West Azerbaijan province

Coordinates: .mw-parser-output .geo-default,.mw-parser-output .geo-dms,.mw-parser-output .geo-dec{display:inline}.mw-parser-output .geo-nondefault,.mw-parser-output .geo-multi-punct,.mw-parser-output .geo-inline-hidden{display:none}.mw-parser-output .longitude,.mw-parser-output .latitude{white-space:nowrap}37°33′10″N 45°04′33″E / 37.5528°N 45.0759°E / 37.5528; 45.0759
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Province of Iran

Province in Region 3, Iran

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West Azerbaijan province
استان آذربایجان غربی
Location of West Azerbaijan province in Iran

Location of West Azerbaijan province in Iran
Coordinates: .mw-parser-output .geo-default,.mw-parser-output .geo-dms,.mw-parser-output .geo-dec{display:inline}.mw-parser-output .geo-nondefault,.mw-parser-output .geo-multi-punct,.mw-parser-output .geo-inline-hidden{display:none}.mw-parser-output .longitude,.mw-parser-output .latitude{white-space:nowrap}37°33′10″N 45°04′33″E / 37.5528°N 45.0759°E / 37.5528; 45.0759
Country  Iran
Region Region 3
Capital Urmia
Counties 19

 • Governor-general Mohammad-Sadegh Motamedian
 • MPs of Assembly of Experts Dirbaz, Ali Akbar Ghoreyshi & Mojtahed Shabestari
 • Representative of the Supreme Leader Seyed Mehdi Ghoreishi

 • Total 37,437 km2 (14,455 sq mi)

 • Total 3,265,219
 • Density 87/km2 (230/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+03:30 (IRST)
Main language(s) Persian (official)
local languages:
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic[3]
Lishán Didán[5]
HDI (2017) 0.758[6]
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West Azerbaijan province (Persian: استان آذربایجان غربی, romanizedĀzarbāyjān-e Gharbī; Azerbaijani: غربی آذربایجان اوستانی, romanizedQərbi Azərbaycan ostanı; Kurdish: پارێزگای ئورمیە, romanized: Parêzgeha Urmiyê;[7][8]) is one of the 31 provinces of Iran, whose capital and largest city is Urmia. It is in the northwest of the country, bordered by Turkey (Ağrı, Hakkâri, Iğdır and Van Provinces), Iraq (Erbil and Sulaymaniyah Governorates) and Azerbaijan‘s Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, as well as the provinces of East Azerbaijan, Zanjan and Kurdistan. The Iranian province is part of Region 3.[9] It is separated from Armenia by Turkey’s short border with the Azerbaijan Republic.

The province of West Azerbaijan covers an area of 39,487 km2, or 43,660 km2 including Lake Urmia. At the time of the National Census of 2006, the province had a population of 2,831,779 people in 655,260 households.[10] The following census in 2011 counted 3,080,576 inhabitants in 822,152 households.[11] At the latest census in 2016, the population had increased to 3,265,219 in 935,956 households.[1]

West Azerbaijan Province Historical Population
Year Pop. ±%
1956 721,136 —    
1966 1,087,182 +50.8%
1986 1,971,677 +81.4%
2006 2,831,779 +43.6%
2011 3,080,576 +8.8%
2016 3,265,219 +6.0%


Permanent settlements were established in the province as early as the 6th millennium BC as excavation at sites such as Teppe Hasanlu establish. In Hasanlu, a famous Golden Vase was found in 1958. The province is the location of Tepe Hajji Firuz, site of some of the world’s earliest evidence of wine production.[12][13][14] Gooy Teppe is another significant site, where a metal plaque dating from 800 BC was found that depicts a scene from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Ruins such as these and the UNESCO world heritage site at the Sasanian compound of Takht-i-Suleiman illustrate the strategic importance and tumultuous history of the province through the millennia. Overall, the province enjoys a wealth of historical attractions, with 169 sites registered by the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran.


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The region of the modern province as Matiene, as opposed to Atropatene to the east

The major known ancient civilization in the region was that of Mannaeans, a buffer state between Urartian and Assyrian sphere of influence. Mannaeans in turn spoke a language related to Urartian. After the fall of Assyria, the region was known as Mantiene (or Matiene) in Greek sources. Matiene bordered on Atropatene situated east of Lake Urmia.

The region is known as Vaspurakan and Nor Shirakan in Armenian history and made up an important part of historical Armenia, functioning as one of the cradles of Armenian civilisation.[15] On 26 May 451 AD, a very important battle was fought that would prove pivotal in Armenian history. On the Avarayr Plain, at what is modern-day Churs in West Azerbaijan province, the Armenian army under Vardan Mamikonian clashed with the Sasanian one. Although the Persians were victorious on the battlefield itself, the battle proved to be a major strategic victory for Armenians, as Avarayr paved the way to the Nvarsak Treaty (484 AD), which affirmed Armenia’s right to practice Christianity freely.[16][17]

In the late 4th century AD the Sasanians incorporated the area into the neighbouring Adhurpadagan satrapy to the east.[18] The name Adhurpadagan, later Arabicized to Azerbaijan, derives from Atropates,[19][20] an Iranian satrap of Media under the Achaemenid empire, who later was reinstated as the satrap of Media under Alexander of Macedonia.[21]

In the 7th century this area was under Islamic rule. After Babak Khorramdin revolted, the grip of the Abbasid caliphate weakened, allowing some native dynasties to rise. By the first half of the 11th century, the Byzantine emperors were actively trying to round off their eastern territories, in an attempt to absorb the unstable Armenian dynasties. In 1021-1022 emperor Basil II led his army as far as Khoy within 175 km of Dvin, and obtained the surrender of royalty from the Artsruni dynasty of Van.[22] The Seljuk Turkic tribes, who the local Hadhabani Kurds initially resisted, eventually conquered the region in the 11th and early 12th centuries. During Timurid rule in the 14th century, Khoy gained an important role in all over the region. After Hadhabanis, three other Kurdish principalities, Mukriyans in the southern part, Bradosti in the middle, and Donboli in the northern part ruled the region for centuries, who temporarily sided with either the Ottomans or Safavids. The battle of DimDim between the Safavids and local Bradosti Kurds took place in this region. After a long and bloody siege led by the Safavid grand vizier Hatem Beg, which lasted from November 1609 to the summer of 1610, the Castle of Dimdim was captured. All the defenders were killed and Shah Abbas I ordered a general massacre in Bradost and Mukriyan (reported by Eskandar Beg, Safavid historian in the book Alam Aray-e Abbasi) and resettled the Afshar tribe in the region while deporting many Kurdish tribes to Khorasan region, where many of their descendants still reside of as of today.

The Safavid control was firmly restored by Shah Abbas but during the Afghan invasion (1722–1728) more than a century later, the Ottomans captured the northwestern regions of Iran, until Nadir Shah expelled them and reasserted Iranian suzerainty over the region and far beyond. The Russian (Tsarist) army occupied the region in 1909, and again in 1912–1914 and 1915–1918 period. The Ottomans occupied the region in 1914–1915 and 1918–1919 periods. The Soviet forces occupied the region in 1941, resulting in the establishment of a short-lived, Soviet-supported puppet state called the Republic of Mahabad, from November 1945 to November 1946.

The districts of Maku, Khoy, Salmas, and Arasbaran, and the region of Urmia, according to 19th-century administrative division became a part of the northwestern Iranian province of Azerbaijan.[23] In 1937 the province was renamed to Shomal-e gharb (northwestern province)
Shortly after it the province of Azerbaijan was divided into a western and eastern part which were renamed to Chaharom (fourth province) and sevom (third province), respectively. In 1961 Fourth province was renamed West Azerbaijan by the Iranian authorities.

Some events in the 19th and 20th centuries are:

  • Shaikh Ubeidullah Attacks, west and south of Lake Urmia in 1880;[24]
  • Simko Insurrections, west of Lake Urmia from 1918 to 1922;[25]
  • The Soviet occupation in 1944;
  • The foundation and destruction of the Azerbaijan People’s Government in 1945-1946;
  • The foundation and destruction of the Republic of Mahabad in 1946 in County of Mahabad;
  • Periodic severe fighting from 1979 until the 1990s near to boundaries of Iraq-Iran between Kurdish militia belonging to Kurdish political parties and the Iranian government.[26] During the early 1980s parts of the province were outside central government’s control.

Zoroaster claim

Some Muslim researchers[27] have proclaimed that the birth of the prophet Zoroaster was in this area, in the vicinity of Lake Orumieh, Chichest or Ganzak; recent scholarship, however, indicates that sites in Central Asia are more likely.[28]

Geography and climate

With an area of 43,660 square kilometers, including Lake Urmia, the province of West Azerbaijan is located on the northwest of Iran.

Cold northern winds affect the province during winter and cause heavy snow.[29] According to existing meteorological data, local temperatures vary within the province. Average temperature differs from 9.4 °C in Piranshahr to 11.6 °C in Mahabad, while it is 9.8 °C in Urmia, 10.8 °C in Khoy, 9.4 °C in Piranshahr, and in Mahabad 11.6 °C. According to the same data, the highest temperature in the province reaches 34 °C in July, and the lowest temperature is –16 °C in January. The maximum change of temperature in summer is 4 °C and in winter 15 °C.[30]

Administrative divisions

West Azerbaijan province population history
Administrative Divisions 2006[10] 2011[11] 2016[1]
Baruq County1
Bukan County 202,637 224,628 251,409
Chaharborj County1
Chaldoran County 44,572 46,398 45,060
Chaypareh County2 43,206 47,292
Khoy County 365,573 354,309 348,664
Mahabad County 197,441 215,529 236,849
Maku County 174,578 88,863 94,751
Miandoab County 245,153 260,628 273,949
Naqadeh County 117,831 121,602 127,671
Oshnavieh County 63,798 70,030 73,886
Piranshahr County 107,677 123,639 138,864
Poldasht County3 42,071 42,170
Salmas County 180,708 192,591 196,546
Sardasht County 104,146 111,590 118,849
Shahin Dezh County 89,356 91,113 92,456
Showt County3 52,519 55,682
Takab County 81,395 78,122 80,556
Urmia County 856,914 963,738 1,040,565
Total 2,831,779 3,080,576 3,265,219
1Separated from Miandoab County
2Separated from Khoy County
3Separated from Maku County


According to the 2016 census, 2,136,203 people (over 65% of the population of West Azerbaijan province) live in the following cities: Avajiq 1,663, Baruq 4,225, Bazargan 9,979, Bukan 193,501, Chahar Borj 9,406, Dizaj Diz 8,282, Firuraq 9,190, Gerd Kashaneh 4,201, Ivughli 3,320, Keshavarz 4,138, Khalifan 749, Khoy 198,845, Mahabad 168,393, Mahmudabad 6,866, Maku 46,581, Marganlar 2,294, Miandoab 134,425, Mirabad 6,000, Mohammadyar 9,313, Nalus 2,973, Naqadeh 81,598, Nazok-e Olya 2,667, Nushin 8,380, Oshnavieh 39,801, Piranshahr 91,515, Poldasht 11,472, Qarah Zia od Din 26,767, Qatur 5,147, Qushchi 2,787, Rabat 15,750, Salmas 92,811, Sardasht 46,412, Serow 1,800, Shahin Dezh 43,131, Showt 25,381, Siah Cheshmeh 17,804, Silvaneh 1,614, Simmineh 1,345, Takab 49,677, Tazeh Shahr 8,629, Urmia 736,224, and Zurabad 1,147.[1]

Cities and larger towns

Rank City Population
1 Urmia 736,224
2 Khoy 198,845
3 Bukan 193,501
4 Mahabad 168,393
5 Miandoab 134,425
6 Salmas 92,811
7 Piranshahr 91,515
8 Naqadeh 81,598
9 Takab 49,677
10 Maku 46,581
11 Sardasht 46,412
12 Shahin Dezh 43,131
13 Oshnavieh 39,801
14 Qarah Zia od Din 26,767
15 Showt 25,381


There are no official statistics on the ethnic or linguistic makeup of Western Azerbaijan. Most of the population of the province consists of Azerbaijanis and Kurds, with smaller populations of Armenians, Assyrians, and Jews. On the question of linguistic majority of the province, linguist Anonby argued in 2019 that:[4]

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As is the case for most other parts of Iran, there are no reliable or detailed data on language distribution in West Azerbaijan Province. A number of districts in the province are majority Azerbaijani-speaking, including the capital city of Orumieh (Urmia). Because of this – and perhaps also because of the province’s name – it is often assumed that Azerbaijani is the main language of the province as a whole. However, our own preliminary investigations of this topic, which are based on district-by-district calculations… suggest that Kurdish may in fact be the mother tongue of a slight majority of the province’s population.


The counties of Bukan,[31] Mahabad,[32] Oshnavieh,[33] Piranshahr[34] and Sardasht[35] are populated by Kurds, while Chaldoran,[36] Maku,[37] Miandoab,[38] Naqadeh,[39] Salmas[40][41] and Takab[42] have a mixed population of both Azerbaijanis and Kurds. Salmas moreover has a Christian minority.[40]

Higher education

Urmia University was first built by an American Presbyterian missionary in 1878. A medical faculty was also established there, headed by Joseph Cochran and a team of American medical associates. Cochran and his colleagues were buried in an old cemetery in the vicinity of Urmia. Urmia University website says this about them:

“There they lie in peace away from their homeland, and the testimonial epitaphs on their tombs signify their endeavor and devotion to humanity.”

The province today has the following major institutions of higher education:

  1. Urmia University دانشگاه ارومیه | Urmia University
  2. Urmia University of Medical Sciences
  3. Urmia University of Technology
  4. Islamic Azad University of Urmia
  5. Islamic Azad University of Salmas
  6. Islamic Azad University of Khoi[permanent dead link]
  7. Islamic Azad University of Piranshahr
  8. Islamic Azad University of Mahabad


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  1. ^ a b c d e .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit;word-wrap:break-word}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output .citation:target{background-color:rgba(0,127,255,0.133)}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free.id-lock-free a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/65/Lock-green.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited.id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration.id-lock-registration a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription.id-lock-subscription a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Wikisource-logo.svg”)right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#2C882D;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error,html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}@media(prefers-color-scheme:dark){html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error,html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}}“Census of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1395 (2016)”. AMAR (in Persian). The Statistical Center of Iran. p. 04. Archived from the original (Excel) on 30 August 2022. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
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