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جمهوری اسلامی ايران
Jomhūrī-ye Eslāmī-ye Īrān
Islamic Republic of Iran
Flag of Iran (Persia) Coat of arms of Iran (Persia)
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Independence, freedom, the Islamic Republic
( Persian: Esteqlāl, āzādī, jomhūrī-ye eslāmī)
Anthem: Sorūd-e Mellī-e Īrān
Location of Iran (Persia)
Capital Tehran
35°40′ N 51°25′ E
Largest city Tehran
Official language(s) Persian
Supreme Leader
Islamic republic
Ali Khamenei
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Against Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
February 11, 1979
• Total

• Water (%)

1,648,195 km² ( 17th)
{{{areami²}}} mi²

• 2005 est.
• 2000 census

• Density

68,017,860 ( 18th)

41/km² ( 128th)
• Total
• Per capita
2005 estimate
0,348,000,000 ( 19th)
,065 ( 77th)
HDI ( 2006) 0.736 ( 99th) – medium
Currency Rial (ريال) ( IRR)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
( UTC+3.30)
( UTC+4.30)
Internet TLD .ir
Calling code +98
Iran ( Persian: ايران) (a.k.a Persia) is a Middle Eastern country located in Southwest Asia. It borders Armenia, Azerbaijan (including its Nakhichevan exclave), and Turkmenistan to the north, Pakistan and Afghanistan to the east, and Turkey and Iraq to the west. In addition, it borders the Persian Gulf across which lie Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The official name of the country is the Islamic Republic of Iran and Shi'a Islam is the official state religion but the historical term of Persia is common as well.Throughout history Iran has been of great geostrategic importance due to its position between the Middle East, Caucasia, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf and its proximity to Eastern Europe and the Indian subcontinent.

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Government and Politics

Name - Contents

Until 1935, the country was referred to in the West as Persia, although Iranians since the Sassanian period have referred to their country as Iran which means Land of the Aryans . On March 21, 1935 Reza Shah Pahlavi issued a decree asking foreign delegates to use the native term Iran in formal correspondence. A dispute exists about the country's current official name. After Persian scholars protested, Mohammad Reza Shah in 1959 announced both Persia and Iran could be used interchangeably. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 ultimately led to the establishment of a theocratic Islamic Republic and the country retained its name, while its political title was changed to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

History - Contents

The 2500 year old ruins of Persepolis.
The 2500 year old ruins of Persepolis.
Written history in Iran begins with the Proto-Elamites around 3000 BCE, and continues with the arrival of the Aryans and the establishment of the Median dynasty, followed by the Achaemenids, who built the world's first global empire, under Cyrus the Great in 546 BCE. The name Persia is derived from Persis, the ancient Greek name for the empire, although Eratosthenes also mentions the name Iran. Alexander the Great conquered Persia in 331 BCE, soon only to be succeeded by the Parthian and Sassanid dynasties, who followed the Achaemenids as Persia's greatest pre- Islamic empires.The Middle Ages saw the unfolding of many critical events such as the Islamic Conquest of Iran, the destruction of Iran under the Mongol invasion beginning in 1220, the conquest of Tamerlane, and the establishment of Iran's first Shi'a Islamic state under the Safavid dynasty in 1501. From then on Persia increasingly became the arena for rival colonial powers such as Russia and the United Kingdom. With the arrival of modernization in the late 19th century, Iranians longed for a change and thus the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1905/1911 followed.
9th-11th century Persia was at the center of what came to be known as the Golden Age of Islam.
9th- 11th century Persia was at the center of what came to be known as the Golden Age of Islam.
In 1953 Iran's prime minister Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, was removed from power in a plot orchestrated by British and US intelligence agencies to protect their oil interests (dubbed " Operation Ajax"). The operation was conducted following the Prime-Minister's nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. It reinstated the Iranian monarchy, handing power back to former Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.Following Dr. Mosaddegh's fall, the Shah's rule became increasingly dictatorial, particularly in the late 1970s. With strong support from the USA and the UK, the Shah further modernized Iranian industry but crushed civil liberties. His autocratic rule led to the Iranian revolution in 1979. An Islamic republic was soon established under the Ayatollah Khomeini.The new theocratic political system instituted some conservative Islamic reforms as well as introducing an unprecedented level of direct clerical rule. It also engaged in an anti-Western course due to Western support of the Shah. In particular Iranian-American relations were severely strained after the Iranian seizure of U.S. embassy personnel in 1979, Iran's subsequent attempts to export its revolution, and its support of anti-Western militant groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah.In 1980 Iran was attacked by neighbouring Iraq and the destructive Iran-Iraq War continued until 1988. The struggle between the reformists and conservatives over the future of the country continues today through electoral politics and was a central Western focus in the 2005 elections where conservative candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad triumphed.

Government and Politics - Contents

Iran is a constitutional Islamic Republic, whose political system is laid out in the 1979 constitution called Qanun-e Asasi (literally 'Basic Law'). Iran's makeup has several intricately connected governing bodies, some of which are democratically elected and some of which operate by co-opting people based on their religious inclinations.

The Supreme Leader

Azadi Tower ("Tower of Freedom")
Azadi Tower ("Tower of Freedom")
The concept of velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurist) plays a crucial role in the governmental structure of Iran. According to the Constitution, the Supreme Leader of Iran is responsible for the delineation and supervision of "the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran." In the absence of a single leader, a council of religious leaders is appointed. The Supreme Leader is commander-in-chief of the armed forces and controls the Islamic Republic's intelligence and security operations; he alone can declare war. He has the power to appoint and dismiss the leaders of the judiciary, the state radio and television networks, and the supreme commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He also appoints six of the twelve members of the Council of Guardians. He, or the council of religious leaders, are elected by the Assembly of Experts, on the basis of their qualifications and the high popular esteem in which they are held. The Supreme Leader is arguably an elected monarch (see elective monarchy), by the definition of that term.

The President

The President of Iran is responsible for implementing the Constitution and acting as the head of the executive, except in matters directly concerned with (the office of) the Leadership. According to the law, all presidential candidates must be approved by the Council of Guardians prior to running, after which he is elected by universal suffrage to a four-year term by an absolute majority of votes. After his election, the president appoints and supervises the Council of Ministers (the cabinet), coordinates government decisions, and selects government policies to be placed before the Parliament. Eight vice presidents serve under the president, as well as a cabinet of twenty-one ministers. The Council of Ministers must be confirmed by Parliament. Unlike many other states, the executive branch in Iran does not control the armed forces.

The Parliament (The Majles)

Parliament of The Islamic Republic of Iran.
Parliament of The Islamic Republic of Iran.
The unicameral Iranian parliament, the Islamic Consultative Assembly or "Majles-e Shura-ye Eslami", consists of 290 members elected to a four-year term. The members are elected by direct and secret ballot. It drafts legislation, ratifies international treaties, and approves the country's budget. All MP candidates and all legislation from the assembly must be approved by the Council of Guardians.

The Assembly of Experts

The Assembly of Experts, which meets for one week every year, consists of eighty-six "virtuous and learned" clerics elected by the public to eight-year terms. Like presidential and parliamentary elections, the Council of Guardians determines eligibility to run for a seat in this assembly.Members of the Assembly of Experts in turn elect the Supreme Leader. The assembly has never been known to challenge any of the Supreme Leader's decisions, although according to the Iranian constitution it has the authority to remove the Supreme Leader from power at any time.

The Council of Guardians

Twelve jurists comprise the Council of Guardians, six of whom are appointed by the Supreme Leader. The head of the judiciary recommends the remaining six, which are officially appointed by Parliament.The Council of Guardians is vested with the authority to interpret the constitution and determines if the laws passed by Parliament are in line with sharia (Islamic law). Hence the council can exercise veto power over Parliament. If a law passed by Parliament is deemed incompatible with the constitution or sharia, it is referred back to Parliament for revision.

The Expediency Council

The Expediency Council has the authority to mediate disputes between Parliament and the Council of Guardians, and serves as an advisory body to the Supreme Leader, making it one of the most powerful governing bodies in the country.

The Judiciary

The head of the Judiciary is appointed by the Supreme Leader, who in turn appoints the head of the Supreme Court and the chief public prosecutor.Public courts deal with civil and criminal cases. "Revolutionary" courts try certain categories of offenses, including crimes against national security. Decisions rendered in revolutionary courts are final and cannot be appealed.The Special Clerical Court handles crimes allegedly committed by clerics, although it has also taken on cases involving lay people. The rulings of the Special Clerical Court, which functions independently of the regular judicial framework and is accountable only to the Supreme Leader, are also final and cannot be appealed.

Geography - Contents

Map of Iran
Map of Iran
Iran borders Azerbaijan (length of border: 432 km / 268 mi) and Armenia (35 km / 22 mi) to the northwest, the Caspian Sea to the north, Turkmenistan (992 km / 616 mi) to the northeast, Pakistan (909 km / 565 mi) and Afghanistan (936 km / 582 mi) to the east, Turkey (499 km / 310 mi) and Iraq (1,458 km / 906 mi) to the west, and finally the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south. Iran's total land mass is 1,648,000 km² / ≈636,300 mi² (Land: 1,636,000 km² / ≈631,663 mi², Water: 12,000 km² / ≈4,633 mi²). That is approximately the land mass of Alaska.Iran's landscape is dominated by rugged mountain ranges that separate various basins or plateaus from one another. The populous western part is the most mountainous, with ranges such as the Caucasus, Zagros and Alborz Mountains, the latter of which also contains Iran's highest point, the Damavand at 5,604 m (18,386 ft). The eastern half consists mostly of uninhabited desert basins like the saline Dasht-e Kavir, with the occasional salt lake.
Iran's highest mountain, Mount Damavand, standing at 5604 m.
Iran's highest mountain, Mount Damavand, standing at 5604 m.
The only large plains are found along the coast of the Caspian Sea and at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, where Iran borders on the mouth of the Arvand river ( Shatt al-Arab). Smaller, discontinuous plains are found along the remaining coast of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman. The Iranian climate is mostly arid or semiarid, though subtropical along the Caspian coast. Iran is considered to be one of the fifteen states that comprise the so-called " Cradle of Humanity".

Iran's landscape produces several different climates. On the northern edge of the country (the Caspian coastal plain) the temperatures nearly fall below freezing and remain humid for the rest of the year. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 29°C (84°F). Annual precipitation is 680 mm (26 in) in the eastern part of the plain and more than 1700 mm (75 in) in the western side of the plain. At higher elevations to the west, settlements in the Zagros mountains basin experience lower temperatures. These areas have severe winters, with average daily temperatures below freezing and have heavy snowfall. The eastern and central basins are arid. They get less than 200 mm (8 in) of rain and have occasional desert. The average summer temperatures exceed 38°C (100°F). The coastal plains of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in southern Iran have mild winters and experience very humid and hot summers. The annual precipitation ranges from 135 mm to 355 mm (6 to 14 in).

Provinces - Contents

Iran consists of 30 provinces:
  1. Tehran
  2. Qom
  3. Markazi
  4. Qazvin
  5. Gilan
  6. Ardabil
  7. Zanjan
  8. East Azarbaijan
  9. West Azarbaijan
  10. Kurdistan
  11. Hamadan
  12. Kermanshah
  13. Ilam
  14. Lorestan
  15. Khuzestan
  1. Chahar Mahaal and Bakhtiari
  2. Kohkiluyeh and Buyer Ahmad
  3. Bushehr
  4. Fars
  5. Hormozgan
  6. Sistan and Baluchistan
  7. Kerman
  8. Yazd
  9. Esfahan
  10. Semnan
  11. Mazandaran
  12. Golestan
  13. North Khorasan
  14. Razavi Khorasan
  15. South Khorasan
Numbered map of provinces
The islands of Iran are not shown in this picture. These islands belong to the province "Hormozgan".

Economy - Contents

The Rial is Iran's official currency.
The Rial is Iran's official currency.
Iran's economy is a mixture of central planning, state ownership of oil and other large enterprises, village agriculture, and small-scale private trading and service ventures. The current administration has continued to follow the market reform plans of the previous one and has indicated that it will pursue diversification of Iran's oil-reliant economy. The Iranian government is attempting to diversify by investing revenues in other areas, including, car manufacturing, aerospace industries, consumer electronics, petrochemicals and nuclear technology. Iran is also hoping to attract billions of dollars worth of foreign investment by creating a more favorable investment climate, such as reduced restrictions and duties on imports and the creation of free-trade zones like in Chabahar and the island of Kish. Modern Iran has a solid middle class and a growing economy but continues to be plagued with high inflation and unemployment.Iranian budget deficits have been a chronic problem, in part due to large-scale state subsidies– totaling some .25 billion per year–including foodstuffs and especially gasoline.
The towering Alborz mountains in Tehran rising above modern high rises of the Elahiyeh district.
The towering Alborz mountains in Tehran rising above modern high rises of the Elahiyeh district.
Iran is OPEC's second largest oil producer and holds 10% of the world's proven oil reserves. It also has the world's second largest natural gas reserves (after Russia). The strong oil market in 1996 helped ease financial pressures on Iran and allowed for Tehran's timely debt service payments.
A busy commercial street in Tehran.
A busy commercial street in Tehran.
State investment has boosted agriculture with the liberalization of production and the improvement of packaging and marketing helping to develop new export markets. Large-scale irrigation schemes, together with the wider production of export-based agricultural items such as dates, flowers and pistachios, produced the fastest economic growth of any sector in Iran over much of the 1990s. Even though a series of droughts has held back output growth substantially, agriculture remains one of the largest employers. Iran has also developed a biotechnology, nanotechnology and pharmaceuticals industry.Iran's major commercial partners are France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea. Since the late 1990's, Iran has increased its economic cooperation with other developing countries, including Syria, India, Cuba, Venezuela and South Africa. Iran is also expanding its trade ties with Turkey and Pakistan and shares with its partners the common vision for the creation of a single economic market in West and Central Asia.

Demographics - Contents

Ethnic groups
Ethnic groups in Iran
Ethnic groups in Iran
The majority of Iran's population speak one of the Iranian languages, though Persian is the official language. While the number, percentage, and definition of the different Iranian peoples is disputed, the major ethnic groups and minorities in Iran include the Persians (51%), Azeris (24%), Gilaki and Mazandarani (8%), Kurds (7%), Arabs (3%), Baluchi (2%), Lurs (2%), Turkmen people (2%), Qashqai, Armenians, Georgians, Assyrians, Circassians, Iranian Jews,and others (1%). These percentages however are only old estimates. There are no official statistics on ethnicity numbers or percentages in Iran.. The literacy rate in Iran is above 89% and closer to 100% for its younger population.Iran's population size increased dramatically during the latter half of the 20th century to reach 70 million in 2006, although in recent years Iran appears to have taken control of its high population growth rate and many studies show that Iran's population growth rate will continue to decline until it will reach replacement level and stabilize by the year 2050 (100 million). Iran's population density is forty persons per square kilometer. Iran hosts more than one million foreign refugees (mainly from Afghanistan with some from Iraq), one of the largest figures on earth, and official government policy and social factors aim towards repatriation. Inversely, Iran has a diaspora estimated between two to three million people who emigrated to North America, Western Europe, and South America, for the most part occurring after the Iranian revolution.
Map showing ethnic and religous diversity among the population of Iran.
Map showing ethnic and religous diversity among the population of Iran.

Major Languages
The number of Persian-speakers of Iran is estimated more than 42 millions, (see: Persian people) ( Ethnologue using an obsolete and old information claims that in 1997 there were 22 million native speakers of Persian language spoken in Iran). Other major languages in Iran are Azeri (c. 16.8 million), Kurdish (7.6 million) (Northern, Central, Southern and Laki), Gilaki (3.265 million), Mazandarani (3.265 million), Luri (2.375 million), Turkmen (2 million), Bakhtiari (1 million).

Most Iranians are Muslims; 90% belong to the Shi'a branch of Islam, the official state religion, and about 9% belong to the Sunni branch (many of whom are Kurds). The remainder consists of non-Muslim religious minorities, mainly Bahá'ís, Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians.The latter three minority religions are officially recognized and have reserved seats in the Majles (Parliament), and are officially protected religions. In contrast, the Bahá'í Faith, the largest religious minority in Iran, is not officially recognized, and has been persecuted during its existence in Iran. Since the 1979 revolution the persecution has increased with executions and the denial of access to higher education. See Persecution of Bahá'ís and Religious minorities in Iran for more information.

Major cities
Iran's eight largest cities ( 2006 populations, unless otherwise noted) are as follows (non-metropolitan estimates):

Culture - Contents

Iran has a long history of art, music, architecture, poetry, philosophy, traditions, and ideology. Many Iranians believe their culture to be the one and only reason why their civilization has continuously survived thousands of years of turmoil.
Farhang ("culture") has always been the focal point of Iranian civilization. Most Iranians consider themselves the proud inheritors and guardians of an ancient and sophisticated culture.
Farhang ("culture") has always been the focal point of Iranian civilization. Most Iranians consider themselves the proud inheritors and guardians of an ancient and sophisticated culture.
که ایران بهشت است یا بوستان
همی بوی مشک آید از دوستان"Whether one thinks of Iran as Eden or Garden,
The smell of musk abounds there from friend and companion."
-- Firdawsiهمه عالم تن است و ایران دل
نیست گوینده زین قیاس خجل"Iran is The Heart and all the universe The Body,
Of this claim, the poet feels no regret or humility."
-- Nizami Persian literature is also highly regarded. The Persian language being used for over 2,500 years has left distinct marks in the history of the written word. Because of such poets as Hafez, Omar Khayyam, and Ferdowsi, Iranian poetry has received world-wide attention for their beautiful poems and songs.With 300 international awards in the past twenty-five years, films from Iran continue to be celebrated worldwide. Perhaps the best known director is Abbas Kiarostami. All media in Iran are controlled directly or indirectly by the state and must be approved by the Ministry of Islamic Guidance. This includes the Internet, which has become an expanding means to accessing information and self-expression among the younger population. Iran is now the world's fourth largest country of bloggers.The quest for social justice and equity is an important Iranian cultural trait. Respect for the elderly and hospitality for foreigners are also integral an part of Iranian etiquette.The Iranian new year ( Norouz) is celebrated on March 21, the first day of spring. Norouz was nominated as one of UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2004. In her book, New Food of Life, Najmieh Batmanglij writes that " Iranian food has much in common with the other cuisines of the Middle East, but is often considered to be the most sophisticated and imaginative of them all, as colorful and complex as a Persian carpet."
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