Event — Webinar

A Sociological Study of the Immigration of the Iranian-descent Baluchis to East Africa and their cultural and social impacts on indigenous people of East African coasts

An online interactive lecture by Amirbahram Arabahmadi, Research Fellow at IIAS.

The lecture will take place from 11:00 a.m. - 12:00  p.m. Amsterdam Time (Central European Summer Time, CEST).

This is about the story of the migration of groups of Iranian-descent’ Baluchis to East Africa from the early 19th century who settled in some parts of East African coasts and through their hardworking and tireless efforts, gained high profile positions in East African countries including Kenya, Tanzania(Zanzibar) and Uganda.

One of the migrations in Iran’s history, which despite its relatively significant effects, is yet to attract the attention of scholars, is the migration of the groups of Baluchis to the East African coasts from the early nineteenth century. The relatively large and coherent minority of Baluchis with Iranian origins, which now includes a population of about 30,000 people in East Africa, were initially soldiers and warriors serving the Omani rulers of Zanzibar, but later became entrepreneurs. The Baluchis now enjoy a relatively high-income level compared to the indigenous communities, and despite their long residence in the area, they have retained their ethnic and tribal characteristics.

Historically, the Baluch peoples have been famous for their hard-working spirit, and resistance to natural disasters. Their constitution and fortitude have been part of the secret of their survival. One reason that the Baluchi people had to migrate to other countries including East African countries was that the Iranian Province of Sistan and Baluchistan has always been dry and barren. Apart from famine and drought, other reasons were: scarce water resources, strong winds, conflicts with the central governments of Iran as well as the cruel behaviour of the Iranian kings. All these factors accelerated the process of Baluch's migration to other countries including East Africa during different periods.

The story of Baluchis migration to East Africa dates back to the era of Oman's expansionists tendencies in Africa that started from the 17th century and culminated in the 19th century. Due to Baluchi’s' ability to withstand difficult conditions, expertise in using weapons, and adaptability to nature and rugged environments they were hired as soldiers,  and guardians by Omanis and set off to Zanzibar and gradually expanded to other parts of East African countries, which led to their sustainable settlement there.

This presentation seeks to identify the reasons for the Baluchis migration to East Africa and also describes the political and cultural outcomes of their settlement in the present-day countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. In addition, the presenter will endeavour to prove that the Baluchis established friendly relationships with the indigenous populations of the East African countries and assimilated as a part of local communities. The methodology of presentation is qualitative content analysis, combined with the historical analysis of both existing material and new primary sources gained through the presenter's field studies in Tanzania and Kenya. The findings will be presented in four parts: the first part traces the history of successive waves of Baluchis migrations to East Africa, the second part illustrates the status of the Baluchi immigrants at the present time, the third addresses their bilateral cultural and social impacts with indigenous people, and the fourth examines their long-lasting communications with their homeland Iran.

The Speaker

Amirbahram Arabahmadi (PhD) is a historian and Head of the Central and Southern African Studies Department at University of Tehran. He has served as cultural attaché of Iran in Tanzania and Zimbabwe for more than six years and has written some books and scholarly papers on Africa. His areas of specialisation include African Culture and Social Development; African History; African Diasporas; Asia-Africa civilization and cultural interactions; East African Religions.

His latest publications are:

-Cinema and Filmmaking industry in Africa sub-Sahara (Tehran: Negarestan Andishe Publications, 2019).
-A Comparative Study of Historical Cultural Exchange between Iran and Ethiopia, Tehran. In: The Journal of politics, 3(2018): 549-572. University of Tehran Press.
-Tracing Baluchi Identity in Zanzibar in Africa and Its Diasporas: Rethinking Struggles for Recognition and Empowerment. Edited by Behnaz A. Mirzai and Bonny Ibhawoh (London: Africa World Press, 2018).
-The sustainable role of Quranic schools in the educational development of Africa sub-Sahara (Tehran: AlHuda International Publications, 2018).
-The Role of Shirazi-Based Iranians in Cultural Development of East African Coast (Esfahan: NegarKhane Publications, 2016).

The Webinar

The lecture will take about 30 minutes. After that, you will have the opportunity to ask questions and engage directly with the speaker and the rest of the audience.


You can join this live webinar by sending us your contact information via the registration form on this page. Two days before the start of the webinar, we will get in touch with you and provide you with access information and other necessary details. We hope to see you on August 6!

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