak (Persian Sunni city in south Iran) and two other ministers that come from the Awaz province which is close to Lar. And not to mention that the rulers of the emirate of Sharjah are the Qassimi familly who immigrated from Bandar Lengeh 200 years ago are of Sunni Persian heritage !
The sunni persians are very respected and most of them work as tradesman while the rest are also Engineers and doctors (actually the majority of Emaratis who work in these jobs are sunni Persians).And we will give you the name of some of the persian families in the UAE who carry the name of their original persian hometowns:
Bastaki,Zarouni, Harmoodi,Awadi,gergawi, Janahi,Ahli,Khokerdi, Koheji and Khoori.
Bastak for example is still a city in south Iran with Sunni Persian inhabitants. The history of Bastak shall clarify how the Sunni Persians suffered by the hands of the Safavids and their offsprings the Rafidhite Shias.
When the Safavids under Ismail I decided to convert everyone residing in current day Iran from Sunni to Shiite Islam in 1501, they started arranged attacks and massacres against the Sunni Persians who refused to convert. As a result, many Sunni Persians left their hometowns for the Zagros mountains. After the Battle of Chaldiran where the Safavids lost to the Ottoman the Sunni Persians descended from the mountains to begin a new life in the land they named “Bastak”, meaning barrier or backstop signifying barrier from Shiite Safavids’ attacks and influences.
Many Bastaki people emigrated to Dubai, Bahrain, and Kuwait after refusing to pay taxes to Nasir al-Din, the last member of the Qajar dynasty and refusing to give up their Sunni faith. Today, there are many Bastakis in Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman, who have carried their unique Persian culture, language, and architecture with them. They have named their neighbourhood in Dubai, Bastakeyah, after their small city of Bastak in southern Persia, and use an old Persian style of cooling architecture that is represented in the Badgir (“wind catchers”) that direct the wind into the houses and cool the interior of the houses, a very common style throughout the city of Yazd.
The origins of Sunni Persians
One of the leading Sunni Persians families in Bahrain, are the Khonji family. The Khonji family comes originally from Khonj. Khonj is a township (city) in province of Fars 270 km south of Shiraz with a population of 60,000. Its history goes back to 2000 years and its inhabitants were known to be the followers of Zoroastrianism. The ancient names for Khonj has always been Hong and Konj (corner in Persian) and over time it was changed to Khonj.
Another famous Sunni Persian family in Bahrain are the Bastaky family, they come originally from Bastak, a large city in the province of Hormozgān. They are well known to be traders and have business interests, and are always being mentioned to be have “blue blood” due to the fact that they are Persians, or perhaps from the Aryan race as some may suggest. However their city of Bastak is mixed between Arabs and Persians, Al Bastaki family are well known to have strong friendship relationships with some of the biggest Arab leading families in the GCC countries too.
Other well known leading families in Bahrain include Alansari, Alkooheji originally from the city of Kohig, Alawadhi coming from Awaz, Kanoo from Kanee, Khonji coming from Khonj, Janahi from Jeneh, Karmostaji from Karmostaj and Alnaser.
Although the Gerashi family from Gerash were former Sunnis, they changed their faith to Shia some time ago, this explains why they aren’t called Huwala despite that they still speak with the same accent as the Huwala. The Gerashi family are well known in the business market, since they are the food agent of many trademarks.
Most of these previous mentioned families are Persians according to history and locations of their native origins, but most of them instead refer to themselves to be Arabs in order to avoid racism or being controversial. At the end it only depends of how strong was their Persian culture, and the environment that surrounds them, this also explains why that some members from the same family may even argue about their exact origin, Persian or Arab.
It is well known also that most of them added the “Al” (Arabic: ال) which means “The” on their family names, in order to make it sound more Arabic. Many actually view their actions like “giving up” or abandoning their origins and culture, other explain it to avoid racism troubles. These changing facts can be noticed today in their official appearance since they changed their costumes and only speak fluent Arabic.
Some even refuse to speak, or even learn how to speak Persian, and only prefer to marry from the Arabs or Sunnis. This indeed shows how the Arab had influence on them. For this, some huwala look like Arabs more than Persians, it is due to the mixture between the two usually.
The Complete List of Sunni Persian Families in the GCC countries:
1- Al Janahi Family (from the village of Jeneh, they are noted business men as well as Building constructers).
2- Karmostaji Family (from the village of Karmostaj, mostly inhabited by Sunni Muslims and a minority of Shia Muslims, most of them being traders).
3- Bastaki Family (from the village of Bastak).
4- Galadari Family (from the village of Galadar where some are Shia and some Sunni).
5- Herangi Family (from the village of Herang, and they are a noted Bakeries).
6- Gawdai Family.
7- Go’od Family ( Originally a mixture between Janahi and Awazi families).
8- Awadhi Family ( Another successful Sunni Persian Family in the Business).
9- Falamarzi Family ( from the village of Falamarz, they are well known traders).
10- Khunji Family ( From the Village of Khonj, are a well known traders).
11- Khameri Family ( From the village of Khameer).
12- karmastaj ( kanoo desecendants)
13- Kanoo Family ( Most of them claim to be Arabs originally, however maps and old family members claim that they are from a Persian village name “Kani”, but due to their very old history in the GCC country, they claim to be Arabs now). Some of their descendants are the Al-Moayyed family.
14- Al Moayyad Family ( Originally Kanoo descendants) (Sunni Bahraini family of Persian origin; involved in plethora of business ventures in the island Kingdom.)
15- Behdahi Family.
16- Maraghi Family ( From the village of Maragh).
17- Kato Family ( Some claim they are from the Village of Keteh or Kato, some say they are a mixture of Janahis and Awadhis, they are one of the best in the tailoring Business).
18- Kangoni Family ( From the village of Kangoon, they are noted bakeries and the first who introduced the local Persian bread in the GCC countries).
19- Gerashi Family ( From the village of Gerash, one of the most famous food Agents and traders all over Iran and the GCC countries, most of them turned Shia by now).
20- Faqehi Family ( Some Shia and Some Sunni).
21- Alkhan Family in Saudi Arabia, House of Al Khan ( The word “Al Khan” comes from “Khan” in Persian, which means “Leader” or “King” in Persian, however this is only a family nick name, the original name is Al abbasid, descended from `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas.
22- Eshaq Family ( The Sheikh Eshaq family that is one branch of the AlKhan family in Bahrain)
23- Najibi Family ( Another branch of the Alkhan family in Bahrain)
24- Mustafa bin Abdulatif Family
25- Yaquby Family
26- Saffy Family
27- Al Emadi family .
28- Bucheeri family ( from the village of Bucheer ) .
29- Al Zarouni Family ( from a village called Zarawn. Its a well known business familly , and its now located in the U.A.E )
30- Bo ‘Alai Family .
31- Bo Zaboon Family ( “Zaboon” means tongue in Persian ) .
32- Faramarzi Family ( mostly from the village of village of Faramarz or Falamarz ) .
33- Al Naqi family in Saudi Arabia ( A very well known Business family, they are from Persian roots ) .
34- Al Kookherdi family ( A very well known family in Sharjah ( The UAE) that originates from the village of Kookherd which is between Bastak and Lengeh) .
35- Ahli Family (this family came from the ahal village in Persia [it is not there now], all members of the family are sunni [shafi’i], some say that they come from Mongol or tattar origins.
37- Khoory Family.
38- Sharafi Family.
39- Al Hasan Family.
40- Kooheji (From the Village of Kohei, they are well known in the business).
41- Al Neama (originates from a unknown village in Persia)
42- Al Shafei