Ask An Iranian - The Big Three in Tehran, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin - 1945

To Iranians, ze Germans are foreign, but ze Chinese… well, they’re just Chinese! It’s the same with many other nationalities and ethnicities for Iranians in Iran — some are foreign and some are just themselves. This type of categorisation tacitly exists and is just… discriminatory. Yes, it’s kinda racism, but the good kind, right! Iranians will hold certain peoples in high esteem and although they won’t make their prejudices institutional, they will bestow privilege to those deemed foreign. Enraged? Don’t be! Allow us to explain how it is that Iranians can be racist, kinda.

Throughout this episode, we also provide anecdotes from various foreign friends of the show. They were kind enough to share their stories of how Iranians have judged them as foreigners. These stories were provided by a Brazilian, a Brit, a Syrian, and an Afghanistani. Most of their experiences were positive, but no prizes for guessing which of them experienced the opposite.

So, wanna know why Iranian love foreigners, but only certain foreigners? Listen here.

Questions we also get answers to in this episode

  • Are Iranians racist?
  • Are Iranians “kinda” racist?
  • How exactly do Iranians determine who is foreign?
  • How are people from Afghanistan treated by Iranians?
  • Is using the word “Afghan” for people from Afghanistan racist or otherwise inappropriate?
  • Why are Iranians racist or insulting towards people from Afghanistan?
  • What do Iranians think of Brazilians?
  • How do I date an Iranian?
  • What do Iranians think of Arabs?
  • Will I be overcharged in Iran?
  • What do Iranians think of the British?

How Afghanistani people are treated in Iran

One of, if not the largest non-Iranian peoples in Iran are Afghanistanis. For various complex reasons, people from this neighbouring country come to live and work in Iran. After doing so, they face many restrictions, but also much discrimination. To help explain this, we interviewed Zahra, a 22-year-old woman born in Iran to Afghanistani parents.

In our Persian language interview with her, she explained the difficulties of living as an Afghanistani person in Iran. She also gave us examples of the many racial slurs she received from Iranians. During the interview she spoke about the legal restriction Afghanistanis face when living and working in Iran.

If you want to listen to the full Persian-language interview with Zahra, please check back here soon — we’ve yet to edit it and upload it. Follow us on social media for the announcement.

Aghanistani men in Qom, Iran. Photo by Javad Esmaeili via Unsplash.
Aghanistani men in Qom, Iran. Photo by Javad Esmaeili via Unsplash.

Racist/insulting comments Iranians make to people from Afghanistan

During our interview with Zahra, an Afghanistani woman living in Iran, she told us of the many insulting and racist comments she received from Iranians. Some of these are listed below.

  • You came here to be human
  • You eat rubbish
  • We’ll make you walk back to Afghanistan
  • You’re only good for cleaning
  • You’re not educated
  • What are you going to steal?

We’d like to thank Talieh

A good friend of the show helped us out with the interview with Zahra. Thank you Talieh for going out of your way and getting us this interesting resource.


What Tehran Von Ghasri has to say about racism towards people from Afghanistan

We interviewed the American-Iranian comedian, Tehran Von Ghasri, and got into an interesting debate about race and terminology. During this debate, Tehran told us that the way to refer to a person from Afghanistan is by calling them Afghanistani.

Do you agree with this type of categorisation? If not, let us know why in the comments section below.


Who do Iranians consider foreigners?

Iranians will likely use the Persian word for “foreigner” when referring to certain people from certain nations. They will almost certainly use this term when referring to people from so called first-world nations. If this term is not applied, then they will likely refer to a foreign person by their ethnicity or nationality. To help you get an idea of common descriptions as we’ve heard them, please read the list below.

  • Americans, English, French, Germans, Italians, Spanish, Australians, Russian
    Yes — they’ll be referred to as foreigners
  • Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Afghanistani
    No — they’ll be known as their own nationality
  • Arabs, Koreans, Africans
    Depends — they’ll occasionally be known by their ethnic group

Translation of Persian (Farsi) used during this episode

PersianEnglish translations
Khareji:“Outsider/foreigner”
Laa ma sab:Referring to somebody who is irreligious, likely immoral
An-Iran:A term used to say somebody is not Iranian
Baseh:“Enough”, like stop, that’s enough
Aadam:“Human/respected person”
Ey baba:“Oh dad!”, an exclamation, maybe like “dear lord”
Farangi:“European”
Khodaa haafez:“Good bye, or “may God keep you safe”
“a” appearing alone, is pronounced as a short-a — double ‘aa’s are long, as used in the word “water”

Image credit: Marion Doss, via Flickr – “Conference of the ‘Big Three’ at Yalta makes final plans for the defeat of Germany. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Premier Josef Stalin.” February 1945. Image edited by Ask An Iranian, 2021.