unfortunately it is true that iran was forced to adopt shia islam but shah ismael. He had a strong hate for the caliphs omar and abu bakrs lineage . convert or die , imagine trying to convert afghanistan to shia islam....what a job that would be. This was the first time iran was run by velayat faghih but with a sassanid influence (shah , nowrooz celebrations , farsi as the main language and so on) and this was the reason the osmanli caliphate invaded iran , Iran had left islam they declared but were shocked when they heard the iranian cries of allaho akbar.
As for Sunni islam in Iran . I couldnt imagine a different Iran todayif it were sunni , even khomeini didnt emphasis sunni or shia , it was always islam , islam , islam.
I accept the fact that there was official pressure during the early period of the Safavid dynasty but are you really under an assumption that a Shah, sitting in a palace, was able to convert the majority of his population with a small band of forceful soldiers and they, the people, accepted because it was official (so why not?) and taught this to their children? Does a sword win a heart? If that is true, then I do not understand why a stronger Pahlavi Shah, supported by a superpower, with an intense security network, was not able to pull of the same, which should have been much-much easier as there was no mention of official religious-conversion and only of a cultural revolution of sorts. Had he not power in his hand? Had he not force? Had the White Revolution not been official? In the above situation, a Safavid population is ideal for any government-- Make something official, kill religious/political leaders, plunder their religious places/centres and they will accept even if you are few in numbers initially. Moreover, they will make sure their own offspring adapt the newer teachings. If the above is true, I know of only the Safavids who have been so successful in it. In other parts of the world it has led to revolutions and civil war.
"Convert or die." Try convert or die on religious people, even in today's day and and age. Why didn't the Sunni majority people uprise against the extreme minority Sunni killing evil Safavids and why didn't Persia descend into complete civil war? Please explain. I am dying to know given your evident scholarly abilities on the Safavids.
Lastly, as your knowledge on the Safavids surpasses even their knowledge on themselves, I would like to point to one thing which of course you can correct me on afterwards. I thought the first confrontation between the Ottomans and Safavids was on a territorial dispute, and the fact that the Safavids had no intention on being anything less than equal to the Ottomans in their own standing. What is surprising is that, the recently forced-to-convert-or-die Shi'ah of the adjoining areas had been recruited and fought against their recent former-same-sect Sunni brethren. Please enlighten us with the true turn of events.
Sunni islam is not differentiated one bit in todays iran only in the fact that majority shia areas cannot have sunni mosques , which is not a big deal.
Most of the Iranian scientists we all love were sunni muslims : ibn e sina , khawarizmi , rumi (especially) , hafez , saadi , omar khayam (disputed) . Not many shia names you can put in that list , given that most muslims in the world are sunni.
In Iran, people are free to pray in any mosque. Different mosques for different sects creates divisions within the people. Because of this, no differentiation in mosques is made as no differentiation is needed for that matter. Sunni Iranians are free to worship in any mosque unless of course they themselves feel that they musn't. In Pakistan, there are also different mosques or different sects within Sunni Muslims-- Wahhabi mosques, Berelvi mosques, Deobandi mosques, Ahl-Hadis mosques, etc... Such a level of 'mosque specialisation' is not needed in Iran.
As for the scientists and poets mentioned, none were keen on particular sect based association. They were good human beings and made sincere efforts. Calling them Sunni or Shia is irrelevant as being of either sect does not reflect on intellect. They were Muslims. They are loved for that and their work, regardless of religious association.