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Although Iran has been seemingly isolated from much of the outside world since the Islamic Revolution of 1978-1979, its borders have by no means been closed.

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This mosaic of diverse ethnic groups is still visible in Iran today, where Persians compose only 51 percent of the population.

Other groups include the Azeris (24 percent), Gilaki and Mazandaranis (eight percent), Kurds (seven percent), Arabs (three percent), Lurs (two percent), Baluchs (two percent), and Turkmens (two percent).

The first significant phase of emigration from Iran, beginning in 1950 and lasting until the 1979 revolution, was triggered by Iran’s slow economic recovery and resumption of oil production after World War II.

Revenue from oil exports permitted a relatively sudden change in Iranian society from traditionalism to modernization, motivating middle- and upper-class families to send their children abroad for higher education as a means of ensuring socioeconomic security and political access upon return.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education, right before the revolution and subsequent closure of all the universities in 1980, there were 16,222 professors teaching in Iran's higher education institutions.

When the universities reopened in 1982, this figure had plummeted to 9,042.

Afghans who settled and integrated into Iranian society in the 19th and early 20th centuries were naturalized as Iranian citizens and came to be classified as an ethnic group known as .

Nonetheless, the events both proceeding and immediately following the Islamic Revolution of 1978-1979, which ousted the Pahlavi dynasty and the monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah, in favor of an Islamic theocracy, undeniably prompted the largest collective emigration from Iran (see sidebar for more on the revolution).

A second phase of emigration took place after the revolution.

Socialist and liberal elements were the first to leave, followed by young men who fled military service and the Iran-Iraq War, followed by young women and families, escaping overly confining gender restrictions.

The roots of the Iranian revolution are complex and contradictory. Immigration to Iran, most notably by Afghans, dates back to at least the end of the 19th century.

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