Baran Social Background    Go back

Ethnicity and Language in the film

This film shows a microcosm of the blue collar working class in today's Tehran. The construction site is managed by Memar, an Azeri. and he employs Iranians from various ethnicity as well as Afghans refugees. Many languages are spoken in this film and this document tries to put some light on the ethnical and language variety present in Iran.

Iranians: Ethnic groups (source)

Persian 51%, Azeri 24%,
Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%

Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Turkich and Turkich dialects 26%,
Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, other 2%

All Iranians learn and speak Persian (Farsi) at school as Persian is the official language. People of different ethnical background are recognizable by their accent. People of different ethnicity speak a second or third language that are not taught at school.

Afghan Refugees

Afghan refugees (according to UNCHR around 1.5 Million) from Afghanistan have been present in Iran for the last 20 years, fleeing the Soviet occupation first and then the Taliban regime. They are on a temporary residence and live either in a refugee camp or in the city if they have been able to get an autorization to leave the camp. This authorization is not easy to obtain as the Iranian governement has a priority to insure the security of its own nationals against robbery and drug dealings that some of the Afghans resort to when they are outside the camps. In the refugee camps, usually situated far from the cities, the Afghans have very few opportunities to work, so many refugees prefer to live outside the camp even if they do not have an authorization. While in the refugee camps children are admitted to school, once the family leaves the camp without an autorization they become illegal, they cannot work and children are not admitted to school. While workers who have an authorization are legally allowed to work, the illegal workers are harassed by the work inspectors. Because of the scarcity of the work and the pressure to survive, Afghans either legal or illegal accepts less paid jobs that the Iranians. This is a bonus for the contractors who take advantage of their situation, offer them less wages and do not pay any Social Security for the illegal ones. This situation sometimes creates friction with Iranian workers who perceive the Afghans are stealing their job.

The Afghans speak usually two languages: Pashto which is close to the Urdu spoken in Pakistan and Dari which is close to Persian. Dari and Pashto are both Indo-European languages.
Dari speakers describe their language as richer, with a long history of literature. Most of the nation's scientific books are in Dari, and its speakers see cultural and linguistic links to Farsi or Persian.
Pashto, on the other hand, does not claim as deep a literary tradition because it had fewer outside influences: Most of its speakers lived on remote mountaintops and valleys, and prided themselves on conservatism. While both languages are official languages, Dari, rather than Pashto, serves as the means of communication between speakers of different languages in Afghanistan.

Ethnicity in the construction site.

Where are they living?

The Iranian workers stay and sleep in the construction site occupying different rooms depending on their ethnical originin. In the film, they are three rooms:
The Lurs room where Lateef comes in first to remit the bill to the Lors chief.
The Kurd room where Latreef come second to remit the bills.
The Turks room is where Lateef sleeps and where the Turks sing and dance.

The Afghans do not stay in the site, they travel back and forth from their village everyday.