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The Islamic Republic of Iran is a Middle Eastern country in southwestern Asia that until 1935 was referred to in the West as Persia. It borders Pakistan and Afghanistan to the east, Turkmenistan to the northeast, the Caspian Sea to the north, Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, Turkey and Iraq to the west, and finally the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south. In 1979, a revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeini established a theocratic Islamic Republic.
جمهوری اسلامی ایران
Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran
(In Detail)
National motto: none
Official language Persian (فارسی)
Capital Tehran
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
President Mohammad Khatami
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 17th
1,648,195 km²
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 18th
Establishment of latest government
 - Date
Islamic Revolution
April 1, 1979
Currency Rial
Time zone UTC +3.30
National anthem Sorood-e Melli-e Jomhoori-e Eslami
Internet TLD .IR
Calling Code 98

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Provinces
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 External links


Main article: History of Iran

Persia emerged in the 6th century BC under the Achaemenid dynasty as a vast empire that controlled an area from India to Greece. It was conquered by Alexander the Great, but soon after Persia regained its independence in the form of the Parthian and Sassanid Empires. The latter was defeated by Islamic Arab forces in the 7th century AD, who were followed by Seljuk Turks, the Mongols, and Tamerlane.

The 16th century saw renewed independence with the Safavids and then other lines of kings or shahs. During the 19th century Persia came under pressure from both Russia and the United Kingdom and a process of modernisation began that continued into the 20th century. In 1953, Iran's prime minister Mohammed Mossadeq, who had been elected to parliament in 1923 and again in 1944, and who had been prime minister since 1951, was removed from power in a complex plot orchestrated by British and US intelligence agencies ("Operation Ajax"). Following Mossadeq's fall Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Iran's monarch) grew increasingly dictatorial. With strong support from the USA and the UK, the Shah further modernised Iranian industry but crushed civil liberties. His autocratic rule, including systematic torture and other human rights violations, led to the Iranian revolution and overthrow of his regime in 1979. After over a year of struggle between a variety of different political groups, an Islamic republic was established under the Ayatollah Khomeini.

The new theocratic political system instituted some conservative but some more repressive Islamic reforms, as well as engaging in an anti-Western course, in particular against the United States. The new government collaborated with various groups considered by the most of the Western World to be terrorist, and was allegedly involved in violent attacks in countries such as France. Involvement by senior Iranian security officials in the murder of several Kurdish exile politicians in the Myconos affair has been confirmed by German courts. As a consequence, the Western World largely considered Iran to be a hostile power, and treated it as such until a certain détente after Khomeini's death.

Strict Islamic law was implemented, women lost many of their rights, and in some confirmed cases, Human rights abuses such as torture and violent executions continued. In 1980 Iran was attacked by neighbouring Iraq and the destructive Iran-Iraq War continued until 1988. However, in more recent years, the democratic political structure has led to the election of many reformist politicians, including the president, Mohammad Khatami. During the first decade of the 21st century, the struggle for power between reformists and conservatives over the future of the country continues through a mix of electoral politics and restrictions on civil liberties.


Main article: Politics of Iran

Since the revolution of 1979 the Supreme Leader is the rahbar, or in absence of a single leader a council of religious leaders. They are elected from the clerical establishment on the basis of their qualifications and the high popular esteem in which they are held. The supreme leader appoints the six religious members of the 12-member Council of Guardians, as well as the highest judicial authorities and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

The head of state is the president, elected by universal suffrage to a 4-year term by an absolute majority of votes and supervises the affairs of the executive branch. All presidential candidates must be approved by the Council prior to running. 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. The Council of Guardians certifies the competence of candidates for the presidency and the parliament.

The unicameral Iranian parliament, the Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majles-e-Shura-ye-Eslami, consists of 290 members elected to a 4-year term. The members are elected by direct and secret ballot. All legislation from the assembly must be reviewed by the Council of Guardians. The Council's six lay-members, all lawyers appointed by parliament, vote only on limited questions of the constitutionality of legislation; the six religious members consider all bills for conformity to Islamic principles.


Main article: Provinces of Iran

Iran consists of 28 provinces (ostan-haa, singular - ostan):


Main article:
Geography of Iran

The Iranian 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 Zagros and Alborz Mountains, the latter of which also contains Iran's highest point, the Damavand at 5,607 m. The eastern half consists mostly of uninhabited desert basins with the occasional salt lake.

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"


Main article: Economy of Iran

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 strong oil market in 1996 helped ease financial pressures on Iran and allowed for Tehran's timely debt service payments. Iran's financial situation tightened in 1997 and deteriorated further in 1998 because of lower oil prices. The subsequent rise in oil prices in 1999-2000 afforded Iran fiscal breathing room but does not solve Iran's structural economic problems, including the encouragement of foreign investment.


Main article: Demographics of Iran

Almost two-thirds of Iran's people are of Aryan origin and speak one of the Indo-Iranian languages, though only Persian (Farsi), which is written in the Arabic alphabet, is an official language. The major groups in this category include Persians (51%), Gilaki and Mazandarani (8%), Kurds (7%), Lurs (2%), and Baluchi (2%). The remainder are primarily Turkic people such as the Azeris (24%) and Turkmens (2%), but also include Arabs (3%), Armenians, Jews, and Assyrians and others. Arabic, being the language of the Qur'an, is taught in schools as well.

Most Iranians are Muslims; 89% belong to the Shia branch of Islam, the official state religion, and about 10% belong to the Sunni branch, which predominates in most Muslim countries. Non-Muslim religious minorities include Bahá'ís and Zoroastrians, both being religions that originated in Iran, as well as Jews and Christians. Only the latter three are officially recognised minority religions. Iran's population size increased dramatically in the latter part of the 20th century.


Main article: Culture of Iran

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
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