Emirate of Elam

Imarat Haltamtime (El.)
إمارة عيلام (Ar.)
Flag of Elam
Motto:  Huttak halik ume Allah napir uri in lina telakni.
"May my work come as an offering to my god, Allah."
Khuzestan counties.svg
and largest city
Official languagesElamite
Recognised minority languages
Arabic, Persian
Ethnic groups
Elamites (58%)
Arabs (24%)
Persians (10%)
Qashqai (3%)
Armenians (2%)
Assyrians (2%)
Others (1%)
Shia Islam (70%)
Sunni Islam (21%)
Christianity (6%)
Others (1%)
GovernmentUnitary constitutional monarchy
• Emir
Imran Hammadi
Independence from Qajar dynasty
• Elamite civilization
2700 – 539 BC
147 BC – 224 AD
• Persian coup d'état
21 February 1921
1921 – 1925
• Emirate
1 May 1925
• Total
64,055 km2 (24,732 sq mi)
• 2018 estimate
• Density
74/km2 (191.7/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)estimate
• Total
$303 billion
• Per capita
GDP (nominal)estimate
• Total
$118.271 billion
• Per capita
HDI (2018)Increase 0.802
very high
CurrencyElamite Dinara (Dha.) (DHA)
Time zoneUTC+3 (AST)
• Summer (DST)
Driving sideright
Calling code+978
ISO 3166 codeELY
Internet TLD.ely

Elam (Elamite: Haltamti; Arabic: عيلام), officially the Emirate of Elam (Elamite: Imarat Haltamtime; Arabic: إمارة عيلام), is a country in Western Asia. Situated at the foot of the central Zagros mountains, straddling the northern tip of the Persian gulf, it shares borders with Iraq and Iran. Elam has a population of 4.7 million, of which some 2.73 million are eponymous Elamites.

Historically one of the most important regions of the Ancient Near East, the seat Elam has for most of its history been in the northern reaches of the country, first at Susa and then at Shushtar. During a brief period during the Sasanian era, when Elam formed a province of the Persian empire, the captal was moved to its geographic center, the river town of Hormuzardashir, founded over the ancient city of Hurpahir by Ardashir I. This city is now known as Ardašir. Later in the Sasanian time and throughout the Islamic era, the provincial seat returned and stayed at Shushtar until the late Qajar period. With the increase in international sea commerce arriving on the shores of Elam, Ardašir became a more suitable location for the provincial capital, as the river Karun is navigable all the way up to the city. As of independence in 1921, Ardašir remains the capital of Elam.

Elam is known for its ethnic diversity; the population consists of the eponymous Elamites, as well as significant populations of Arabs, Persians, Qashqais, Assyrians, and Armenians. The population is predominantly Shia Muslim, but there significant Sunni and Christian communities, as well as small Jewish and Mandean minorities. The Elamite language is the sole official language of government, but Arabic is widely spoken and culturally omnipresent.

Since the 1920s, tensions on religious and ethnic grounds have often resulted in violence and attempted separatism, including an Arab uprising in 1979, unrest in 2005, bombings in 2005-2006, and protests in 2011, drawing much criticism by international human rights organisations. The country is home to the Kušk and Husseyniyeh oil fields. It is estimated that oil reserves in Elam may be up to 17 billion barrels, of which 3 billion are considered to be currently recoverable.


The Elamite endonym is Haltamti. Exonyms throughout history have included the Sumerian names NIM.MAki𒉏𒈠𒆠 and ELAM. The Akkadian Elamû (masculine/neuter) and Elamītu (feminine) meant "resident of Sousiane" or "Elamite". The modern English and Arabic names for the nation come from Akkadian.

The Persian name of the country, Xûzestân (خوزستان) is derived from Old Persian Hūjiya (𐎢𐎺𐎩). In Middle Persian this became Huź and in Modern Persian Xûz, compounded with the toponymic suffix -estân, meaning "place".

Geography and Climate

Elam can be generally divided into two regions: the rolling hills and mountains north of the Ahwaz Ridge, and the plains and marshlands to its south. The area is irrigated by the Karun, Ulay, Jarahi and Marun rivers.

Elam has great potential for agricultural expansion, which is almost unrivaled by the country's immediate neighbours. Large and permanent rivers flow over the entire territory contributing to the fertility of the land. The Karun River, the most effluent river of the Iranian plateau, flows into the Persian gulf through Elam. The agricultural potential of most of these rivers, however, and particularly in their lower reaches, is hampered by the fact that their waters carry salt, the amount of which increases as the rivers flow away from the source mountains and hills. In case of the Karun, a single tributary river, the Rud-i Shur, that flows into the Karun above Shushtar contributes most of the salt that the river carries. As such, the freshness of the Karun waters could be greatly enhanced if the Rud-i Shur could be diverted away from the Karun. The same applies to the Jarahi and Ulay in their lower reaches. Only the Marun is exempt from this.

The climate of Elam is generally very hot and occasionally humid, particularly in the south, while winters are cold and dry. Summertime temperatures routinely exceed 45°C (113°F) degrees Celsius almost daily and in the winter it can drop below freezing, with occasional snowfall as far south as Ardašir. Frequent sandstorms occur in the area of Elam.



Modern Elam is one of the centers of ancient civilization, and one of the most important regions of the Ancient Near East, based around Susa. The first large scale civilization based here was that of the Elamites.

Throughout the late prehistoric periods, Elam was closely tied culturally to Mesopotamia. Later, perhaps because of domination by the Akkadian dynasty (c. 2334–c. 2154 BC), Elamites adopted the Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform script. Eventually Elam came under the control first of the Guti, a mountain people of the area, and then of the 3rd dynasty of Ur. As the power of Ur in turn declined, the Elamites reasserted their independence.

In that turbulent period Elam’s unique system of matrilinear succession emerged; sovereignty was hereditary through women, in that a new ruler was always “son of a sister” of some member of an older sovereign’s family.

About 1600 BC new invaders of Mesopotamia, the Kassites, may have caused the fall of both Babylonia and Elam. Thereafter almost nothing is known of Elam until the latter part of the 13th century BC, when it began reemerging as a substantial international power.

The Elamite kings Šutruk-Nahhunte and Kutir-Nahhunte invaded Mesopotamia and succeeded in securing a large number of ancient monuments (such as the Victory Stele of Naram-Sin and the stele bearing the law code of Hammurabi). Šilhak-Inšušinak I campaigned vigorously, and for at least a short period his domain included most of Mesopotamia east of the Tigris River and reached eastward almost to Persepolis. This greatest period of Elamite conquest ended when Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon (reigned c. 1119–c. 1098 BC) captured Susa. For almost 300 years thereafter nothing is known of Elamite history. In 640 BC, however, the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal invaded Elam, sacked Susa, and deported some of the leading citizens to Samaria in Palestine. Later, Cyrus II of Persia was able to wrest control of the Elamite lands, and Susa became one of the three most important cities of the Persian realm.

Following the fall of the Achaemenid Empire, Elam fell under the control of Alexander the Great's Macedonian empire and its successor state, the Seleucid Empire. A new dynasty of Elamite rulers established the Kingdom of Elymais in 147 BC, which was restored to Persian suzerainty in 224 AD.

Muslim conquest of Elam

The Muslim conquest of Elam took place in 639 AD under the command of Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, who drove the Persian satrap out of Ardašir. Susa later fell, and the satrap fled to Shushtar, where his forces were besieged by Abu Musa for 18 months. Shustar finally fell in 642 AD. According to popular legend, an unknown Arab who lived within the city befriended a man in Abu Musa's army, and dug tunnels through the wall in return for a share of the spoils. Abu Musa's forces then purged all Zoroastrian and Nestorian religious leaders from the region. During the Muslim conquest, the Sassanids were allied with non-Muslim Arab tribes, which implies that the wars were religious rather than national in nature.

Many Muslim settlements by military garrisons were established shortly following the conquest, and soon after many Arab Muslim families used the social upheaval to gain control of private estates. Muslim conquest thus brought Elam under the rule of the Arabs of the Umayyad and Abbasid Calipahtes, until Ya'qūb ibn al-Layth al-Saffār reclaimed control over the region as well as much of Iran, founding the short-lived Saffarid dynasty. From thence, Iranian dynasties would continue to rule the region in succession.

During the second half of the 10th century, the Arabian Assad tribe, taking advantage of social strife in the region, migrated in and settled in central Elam near Ardašir. Following the fall of the Abbassid Caliphate, however, the flow of Arab immigrants into Elam diminished. In the latter part of the 16th century, a few Arab tribes, including the bani Kaab, migrated from southern Iraq and Kuwait into Elam.

Qajar period

National renaissance

The origins of the Elamite national renaissance can be traced back to around the 19th century that was a very difficult period in the Persian empire. An embarrassing loss in the Anglo-Persian War of 1856 and Russian encroachment into Turkestan weakened Persia and smeared its reputation, as well as severing Persian ties to the traditional Khorasani heartlands in Samarqand, Bukhara and Herat. Trade concessions by the Qajar government put economic affairs largely in the hands of the British empire, and by the late 19th century, many Persian citizens believed that their nation was beholden to foreign interests. The government's legitimacy was further undermined by frequent bouts of bankruptcy.

During this time of difficulty, the Elamite minority's self-conception as Persian citizens began to erode, and an Elamite identity resurfaced in arts and literature. The use of the Elamite language in the public sphere began to flourish, and Elamite nationalist organisations began to appear, fueled by rising patriotism and the resulting repression by the Qajar government. The Assembly of Baqemalek was formed with the aim to protect and unite the Elamite-populated regions of Persia and to organise these areas into a unitary nation.

Clashes between Qajar forces and the militias under the influence or command of the Assembly led to early victories, solidifying the Assembly's role as the primary Nationalist organisation of the Elamite people. Later clashes, however, reduced the Assembly's area of influence to the approximate modern borders of Elam today, leaving almost half of all Elamites outside of the later Republic's borders.

Modern history


The Independence of Elam from the Persian state was proclaimed on April 15th, 1921. Shortly after, the leaders of the Assembly of Baqemalek established the first government of the new nation, the Elamite Republic on the first of May. The country's nearly bloodless independence was recognised by Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union the following June. The delineation of the borders of the new nation left many ethnic Elamites outside of Elam, and also resulted in a large Arab population within the Republic.

Ethnic tensions between the Elamites and the Arabs of Elam stirred in the political and economic turmoil following independence, especially as the Arabs, who numbered about a third of the population of the young state, were under- or at times entirely unrepresented by the government. Violence broke out in 1922 between supporters of the government and various loosely organised opposition groups. Chaos and fighting between opposition and government forces took place around the capital city of Ardašir, a traditionally Arab-dominated city.

The height of the violence occurred from 1922 to 1923, after which what has been described as an ethnic cleansing was carried out by the victorious government. Much of the country's Arab population was decimated leading up to the 1925 coup d'état which placed an Arab on the throne with the support of the United Kingdom, ending the short-lived republic.

1925 coup d'état

In 1925, Sargun Tetimban became Prime Minister. Fearing that Tetimban would continue the anti-Arab policies of forced resettlement and expulsion, King Faisal and the high commissioner of the British Mandate of Iraq, Sir Percy Cox conspired with elements within the Elamite state to depose Tetimban and, under threat of military intervention from Iraq and the British Empire, installed a monarch who would be sympathetic to both the Arab population within Elam and to the United Kingdom. Hajji Salman ibn Yuʾil ibn ʾUzair Abd al-Muttalib al-Madyani, who would later be known by his adopted Elamite name Salman Šušan, was placed on the throne of the newly founded Emirate.

Despite fears of retribution, no such actions were taken by the new monarchy. On the 3rd of July 1925, the Constitution of Elam was ratified.

Arab uprising

Iran-Iraq war

During the 1990s


Government and Politics

Seal of the House of Susa, used to signify government agencies and properties



A man harvesting grapes in Qazawi

The abundance of water, the varied landforms, and the fertility of the soil have made Elam a rich and well-endowed land for agriculture. A wide variety of agricultural products such as wheat, barley, oil seeds, rice, eucalyptus, and medicinal herbs can be grown alongside grape vines, and palm and citrus orchards abound. The more mountainous northeast is suitable for raising olives and sugar cane. In 2005, 51,000 hectares of land were planted with sugar cane, producing 350,000 tons of sugar. The abundance of water supplies, rivers, and dams also have an influence on the fisheries which are prevalent in the area.

The Isle of Abadan in the Arwand river in particular is an important area for the production of date palms, despite having suffered consequences of the Iraqi invasion during the Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s. The palm groves are irrigated by tidal irrigation: at high tide, the water level in the rivers rises and the river flow enters irrigation canals that have been dug from the river towards the inland plantations; at low tide, the canals drain the unused portion of the water back into the river.


Much of Elam's industrial framework is centered around agriculture and its thriving petrochemical industry. Several major sugarcane refineries are located in the northern part of the country: most notable among them is Karun Agro Industries located in Kabnak. The total sugar cane production of Elam in 2017 was 7.56 million tonnes.

Two major hydroelectric dams on the Karun River and one on the Ulay, as well as the abundant reserves of petroleum, provide Elam with the necessary resources to produce a great deal of electricity. Energy exports by Elam's power stations provide needed electricity to both the domestic power grid and to neighboring nations, generating a source of revenue.

Other non-petroleum and nonagricultural industries include steel and iron production. In 2017, non-petroleum exports stood at 13.97 million tonnes.


Despite its relatively small land area, Elam has proven crude oil reserves of 17 billion barrels. Elam's oil fields pump ~2.05 million barrels per day. The oil industry in Elam is a state-owned enterprise; the overarching holding group is the Petrol-Elam Corporation, to which all other petroleum companies in Elam belong as subsidiaries.


Rail transport

Rail transportation accounts for approximately 9% of all transport services in Elam. The main line begins in the north at Andimešk, above which it connects to the Iranian railway network. At Ardašir, the line splits into an western and eastern main, which end at Muhammarah and Bandar Šapur respectively. Construction is currently underway to link the western main to the Iraqi railway network between Muhammarah and Basra. Elamite railways are not electrified, nor are there any high-speed rail links in Elam.


The Karun river is the only navigable river in Elam. It previously served as the main route of transportation of British merchandise and equipment as far as Shushtar, passing through Ardašir; in this capacity it was vital to the archaeological works of British historian and cuneiformist Austen Henry Layard. The earliest oil wells in the Naftun oil field relied on the Karun for transportation as well. The river is capable of handling fairly large ships as far upstream as Shushtar.


Elam is a highly diverse country, consisting of numerous ethnic and linguistic groups. According to the Elamite constitution, the government is required to provide every citizen of the country with access to social security, covering retirement, unemployment, old age, disability, accidents, calamities, health, and medical treatment and care services. This is covered by tax revenues and income derived from public contributions.

Elam hosts a significant population of refugees, mostly from Iraq in the wake of the 2003 invasion and subsequent protracted armed conflict in that country.

Ethnic groups

Elamite woman from Susa

Ethnic identity in Elam is difficult to quantify. Outside of linguistic identity, which is the primary identifier used in the census, cultural distinctions are made between different religious groups and historical tribes.


Historically, the native Elamites practised a polytheistic religion. Knowledge about this historical religion is scant, but the names of a few Goddesses and Gods are known from early inscriptions. The religion, much like historical Elamite society prior to Islamisation, was matriarchal.

In the modern day, Twelver Shi'a Islam is the official state religion, to which about 70% of the population adhere. About 21% are Sunni Muslims, many of whom are Arabs who settled the region in the 16th century. About 7% of the population is non-Muslim, including a significant minority of Christians, most of whom are Assyrians or Armenians, and a sizeable Jewish population which is largely Arabic-speaking. Among the more minuscule minorities are Mandeans, Zoroastrians, Yarsanis, and Bahá'ís.

The government has not released statistics regarding irreligiosity.


A small majority of the population — just under sixty percent — are native speakers of Elamite, which is also the official language of the country. Others include a significant minority of Arabic-speakers, Persian and Lurish speakers, and speakers of other languages and language families.

Arabic, which is by far the most spoken minority language in the country, is spoken particularly in the central and southwestern parts of the country, but Arabic speakers have a notable presence in nearly every major city in Elam. Arabic is widely studied as a second language throughout the country. The local dialect of Arabic is a variety of southern Mesopotamian Arabic. It is a recognized minority language and considered to be a language of importance to the historical and national heritage of Elam.

Historically, Persian was the language of government administration under the Qajar dynasty. Approximately 10% of the population as a whole are native speakers of Persian, and another 10 to 15 percent have at least a working knowledge of the Persian language. Most speakers of the language are concentrated in urban areas. Persian is a recognized minority language.