Although I do not come from a visible ethnic minority in Iran but the ethnic diversity of Iranians always fascinated me.
The Iranian plateau was home and battleground to many nations in the past. Since the invasion of the Indo-European tribes until the Armenian migrations and in fact up to now, Iran has always been the land of many ethnicities. Sadly many of these old ethnicities have lost most of their characteristics (language, looks and customs) as Iran has emerged as a modern nation state.
The above statement however should be contrasted with the fact that besides Israel, Iran is the most ethnically diverse country in the middle east and possibly among the most diverse in the world [The diversity index of Iran is estimated at 0.71, where index 0.0 refers to a uniform ethnic background and 1.0 refers to an equally mixed ethnic background, this index is 0.35 for the US]. Besides the official language of Farsi (Western Persian, the mother tongue of about 20-30 million or maybe less), the current spoken languages include Arabic (different dialects in Khuzestan and the Islands of the Persian Gulf), Kurdish, Luri, Armenian, Assyrian, Azeri (or Turkish), Baloochi, Gilaki, Mazendarani, Qashqa'i and Turkmen.
The genetic pool of the Iranian population is also very diverse in terms of races which is paralleled by the religious diversity. The list includes Shi'ite Islam (official), Sunni Islam, Christian, Baha'i, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism.
As refreshing as these facts might be about Iran, a disturbing fact is that for the last 50 years, almost nothing has been done to preserve the identities of these ethnicities. [In a manner similar to almost any country] speakers of different accents and dialects have been the usual victims of verbal jokes and their language and heritage is not treated as anything more than a disturbance in the sea of the glorious Persian-Shi'ite culture. The very idea that there is a Persian identity that supersedes all ethnic minorities in Iran, was once fashionable during the Pahlavi's but is probably no more with the current explosive situation among the ethnicities in the middle east.
What is somehow frightening is the systematic incoherent stances of the Iranian foreign policy in various regional ethnic conflicts: they prefer Turks to Kurds in Turkey and prefer Kurds to Arabs in Iraq; in Chechnya they prefer Russians to Muslim Chechens; they like Armenians against Azerbaijanis; in Afghanistan where they displayed a complete state of "don't know who they are" when the Pashtun Taliban came to power.
However difficult the thread of foreign policy of the Middle East might be to follow, the ethnic minorities in Iran still have a right to preserve their language and cultural heritage. The fact that the Persian language survived the invasion of Arabs 1400 years ago has much to do with the fact that Persian was transliterated into Arabic characters (the language of Qur’an and thus considered sacred at the time) and was saved because it could formally be taught.
An equal place for the ethnic minorities will be one of the bases of the Iranian civil society in future. In a way, ethnic and religious minorities, women, children and other traditionally repressed social categories should all find their place in such a civil society in which culture, freedom and self-rule of people shall flourish.
[Such a romantic and glorious conclusion... ]