Iran and Afghanistan
Iran and Afghanistan have had a common history and cultural ties since ancient times. From the period of the Great Persian Empire of the Achaemenids (550–330 B.C.E.) until the middle of the eighteenth century, they were often parts of the same polity. After the Safavid period (sixteenth to eighteenth century), when Iran (referred to as Persia in the West until 1935) became a predominantly Shiite Muslim country, the region now known as Afghanistan maintained its Sunni majority.
Both countries are ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse. Iran is believed to consist mainly of Persian speakers, with Turkish speakers second. The major tribes of Bakhtiaris, Lurs, Baluchis, and Kurds are all speakers of Iranian languages, while the Turkmans, Shahsevens, and Qashqais are Turkic speaking. Some small tribes and people in areas in the south of Iran speak Arabic. Afghanistan too has many tribes, among them, the Turkmans, Baluchis, and Pashtuns. The official languages of Afghanistan are Dari Persian and Pashto.
Iran has a large minority of Sunni Muslims and small numbers of Zoroastrians (followers of the ancient religion of Iran), Jews, Christians (mostly Armenians), Bahais (an offshoot of Shiite Islam, considered heretical), and Mandaeans. Afghanistan is mainly Sunni, with about one-fifth Shiites. A number of Hindus also live there. Afghanistan once had a number of Jewish communities, but in 2002 only two Jews were said to be living in that country.
Iranian Jews, numbering twenty-six to forty thousand, are almost exclusively of eastern heritage (non-Ashkenazi), with small groups from Iraq. They are