Why are Iran and Türkiye not Arab countries?

Although they are located in the same region as most Arab countries, Turkey and Iran are not. The term “Arab” refers to an ethnic group that shares a language, Arabic, and a culture. It is considered that there are twenty-two Arab countries, members of the international organization of the Arab League, and located in the Middle East and North Africa. These countries are diverse in terms of religions, but Islam is the majority in all of them. However, in this region there are also non-Arab countries such as Turkey and Iran.

Iran is an Islamic republic located in the Persian Gulf. Its Constitution establishes Islam as the official religion of the State: 96% of its population is Muslim, mostly Shiite. However, 60% of Iranians are Persians, and they speak Persian, or Farsi, a language that, despite using the Arabic alphabet, has Indo-European origin. Iran is a country with great ethnic diversity, and the Persian majority coexists with other minority ethnic groups such as Arabs, who represent 2%, Kurds and Azeris.

Turkey, for its part, is also a country with a Muslim majority: 99.8% of the population, in this case Sunni. The official language of the country is Turkish, a Turkic language that uses the Latin alphabet. Around 70% of the population is of Turkish origin, although there are other important minority groups such as Kurds, Circassians or Bosnians. Arabs in Turkey represent only around 1.1% of the population.

Arab countries are those in which the language used mostly is Arabic or the predominant ethnicity is Arab. In Iran and Turkey, the predominant languages ​​are Persian and Turkish and the majority ethnicities are Persian and Turkish, respectively, and therefore they cannot be considered Arab countries. The confusion when talking about these countries as Arab may arise from the fact that they are Muslim-majority. However, although around 90% of the population in Arab countries is Muslim, they also coexist with Jewish minorities, such as the Mizrahi Arabs expelled to Israel, or Christians. On the other hand, only half of the world’s Muslims are Arabs, and none of the three countries with the largest Muslim populations are Arabs: Indonesia, Pakistan and India.