Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia.

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Iran (i/ɪˈrɑːn/[8] or /aɪˈræn/;[9] Persian: ایران‎ [ʔiˈɾɒn] ( listen)), officially the Islamic Republic of Iran (Persian: جمهوری اسلامی ایران‎, Jomhuri-ye Eslāmi-ye Irān), is a country in Western Asia.[10][11][12] The name "Iran", which in Persian means "Land of the Aryans", has been in native use since the Sassanian era. It came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia ( /ˈpɜrʒə/ or /ˈpɜrʃə/).[9][13] Both "Persia" and "Iran" are used interchangeably in cultural contexts; however, "Iran" is the name used officially in political contexts.[14][15]The historical and cultural wider usage of 'Iran'[16][17][18] should not be restricted to the modern state proper, as the latter which was called Irānshahr[19] or Irānzamīn (Greater Iran)[20] corresponded to territories of Iranian cultural or linguistic zones, and besides modern Iran, included portions of the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia.

The 18th-largest country in the world in terms of area at 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), Iran has a population of around 75 million.[10][21] It is a country of particular geopolitical significance owing to its location in three spheres of Asia (West, Central, and South). Iran is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. As Iran is a littoral state of the Caspian Sea, which is an inland sea, Kazakhstan and Russia are also Iran's direct neighbors to the north. Iran is bordered on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, on the west by Iraq and on the northwest by Turkey. Tehran is the capital, the country's largest city and the political, cultural, commercial and industrial center of the nation. Iran is a regional power,[22][23] and holds an important position in international energy security and world economy as a result of its large reserves of petroleum and natural gas. Iran has the second largest proven natural gas reserves in the world and the fourth largest proven petroleum reserves.[24]

Iran is home to one of the world's oldest civilizations.[25] The first dynasty in Iran formed during the Elamite kingdom in 2800 BC. The Iranian Medes unified Iran into an empire in 625 BC.[2] They were succeeded by the Iranian Achaemenid Empire, the Hellenic Seleucid Empire and two subsequent Iranian empires, the Parthians and the Sassanids, before the Muslim conquest in 651 AD. Iranian post-Islamic dynasties and empires expanded the Persian language and culture throughout the Iranian plateau. Early Iranian dynasties which re-asserted Iranian independence included the Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids and Buyids.

The blossoming of Persian literature, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, mathematics and art became major elements of Muslim civilization. Iranian identity continued despite foreign rule in the ensuing centuries[26] and Persian culture was adopted also by the Ghaznavid,[27] Seljuk,[28][29] Ilkhanid[30] and Timurid[31] rulers. The emergence in 1501 of the Safavid dynasty,[3] which promoted Twelver Shia Islam[32] as the official religion of their empire, marked one of the most important turning points in Iranian and Muslim history.[33] The Persian Constitutional Revolution established the nation's first parliament in 1906, within a constitutional monarchy. Following a coup d'état instigated by the UK and US in 1953, Iran gradually became a more autocratic country. Growing dissent with foreign influence culminated during the Iranian Revolution which led to establishment of an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979.[21][34]

Iran is a founding member of the UN, NAM, OIC and OPEC. The political system of Iran, based on the 1979 constitution, comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The highest state authority is the Supreme Leader. Shia Islam is the official religion and Persian is the official language.[35]


The name of Iran (ایران) is the Modern Persian derivative from the Proto-Iranian term Aryānā,, meaning "Land of the Aryans", first attested in Zoroastrianism's Avesta tradition.[36][37][38][39] The term Ērān is found to refer to Iran in a 3rd century Sassanid inscription, and the Parthian inscription that accompanies it uses the Parthian term "aryān" in reference to Iranians.[40] However historically Iran has been referred to as Persia or similar (La Perse, Persien, Perzië, etc.) by the Western world, mainly due to the writings of Greek historians who called Iran Persis (Περσίς), meaning land of the Persians. In 1935 Rezā Shāh requested that the international community should refer to the country as Iran. Opposition to the name change led to the reversal of the decision, and in 1959 both names were to be used interchangeably.[41] Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 the official name of the country has been the "Islamic Republic of Iran."


Early History

The earliest archaeological artifacts in Iran, like those excavated at the Kashafrud and Ganj Par sites, attest to a human presence in Iran since the Lower Paleolithic era.[42] Neanderthal artefacts dating back to the Middle Paleolithic period have been found mainly in the Zagros region at sites such as Warwasi and Yafteh Cave.[43][44] Early agricultural communities began to flourish in Iran at around 8000 BC,[45][46] with settlements such as Chogha Bonut, Susa and Chogha Mish developing in the Zagros region.[47][48][49]

The emergence of Susa as a city is determined by C14 dating as early as 4395 BC,[50] well beyond the rise of civilization in Mesopotamia. There are dozens of pre-historic sites across the Iranian plateau pointing to the existence of ancient cultures and urban settlements in the fourth millennium BC,[49][51][52] centuries before the earliest civilizations arose in nearby Mesopotamia.[53] During the Bronze age Iran was home to several civilisations such as Elam, Jiroft and Zayandeh Rud civilisations. Elam, the most prominent of these civilisations developed in the southwest of Iran alongside those in Mesopotamia. The development of writing in Elam in fourth millennium BC paralleled that in Sumer.[54] The Elamite kingdom continued its existence until the emergence of the Median and Achaemenid Empires.

Classical Era

Ruins of the Achaemenid palace of Persepolis, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site[55]

During the second millenium BC, Proto-Iranian tribes arrived in Iran from the Eurasian steppes,[56] rivaling the native settlers of the country.[57][58] As these tribes dispersed into the wider area of Greater Iran and beyond, the boundaries of modern Iran were dominated by the Persian, Parthian and Median tribes. Soon after Zoroastrianism emerged as the main religion of the Iranian tribes.[59]

The unification of the Median tribes under a single ruler in 728 BC led to the creation of a Median empire which by 612 BC controlled the whole of Iran as well as eastern Anatolia.[60] A Persian revolt led by Cyrus the Great ended the Median empire in 550 BC and signaled the beginning of the Achaemenid empire. Later conquests under Cyrus and his successors expanded the empire to include Lydia, Babylon, Egypt and the lands to the west of the Indus an Oxus Rivers. Conflict on the western borders began with the famous Greco-Persian Wars which continued through the first half of the 5th century BC and ended with the Persian withdrawal from all of their European territories.[61] The empire had a centralised, bureaucratic administration under the Emperor and a large professional army and civil services, inspiring similar developments in later empires.[62]

In 334 BC, Alexander the Great invaded the Achaemenid Empire, defeating the last Achaemenid Emperor Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC. Following the premature death of Alexander the Great, Iran came under the control of Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. In the middle of the 2nd century BC Parthia rose to become the main power in Iran and continued as a feudal monarchy for nearly five centuries until 224 AD, when it was succeeded by the Sassanid Empire.[63] The Sassanids established an empire roughly within the frontiers achieved by the Achaemenids, with the capital at Ctesiphon.[64] Most of the period of the Parthian and Sassanid Empires were overshadowed by the Roman-Persian Wars, which raged on their western borders for over 700 years. These wars exhausted both Romans and Sassanids,which arguably led to the defeat of both at the hands of the invading Muslim Arabs.

Middle Ages (652–1501)

The prolonged Roman-Persian wars, as well as social conflict within the Empire opened the way for an Islamic invasion of Iran in the 7th century.[65][66] Initially defeated by the Rashidun Caliphate, Iran later came under the rule of their successors the Ummayad and Abbasid Caliphates. The process of conversion of Iranians to Islam which followed was a prolonged and gradual process. Under the new Arab elite of the Rashidun and later Ummayad Caliphates Iranians, both Muslim (mawali) and non-Muslim (Dhimmi), were discriminated, being excluded from government and military, and having to pay a special tax.[67][68] In 750 the Abbasids succeeded in overthrowing the Ummayad Caliphate, mainly due to the support from dissatisfied Iranian mawali.[69] The mawali formed the majority of the rebel army, which was led by the Iranian general Abu Muslim.[70][71][72] After two centuries of Arab rule semi-independent and independent Iranian kingdoms (such as the Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids and Buyids) began to appear on the fringes of the declining Abbasid Caliphate. By the Samanid era in the 9th and 10th centuries Iran's efforts to regain its independence had been well solidified.[73]

Persian miniature depicting Timur's campaign in India

The arrival of the Abbasid Caliphs saw a revival of Persian culture and influence, and a move away from Arabic culture. The role of the old Arab aristocracy was slowly replaced by a Persian bureaucracy.[74] The blossoming Persian literature, philosophy, medicine, and art became major elements in the forming of a Muslim civilization during the Islamic Golden Age.[75][76] The Islamic Golden Age reached its peak in the 10th and 11th centuries, during which Persia was the main theatre of scientific activity.[77] After the 10th century, Persian, alongside Arabic, was used for scientific, philosophical, historical, mathematical, musical, and medical works, as important Iranian writers such as Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, Avicenna, Qotb al-Din Shirazi, Naser Khusraw and Biruni made contributions to Persian scientific writing.

The cultural revival that began in the Abbasid period led to a resurfacing of Iranian national identity, and so earlier attempts of Arabization never succeeded in Iran. The Iranian Shuubiyah movement became a catalyst for Iranians to regain their independence in their relations with the Arab invaders.[78] The most notable effect of the movement was the continuation of the Persian language attested to the epic poet Ferdowsi, now regarded as the most important figure in Persian literature.

The 10th century saw a mass migration of Turkic tribes from Central Asia into the Iranian plateau.[79] Turkic tribesmen were first used in the Abbasid army as slave-warriors (Mamluks), replacing Persian and Arab elements within the army.[70] As a result the Mamluks gained significant political power. In 999, Iran came under the rule of Ghaznavid dynasty, whose rulers were of Mamluk Turk origin, and later under the Turkish Seljuk and Khwarezmian Empires. These Turks had been Persianised and had adopted Persian models of administration and rulership.[79] The result of the adoption and patronage of Persian culture by Turkish rulers was the development of a distinct Turko-Persian tradition.

In 1219-21 the Khwarezmian Empire suffered a devastating invasion by Genghis Khan's Mongol army. Mongol violence and depredations killed up to three-fourths of the population of the Iranian Plateau, possibly 10 to 15 million people. Some historians have estimated that Iran's population did not again reach its pre-Mongol levels until the mid-20th century.[80] Following the fracture of the Mongol Empire in 1256 Hulagu Khan, Genghis Khan's grandson, established the Ilkhanate dynasty in Iran. In 1370 yet another conqueror, Timur, commonly known as Tamerlane in the West, followed Hulagu's example, establishing the Timurid Dynasty which lasted for another 156 years. In 1387, Timur ordered the complete massacre of Isfahan, reportedly killing 70,000 citizens.[81] Hulagu, Timur and their successors soon came to adopt the ways and customs of that which they had conquered, choosing to surround themselves with a culture that was distinctively Persian.[82]

Modern era (1501–)

19th century drawing of Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan

In 1501 Shah Ismail I re-established Iranian political unity in the form of the Safavid Dynasty.[79] Ismail is also known for instigated a religious revolution in Iran, forcefully converting the predominantly Sunni population to the state religion of Shi'a Islam.[83] During the Safavid era Iran once again became a centre for high civilisation and wealth, peaking under the reign of Shah Abbas I.[33][80] Under his rule the state became highly centralized, the first attempts to modernize the military were made, and even a distinct style of architecture developed in his new capital at Isfahan. The Safavid era was an era of intense rivalry with the Sunni Ottoman Empire, leading to the Ottoman–Persian Wars.[80] However, following a slow decline the Safavid dynasty was instead ended by Pashtun rebels who besieged Isfahan and defeated Soltan Hosein in 1722.

In 1729 Nader Shah successfully drove out the Pashtuns from Isfahan. By 1735 Nader Shah had regained territory lost to the Ottomon and Russian Empires, and in 1738 staged a very profitable incursion into the Mughal Empire. His military successes on all fronts earned him the nickname "Napoleon of Persia" or "the second Alexander". Following a brief civil war sparked by Nader Shah's assassination Karim Khan came to power, giving himself the title Vakil e-Ra'aayaa (Representative of the People), bringing a period of relative peace and prosperity.[80]

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Farah Pahlavi, the last Shah and Empress of Iran

Another civil war ensued Karim Khan's death in 1779, out of which Aga Muhammad Khan emerged victorious, founding the Qajar Dynasty in 1794 and establishing Tehran as his capital. Qajar rulership was marked by its inadequate response to change and its failure to maintain Iranian territorial integrity and sovereignty, and is consequently characterised by over a century of misrule.[79] The Great Persian Famine of 1870–1871 is believed to have caused the death of 1.5 million persons, or 20–25% of Persia's population.[84] Whilst resisting efforts to be colonised, Iran suffered as a result of The Great Game, losing much of its territory in the Russo-Persian and the Anglo-Persian Wars. A series of protests took place in response to the sale of concessions to foreigners by Nasser al-Din Shah and Mozaffar ad-Din Shah between 1872 and 1905, the last of which resulted in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution and establishment of Iran's first national parliament (majles) in 1906. However, Mozaffar ad-Din Shah's son Mohammad Ali Shah wished to recover the power lost by his father, and so rescinded the constitution, bombed the majles building and abolished parliament in 1908. The struggle continued until 1911 when Mohammad Ali's forces were finally defeated.

In 1925 Reza Khan, Prime Minister of Iran and former general of the Persian Cossack Brigade, overthrew the weakening Qajar Dynasty and became Shah. An ardent nationalist, Reza Shah initiated policies of military, administrative and financial modernisation and centralization.[79] Industrialization, the construction of the Trans-Iranian Railway and the establishment of a national education system can be named as some of his reforms. However, in 1941 he had been forced to abdicate in favour of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, by Britain and the USSR, who were both fearful of Reza Shah's nascent ties to Germany and in need of supply lines for the Allied war effort in the form of the new Trans-Iranian Railway.[85]

In 1951, after the assassination of prime minister Ali Razmara, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh was elected prime minister by a parliamentary vote which was then ratified by the Shah. As prime minister, Mosaddegh became enormously popular in Iran after he nationalized Iran's petroleum industry and oil reserves. In response, the British government, headed by Winston Churchill, embargoed Iranian oil and successfully enlisted the United States to join in a plot to depose the democratically elected government of Mosaddegh. In 1953 US President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized Operation Ajax. The operation was successful, and Mosaddegh was arrested on 19 August 1953. The coup was the first time the US had openly overthrown an elected, civilian government.[86]

The Shah visits the Kharg petrochemical complex, 1970

After Operation Ajax, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's rule became increasingly autocratic. With American support, the Shah was able to rapidly modernize Iranian infrastructure, but he simultaneously crushed all forms of political opposition with his intelligence agency, SAVAK. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became an active critic of the Shah's White Revolution and publicly denounced the government.

Khomeini was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. After his release in 1964 Khomeini publicly criticized the United States government. The Shah was persuaded to send him into exile by General Hassan Pakravan. Khomeini was sent first to Turkey, then to Iraq and finally to France. While in exile, he continued to denounce the Shah.

The Iranian Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolution,[87][88][89] began in January 1978 with the first major demonstrations against the Shah.[90] After strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the country and its economy, the Shah fled the country in January 1979 and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from exile to Tehran. The Pahlavi dynasty collapsed ten days later, on 11 February, when Iran's military declared itself "neutral" after guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting. Iran officially became an Islamic Republic on 1 April 1979, when Iranians overwhelmingly approved a national referendum to make it so.[21][34] In parallel nation wide uprisings against the new regime erupted in Kordestan, Khuzestan, Balochistan and other areas, though were eventually subdued, with some lasting until late 1980.

In December 1979, the country approved a theocratic constitution, whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country. The speed and success of the revolution surprised many throughout the world,[91] as it had not been precipitated by a military defeat, a financial crisis, or a peasant rebellion.[92] Although both nationalists and Marxists joined with Islamic traditionalists to overthrow the Shah, tens of thousands were killed and executed by the Islamic regime afterward, and the revolution ultimately resulted in an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.[93]

Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Iran – United States relations deteriorated rapidly during the revolution. On 4 November 1979, a group of Iranian students seized US embassy personnel, labeling the embassy a "den of spies".[94] They accused its personnel of being CIA agents plotting to overthrow the revolutionary government, as the CIA had done to Mosaddegh in 1953. While the student ringleaders had not asked for permission from Khomeini to seize the embassy, Khomeini nonetheless supported the embassy takeover after hearing of its success.[95]

While most of the female and African American hostages were released within the first months,[95] the remaining 52 hostages were held for 444 days. Subsequent attempts by the Jimmy Carter administration to negotiate or rescue were unsuccessful. In January 1981 the hostages were set free according to the Algiers Accords.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein decided to take advantage of what he perceived to be disorder in the wake of the Iranian Revolution and its unpopularity with Western governments. The once-strong Iranian military had been disbanded during the revolution. Saddam sought to expand Iraq's access to the Persian Gulf by acquiring territories that Iraq had claimed earlier from Iran during the Shah's rule. Of chief importance to Iraq was Khuzestan, which not only has a substantial Arab population, but boasted rich oil fields as well. On the unilateral behalf of the United Arab Emirates, the islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs became objectives as well. On 22 September 1980 the Iraqi army invaded Iran at Khuzestan, precipitating the Iran–Iraq War.

Although Saddam Hussein's forces made several early advances, by 1982, Iranian forces managed to push the Iraqi army back into Iraq. They soon aligned with the Iraqi Kurdish Rebellion of 1983 against Saddam. Khomeini sought to export his Islamic revolution westward into Iraq, especially on the majority Shia Arabs living in the country. The war then continued for six more years until 1988, when Khomeini, in his words, "drank the cup of poison" and accepted a truce mediated by the UN. The total Iranian casualties of the war were estimated to be anywhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000; with more than 100,000 Iranians being victims of Iraq's chemical weapons.[96][verification needed] Almost all relevant international agencies have confirmed that Saddam engaged in chemical warfare to blunt Iranian human wave attacks; these agencies unanimously confirmed that Iran never used chemical weapons during the war.[97][98][99][verification needed]

Following the Iran–Iraq War President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his administration concentrated on a pragmatic pro-business policy of rebuilding and strengthening the economy without making any dramatic break with the ideology of the revolution. Rafsanjani served until 1997 when he was succeeded by the moderate reformist Mohammad Khatami. During his two terms as president, Khatami advocated freedom of expression, tolerance and civil society, constructive diplomatic relations with other states including European Union and Asian governments, and an economic policy that supported free market and foreign investment. However, Khatami is widely regarded as having been unsuccessful in achieving his goal of making Iran more free and democratic.[100]

In the 2005 presidential elections, Iran made yet another change in political direction, when conservative populist candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected over Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.[101] A significant challenge to Ahmadinejad's political power, and the foundations of the Islamic Republic itself occurred during the 2009 Iranian presidential election that was held on 12 June 2009,[102] the tenth presidential election to be held in the country.[103] The Interior Ministry, announced incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the election with 62.63% receiving 24.5 million votes, while Mir-Hossein Mousavi had come in second place with 13.2 million votes 33.75%.[104][105] There were large irregularities in the results, invoking the 2009–2010 Iranian election protests, whose participants involved millions of Iranians in every Iranian city and around the world.[106][107]


Topography of Iran

Iran is the eighteenth largest country in the world, with an area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi).[24] Its area roughly equals that of the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Germany combined, or somewhat more than the US state of Alaska.[108] Iran lies between latitudes 24° and 40° N, and longitudes 44° and 64° E. Its borders are with Azerbaijan (611 km/380 mi (with Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave (179 km/111 mi ))[109] and Armenia (35 km/22 mi) to the north-west; the Caspian Sea to the north; Turkmenistan (992 km/616 mi) to the north-east; 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.

Mount Damavand, Iran's highest point, is located in Amol County, Mazanderan.

Iran consists of the Iranian Plateau with the exception of the coasts of the Caspian Sea and Khuzestan Province. It is one of the world's most mountainous countries, its landscape dominated by rugged mountain ranges that separate various basins or plateaux from one another. The populous western part is the most mountainous, with ranges such as the Caucasus, Zagros and Alborz Mountains; the last contains Iran's highest point, Mount Damavand at 5,610 m (18,406 ft), which is also the highest mountain on the Eurasian landmass west of the Hindu Kush.[110]

The northern part of Iran is covered by dense rain forests called Shomal or the Jungles of Iran. The eastern part consists mostly of desert basins such as the Dasht-e Kavir, Iran's largest desert, in the north-central portion of the country, and the Dasht-e Lut, in the east, as well as some salt lakes. This is because the mountain ranges are too high for rain clouds to reach these regions. 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 the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab (or the Arvand Rūd) river. Smaller, discontinuous plains are found along the remaining coast of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.


Simplified climatic map of Iran  Caspian Mild  Mountains  Arid and Semi-Arid

Iran's climate ranges from arid or semiarid, to subtropical along the Caspian coast and the northern forests. On the northern edge of the country (the Caspian coastal plain) temperatures rarely fall below freezing and the area remains humid for the rest of the year. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 29 °C (84.2 °F).[111][112] Annual precipitation is 680 mm (26.8 in) in the eastern part of the plain and more than 1,700 mm (66.9 in) in the western part.

To the west, settlements in the Zagros basin experience lower temperatures, severe winters with below zero average daily temperatures and heavy snowfall. The eastern and central basins are arid, with less than 200 mm (7.9 in) of rain, and have occasional deserts.[112] Average summer temperatures exceed 38 °C (100.4 °F). The coastal plains of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in southern Iran have mild winters, and very humid and hot summers. The annual precipitation ranges from 135 to 355 mm (5.3 to 14.0 in).[112]


Persian Leopard

Iran's wildlife is composed of several animal species including bears, gazelles, wild pigs, wolves, jackals, panthers, Eurasian Lynx, and foxes. Domestic animals include, sheep, goats, cattle, horses, water buffalo, donkeys, and camels. The pheasant, partridge, stork, eagles and falcon are also native to Iran.

One of the most famous members of Iranian wildlife is the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah, also known as the Iranian Cheetah, whose numbers were greatly reduced after the Iranian Revolution. Today there are ongoing efforts to increase its population and introduce it back in India. Iran had lost all its Asiatic Lion and the now extinct Caspian Tigers by the earlier part of the 20th century.[113]

Provinces and cities

Caspian SeaPersian GulfTurkmenistanAfghanistanPakistanAzerbaijanArmeniaT
IraqKuwaitSaudi Arabia

Iran is divided into thirty one provinces (ostān), each governed by an appointed governor (استاندار, ostāndār). The provinces are divided into counties (shahrestān), and subdivided into districts (bakhsh) and sub-districts (dehestān).

Iran has one of the highest urban growth rates in the world. From 1950 to 2002, the urban proportion of the population increased from 27% to 60%.[114] The United Nations predicts that by 2030, 80% of the population will be urban.[115] Most internal migrants have settled near the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Ahvaz, and Qom. The listed populations are from the 2006/07 (1385 AP) census.[116] Tehran, with a population of 7,705,036, is the largest city in Iran and is the capital. Tehran, like many big cities, suffers from severe air pollution. It is the hub of the country's communication and transport network.

Mashhad, with a population of 2,410,800, is the second largest Iranian city and the centre of the Razavi Khorasan Province. Mashhad is one of the holiest Shia cities in the world as it is the site of the Imam Reza shrine. It is the centre of tourism in Iran, and between 15 and 20 million pilgrims go to the Imam Reza's shrine every year.[117][118]

Another major Iranian city is Isfahan (population 1,583,609), which is the capital of Isfahan Province. The Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city contains a wide variety of Islamic architectural sites ranging from the 11th to the 19th century. The growth of the suburban area around the city has turned Isfahan into Iran's second most populous metropolitan area (3,430,353).[119]

The fourth major city of Iran is Tabriz (population 1,378,935), the capital of the East Azerbaijan Province. It is also the second industrial city of Iran after Tehran. Tabriz had been the second largest city in Iran until the late 1960s and one of its former capitals and residence of the crown prince under the Qajar dynasty. The city has proven extremely influential in the country’s recent history.

The fifth major city is Karaj (population 1,377,450), located in Alborz Province and situated 20 km west of Tehran, at the foot of the Alborz mountains; however, the city is increasingly becoming an extension of metropolitan Tehran.

The sixth major Iranian city is Shiraz (population 1,214,808); it is the capital of Fars Province. The Elamite civilization to the west greatly influenced the area, which soon came to be known as Persis. The ancient Persians were present in the region from about the 9th century BC, and became rulers of a large empire under the Achaemenid dynasty in the 6th century BC. The ruins of Persepolis and Pasargadae, two of the four capitals of the Achaemenid Empire, are located in or near Shiraz. Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire and is situated 70 kilometres (43 mi) northeast of modern Shiraz. UNESCO declared the citadel of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.

  • v
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Largest cities or towns of
Statistical Center of Iran: Results of national census, 2012 [120]
Rank City name Province Pop. Rank City name Province Pop.



1 Tehran Tehran 8,778,535[121] 11 Urmia West Azerbaijan 662,734


2 Mashhad Razavi Khorasan 2,567,243 12 Kerman Kerman 621,374
3 Isfahan Esfahan 1,755,382 13 Zahedan Sistan and Baluchestan 594,683
4 Karaj Alborz 1,657,967 14 Arak Markazi 480,560
5 Tabriz East Azerbaijan 1,459,755 15 Hamadan Hamadan 479,640
6 Shiraz Fars 1,287,423 16 Sanandaj Kordestan 446,760
7 Qom Qom 1,071,503 17 Yazd Yazd 432,194
8 Ahwaz Khuzestan 1,068,908 18 Ardabil Ardabil 418,262
9 Rasht Gilan 863,470 19 Bandar Abbas Hormozgan 379,301
10 Kermanshah Kermanshah 828,313 20 Zanjan Zanjan 376,284


City Theater of Tehran, the largest auditorium in Western Asia

The culture of Iran is a mix of ancient pre-Islamic culture and Islamic culture. Iranian culture has long been a predominant culture of the region, with Persian considered the language of intellectuals during much of the 2nd millennium, and the language of religion and the populace before that.

The Sassanid era was an important and influential historical period in Iran as Iranian culture influenced China, India and Roman civilization considerably,[122] and so influenced as far as Western Europe and Africa.[123] This influence played a prominent role in the formation of both Asiatic and European medieval art.[124] This influence carried forward to the Islamic world. Much of what later became known as Islamic learning, such as philology, literature, jurisprudence, philosophy, medicine, architecture and the sciences were based on some of the practises taken from the Sassanid Persians to the broader Muslim world.[125][126][127]

Since the Islamization of Iran, Islamic rituals have penetrated the Iranian culture. The most noticeable of them is the commemoration of Husayn ibn Ali: every year on the Day of Ashura, most Iranians, including Armenians and Zoroastrians, participate in mourning for the martyrs of the battle of Karbala. Daily life in modern Iran is closely interwoven with Shia Islam and the country's art, literature, and architecture are an ever-present reminder of its deep national tradition and of a broader literary culture.[127][128]

The Iranian New Year (Nowruz) is an ancient tradition celebrated on 21 March to mark the beginning of spring in Iran. It is also celebrated in Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and previously also in Georgia and Armenia. It is also celebrated by the Iraqi and Anatolian Kurds.[129] Nowruz was registered on the list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity[130] and described as the Persian New Year[131][132][133][134] by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2009.

Language and literature

Geographic distribution of the Modern Iranian languages: Persian (green), Pashto (purple) and Kurdish (turquoise), Lurish (red), Baloch (Yellow), as well as smaller communities of other Iranian languages

Article 15 of the Iranian constitution states that the "Official language (of Iran)... is Persian...[and]... the use of regional and tribal languages in the press and mass media, as well as for teaching of their literature in schools, is allowed in addition to Persian." Persian serves as a lingua franca in Iran and most publications and broadcastings are in this language.

Next to Persian, there are many publications and broadcastings in other relatively popular languages of Iran such as Azerbaijani, Kurdish and even in less popular ones such as Arabic and Armenian. Many languages originated in Iran, but Persian is the most used language. Persian belongs to the Iranian branch of the family of Indo-European languages. The oldest records in Old Persian date to the Achaemenid Empire,[135] and examples of Old Persian have been found in present-day Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt.

In the late 8th century, Persian was highly Arabized and written in a modified Arabic script. This caused a movement supporting the revival of Persian. An important event of this revival was the writing of the Shahname by Ferdowsi (Persian: Epic of Kings), Iran's national epic, which is said to have been written entirely in native Persian. This gave rise to a strong reassertion of Iranian national identity, and is in part credited for the continued existence of Persian as a separate language.

بسی رنج بردم در این سال سی
عجم زنده کردم بدین پارسی
For thirty years, I suffered much pain and strife
with Persian I gave the Ajam verve and life

—Ferdowsi (935–1020)

Kelileh va Demneh Persian manuscript copy dated 1429

Persian beside Arabic has been a medium for literary and scientific contributions to the Islamic world especially in Anatolia, central Asia and Indian subcontinent. Poetry is a very important part of Persian culture. Poetry is used in many Persian classical works, whether from literature, science, or metaphysics. Persian literature has been considered by such thinkers as Goethe as one of the four main bodies of world literature.[136]

The Persian language has produced a number of famous poets; however, only a few poets as Rumi and Omar Khayyám have surfaced among western popular readership, even though the likes of Hafiz, Saadi, Nizami[137] Attar, Sanai, Nasir Khusraw, Jami, Taleb Amoli are considered by many Iranians to be just as influential. The books of famous poets have been translated into western languages since 1634. An example of Persian poetic influence is the poem below which is widely popular:

Hafezi'eh, tomb of Hafiz in Shiraz

بنى آدم اعضای يک پیکرند
که در آفرينش ز يک گوهرند
چو عضوى به درد آورد روزگار
دگر عضوها را نماند قرار
Of one Essence is the human race
thus has Creation put the base
One Limb impacted is sufficient
For all Others to feel the Mace

—Saadi (1184–1283)


While there are ancient relations between the Indian Vedas and the Iranian Avesta, the two main families of the ancient Indo-Iranian philosophical traditions were characterized by fundamental differences in their implications for the human being's position in society and their view on the role of man in the universe.[138][139]

Iranian philosophy after the acceptance of Islam in Persia, is characterized by different interactions with the Ancient Iranian Philosophy, the Ancient Greek philosophy and with the development of Islamic philosophy. Illuminationism and transcendent theosophy are regarded as two of the main philosophical traditions of that era in Persia. Among important contributors to philosophy in Iran are Zoroaster, Jamasp, Mardan-Farrux Ohrmazddadan, Adurfarnbag Farroxzadan, Adurbad Emedan, Iranshahri, Farabi, Avicenna, Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari, Suhrawardi, Nasir Khusraw, Biruni, Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, Abu Yaqub al-Sijistani, Nasir al-Din Tusi, Qutb al-Din Shirazi, Mir Damad, Mulla Sadra, Mir Fendereski and Hadi Sabzevari.


17th century painting from Hasht Behesht palace, Isfahan

The musical culture of Persia, while distinct, is closely related to other musical systems of the West and Central Asia. It has also affinities to the music cultures of the Indian subcontinent, to a certain degree even to those of Africa, and, in the period after 1850 particularly, to that of Europe. Its history can be traced to some extent through these relationships. Like that of most of the world’s cultures, the music of Persia has depended on oral/aural transmission and learning.[140]


Iranian cinema has thrived in modern Iran, and many Iranian directors have garnered worldwide recognition for their work. Iranian movies have won over three hundred awards in the past twenty-five years including Oscars. One of the best-known directors is Abbas Kiarostami. The media of Iran is a mixture of private and state-owned, but books and movies must be approved by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance before being released to the public. The Internet has become enormously popular among the Iranian youth. Iran is now the world's fourth largest country of bloggers.[141]

Art and architecture

Iran is home to one of the richest artistic traditions in world history and encompasses many disciplines, including architecture, painting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stonemasonry. Carpet-weaving is one of the most distinguished manifestations of Persian culture and art, and dates back to ancient Persia. Persians were among the first to use mathematics, geometry, and astronomy in architecture and also have extraordinary skills in making massive domes which can be seen frequently in the structure of bazaars and mosques. The main building types of classical Iranian architecture are the mosque and the palace. Besides being home to a large number of art houses and galleries, Iran also holds one of the largest and most valuable jewel collections in the world.

Iran ranks seventh among countries in the world with the most archeological architectural ruins and attractions from antiquity as recognized by UNESCO.[142] Fifteen of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites are creations of Iranian architecture.

Panoramic view of Naqsh-e Jahan Square


The cuisine of Iran is diverse, with each province featuring dishes, as well as culinary traditions and styles, distinct to their regions. The main Persian cuisines are combinations of rice with meat, chicken or fish and some onion, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. Herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins. Iranians also usually eat plain yogurt (Persian: ماست, māst‎) with lunch and dinner; it is a staple of the diet in Iran. To achieve a balanced taste, characteristic flavourings such as saffron, dried limes, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed delicately and used in some special dishes. Onions and garlic are normally used in the preparation of the accompanying course, but are also served separately during meals, either in raw or pickled form. Iran is also famous for its caviar.[143] Iranian food is not piquant.


Azadi Football Stadium

With two thirds of Iran's population under the age of 25, many sports are practised in Iran, both traditional and modern. Iran is the birthplace of polo,[144] and Varzesh-e Pahlavani. Freestyle wrestling has been traditionally regarded as Iran's national sport, however today, the most popular sport in Iran is soccer with the country having won the Asian Cup on three occasions. Basketball is also very popular in Iran where the national team won two of the last three Asian Championships.[145] In 1974, Iran became the first country in West Asia to host the Asian Games. Iran is home to several unique skiing resorts,[146] with the Tochal resort being the world's fifth-highest ski resort (3,730 m/12,238 ft at its highest station), and located only fifteen minutes away from Tehran. Being a mountainous country, Iran is a venue for hiking, rock climbing,[147] and mountain climbing.[148][149][150][dead link]

Government and politics

Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran

The political system of the Islamic Republic is based on the 1979 Constitution. Accordingly, it is the duty of the Islamic government to furnish all citizens with equal and appropriate opportunities, to provide them with work, and to satisfy their essential needs, so that the course of their progress may be assured.[151]

The system comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The Leader of the Revolution (commonly called "Supreme Leader" in the US and the UK) is responsible for delineation and supervision of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran.[152] The Supreme Leader is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, controls the military intelligence and security operations; and has sole power to declare war or peace.[152]

The heads of the judiciary, state radio and television networks, the commanders of the police and military forces and six of the twelve members of the Guardian Council are appointed by the Supreme Leader.[152] The Assembly of Experts elects and dismisses the Supreme Leader on the basis of qualifications and popular esteem.[153] The Assembly of Experts is responsible for supervising the Supreme Leader in the performance of legal duties.

After the Supreme Leader, the Constitution defines the President of Iran as the highest state authority.[152][154] The President is elected by universal suffrage for a term of four years and can only be re-elected for one term.[154][dubious ] Presidential candidates must be approved by the Guardian Council prior to running in order to ensure their allegiance to the ideals of the Islamic revolution.[155]

The President is responsible for the implementation of the Constitution and for the exercise of executive powers, except for matters directly related to the Supreme Leader, who has the final say in all matters.[152] The President appoints and supervises the Council of Ministers, coordinates government decisions, and selects government policies to be placed before the legislature.[156] Eight Vice-Presidents serve under the President, as well as a cabinet of twenty two ministers, who must all be approved by the legislature.[157] Unlike many other states, the executive branch in Iran does not control the armed forces. Although the President appoints the Ministers of Intelligence and Defense, it is customary for the President to obtain explicit approval from the Supreme Leader for these two ministers before presenting them to the legislature for a vote of confidence. Iran's current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was first elected in a run-off poll in the 2005 presidential elections and re-elected in the 2009 presidential elections.

Iran's complex and unusual political system combines elements of a modern Islamic theocracy with democracy.

As of 2012, the legislature of Iran (known in English as the Islamic Consultative Assembly) is a unicameral body.[158] Before the Iranian Revolution, the legislature was bicameral, but the upper house was removed under the new constitution. The Majlis of Iran comprises 290 members elected for four-year terms.[158] The Majlis drafts legislation, ratifies international treaties, and approves the national budget. All Majlis candidates and all legislation from the assembly must be approved by the Guardian Council.[159]

The Guardian Council comprises twelve jurists including six appointed by the Supreme Leader. The others are elected by the Parliament from among the jurists nominated by the Head of the Judiciary.[160][161] The Council interprets the constitution and may veto Parliament. If a law is deemed incompatible with the constitution or Sharia (Islamic law), it is referred back to Parliament for revision.[154] In a controversial exercise of its authority, the Council has drawn upon a narrow interpretation of Iran's constitution to veto parliamentary candidates. The Expediency Council has the authority to mediate disputes between Parliament and the Guardian Council, and serves as an advisory body to the Supreme Leader, making it one of the most powerful governing bodies in the country.[162]

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University

The Supreme Leader appoints the head of Iran's judiciary, who in turn appoints the head of the Supreme Court and the chief public prosecutor.[163] There are several types of courts including public courts that deal with civil and criminal cases, and "revolutionary courts" which deal with certain categories of offenses, including crimes against national security. The decisions of the revolutionary courts are final and cannot be appealed.[163] The Special Clerical Court handles crimes allegedly committed by clerics, although it has also taken on cases involving lay people. The Special Clerical Court functions independently of the regular judicial framework and is accountable only to the Supreme Leader. The Court's rulings are final and cannot be appealed.[163]

The Assembly of Experts, which meets for one week annually, comprises 86 "virtuous and learned" clerics elected by adult suffrage for eight-year terms. As with the presidential and parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council determines candidates' eligibility.[163] The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader and has the constitutional authority to remove the Supreme Leader from power at any time.[163] It has not challenged any of the Supreme Leader's decisions.[163]

Local city councils are elected by public vote to four-year terms in all cities and villages of Iran. According to article seven of Iran's Constitution, these local councils together with the Parliament are "decision-making and administrative organs of the State". This section of the constitution was not implemented until 1999 when the first local council elections were held across the country. Councils have many different responsibilities including electing mayors, supervising the activities of municipalities; studying, planning, co-ordinating and implementing of social, cultural, educational, health, economic, and welfare requirements of their constituencies.

Foreign relations and military

Iranian Air Force MiG-29 fighter aircraft

Iran's foreign relations are based on two strategic principles: eliminating outside influences in the region and pursuing extensive diplomatic contacts with developing and non-aligned countries. Iran maintains diplomatic relations with almost every member of the United Nations, except for Israel, which Iran does not recognize, and the United States since the Iranian Revolution.[164] Since 2005, Iran's nuclear program has become the subject of contention with the Western world due to suspicions that Iran could divert the civilian nuclear technology to a weapons program. This has led the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Iran on select companies linked to this program, thus furthering its economic isolation on the international scene. The US Director of National Intelligence said in February 2009 that Iran would not realistically be able to a get a nuclear weapon until 2013, if it chose to develop one.[165]

Iranian Navy Kilo -class attack submarine

The Islamic Republic of Iran has two types of armed forces: the regular forces Islamic Republic of Iran Army, Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, Islamic Republic of Iran Navy and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), totaling about 545,000 active troops. Iran also has around 350,000 Reserve Force totaling around 900,000 trained troops.[166] Iran has a paramilitary, volunteer militia force within the IRGC, called the Basij, which includes about 90,000 full-time, active-duty uniformed members. Up to 11 million men and women are members of the Basij who could potentially be called up for service; estimates Iran could mobilize "up to one million men". This would be among the largest troop mobilizations in the world.[167] In 2007, Iran's military spending represented 2.6% of the GDP or $102 per capita, the lowest figure of the Persian Gulf nations.[168] Iran's military doctrine is based on deterrence.[169]

Since the Iranian Revolution, to overcome foreign embargo, Iran has developed its own military industry, produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, guided missiles, submarines, military vessels, guided missile destroyer, radar systems, helicopters and fighter planes.[170][171][172] In recent years, official announcements have highlighted the development of weapons such as the Hoot, Kowsar, Zelzal, Fateh-110, Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles, and a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).[173] The Fajr-3 (MIRV) is currently Iran's most advanced ballistic missile, it is a liquid fuel missile with an undisclosed range which was developed and produced domestically.


There is an estimated population of 1.2 million weavers in Iran producing carpets for domestic markets and international export.[174]

The economy of Iran is the twenty-fifth largest in the world by GDP (nominal) and the eighteenth largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity (PPP). 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.[175] Its economic infrastructure has been improving steadily over the past two decades but continues to be affected by inflation and unemployment.[176] In the early 21st century the service sector contributed the largest percentage of the GDP, followed by industry (mining and manufacturing) and agriculture. In 2006, about 45% of the government's budget came from oil and natural gas revenues, and 31% came from taxes and fees.[177]

Government spending contributed to an average annual inflation rate of 14% in the period 2000–2004. As at 2007, Iran had earned $70 billion in foreign exchange reserves mostly (80%) from crude oil exports.[178] In 2011 GDP was $482.4 billion ($1.003 trillion at PPP), or $13,200 at PPP per capita, signifying a 2% growth in GDP.[24] Because of these figures and the country’s diversified but small industrial base, the United Nations classifies Iran's economy as semi-developed (1998).[citation needed]

Iran's automobile production crossed the 1 million mark in 2005. Iran Khodro is the largest car manufacturer in the Middle-East. It has established joint-ventures with foreign partners from 4 continents.

About 1,659,000 foreign tourists visited Iran in 2004; most came from Asian countries, including the republics of Central Asia, while a small share came from the countries of the European Union and North America. Iran currently ranks 89th in tourist income, but is rated among the "10 most touristic countries" in the world in terms of its history.[179][180] Weak advertising, unstable regional conditions, a poor public image in some parts of the world, and absence of efficient planning schemes in the tourism sector have all hindered the growth of tourism.

The administration continues to follow the market reform plans of the previous one and indicated that it will diversify Iran's oil-reliant economy. Iran has also developed a biotechnology, nanotechnology, and pharmaceuticals industry.[181] The strong oil market since 1996 helped ease financial pressures on Iran and allowed for Tehran's timely debt service payments.

Iranian budget deficits have been a chronic problem, mostly due to large-scale state subsidies, that include foodstuffs and especially gasoline, totaling more than $84 billion in 2008 for the energy sector alone.[182][183] In 2010, the economic reform plan was approved by parliament to cut subsidies gradually and replace them with targeted social assistance. The objective is to move towards free market prices in a 5-year period and increase productivity and social justice.[184]

Over the past 15 years, the authorities have placed an emphasis on the local production of domestic-consumption oriented goods such as home appliances, cars, agricultural products, pharmaceutical, etc. Today, Iran possesses a good manufacturing industry, despite restrictions imposed by foreign countries. However, nationalized industries such as the bonyads have often been managed badly, making them ineffective and uncompetitive with years. Currently, the government is trying to privatize these industries, and, despite successes, there are still several problems to be overcome, such as the lagging corruption in the public sector and lack of competitiveness. Iran ranks 69th out of 139 in Global Competitiveness Report.[185]

Iran has leading manufacturing industries in the fields of car-manufacture and transportation, construction materials, home appliances, food and agricultural goods, armaments, pharmaceuticals, information technology, power and petrochemicals in the Middle East.[186]


Iran holds 10% of the world's proven oil reserves and 15% of its gas. It is OPEC's second largest exporter and the world's fourth oil producer.

Iran ranks second in the world in natural gas reserves and third in oil reserves.[191][192] It is OPEC's 2nd largest oil exporter and is an energy superpower.[193][194] In 2005, Iran spent US$4 billion on fuel imports, because of contraband and inefficient domestic use.[195] Oil industry output averaged 4 million barrels per day (640,000 m3/d) in 2005, compared with the peak of six million barrels per day reached in 1974. In the early years of the 2000s (decade), industry infrastructure was increasingly inefficient because of technological lags. Few exploratory wells were drilled in 2005.

In 2004, a large share of natural gas reserves in Iran were untapped. Iran is the third country in the world to have developed GTL technology.[196] The addition of new hydroelectric stations and the streamlining of conventional coal and oil-fired stations increased installed capacity to 33,000 megawatts. Of that amount, about 75% was based on natural gas, 18% on oil, and 7% on hydroelectric power. In 2004, Iran opened its first wind-powered and geothermal plants, and the first solar thermal plant is to come online in 2009.

Demographic trends and intensified industrialization have caused electric power demand to grow by 8% per year. The government’s goal of 53,000 megawatts of installed capacity by 2010 is to be reached by bringing on line new gas-fired plants and by adding hydroelectric, and nuclear power generating capacity. Iran’s first nuclear power plant at Bushehr went online in 2011.[197][198]

Science and technology

An 18th century Persian astrolabe

Ancient Iranians built Qanats and Yakhchal to provide and keep water. The first windmill appeared in Iran in the 9th century.[199] Iranians contributed significantly to the current understanding of astronomy, natural science, medicine, mathematics, and philosophy. Khwarizmi is widely hailed as the father of algebra. Ethanol (alcohol) was first identified by Persian alchemists such as Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi. Throughout the Middle Ages, the philosophy and mathematics of the Ancient Greeks and Persians were furthered and preserved within Persia. The Academy of Gundishapur was a renowned centre of learning in the city of Gundeshapur during late antiquity and was the most important medical centre of the ancient world during the 6th and 7th centuries.[200] During this period, Persia became a centre for the manufacture of scientific instruments, retaining its reputation for quality well into the 19th century.

Iran strives to revive the golden age of Persian science. The country has increased its publication output nearly tenfold from 1996 through 2004, and has been ranked first in terms of output growth rate followed by China.[201] Despite the limitations in funds, facilities, and international collaborations, Iranian scientists remain highly productive in several experimental fields, such as pharmacology, pharmaceutical chemistry, organic chemistry, and polymer chemistry. Iranian scientists are also helping construct the Compact Muon Solenoid, a detector for CERN's Large Hadron Collider. In 2009, a SUSE Linux-based HPC system made by the Aerospace Research Institute of Iran (ARI) was launched with 32 cores and now runs 96 cores. Its performance was pegged at 192 GFLOPS.[202] Sorena 2 Robot, which was designed by engineers at University of Tehran, was unveiled in 2010. the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has placed the name of Surena among the five prominent robots of the world after analyzing its performance.[203]

In the biomedical sciences, Iran's Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics is a UNESCO chair in biology.[204] In late 2006, Iranian scientists successfully cloned a sheep by somatic cell nuclear transfer, at the Rouyan research centre in Tehran.[205] According to a study by David Morrison and Ali Khademhosseini (Harvard-MIT and Cambridge), stem cell research in Iran is amongst the top 10 in the world.[206] Iran ranks 15th in the world in nanotechnologies.[207][208][209]

Omid satellite. Iran is the 9th country to put a domestically built satellite into orbit.

The Iranian nuclear program was launched in the 1950s. Iran is the 7th country in production of uranium hexafluoride[210] and controls the entire cycle for producing nuclear fuel.[211] Iran's current facilities includes several research reactors, a uranium mine, an almost complete commercial nuclear reactor, and uranium processing facilities that include a uranium enrichment plant. Recently, head of the British spy agency MI6 forecast that Iran will achieve nuclear weapon capability in two years.[212]

The Iranian Space Agency launched its first reconnaissance satellite named Sina-1 in 2006, and a space rocket in 2007,[213] which aimed at improving science and research for university students.[214] Iran placed its domestically built satellite, Omid into orbit on the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, on 2 February 2009,[215] through Safir rocket, becoming the ninth country in the world capable of both producing a satellite and sending it into space from a domestically made launcher.[216] In July 2012, Iranian Supereme leader Ali Khamanei stated on a State TV broadcast that US-led sanctions have not succeeded in impeding the technological advancement of his nation.[217]

Iranian scientists outside Iran have also made some major contributions to science. In 1960, Ali Javan co-invented the first gas laser and fuzzy set theory was introduced by Lotfi Zadeh.[218] Iranian cardiologist, Tofy Mussivand invented and developed the first artificial cardiac pump, the precursor of the artificial heart. Furthering research and treatment of diabetes, HbA1c was discovered by Samuel Rahbar. Iranian physics is especially strong in string theory, with many papers being published in Iran.[219] Iranian-American string theorist Kamran Vafa proposed the Vafa-Witten theorem together with Edward Witten.


Iran's ethnoreligious distribution

Iran is a diverse country, consisting of people of many religious and ethnic backgrounds, which is cemented by the Persian language and culture.[220] The majority of the population speaks the Persian language, which is also the official language of the country, as well as other Iranian languages or dialects. Turkic languages and dialects, most importantly Azerbaijani language, are spoken in different areas in Iran. Additionally, Arabic is spoken in the southwestern parts of the country, although Arabs constitute a minority in these regions. The exact ethnic breakdown of Iran is unknown as there are no official numbers, however some organizations have made estimates. The World Factbook released the estimate: Persians (61%), Azerbaijanis (16%), Kurds (10%), Lurs (6%), Arabs (2%), Balochs (2%), Turkmens and Turkic tribes (2%),[221] Laks, Qashqai, Pashtuns, Armenians, Georgians, Persian Jews, Assyrians, Circassians, Tats, Mandaeans, Gypsies, Brahuis, Kazakhs and others (1%).[24] However according to them Persian is spoken as first language by 53%, while Azerbaijani and other Turkic dialects is spoken by 18%, Kurdish by 10%, Gilaki and Mazandarani by 7%, Luri by 6%, Balochi by 2%, Arabic by 2% and that some 2% have other languages as first language.[24]

The Library of Congress estimates are as following: Persians (65%), Azerbaijanis (16%), Kurds (7%), Lurs (6%), Arabs (2%), Baluchi (2%), Turkmens (1%), Turkic tribal groups such as the Qashqai (1%), and non-Persian, non-Turkic groups such as Armenians, Assyrians, Pashtuns and Georgians (less than 1%). According to it Persian is spoken as a mother tongue by at least 65% of the population and as a second language by a large proportion of the remaining 35%.[222]

Population of Iran

Iran's population increased dramatically during the latter half of the 20th century, reaching about 75 million by 2009.[223] According to the 1956 census the population of Iran was about 19 million.[224] In recent years, however, Iran's birth rate has dropped significantly, and is 1.29% in July 2012.[4] Studies project that Iran's rate of population growth will continue to slow until it stabilizes above 105 million by 2050.[225][226] More than two-thirds of the population is under the age of 30, and the literacy rate is 82%.[227] Women today compose more than half of the incoming classes for universities around the country and increasingly continue to play pivotal roles in society.

Iran hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world, with more than one million refugees, mostly from Afghanistan and Iraq.[228] Since 2006, Iranian officials have been working with the UNHCR and Afghan officials for their repatriation.[229] According to estimates, about five million Iranian citizens have emigrated to other countries, mostly since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.[230][231]

According to the Iranian Constitution, the government is required to provide every citizen of the country with access to social security that covers retirement, unemployment, old age, disability, accidents, calamities, health and medical treatment and care services. This is covered by public revenues and income derived from public contributions. The World Health Organization in on health systems ranked Iran's performance on health level 58th, and its overall health system performance 93rd among the world's nations in 2000.[232]


Iran religiosity
Religion Percent
Islam 98%
Other 2%

Religion in Iran is dominated by the Twelver Shia branch of Islam, which is the official state religion and to which about 90% to 95%[233][234][235] of Iranians belong. About 4% to 8% of Iranians belong to the Sunni branch of Islam, mainly Kurds and Iran's Balochi Sunni. The remaining 2% are non-Muslim religious minorities, including Bahá'ís, Mandeans, Hindus, Yezidis, Yarsanis, Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians.[24]

The latter three minority religions are officially recognized and protected, and have reserved seats in the Majlis (Parliament). However the Bahá'í Faith, Iran's largest religious minority,[236] is not officially recognized, and has been persecuted during its existence in Iran. Since the 1979 revolution the persecution of Bahá'ís has increased with executions, the denial of civil rights and liberties, and the denial of access to higher education and employment.[237][238]

Hinduism in Iran has a history stretching back to the Middle Ages. Presently, Hindus are known to travel to Iran, but the vast majority consist of migrant workers from India. Out of Iran's population of 68,017,860, there are 68,017 recorded Hindus, making them 0.1% of the total population.[239] Some of the poetry of Sohrab Sepehri shows Buddhist influence, and another major contemporary poet, Ahmad Shamlou, translated a book of Japanese haiku poetry into Persian.

More information

Airports324 (2012)
Borders WithAfghanistan
Borders WithArmenia
Borders WithAzerbaijan
Borders WithAzerbaijan
Borders WithIraq
Borders WithPakistan
Borders WithTurkey
Borders WithTurkmenistan
Coastline2,440 km; note - Iran also borders the Caspian Sea (740 km)
Coordinates32 00 N, 53 00 E
Ethnic GroupPersian 61%
Ethnic GroupAzeri 16%
Ethnic GroupKurd 10%
Ethnic GroupLur 6%
Ethnic GroupBaloch 2%
Ethnic GroupArab 2%
Ethnic GroupTurkmen and Turkic tribes 2%
Ethnic Groupother 1%
Female Life Expectancy71.93 years (2012 est.)
Female Median Age27.6 years (2012 est.)
Fertility Rate1.87 children born/woman (2012 est.)
GDP$990.8 billion (2011 est.)
GDP$971 billion (2010 est.)
GDP$916.9 billion (2009 est.)
GDP Growth2% (2011 est.)
GDP Growth5.9% (2010 est.)
GDP Growth4% (2009 est.)
Government typetheocratic republic
Highest PointKuh-e Damavand 5,671 m
Land Area1,531,595 sq km
Land boundary5,440 km
LanguageArabic 2%
LanguageAzeri Turkic and Turkic dialects 18%
LanguageBalochi 2%
LanguageGilaki and Mazandarani 7%
LanguageKurdish 10%
LanguageLuri 6%
LanguagePersian (official) 53%
Languageother 2%
LocationMiddle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan
Lowest PointCaspian Sea -28 m
Male Life Expectancy68.84 years
Male Median Age27.1 years
Population Growth1.247% (2012 est.)
Railways8,442 km
Roadways172,927 km
Terrainrugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts
Total Area1,648,195 sq km
Total Life Expectancy70.35 years
Total Median Age27.4 years
Water Area116,600 sq km
Waterways850 km (on Karun River; some navigation on Lake Urmia) (2012)


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  236. International Federation for Human Rights (1 August 2003). "Discrimination against religious minorities in Iran" (PDF). Retrieved 19 March 2007.
  237. Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (2007). "A Faith Denied: The Persecution of the Bahá'ís of Iran" (PDF). Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Retrieved 19 March 2007.[dead link]
  238. (The percentage of Hindu population of Iran was taken from the United States Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report 2004)

Neighboring countries

Important people