Sunday, January 3, 2010

Arabs of the Caucasus and Central Asia


In 1728, a Russian officer described a group of Sunni Arab nomads who populated the Caspian shores of Mughan (in present-day Azerbaijan) and spoke a mixed Turkic-Arabic language. It is believed that these groups migrated to the Caucasus in the 16th century. The 1888 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica also mentioned a certain number of Arabs populating the Baku Governorate of the Russian Empire. They retained an Arabic dialect at least into the mid-19th century, but since then have fully assimilated with the neighbouring Azeris and Tats. Today in Azerbaijan alone, there are nearly 30 settlements still holding the name Arab (e.g. Arabgadim, Arabojaghy, Arab-Yengija, etc.).

From the time of the Arab conquest of the Caucasus, continuous small-scale Arab migration from various parts of the Arabic-speaking world was observed in Dagestan influencing and shaping the culture of the local peoples. Up until the mid-20th century, there were still individuals in Dagestan who claimed Arabic to be their native language, with the majority of them living in the village of Darvag to the north-west of Derbent. The latest of these accounts dates to the 1930s. Most Arab communities in southern Dagestan underwent linguistic Turkicisation, thus nowadays Darvag is a majority-Azeri village.

According to the History of Ibn Khaldun, the Arabs that were once in Central Asia have been either killed or have fled the Tatar invasion of the region, leaving only the locals .[50] However, today many people in Central Asia identify as Arabs. Most Arabs of Central Asia are fully integrated into local populations, and sometimes call themselves the same as locals (e.g. Tajiks, Uzbeks) but they use special titles to show their Arabic origin such as Sayyid, Khoja or Siddiqui.

Central Asian Arabic is a variety of Arabic spoken in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and currently facing extinction. It was once spoken among Central Asia's numerous settled and nomadic Arab communities, which inhabited areas in Samarqand, Bukhara, Qashqadarya, Surkhandarya (present-day Uzbekistan), and Khatlon (present-day Tajikistan), as well as Afghanistan. The first wave of Arabs migrated to this region in the 8th century during the Muslim conquests and was later joined by groups of Arabs from Balkh and Andkhoy (present-day Afghanistan). Due to heavy Islamic influences, Arabic quickly became the common language of science and literature of the epoch. Most Central Asian Arabs lived in isolated communities and did not favour intermarriages with the local population. This factor helped their language survive in a multilingual milieu until the 20th century. By the 1880s many Arab pastoralists had migrated to northern Afghanistan from what is now Uzbekistan and Tajikistan following the Russian conquest of Central Asia. These Arabs nowadays speak no Arabic having adapted to Dari and Uzbek. With the establishment of the Soviet rule in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Arab communities faced major linguistic and identity changes having had to abandon nomadic lifestyles and gradually mixing with Uzbeks, Tajiks and Turkmen. According to the 1959 census, only 34% of Arabs, mostly elderly, spoke their language at a native level. Others reported Uzbek or Tajik as their mothertongue. Nowadays Central Asian Arabic (heavily influenced by the local languages in phonetics, vocabulary and syntax) is spoken in 5 villages of Surkhandarya, Qashqadarya and Bukhara. In Uzbekistan, there are at least two dialects of Central Asian Arabic: Bukharian (influenced by Tajik) and Qashqadaryavi (influenced by Turkic languages). These dialects are not mutually intelligible. In Tajikistan, Central Asian Arabic is spoken by 35.7% of the country's Arab population, having been largely replaced by Tajik.

Iranian Arabs (Persian: عربان ايرانی Arabān Irānī, Arabic: عرب إيران‎ `Arab Īrān) are the Arabic-speaking peoples of Iran. Most Iranian Arabs live in the coastal regions of southern Iran by the Persian Gulf. Iranian Arab communities are also found in Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Although after the Arab invasion of Persia in the 7th century, many Arab tribes settled in different parts of Iran, it is the Arab tribes of Khuzestan that have retained their identity in language, culture, and Shia Islam to the present day. But ethno-linguistic characteristics of the region must be studied against the long and turbulent history of the province,with its own local language khuzi, which may have been of Elamite origin and which gradually disappeared in the early medieval period. The immigration of Arab tribes from outside the province was also a long-term process. There was a great influx of Arab-speaking immigrants into the province from the 16th to the 19th century, including the migration of the Banu Kaab and Banu Lam. There were attempts in vain by the Iraqi regime during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) to generate Arab nationalism in the area but without any palpable success.



Regional groups


Khuzestan

Most Iranian Arabs in Khūzestān Province are bilingual, speaking Arabic as their mother tongue, and Persian as a second language. The variety of Arabic spoken in the province is Khuzestani Arabic, which is a Mesopotamian dialect shared by Arabs across the border in Iraq. It has significant Persian influence and may be harder to understood by other Arabic-speakers.

Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic, which differ to a degree from the Khuzestani Arabic dialect, are taught across Iran to students in secondary schools, regardless of their ethnic or linguistic background. In fact the constitution of the Islamic republic requires this particular subject to be taught after primary school.


Hormozgan

In Hormozgan Province the Iranian Arab population speak various local dialects of Gulf Arabic that like the Mesopotamian dialects has significant Persian influence. The Arabs in the province are mostly Sunni Muslims from neighboring Oman.


Bushehr

In Bushehr Province, there are about 20,000 Arabs that immigrated to Iran because of the unpleasant environment of Saudi Arabia. Many of them arrived in Bushehr Province in 1946. The majority of these Arabs live in Kangan and Bandar-i Tahiri.


Fars

Khamseh nomads live in eastern Fars Province.


Khorasan

Most Khorasani-Arabs belong to the tribes of Sheybani, Zangooyi, Mishmast, Khozaima and Azdi. Khorasani-Arabs are Persian speakers and only a few speak Arabic as their mother tongue.


Semnan

The Arabic language clans in Semnan Arabi and Garmsar: Arab Sarhangi , Arab Derazi , Arab Ameri , Kati and Arab Masomi .