Hola (ethnic group)

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Regions with significant populations
 Bahrain n/a
 United Arab Emirates n/a
 Kuwait n/a
 Qatar n/a
 Saudi Arabia n/a
Sunni Islam[1]
Related ethnic groups

Houla (Arabic: هوله‎‎, sing. Houli هولي) is a blanket term denoting an ethnically Persian Sunni community currently residing in the GCC with origins in cities and villages lying along the eastern coast of the Persian Gulf.[2][3]


 Amongst the cities they inhabited—some still do in the modern day—is the Iranian city of Yazd, from which they imported a Persian style of cooling architecture, which is still quite popular in Yazd, that's manifested in the Badgir (“wind catchers”) that conduct wind into the houses and cool the interior of the houses. Although this used to be a characteristic of Hola houses, this form of architecture is very much obsolete in the modern day. Other cities which the Hola inhabited include the cities of Evaz (pronounced in Arabic as Awadh), Khonj, Bastak, Kohig, Kanee, Jeneh, and Karmostag. The Hola are historically identified as Persians which is corroborated by Ottoman, Portuguese, as well as Safavid manuscripts, however, many have opted to claim they are of Arab origin to avoid racism. Similar to how the Jews were discriminated, the Hola were persecuted by Shah Ismail, not for their ethnicity but the fact that they were the only Persians who refused to give up their Sunni faith.

A key feature of the Hola's alteration of their history is how they added the originally non-existent "Al" to their family names in order to make them appear to be Arabic, or of Arab origin. The only Arabic-speaking community in Iran are the Ahvazis, Iraqi immigrants of Babylonian origin who were Arabized following the Arab invasion of Mesopotamia. The Ahvazis, who reside in south-western Iran adjacent to Iraq, are not Hola because they practice the Shiite faith.

The Hola have fully altered their costumes to conceal their Persian heritage and now the majority are bilingual in both Persian and Arabic.

Many confuse the Hola with the native inhabitants of the western coast of the Persian Gulf, the indigenous Arab tribes, many of whom were expelled from their homes by the Hola during the interim period in which a debiliated Safavid empire, exhausted from the Afghan invasion of Iran at the commence of the 18th century, surrendered Bahrain and the Al Hasa to the Omanis in 1717. However, the ensuing fight between the Persians and the Bedouin on one side, and the Omanis on another side, turned Bahrain and the Gulf into ashes. Oman later sold Bahrain to the Safavids, however the weakness of the Safavid empire, now at its apex after the war with Oman, gave way for the rise of the Hola who were fleeing from Safavid rule. Eventually, all of Bahrain came under the rule of the Hola, who expelled the overwhelming majority of the native Arabs to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as a result of their oppositon to Holi rule. Nevertheless, all of Bahrain was later liberated by the Al Khalifa tribe, who later pardoned the Hola in return for high taxation, which the Al Khalifa desperately needed after exhausting all their resources in reclaiming Bahrain to the Arabs. The Bahraini Arab refugees in Qatar and Saudi Arabia refused to return because by that time they'd already been assimilated into the cultures of where they lived.

Although the first Hola (Sunni Persians) arrived in Bahrain in the 18th century, long after the arrival of both the Baharna and the Sunni Arab Bedouin tribesmen, another mass immigration of ethnically Persian settlers occurred during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah. The former Pahlavi king was secular and anti-religious; he forced everyone to accept his liberal ideology in the so-called White Revolution. He despised religious views from both Sunnis and Shiites. However, the mainstream twelver Rafidhite Shiite population of Iran (the demographic majority) discriminated against the Hola, similar to how many of the modern-day Zionists suffered under the hands of the Nazi Germans. The Hola Persians now form a majority amongst the citizens of the UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar, as well as a sizable minority in the island kingdom of Bahrain. They now lay hold on the majority of top governmental jobs and positions, businesses, trade, and other human resource assets of the said nations, whereas in Bahrain, for example, the overall unemployment rate, including that of the indigenous Sunni Arabs and Baharna, stands at a staggering 15%. The Hola Persians also flex their muscles through influencing native Bahraini culture. An example of this is the imported delicacy "mahyawa" which originates in Southern Iran. It is a watery earth brick coloured sauce consisting of sardines and is typically eaten with Iranian bread. Another imported delicacy is "pishoo" which consists of agar agar and golab.

The "Hola DNA Project" study revealed strong genetic bonds between the Hola and the Qashqai Iranian people of Southern Iran -due to the fact that the Sunni Persians later emigrated to Southern Iran under the Zagros mountains after the Battle of Chaldiran in which the Safavids were defeated by the Ottomans and so the Hola feared a Safavid purge of all Sunnis in Iran, and later intermarried with the natives of Southern Iran, the Qashqai people- who themselves are related to the Kurds. Genetic links to Arabs only appeared amongst those of a Holi parent and an Arab parent. When tested on pure Howala, no such link was found.

Migration to the Arab Peninsula[edit]

The most recent influx of the Hola to the now known as GCC countries was during the 1960s. Iran under the Shah was strict regarding different ethnic groups and maintained censuses on them. Most of the Hola families were exiled from various ports and villages of Iran. One inviting country was Bahrain, which had a need for more Sunni Muslims as the country was mainly Shia and was ruled by a Sunni family that came from Saudi Arabia. It was also a country that had a fairly large Hola community that existed on the island beforehand. Though there was a difference between the variety of people that had come during different times, the term “Hola” began to be used generally for all Sunni Muslims that had connections with Iran, especially after the Iranian Revolution, which brought about anti-Shia tensions to the GCC nation states, uniting those that were Sunni. You will mainly hear this term used in Bahrain, though Oman and the UAE have a large number of these families living among them. The Hola had a degree of self-rule with a number of de facto states in the south of Iran until the 20th century. Following the ascent of the Pahlavi Dynasty, there was a diminution or abolition of the local ruling families' privileges as elsewhere in Iran. Even prior to the ascent of the House of Pahlavi, many Sunni Persians emigrated to the Arab peninsula after refusing to pay taxes to the Shiite ruler Nasr al-Din, the final ruler of the Qajar dynasty, and refusing to give up on their Sunni creed.


  1. ^ The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 7 By William Bayne Fisher, P. Avery, G. R. G. Hambly, C. Melville, P.512
  2. ^ Studia Iranica - Volumes 1-2 و P. Geuthner, 1972 Page 80
  3. ^ Waqai-I Manazil-I Rum; Tipu Sultan's Mission to Constantinople – January 1, 2005 by Mohibbul Hasan , p20

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