We show how analogue modelling provides insights into complex crustal block kinematics and the seismotectonics of active areas undergoing contraction, such as the Iranian region. The seismotectonic model deriving from this analysis is consistent with partitioning of the N-directed Arabia indentation into a composite system of collision-oblique and collision-parallel seismogenetic belts. These features include (1) two main conjugate transpressive belts (the dextral NW-SE-trending Zagros belt and the NE-SW-trending sinistral Elburz-Aran-Torud (EAT) belt), and (2) a modest lateral escape of Central Iran towards the Lut block along the Nayband belt. This cinematic model fits the seismic activity and the current fault pattern of the region. Also, the velocity field scaled from the model to nature shows a good similarity with previous numerical modelling as well as with deformation rates along the first-order seismogenetic belts determined by plate tectonic models and GPS data. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.