The Persian Sunnis of Iranian Khorasan

If there are any Iranian Sunni people more unknown (even to Iranians) than the Persian Sunni-Shafi’is (Lari/Khodmooni) of south Iran, then it is the Persian Sunni-Hanafi people of the Iranian Khorasan province. Perhaps, this is due to the widely-held (erroneous) belief that Iranian Sunnis are from ethnic groups other than the Persian one.

Persian Khorasani Sunnis used to make up the majority population of the modern day Khorasan province of Iran (just like Sunnis represented the majority in most parts of modern day Iran) until the brutal Safavids took control in the 16th century and forced them like most Iranians to Shi’ism. Many Persian Sunnis had to flee to neighbouring countries, but unlike the norht of Iran and its centre like Isfahan, the Safavids didn’t manage to virtually force everyone to Shi’ism, one reason might be that Khorasan is located far away from the homeland of the Safavids (Azerbaijan) and even their later capital (Isfahan). Whatever the case, the Khorasan province is one of the few regions of Iran where Persian Sunnis exist to this very day. There are many majority Sunni towns (or at the very least towns with a significant Sunni population) in the Iranian Khorasan regions, to mention a few famous ones:

  • Khaf
  • Torbat Jam
  • Taybad
  • Birjand

Even Mashad has still a Sunni minority population (with very old and cramped mosques, for the only proper mosque, the Shaykh Fayz one was bulldozed by the regime).