Iran

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Islamic Republic of Iran
جمهوری اسلامی ایران (Persian)
Jomhuri-ye Eslâmi-ye Irân
Motto: استقلال، آزادی، جمهوری اسلامی
Esteqlâl, Âzâdi, Jomhuri-ye Eslâmi
"Independence, freedom, the Islamic Republic"
(de facto)[1]
Anthem: سرود ملی جمهوری اسلامی ایران
Sorud-e Melli-ye Jomhuri-ye Eslâmi-ye Irân
"National Anthem of the Islamic Republic of Iran"
Capital
and largest city
Tehran
35°41′N 51°25′E / 35.683°N 51.417°E / 35.683; 51.417
Official languagesPersian
Recognised regional languages
National languagePersian
Ethnic groups
(2003 estimate)[5]
Demonym(s)Iranian
GovernmentUnitary presidential theocratic Islamic republic
Ali Khamenei
• President
Mohammad Mokhber (acting)
Mohammad Mokhber
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf
Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i
Ahmad Jannati
LegislatureIslamic Consultative Assembly
Establishment history
c. 678 BC
550 BC
247 BC
224 AD
821
1501
1736
1751
1796
15 December 1925
11 February 1979
3 December 1979
28 July 1989
Area
• Total
1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi) (17th)
• Water (%)
1.63 (as of 2015)[6]
Population
• 2024 estimate
Neutral increase 89,745,530[7] (17th)
• Density
55/km2 (142.4/sq mi) (132nd)
GDP (PPP)2024 estimate
• Total
Increase $1.855 trillion[8] (19th)
• Per capita
Increase $21,220[8] (78th)
GDP (nominal)2024 estimate
• Total
Increase $464,181 billion[8] (34th)
• Per capita
Increase $5,310[8] (113th)
Gini (2019)40.9[9]
medium
HDI (2022)Increase 0.780[10]
high (78th)
CurrencyIranian rial (ریال) (IRR)
Time zoneUTC+3:30 (IRST)
Date formatyyyy/mm/dd (SH)
Driving sideright
Calling code+98
ISO 3166 codeIR
Internet TLD

Iran,[a] officially the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI),[b] also known by its Western-given name Persia,[c] is a country in West Asia. It is bordered by Turkey to the northwest and Iraq to the west, Azerbaijan, Armenia, the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan to the north, Afghanistan to the east, Pakistan to the southeast, the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf to the south. With a mostly Persian-ethnic population of almost 90 million in an area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), Iran ranks 17th globally in both geographic size and population. It is the sixth-largest country entirely in Asia, the second-largest in West Asia, and one of the world's most mountainous countries. Officially an Islamic republic, Iran has a Muslim-majority population. The country is divided into five regions with 31 provinces. The nation's capital and most populous city is Tehran, with around 16.8 million people in its metropolitan area. Other major cities include Mashhad, Isfahan, Karaj, and Shiraz.

Iran has one of the longest histories of any country, beginning with the Elamites in the fourth millennium BC. Considered a cradle of civilization, it was first unified as a state by the Median ruler Deioces in the seventh century BC and reached its territorial height in the sixth century BC, when Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Empire, one of the largests in ancient history. Alexander the Great conquered the empire in the fourth century BC, subsequently dividing Iran into several Hellenistic states. An Iranian rebellion established the Parthian Empire in the third century BC and liberated the country, which was succeeded by the Sasanian Empire the third century AD. Ancient Iran saw some of the earliest developments of writing, agriculture, urbanisation, religion and central government. Muslims conquered the region in the seventh century AD, leading to Iran's Islamization. The blossoming literature, philosophy, mathematics, medicine, astronomy and art became major elements for Iranian civilization during the Islamic Golden Age. A series of native Iranian Muslim dynasties ended the Arab rule over Iran, revived the Persian language and ruled the country until the Seljuk and Mongol conquests of the 11th to 14th centuries. In the 16th century, the native Safavids re-established a unified Iranian state with Twelver Shia Islam as the official religion, marking the beginning of modern Iranian history.

During the Afsharid Empire in the 18th century, Iran was a leading world power, though by the 19th century, it had lost significant territory through a series of conflicts with the Russian Empire. The early 20th century saw the Persian Constitutional Revolution and the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty. Attempts by Mohammad Mosaddegh to nationalize the country's vast fossil fuel supply led to an Anglo-American coup in 1953. After the Iranian Revolution, the monarchy was overthrown in 1979 and the Islamic Republic of Iran was established by The Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who became the country's first supreme leader. The forces of Saddam Hussein invaded in 1980, initiating the 8-year-long Iran-Iraq War. Iran is officially governed as an Islamic Republic with a presidential system, albeit with ultimate authority vested in a supreme leader, currently Ali Khamenei since Khomeini's death in 1989. The Iranian government is authoritarian and has attracted widespread criticism for its significant violations of human rights and civil liberties.

Iran is a major regional power, due to its large reserves of fossil fuels, including the world's second largest natural gas supply, third largest proven oil reserves, its geopolitically significant location, its military capabilities, its regional influence, and its role as the world's focal point of Shia Islam. The Iranian economy is the world's 19th-largest by PPP. Iran is an active and founding member of the United Nations, the NAM, the ECO, the OIC and the OPEC. It is a full member of both the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and BRICS. Owing it to its long history and rich cultural legacy, Iran is home to 27 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the 10th highest number in the world, and ranks 5th globally in the number of inscriptions of Intangible Cultural Heritage, or human treasures. Iran was the world's third fastest-growing tourism destination in 2019.[12]

Etymology

Inscription of Ardeshir Babakan (ruling 224–242) in Naqsh-e Rostam
The well-preserved Inscription of Ardashir Babakan (224–242 AD) in Naqsh-e Rostam: "This is the figure of Mazdaworshipper, the lord Ardashir, King of Iran."[13]

The term Iran 'the land of the Aryans' derives from Middle Persian Ērān, first attested in a third-century inscription at Naqsh-e Rostam, with the accompanying Parthian inscription using Aryān, in reference to the Iranians.[14] The terms Ērān and Aryān are oblique plural forms of gentilic nouns ēr- (Middle Persian) and ary- (Parthian), both deriving from Proto-Iranian language *arya- (meaning 'Aryan', i.e. of the Iranians),[14][15] recognised as a derivative of Proto-Indo-European language *ar-yo-, meaning 'one who assembles (skilfully)'.[16] According to Iranian mythology, the name comes from Iraj, a legendary king.[17]

Historically, Iran has been referred to as Persia by the West, due to the writings of Greek historians who referred to all of Iran as Persís, meaning 'the land of the Persians'.[18][19][20][21] Persia is the Fars province in southwest Iran, the country's 4th largest province, also known as Pârs.[22][23] The Persian word Fârs (فارس), derived from the earlier form Pârs (پارس), which is in turn derived from Pârsâ (Old Persian: 𐎱𐎠𐎼𐎿). Due to the Fars' historical importance,[24][25] the term Persia originated from this province by the Greeks in around 550 BC,[26] and Westerners started to refer to the entire country as Persia,[27][28] until 1935, when Reza Pahlavi requested the international community refer to the country by its native and original name, Iran.[29] While the Iranians had been calling their nation Iran since at least 1000 BC and possibly earlier, this name change was made so that the Western World would begin to refer to the country by the same name as its people.[22] Today, both Iran and Persia are used in cultural contexts, while Iran remains mandatory in official state contexts.[30][31][32][33][34][35]

The Persian pronunciation of Iran is [ʔiːˈɾɒːn]. Common Commonwealth English pronunciations of Iran are listed in the Oxford English Dictionary as /ɪˈrɑːn/ and /ɪˈræn/,[36] while American English dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster's provide pronunciations which map to /ɪˈrɑːn, -ˈræn, ˈræn/,[37] or likewise in Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary as /ɪˈræn, ɪˈrɑːn, ˈræn/. The Cambridge Dictionary lists /ɪˈrɑːn/ as the British pronunciation and /ɪˈræn/ as the American pronunciation. The pronunciation guide from Voice of America also provides /ɪˈrɑːn/.[38] The American English pronunciation /ˈræn/ may be heard in U.S. media.

History

Prehistory

Chogha Zanbil in Khuzestan (14th–13th century BC), the best preserved stepped pyramidal monument and Ziggurat. UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Archaeological artifacts confirm human presence in Iran since the Lower Palaeolithic.[39] Neanderthal artifacts have been found mainly in the Zagros region.[40][41][42] From the tenth to the seventh millennium BC, agricultural communities began to flourish around the Zagros region, including Chogha Golan,[43][44] Chogha Bonut,[45][46] and Chogha Mish.[47][48][49] The occupation of grouped hamlets in the area of Susa ranges from 4395 to 3490 BC.[50] There are dozens of prehistoric sites across the Iranian Plateau, pointing to the existence of ancient cultures and urban settlements in the fourth millennium BC.[51][52][53]

During the Bronze Age, the territory was home to several Iranian civilizations,[54][55] including Elam, Jiroft, and Zayanderud. Elam, the most prominent of these, developed in the southwest alongside those in Mesopotamia, and continued its existence until the emergence of the Iranian empires. The advent of writing in Elam was parallelled to Sumer; the Elamite cuneiform developed beginning in the third millennium BC.[56] Diverse artifacts from the Bronze Age, huge structures from the Iron Age and various sites dating back to the Sassanid, Parthian and Islamic eras indicated suitable conditions for human civilization over the past 8,000 years in Piranshahr.[57][58] From the 34th to the 20th century BC, northwestern Iran was part of the Kura-Araxes culture, which stretched into the neighbouring Caucasus and Anatolia.

Ancient Iran

By the second millennium BC, ancient Iranian peoples arrived in Iran from the Eurasian Steppe,[59] rivalling the native settlers of the plateau.[60][61] As the Iranians dispersed into the wider area of Greater Iran and beyond, the plateau was dominated by Median, Persian, and Parthian tribes. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel calls the Persians the "first Historical People".[62] The Ancient Iranian history began with the Elamites in the fourth millennium BC, in the far west and southwest of Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam province. In the Old Elamite period (Middle Bronze Age), Elam consisted of kingdoms on the Iranian plateau, centered in Anshan, and from the mid-2nd millennium BC, it was centered in Susa in the Khuzestan lowlands. Elam was part of the early urbanization of the Near East during the Chalcolithic period.

From the late tenth to the late seventh century BC, the Iranian peoples, together with the pre-Iranian kingdoms, fell under the domination of the Assyrian Empire, based in northern Mesopotamia.[63] Under king Cyaxares, the Medes and Persians entered into an alliance with Babylonian ruler Nabopolassar, as well as the fellow Iranian Scythians and Cimmerians, and together they attacked the Assyrians. Civil war ravaged the Assyrian Empire between 616 and 605 BC, freeing their respective peoples from three centuries of Assyrian rule.[64]

Inscription of Ardeshir Babakan (ruling 224–242) in Naqsh-e Rostam
Ecbatana (Hamadan) was chosen as the first capital of Iran by Deioces in 678 BC, the founder of Medes Kingdom.

The frequent interference of the Assyrians in Zagros led to the process of unifying the Median tribes by Deioces in 728 BC, the foundation of the Median Empire and their capital Ecbatana, unifying Iran as a nation and state for the first time in 625 BC.[65] By 612 BC, the Medes overthrow the declining Assyrian Empire in alliance with the Babylonians.[66] This marked the end of the Kingdom of Urartu, which was subsequently conquered and dissolved.[67][68]

In 550 BC, Cyrus the Great defeated the last Median king, Astyages during the Medo-Persian conflict, conquering Median territories and establishing the Achaemenid Empire by unifying other city-states. Later conquests under Cyrus and his successors expanded the empire to include Lydia, Babylon, Egypt, parts of the Balkans and Eastern Europe, as well as lands to the west of the Indus and Oxus rivers. In 539 BC Persian forces defeated the Babylonian army at Opis, marking the end of around four centuries of Mesopotamian domination of the region by conquering the Neo-Babylonian Empire.[69]

Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC). It is one of the key Iranian Cultural Heritages, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Achaemenid Empire at its greatest extent, around the time of Darius the Great and Xerxes I.

In 518 BC, Persepolis was founded by Darius the Great as the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire which, at its greatest extent, was the largest empire the world had yet seen, and it ruled over 44% of the world's population.[70][71] The Achaemenid Empire has been recognized for its imposition of a successful model of centralized bureaucratic administration, its multicultural policy, building complex infrastructure such as road systems and an organized postal system, the use of official languages across its territories, and the development of civil services, including its possession of a large, professional army. Its advancements inspired the implementation of similar styles of governance by later empires.[72] In 334 BC, Alexander the Great defeated the last Achaemenid king, Darius III, at the Battle of Issus, and burned down Persepolis. Following the premature death of Alexander in 323 BC, Iran fell under the control of the Seleucid Empire, and divided into several Hellenistic states.

Iran remained under the Seleucid occupation until 250–247 BC, when the native Parthians, led by Arsaces I, liberated the region of Parthia in northeast Iran, and rebelled against the Seleucids, founding the Parthian Empire. Parthians rose to become the main power in Iran, and the century-long geopolitical arch-rivalry between the Romans and the Parthians began, culminating in the Roman–Parthian Wars. Mithridates I greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to present-day Afghanistan and western Pakistan. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han dynasty of China, became a center of trade and commerce. As the Parthians expanded westward, they came into conflict with the Kingdom of Armenia, and eventually the late Roman Republic. The Romans and Parthians competed with each other to establish the kings of Armenia as their subordinate clients.

After nearly five centuries of Parthian rule, frequent civil wars between Parthian contenders to the throne proved more dangerous to the Empire's stability than foreign invasion. Parthian power evaporated when Ardashir I, the Persian ruler of Istakhr, killed the last Parthian ruler, Artabanus IV, and founded the Sasanian Empire in 224 AD. Sassanids and their neighbouring arch-rival, the Roman-Byzantines, were the world's two dominant powers for over four centuries. The Sasanians established an empire within the frontiers achieved by the Achaemenids, with their capital at Ctesiphon. Late antiquity is considered one of Iran's most influential periods, as under the Sasanians,[73] their influence reached ancient Rome (and through that as far as Western Europe),[74][75] Africa,[76] China, and India,[77] and played a prominent role in the formation of the mediaeval art of both Europe and Asia.[78][79] The period of Sasanian rule was a high point in Iranian history, characterized by a complex and centralized government bureaucracy, and revitalized Zoroastrianism as a legitimizing and unifying force of their rule.[80]

Mediaeval period and Iranian Intermezzo

Falak-ol-Aflak in Khorramabad, built in 240–270 AD during the Sasanian Empire.
The Sasanian Empire (224–651 AD) in 620 at its greatest extent, under Khosrow II.

Following early Muslim conquests, the influence of Sasanian art, architecture, music, literature and philosophy on Islamic culture ensured the spread of Iranian culture, knowledge and ideas throughout the Muslim world. The Byzantine–Sasanian wars, as well as the social conflict within the Sasanian Empire, opened the way for an Arab invasion in the 7th century.[81][82] The empire was initially defeated by the Rashidun Caliphate, which was succeeded by the Umayyad Caliphate, then the Abbasid Caliphate. A gradual process of Islamization followed, which targeted Iran's then Zoroastrian majority and included religious persecution,[83][84][85] demolition of libraries[86] and fire temples,[87] a special tax penalty ("jizya"),[88][89] and language shift.[90][91]

In 750, the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads.[92] Arab Muslims and Persians made up the rebel army, which was united by the Persian Muslim, Abu Muslim.[93][94] In their struggle for power, society gradually became cosmopolitan. Persians and Turks began to replace Arabs in most fields. A hierarchy of officials emerged, a bureaucracy at first Persian and later Turkish which decreased Abbasid prestige and power for good.[95]

After two centuries of Arab rule, various native semi-independent and independent Muslim Iranian dynasties in the Iranian Plateau rose, namely the Tahirids, Saffarids, Sajids, Samanids, Ziyarids, Buyids, Sallarids, Rawadids, Marwanids, Shaddadids, Kakuyids, Annazids and Hasanwayhids, appearing on the fringes of the declining Abbasid Caliphate.[96] The period, known as the Iranian Intermezzo, was an interlude between the decline of Abbasid rule and power by Arabs and the "Sunni Revival" with the 11th-century emergence of the Seljuks. It consisted Iranian support based on Iranian territory, and most significantly a revived Iranian national spirit and culture in an Islamic form. It also revived the Persian language, with the most significant Persian-language literature from this period being Shahnameh by Ferdowsi, the country's national epic.[97][98][99][100]

Tomb of Ferdowsi, a 10th-century AD Persian poet and the author of Shahnameh, the national epic of Iran.
The Iranian Intermezzo (821–1055) saw the revival of Persian language, and a revived Iranian national spirit in an Islamic form.

The blossoming literature, philosophy, mathematics, medicine, astronomy and art became major elements in a new age for Iranian civilization, during a period known as the Islamic Golden Age.[101][102] The Islamic Golden Age reached its peak by the 10th and 11th centuries, during which Iran was the main theatre of scientific activities.[103] The tenth century saw a mass migration of Turkic tribes from Central Asia to Iran. Turkic tribesmen were first used in the Abbasid army as mamluks (slave-warriors).[104] As a result, the Mamluks gained significant political power. In 999, large portions of Iran briefly occupied by the Ghaznavids, and longer subsequently under the Seljuk and Khwarezmian empires. The Seljuks subsequently gave rise to the Sultanate of Rum in Anatolia.[105][106] The result of the adoption and patronage of Iranian culture by Turkish rulers was the development of a distinct Turco-Persian tradition.

From 1219 to 1221, under the Khwarazmian Empire, Iran suffered a devastating invasion by the Mongol Empire. According to Steven R. Ward, "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." Most modern historians either outright dismiss or are highly skeptical of such statistics and deem them to be exaggerations by Muslim chroniclers of that era. Indeed, as far as Iran was concerned, the bulk of the Mongol onslaught and battles were in the northeast Iran, such as in the cities of Nishapur and Tus.[107][108][109]

Following the fracture of the Mongol Empire in 1256, Hulagu Khan established the Ilkhanate Empire in Iran. In 1357, the capital Tabriz was occupied by the Golden Horde khan Jani Beg and the centralised power collapsed, resulting in the emergence of rivalling dynasties. In 1370, yet another Mongol, Timur, took control over Iran, and established the Timurid Empire. In 1387, Timur ordered the complete massacre of Isfahan, killing 70,000 people.[110]

Early modern period

Safavids

Portrait of Ismail I, the founder of Safavid Empire, and the Empire at its greatest extent, under Abbas the Great (1588–1629).

By the 1500s, Ismail I established the Safavid Empire, and chose Tabriz as his capital.[111] Beginning with Azerbaijan, he extended his authority over the Iranian territories, and established an Iranian hegemony over parts of Greater Iran.[112] The Safavids, along with the Ottomans and Mughals, were creators of the "Gunpowder empires", Muslim empires which flourished from mid-16th, to the early 18th century. Iran was predominantly Sunni, but Ismail instigated a forced conversion to Shia, marking a key turning point in Islam.[113][114][115][116][117][118] Iran is the world's only official Shia nation today.[119][120] Relations between Safavids and the West began with the Portuguese, in the Persian Gulf, from the 16th century, oscillating between alliances and war between the 17th and 18th century. The Safavid era saw mass integration from Caucasian populations and their resettlement within the heartlands of Iran. In 1588, Abbas the Great ascended during a troubled period. Iran developed the ghilman system where thousands of Circassian, Georgian, and Armenian slave-soldiers joined the administration and military: the Iranian-Armenian community is the largest minority today, and the largest Christian minority.[121]

Abbas eclipsed the power of the Qizilbash in the civil administration, the royal house, and the military. He relocated the capital from Qazvin to Isfahan. Tabriz was returned to Iran after 18 years of Ottoman rule. Following a court intrigue, Abbas became suspicious of his sons and had them killed or blinded. Following a gradual decline in the late 1600s and the early 1700s, caused by internal conflicts, wars with the Ottomans, and foreign interference, the Safavid rule was ended by the Pashtun rebels who besieged Isfahan, and defeated Soltan Hoseyn in 1722.

Safavids' legacy was the revival of Iran as an economic stronghold between East and West, the establishment of an efficient bureaucracy based upon "checks and balances", their architectural innovations, and patronage for fine arts. They established Twelver Shīʿīsm as the state religion continuing to the present, and spread Shīʿa Islam across the Middle East, Central Asia, Caucasus, Anatolia, the Persian Gulf, and Mesopotamia.

Afsharids

Statue of Nader Shah Afshar, the founder of Afsharid Empire, at his tomb in Mashhad.

In 1729, Nader Shah Afshar successfully drove out and conquered Pashtun invaders. He took back the Caucasian territories which were divided among the Ottoman and Russian authorities. Iran reached its greatest extent since the Sasanian Empire, reestablishing hegemony over the Caucasus, and other parts of west and central Asia; and possessing arguably the most powerful empire at the time.[122]

Nader invaded India and sacked Delhi by the late 1730s. His army had defeated the Mughals at the Battle of Karnal and captured the Mughal capital. Because of his military genius, some historians have described him as the "Napoleon of Iran" and "the Second Alexander".[123] Napoleon considered himself the new Nader, and was later called "European Nader Shah".[124]

Nader's territorial expansion and military successes declined following the final campaigns in the Northern Caucasus against then revolting Lezgins. Nader became increasingly cruel as a result of his illness and desire to extort more taxes to pay for his campaigns. Revolts broke out and Nader crushed them, building towers from his victims' skulls in imitation of his hero Timur.[125][126] After his assassination in 1747, most of Nader's empire was divided between the Zands, Durranis, Georgians, and the Caucasian khanates, while the Afsharid rule was limited to a small local state in Khorasan. His death sparked civil war and turmoil, after which Karim Khan Zand came to power in 1750.[127]

Zands

Arg of Karim Khan, served as the living quarters of Karim Khan Zand, the founder of Zand Kingdom, in Shiraz.

Compared to its preceding dynasties, the geopolitical reach of the Zands was limited. Many of the Iranian territories in the Caucasus gained de facto autonomy and were locally ruled through Caucasian khanates. However, they remained subjects and vassals to the Zand kingdom. It later quickly expanded to include much of Iran (except for the provinces of Balochistan and Khorasan) as well as parts of modern Iraq. The lands of present-day Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia were controlled by khanates which were de jure part of the Zand rule, but the region was de facto autonomous.[128] The island of Bahrain was also held for the Zands by the autonomous Al-Mazkur sheikhdom of Bushehr.[129][130]

The reign of its most important ruler, Karim Khan, was marked by prosperity and peace. With his capital in Shiraz, arts and architecture flourished in the city, with some themes in architecture being revived from the nearby sites of the Achaemenid and Sasanian periods. Following the death of Karim Khan in 1779, Iran went into decline due to civil war amongst members of the Zand dynasty. Its final ruler, Lotf Ali Khan, was eventually executed by Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar in 1794.

Qajars

Golestan Palace in Tehran, was the seat of Qajar kings from 1789 to 1925. UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Qajars took control in 1794 and founded the Qajar Empire. In 1795, following the disobedience of the Georgian subjects and their alliance with the Russians, the Qajars captured Tbilisi at the Battle of Krtsanisi, and drove the Russians out of the Caucasus, re-establishing Iranian suzerainty over the region. In 1796, Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar seized Mashhad with ease, and ended the Afsharid rule once and for all. He was formally crowned as king and chose Tehran as his capital, where it still stands today. His reign is noted for the return of a centralized and unified Iran. He had a cruel and rapacious behavior, while at the same time, he was also viewed as a pragmatic, calculating, and shrewd military and political leader.[131][132] The Russo-Iranian wars of 1804–1813 and 1826–1828 resulted in large territorial losses for Iran in the Caucasus, comprising all of the South Caucasus and Dagestan.[133] As a result of the 19th-century Russo-Iranian wars, the Russians took over Iran's integral territories in the region (comprising modern-day Dagestan, Georgia, Armenia, and Republic of Azerbaijan), which was confirmed per the treaties of Gulistan and Turkmenchay.[134][135][136][137]

The weakening of Iran made it a victim of the colonial struggle between Russia and Britain known as the Great Game.[138] Especially after the treaty of Turkmenchay, Russia was the dominant force in Iran,[139] while the Qajars would also play a role in several 'Great Game' battles such as the sieges of Herat in 1837 and 1856. As Iran shrank, many South Caucasian and North Caucasian Muslims moved towards Iran,[140] especially until the aftermath of the Circassian genocide,[141] and the decades afterwards, while Iran's Armenians were encouraged to settle in the newly incorporated Russian territories,[142][143] causing significant demographic shifts. Around 1.5 million people—20 to 25% of the population of Iran—died as a result of the Great Famine of 1870–1872.[144]

Constitutional Revolution

The first national Iranian Parliament was established in 1906 during the Persian Constitutional Revolution.

Between 1872 and 1905, protesters objected to the sale of concessions to foreigners by Qajar monarchs Naser-ed-Din and Mozaffar-ed-Din, leading to the Constitutional Revolution in 1905. The first Iranian constitution and national parliament were founded in 1906. The Constitution included official recognition of three religious minorities: Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. The struggle related to the constitutional movement was followed by the Triumph of Tehran in 1909, when Mohammad Ali was forced to abdicate. The event ended the period known as the minor tyranny. The revolution was the first of its kind in the Islamic world, earlier than the Young Turks in 1908. Many groups fought to shape the revolution. The old order, which Naser al-Din had struggled to sustain, was replaced by new institutions. In 1907, the Anglo-Russian Convention divided Iran into influence zones, formalising many of the concessions. The Russians occupied northern Iran and Tabriz and maintained a military presence for years. This did not end the civil uprisings and was followed by Mirza Kuchik Khan's Jungle Movement against the Qajar monarchy and foreign invaders.

Despite Iran's neutrality during World War I, the Ottoman, Russian, and British Empires occupied western Iran and fought the Persian campaign before withdrawing in 1921. At least 2 million civilians died in the fighting, the Ottoman-perpetrated anti-Christian genocides or the war-induced famine of 1917–1919. Iranian Assyrian and Iranian Armenian Christians, as well Muslims who tried to protect them, were victims of mass murders committed by the invading Ottoman troops.[145][146][147][148][149]

Apart from the rule of Agha Mohammad Khan, the Qajar rule is characterised as misrule.[150] The inability of Qajar government to maintain the country's sovereignty[clarification needed] during and immediately after World War I led to the British-directed 1921 Persian coup d'état and Reza Pahlavi's establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty.[citation needed] Reza Pahlavi became Prime Minister and was declared monarch in 1925.

Pahlavis

The "Big Three" at the Tehran Conference in November 1943, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin.

Iran's territorial integrity was further weakened during the Persian campaign of World War I and the invasion by the Ottoman Empire. Four years after the 1921 Persian coup d'état, the military officer Reza Pahlavi took power in 1925, thus establishing the Pahlavi dynasty. During World War II, in July and August 1941 the British demanded that the Iranian government expel all Germans. Reza Pahlavi refused and on 25 August 1941, the British and Soviets launched a surprise invasion; Reza Pahlavi's government quickly surrendered.[151] The invasion's strategic purpose was to secure a supply line to the USSR, secure the oil fields and Abadan Refinery, prevent a German advance on Baku's oil fields, and limit German influence in Iran. Following the invasion, on 16 September 1941 Reza Pahlavi was sent to exile and replaced by his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.[152][153][154] Iran became a major conduit for British and American aid to the Soviet Union and an avenue through which over 120,000 Polish refugees and Polish Armed Forces fled the Axis advance.[155]

At the 1943 Tehran Conference, the Allies issued the Tehran Declaration to guarantee the post-war independence and boundaries of Iran. However, at the end of the war, Soviet troops established two puppet states in north-western Iran: the People's Government of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Mahabad. This led to the Iran crisis of 1946, one of the first confrontations of the Cold War, which ended after oil concessions were promised to the USSR, which withdrew in 1946. The two puppet states were overthrown, and the concessions revoked.[156][157]

1951–1978: Mosaddegh, Pahlavi and Khomeini

In 1951, Mohammad Mosaddegh was democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. Mosaddegh became popular after he nationalized the oil industry, which had been largely controlled by foreign interests. He worked to weaken the monarchy until he was removed in the 1953 Iranian coup d'état—an Anglo-American covert operation.[158] Before its removal from power, Mosaddegh's administration introduced a range of social and political measures such as social security, land reforms and higher taxes including the introduction of taxation on the rent of land. Mosaddegh was imprisoned for three years, then put under house arrest until his death and was buried in his own home so as to prevent a political furore. In 2013, the US government formally acknowledged its role in the coup as being a part of its foreign policy initiatives, including paying protestors and bribing officials.[159] After the coup, Pahlavi aligned Iran with the Western Bloc and cultivated a close relationship with the United States to consolidate his power as an authoritarian ruler, relying heavily on American support amidst the Cold War.

The Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini first came to political prominence in 1963, when he led opposition to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his White Revolution. Khomeini was arrested in 1963 after declaring Mohammad Reza a "wretched miserable man" who had "embarked on the [path toward] destruction of Islam in Iran."[160] Three days of major riots throughout Iran followed, with 15,000 killed by the police.[161] Khomeini was released after eight months of house arrest and continued his agitation, condemning Iran's close cooperation with Israel and its capitulations, or extension of diplomatic immunity, to American government personnel in Iran. In November 1964, Khomeini was re-arrested and sent into exile (Turkey, Iraq and France), where he remained for 15 years.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi became increasingly autocratic and sultanistic, and Iran entered a decades-long phase of controversially close relations with the United States.[162] While Mohammad Reza increasingly modernised Iran and claimed to retain it as a fully secular state,[163] arbitrary arrests and torture by his secret police, the SAVAK, were used for crushing political opposition.[164] Due to the 1973 oil crisis, the economy was flooded with foreign currency, causing inflation. By 1974, Iran was experiencing a double-digit inflation rate, and despite many large projects to modernise the country, corruption was rampant. By 1975 and 1976, a recession increased unemployment, especially among millions of youths who had migrated to the cities looking for construction jobs during the boom years of the early 1970s. By the late 1970s, these people opposed the Pahlavi's regime and began protesting against it.[165]

Iranian Revolution

Return of The Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on 1 February 1979, escorted by an Air France pilot.

As major ideological and political tensions persisted between Pahlavi and Khomeini, demonstrations began in October 1977, eventually developing into a campaign of civil resistance that included elements of secularism and Islamism.[166] In August and September 1978, the deaths of between 377 and 470 people in the Cinema Rex fire, and at least 100 other during the Black Friday—came to serve as catalysts for the revolutionary movement across Iran, with nation-wide strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the entire country and its economy for the remainder of that year.[167][168][169] After a year of strikes and demonstrations, on 16 January 1979, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled to US,[170] and Ruhollah Khomeini returned in February 1979, forming a new government.[171] Millions of people gathered to greet him as he landed in the capital city Tehran.[172]

Following the March 1979 referendum, in which 98% of Iranian voters approved the country's shift to an Islamic republic, the new government began efforts to draft the Constitution, and Ayatollah Khomeini emerged as the Supreme Leader of Iran in December 1979. He became Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1979 for his international influence, and has been described as the "virtual face of Shia Islam in Western popular culture".[173] Following Khomeini's order to purge the government of any remaining officials still loyal to Pahlavi, many former ministers and officials in Pahlavi's regime, including former prime minister Amir-Abbas Hoveyda, were executed.[174] After the aftermath of the revolution, Iran began to back Shia militancy around the world in an attempt to combat Sunni influence and establish Iranian dominance within the Muslim world, ultimately aiming to achieve an Iranian-led Shia political order.

On 4 November 1979, after the United States refused the extradition of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy and took 53 American personnel and citizens hostage, initiating the Iran hostage crisis.[175] Attempts by the Jimmy Carter administration to negotiate the release of the hostages, and a failed rescue attempt, helped with the falling popularity of Carter among US citizens. On Carter's final day in office, the last hostages were set free under the Algiers Accords. As a result of the Iranian takeover of the American Embassy, the US and Iran severed diplomatic relations in April 1980, and the two countries have had no formal diplomatic relationship since that date.[176] The crisis is considered a pivotal episode in the history of Iran–United States relations.

The Cultural Revolution began in 1980, with threats to close universities which did not conform to Islamization demands from the new government. All universities were closed down in 1980, and reopened in 1983.[177][178][179]

Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988)

The H-3 airstrike of the Iranian Air Force during the Iran–Iraq War is considered one of the most successful raids in the history of aerial warfare.[180]

On 22 September 1980, Iraq invaded the western Iranian province of Khuzestan, initiating the Iran–Iraq War. While the Iraqi leadership had hoped to take advantage of Iran's post-revolutionary chaos and expected a decisive victory in the face of a severely weakened Iran, the Iraqi military only made progress for three months, and by December 1980, the forces of Saddam Hussein had stalled. By mid-1982, the Iranian forces began to gain momentum, with successfully driving the Iraqis back into Iraq, and regaining all lost territory by June 1982. After pushing the Iraqi forces back to the pre-war border lines, Iran rejected United Nations Security Council Resolution 514 and launched an invasion of Iraq, conquered Iraqi territory and captured cities such as Basra. The subsequent Iranian offensives in Iraqi lasted for five years, with Iraq taking back the initiative and subsequently launching a series of major counter-offensives.

The war continued until 1988, when the Iraqi army defeated the Iranian forces inside Iraq and pushed the remaining Iranian troops back across the border. Subsequently, Iran accepted a truce mediated by the United Nations, with both sides withdraw to their pre-war borders. It was the longest conventional war of the 20th century and the second longest war of this century, after the Vietnam War. The total Iranian casualties in the war were estimated to be 123,220–160,000 KIA, 60,711 MIA, and 11,000–16,000 civilians killed.[181][182]

Since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, Iran has shaped Iraq's politics, and the relationship between the two has warmed immensely.[183][184][185] Significant military assistance has been provided by Iran to Iraq, resulting in Iran holding a large amount of influence and foothold in Iraq. Iraq is also heavily dependent on the more stable and developed Iran for its energy needs, so a stable Iraq is an interest for Iran, foreign policy wise.[186][187][188]

Since 1990s

The Mausoleum of Ruhollah Khomeini, houses the tombs of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, former President Akbar Rafsanjani and other major political figures.

In 1989, Akbar Rafsanjanī concentrated on a pro-business policy of rebuilding the economy without making a break with the ideology of the revolution. He supported a capitalist free market domestically, favoring privatization of state-owned industries and a moderate position internationally.[189] In 1997, Rafsanjani was succeeded by moderate reformist Mohammad Khatami, whose government advocated freedom of expression, constructive diplomatic relations, including Asian countries and the European Union, and an economic policy that supported a free market and foreign investment.

The 2005 presidential election brought conservative populist candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. He was known for his hardline views, nuclearisation, and hostility towards Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UK, the US and other Western and Arab states. He was the first president of Iran to be summoned by the parliament to answer questions regarding his presidency.[190]

In 2013, centrist and reformist Hassan Rouhani was elected president. In domestic policy, he encourages personal freedom, free access to information, and has improved women's rights. He has improved Iran's diplomatic relations through exchanging conciliatory letters.[191]

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was reached in Vienna in 2015, between Iran, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) and the European Union. The negotiations primarily centered around ending the economic sanctions in exchange for Iran's restriction in producing enriched uranium.[192] In 2018, however, the US under Trump Administration withdrew from the deal and new sanctions were imposed. This nulled the economic provisions, left the agreement in jeopardy, and broght Iran to the nuclear latency.[193]

The building of Iranian Parliament (Islamic Consultative Assembly—ICA), built in 2004.

In 2020, the IRGC general, Qasem Soleimani, was assassinated by the US, which considerably heightened tensions between the countries.[194] His assassination lead to Operation Martyr Soleimani, the largest ballistic missile attack ever on Americans.[195] The U.S. was not willing to concede the seriousness of the attack,[196] but, the U.S. Department of Defense said 110 service members had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.[197][198][199][200][201][202] Millions attended Soleimani's funeral in January.[203] Soleimani was considered the right-hand man of the Supreme Leader, and second-most powerful person in Iran.[204][205][206]

Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi successfully ran for president a second time in 2021 and succeeded reformist Hassan Rouhani. On 1 April 2024, Israel's airstrike on an Iranian consulate building, killed a commander of the IRGC.[207][208][209] In retaliation, Iran launched Operation True Promise, a major attack directly on Israel with UAVs, cruise and ballistic missiles on 13 April 2024.[210][211][212][213][214] The American, British, French and Jordanian air forces and navy helped Israel to shoot down the Iranian drones.[215][215][216] At least nine missiles hit Israel.[217][218][219] It was the largest drone strike in history,[220] the biggest missile attack in Iranian history,[221] and its first ever direct attack on Israel.[222][223] It was also the first time since 1991 that Israel was directly attacked by a state force.[224] It was followed by an limited Israeli-suspected MAV strike within Iran.[225][226] This occurred during heightened tensions amid the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.

On 19 May 2024, several Iranian officials including President Ebrahim Raisi were killed in a helicopter crash.[227] First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber has assumed the role of acting President, and the country is set to hold a new presidential election.

Geography

Mount Damavand, the highest volcano in Asia. It as has a special place in Persian mythology.[228][229]

Iran has an area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi). It is the sixth-largest country entirely in Asia and the second-largest in West Asia.[230] It lies between latitudes 24° and 40° N, and longitudes 44° and 64° E. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia (35 km or 22 mi), the Azeri exclave of Nakhchivan (179 km or 111 mi),[231] and the Republic of Azerbaijan (611 km or 380 mi); to the north by the Caspian Sea; to the northeast by Turkmenistan (992 km or 616 mi); to the east by Afghanistan (936 km or 582 mi) and Pakistan (909 km or 565 mi); to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; and to the west by Iraq (1,458 km or 906 mi) and Turkey (499 km or 310 mi).

Iran is in a seismically active area.[232] On average, an earthquake of magnitude seven on the Richter scale occurs once every ten years.[233] Most earthquakes are shallow-focus and can be very devastating, such as the 2003 Bam earthquake.

Forest mountains of Filband region in Mazandaran province.

Iran consists of the Iranian Plateau. It is one of the world's most mountainous countries, its landscape is dominated by rugged mountain ranges that separate various basins or plateaus. The populous western part is the most mountainous, with ranges such as the Caucasus, Zagros, and Alborz, the last containing Mount Damavand, Iran's highest point, at 5,610 m (18,406 ft), which is also the highest volcano in Asia. Iran's mountains have impacted both political and the economic history of the country for several centuries.

The northern part of Iran is covered by the lush lowland Caspian Hyrcanian forests, near the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. The eastern part consists mostly of desert basins, such as the Kavir Desert, which is the country's largest desert, and the Lut Desert, as well as some salt lakes. The Lut Desert is the hottest recorded spot on the Earth's surface according to NASA, with 70.7 °C recorded in 2005.[234][235][236][237] The only large plains are found along the coast of the Caspian Sea and at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, where the country borders the mouth of the Arvand river. Smaller, discontinuous plains are found along the remaining coast of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Gulf of Oman.[238][239][240]

Islands

Iranian islands are mainly located in the Persian Gulf. Iran has 102 islands in Urmia Lake, 427 in Aras River, several in Anzali Lagoon, Ashurade Island in the Caspian Sea, Sheytan Island in the Oman Sea and several other inland islands. Iran also has an uninhabited island at the far end of the Gulf of Oman, near the Pakistani border. A small number of Iranian islands can be visited by tourists, as most are in the possession of the military or wildlife protection, and entry to them is generally prohibited or requires a permit.[241][242][243]

Iran took control of Bumusa, and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs in 1971, all located in the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Despite the islands being small and having little natural resources or population, they are highly valuable for their key strategic location.[244][245][246][247][248][249] Although the United Arab Emirates claims sovereignty over them,[250][251][252] it has constantly been met with strong response from Iran,[253][254][255] based on their historical and cultural background.[256] Iran has full-control over the islands.[257]

Kish island, as a free trade zone, is touted as a consumer's paradise, with numerous malls, shopping centres, tourist attractions, and luxury hotels. Qeshm is the largest island in Iran, and a UNESCO Global Geopark since 2016.[258][259][260] Its salt cave, Namakdan, is the largest salt cave in the world, and one of the world's longest caves.[261][262][263][264]

Climate

Köppen climate classification of Iran.

Iran's climate is diverse, ranging from arid and semi-arid, to subtropical along the Caspian coast and the northern forests.[265] On the northern edge of the country (the Caspian coastal plain), temperatures rarely fall below freezing and the area remains humid. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 29 °C (84.2 °F).[266] 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. Gary Lewis, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Iran, has said that "Water scarcity poses the most severe human security challenge in Iran today".[267]

To the west, settlements in the Zagros basin experience lower temperatures, severe winters with freezing 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.[268] Average summer temperatures rarely exceed 38 °C (100.4 °F). The southern coastal plains of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman have mild winters, and very humid and hot summers. The annual precipitation ranges from 135 to 355 mm (5.3 to 14.0 in).[269]

Biodiversity

The 4000–8000-year-old Cypress of Abarkuh in Abarkuh, is one of the world's oldest living lifeform.[270][271]

More than one-tenth of the country is forested, which are declared national.[272] About 120 million hectares of forests and fields are government-owned for national exploitation.[273][274] Iran's forests can be divided into five vegetation regions: Hyrcanian region (Caspian) which forms the green belt of the north side of the country. The Turan region, which are mainly scattered in the center of Iran. Zagros region, which mainly contains oak forests in the west of the country. The Persian Gulf region, which is scattered in the southern coastal belt. Arasbarani region, which contains rare and unique species. More than 8,200 plant species are grown in Iran. The land covered by Iran's natural flora is four times that of the Europe's.[275]

There are over 200 protected areas in Iran to preserve the biodiversity and wildlife of the country, with over 30 of them being national parks.

Persian leopard, native to the Iranian Plateau.

The wildlife of Iran includes bears, the Eurasian lynx, leopards, cheetahs, foxes, gazelles, grey wolves, jackals, panthers, and wild pigs.[276][277] Eagles, falcons, partridges, pheasants, and storks are also native to Iran. One of the most famous animals of Iran is the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus), which today survives only in Iran. Iran lost all its Asiatic lions and the now extinct Caspian tigers by the early 20th century.[278]

Iran's living fauna includes 34 bat species, Indian grey mongoose, small Indian mongoose, golden jackal, Indian wolf, foxes, striped hyena, leopard, Eurasian lynx, brown bear and Asian black bear. Ungulate species include wild boar, urial, Armenian mouflon, red deer, and goitered gazelle. Domestic ungulates are represented by sheep, goat, cattle, horse, water buffalo, donkey and camel. Bird species like pheasant, partridge, stork, eagles and falcons are also native to Iran.[279][280]

Government and politics

Supreme Leader

The Supreme Leader ("Rahbar"), or Leader of the Revolution,[281] is the head of state and is responsible for delineation and supervision of policy. The president has limited power compared to the Rahbar. The current longtime Rahbar is Ali Khamenei.[282][283] Key ministers are selected with the Rahbar's agreement and he has the ultimate say on Iran's foreign policy.[284] The Rahbar is directly involved in ministerial appointments for Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs, as well as other top ministries after submission of candidates from the president.

Iran's regional policy is directly controlled by the office of the Rahbar with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' task limited to protocol and ceremonial occasions. All of Iran's ambassadors to Arab countries, for example, are chosen by the Quds Corps, which directly reports to the Rahbar.[285] The Rahbar can also order laws to be amended.[286] Setad was estimated at $95 billion in 2013 by Reuters, accounts of which are secret even to the parliament.[287][288]

The Rahbar is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, controls the military intelligence and security operations, and has sole power to declare war or peace. The heads of the judiciary, the state radio and television networks, the commanders of the police and military forces, and six of the twelve members of the Guardian Council are directly appointed by the Rahbar.

The Assembly of Experts is responsible for electing the Rahbar, and has the power to dismiss him on the basis of qualifications and popular esteem.[289] To date, the Assembly of Experts has not challenged any of the Rahbar's decisions nor attempted to dismiss him. The previous head of the judicial system, Sadeq Larijani, appointed by the Rahbar, said that it is illegal for the Assembly of Experts to supervise the Rahbar.[290] Many believe the Assembly of Experts has become a ceremonial body without any real power.[291][292][293]

The political system is based on the 1979 Constitution.[294] Iran ranked 154th in the 2022 The Economist Democracy Index.[295] Juan José Linz wrote in 2000 that "the Iranian regime ... combines the ideological bent of totalitarianism with the limited pluralism of authoritarianism".[296]

President

The entrance to the Presidential Administration palace, the meeting place of the cabinet and the office of the President.

After the Supreme Leader, the Constitution defines the president as the highest state authority. The President is elected by universal suffrage for a term of four years, but is required to gain the Leader's official approval before being sworn in before the Parliament. The Leader also has the power to dismiss the elected president.[297] The President can only be re-elected for one term.[298]

The President is responsible for the implementation of the constitution, and for the exercise of executive powers in implementing the decrees and general policies as outlined by the Rahbar, except for matters directly related to the Rahbar, which has the final say.[299] The President functions as the executive of affairs such as signing treaties and other international agreements, and administering national planning, budget, and state employment affairs, all as approved by the Rahbar.[300][301]

The President appoints the ministers, subject to the approval of the Parliament, as well as the approval of the Rahbar, who can dismiss or reinstate any of the ministers at any time.[302][303][304] The President supervises the Council of Ministers, coordinates government decisions, and selects government policies to be placed before the legislature.[305] Eight Vice Presidents serve under the President, as well as a cabinet of twenty-two ministers, who must all be approved by the legislature.[306]

Guardian Council

Presidential candidates and parliamentary candidates must be approved by the 12-member Guardian Council (all members of which are directly or indirectly appointed by the Leader) or the Leader before running to ensure their allegiance.[307] The Leader very rarely does the vetting himself directly but has the power to do so, in which case additional approval of the Guardian Council would not be needed. The Leader can also revert the decisions of the Guardian Council.[308]

The constitution gives the council three mandates: veto power over legislation passed by the parliament,[309][310] supervision of elections[311] and approving or disqualifying candidates seeking to run in local, parliamentary, presidential, or Assembly of Experts elections.[312] The Council can nullify a law based on two accounts: being against Sharia (Islamic law), or being against the constitution.[313]

Supreme National Security Council

The Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) is at the top of Iran's foreign policy decisions process.[314][315][316] The council was formed during the 1989 Iranian constitutional referendum for the protection and support of national interests, the revolution, territorial integrity and national sovereignty of the country.[317] It is mandated by Article 176 of the Constitution to be presided over by the president.[318][319]

The Supreme Leader selects the secretary of the Supreme Council, and the decisions of the Council are effective after the confirmation by the Supreme Leader. The SNSC also formulates the country's nuclear policy, and would become effective if they are confirmed by the Supreme Leader.[320][321]

Legislature

The ICA comprises 290 members.

The legislature of Iran, known as the Islamic Consultative Assembly (ICA), also known as the Iranian Parliament, is a unicameral body comprising 290 members elected for four-year terms.[322] It drafts legislation, ratifies international treaties, and approves the national budget. All parliamentary candidates and all legislation from the assembly must be approved by the Guardian Council.[323][324] The Guardian Council can and has dismissed elected members of the parliament.[325][326] The parliament has no legal status without the Guardian Council, and the Council holds absolute veto power over legislation.[327]

The Expediency Discernment Council has the authority to mediate disputes between the 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.[328][329]

The Parliament currently has 207 constituencies, including the 5 reserved seats for religious minorities. The remaining 202 constituencies are territorial, each covering one or more of Iran's counties.

Law

Relief of Anushiruwan the Just, Courthouse of Tehran.

Iran uses a form of sharia law as its legal system, with some elements of European civil law. The Supreme Leader appoints the head of the Supreme Court and the chief public prosecutor. 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 offences, such as crimes against national security. The decisions of the revolutionary courts are final and cannot be appealed.

The Chief Justice is the head of the judicial system and is responsible for its administration and supervision. He is also the highest judge of the Supreme Court of Iran. The Chief Justice nominates some candidates for serving as minister of justice, and then the President select one of them. The Chief Justice can serve for two five-year terms.[330]

The Special Clerical Court handles crimes allegedly committed by clerics, although it has also taken on cases involving laypeople. The Special Clerical Court functions independently of the regular judicial framework and is accountable only to the Rahbar. The Court's rulings are final and cannot be appealed.[331] The Assembly of Experts, which meets for one week annually, comprises 86 "virtuous and learned" clerics elected by adult suffrage for eight-year terms.

Administrative divisions

Iran is divided into five regions with 31 provinces (ostān, استان), each governed by an appointed governor. The provinces are divided into counties, and subdivided into districts and sub-districts.

Map of Iran's Provinces

Foreign relations

Nations with which Iran has diplomatic relations.

Iran maintains diplomatic relations with 165 countries, but not with the United States, and not with Israel—a state which Iran has derecognised since 1979.[332]

Among Muslim nations, Iran has an adversarial relationship with Saudi Arabia due to different political and ideologies. Iran and Turkey have long been at odds historically, and involved in modern proxy conflicts such as those in Syria, Libya, and the South Caucasus.[333][334][335] However, they also have shared common interests in some instances, such as the issue of Kurdish separatism and the Qatar diplomatic crisis.[336][337] Iran has a close and strong relationship with Tajikistan.[338][339][340][341] Iran has deep economic relations and alliance with Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, with Syria often described as Iran's "closest ally".[342][343][344]

The building of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which extensively uses Achaemenid architecture in its facade, National Garden.

Russia is a key trading partner of Iran, especially in regard to the former's excess oil reserves.[345][346] Both nations share a close economic and military alliance, and are subject to heavy sanctions by most Western nations.[347][348][349][350] Iran is the only country in Western Asia that has been invited to join the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Russia-based international treaty organization that parallels NATO.[351]

Relations between Iran and China is strong both bilaterally and economically. They have developed a friendly, economic and strategic relationship. In March 2021, Iran and China signed a 25-year cooperation agreement that will strengthen the relations between the two countries and would include "political, strategic and economic" components.[352] Iran-China relations dates back to at least 200 BC and possibly earlier.[353][354]

Iran is one of the few countries in the world that has a good relationship with both North and South Korea.[355]

Iran is a member of dozens of international organizations, including the G-15, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, IDA, NAM, IDB, IFC, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, OIC, OPEC, WHO, and the UN, and currently has observer status at the WTO.

Military

MRBM Sejjil. Iran is the world's 6th missile power, and the 5th country in the world with hypersonic missile technology.

The Iranian military is organized under a unified structure, the Islamic Republic of Iran Armed Forces, comprising the Islamic Republic of Iran Army (Artesh), which includes the Ground Forces, Air Defence Force, Air Force, and Navy; the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepah), which consists of the Ground Forces, Aerospace Force, Navy, Quds Force, and Basij; and the Law Enforcement Force (Faraja), which serves an analogous function to a gendarme. While the IRIAF protects the country's sovereignty in a traditional capacity, the IRGC is mandated to ensure the integrity of the Islamic Republic, principally against foreign interference, coups, and internal riots.[356] Since 1925, it is mandatory for all male citizen aged 18 to serve around 14 months in the IRIAF or the IRGC.[357][358][359][360]

Iran has over 610,000 active troops and around 350,000 reservists, totalling over 1 million trained military personnel, one of the world's highest percentage of citizens with military training.[361][362][363][364] The Basij, a paramilitary volunteer militia within the IRGC, has over 20 million members, 600,000 members available for immediate call-up, 300,000 reservists, and a million that could be mobilized when necessary.[365][366][367][368] Faraja, the Iranian uniformed police force, has over 260,000 active personnel. Most statistical organizations do not include the Basij and Faraja in their ratings report.

Excluding the Basij and Faraja, Iran has been identified as a major military power, owing it to the size and capabilities of its armed forces. It possesses the world's 14th strongest military.[369] It ranks 13th globally in terms of overall military strength, 7th in the number of active military personnel,[370] and 9th in the size of both its ground force and armoured force. Iran's armed forces are the largest in West Asia and comprise the greatest Army Aviation fleet in the Middle East.[371][372][373] Iran is among the top 15 countries in terms of military budget.[374] In 2021, its military spending increased for the first time in four years, to $24.6 billion, 2.30% of the national GDP.[375] Funding for the IRGC accounted for 34% of Iran's total military spending in 2021.[376]

Shahed 136, a member of the Shahed family. Iran is considered as a global leader and superpower in drone warfare and technology.

Since the Revolution, to overcome foreign embargoes, Iran has developed a domestic military industry capable of producing indigenous tanks, armoured personnel carriers, missiles, submarines, missile destroyer, radar systems, helicopters, naval vessels, and fighter planes.[377] Official announcements have highlighted the development of advanced weaponry, particularly in rocketry.[378][n 1] Consequently, Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East and is only the 5th country in the world with hypersonic missile technology.[379][380] It is the world's 6th missile power.[381] Iran designs and produces a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and is considered a global leader and superpower in drone warfare and technology.[382][383][384][385][386][387][388] It is one of the world's five countries with cyberwarfare capabilities and is identified as "one of the most active players in the international cyber arena".[389][390][391]

Following Russia's purchase of Iranian drones during the invasion of Ukraine,[392][393][394][395] in November 2023, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) finalized arrangements to acquire Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets, Mil Mi-28 attack helicopters, air defence and missile systems.[396][397]

The Iranian Navy has had joint exercises with Russia and China.[398][399]

Nuclear program

Iran nuclear program dates back to the 1950s.[400] Its extensive nuclear fuel cycle, including sophisticated enrichment capabilities, is the subject of intense international negotiations and sanctions.[401] Many countries have expressed concern that Iran could divert civilian nuclear technology into a weapons programme.[402][403] On 14 July 2015, Iran and the P5+1 agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan on Action (JCPOA), aiming to end economic sanctions in exchange for Iran's restriction in producing enriched uranium.[404]

In 2018, however, the United States withdrew from the deal under Trump administration, and intended to re-impose sanctions on Iran. This decision was met with resistance by Iran and other members of the P5+1.[405][406][407] A year later, Iran began decreasing its compliance.[408] By 2020, Iran announced that it would no longer observe any limit set by the agreement.[409][410] Progress since then has brought Iran to the nuclear threshold status.[411][412][413] As of November 2023, Iran has uranium enriched to up to 60% fissile content, close to weapon grade.[414][415][416][417] Some analysts already regard the country as a de facto nuclear power.[418][419][420][421]

Regional influence

Map showing parts of Iran's significant influence and foothold, often mentioned as the "Dawn of A New Persian Empire."[422][423][424][425][426]

Since the Iranian Revolution, Iran has grown its influence across and beyond the region.[427][428][429][430][431] It has built military forces with a wide network of state and none-state actors, starting with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1982.[432][433][434] Since its establishment as a primary branch to the Iranian Army, the IRGC has been key to Iranian influence, through its Quds Force.[435][436][437][438][439] The instability in Lebanon (from the 1980s),[440] Iraq (from 2003) [441] and Yemen (from 2014) [442] have allowed Iran to build strong alliances and foothold beyond its borders. Iran has a prominent influence in the social services, education, economy and the politics of Lebanon,[443][444] and analysts have argued that Lebanon provides Iran access to the Mediterranean Sea.[445][446] Hezbollah's strategic successes against Israel, such as its symbolic victory during the 2006 Israel–Hezbollah War, elevated Iran's influence in Levant and strengthened its appeal across the Muslim World.[447][448]

Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the arrival of ISIS in the mid-2010s, Iran has financed and trained militia groups in Iraq, including the PMF.[449][450][451][452] Since the Iran-Iraq war in 1980s and the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iran has shaped Iraq's politics.[453][454][455] Following Iraq's struggle against the ISIS in 2014, companies linked to the IRGC such as Khatam al-Anbiya, started to build roads, power plants, hotels and businesses in Iraq, creating an economic corridor worth around $9 billion before COVID-19.[456] This number is expected to grow to $20 billion in the coming years.[457][458]

Some analysts associate the Iranian influence to the nation's proud national legacy, empire and history.[459][460][461]

During Yemen's civil war, Iran provided military support to the Houthis,[462][463][464] a Zaydi Shiite movement that has been fighting Yemen's Sunni government since 2004.[465][466] They gained significant power in recent years.[467][468][469] Iran also has considerable influence in Afghanistan and Pakistan through various militant groups such as Liwa Fatemiyoun and Liwa Zainebiyoun.[470][471][472][473]

In Syria, Iran has supported President Bashar al-Assad,[474][475] with the two countries being long-standing allies.[476][477] Iran has provided significant military and economic support to Assad's government,[478][479] and as a result, it has a considerable foothold in Syria.[480][481] Iran have long supported the anti-Israel fronts in North Africa in countries like Algeria and Tunisia, embracing Hamas in part to help undermine the popularity of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in North Africa.[482] Iran's support of Hamas emerged more clearly in later years.[483][484][485][486] According to US intelligence officials, Iran does not have full control over these state and none state groups.[487]

Human rights and censorship

The entrance to Evin Prison, established in 1972. VICE describes the prison as the "legendary terrifying place that nobody wants to end up."[488]

The Iranian government has been denounced by various international organizations and governments for violating human rights.[489] The government has frequently persecuted and arrested critics of the government. Iranian law does not recognize Sexual orientations. Sexual activity between members of the same sex is illegal and is punishable by death.[490][491] Capital punishment is a legal punishment, and according to the BBC, Iran "carries out more executions than any other country, except China".[492] UN Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman has reported discrimination against several ethnic minorities in Iran.[493] A group of UN experts in 2022 urged Iran to stop "systematic persecution" of religious minorities, adding that members of the Baháʼí Faith were arrested, barred from universities, or had their homes demolished.[494][495]

Censorship in Iran is ranked among the most extreme worldwide.[496][497][498] Iran also has strict regulations when it comes to internet censorship, with the government persistently blocking social media and some other websites.[499][500][501] In January 2021, Iranian authorities blocked a list of social media platforms, which included Facebook, Telegram, Twitter and YouTube.[502]

The 2006 election results were widely disputed, resulting in protests.[503][504][505][506] The 2017–18 Iranian protests swept across the country in response to the economic and political situation.[507] It was formally confirmed that thousands of protesters were arrested.[508] The 2019–20 Iranian protests started on 15 November in Ahvaz, and spread across the country after the government announced increases in fuel prices of up to 300%.[509] A week-long total Internet shutdown marked one of the most severe Internet blackouts in any country, and the bloodiest governmental crackdown of the protestors.[510] Tens of thousands were arrested and hundreds were killed within a few days according to multiple international observers, including Amnesty International.[511]

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, was a scheduled international civilian passenger flight from Tehran to Kyiv, operated by Ukraine International Airlines. On 8 January 2020, the Boeing 737–800 flying the route was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 occupants on board and leading to protests. An international investigation led to the government admitting to the shootdown, calling it a "human error".[512][513] Another Protests against the government began on 16 September 2022 after a woman named Mahsa Amini died in police custody following her arrest by the Guidance Patrol, known commonly as the "morality police".[514][515][516][517]

Economy

Tehran hosts 45% of Iran's industries.[518]

Iran's economy is characterized by its hydrocarbon, agricultural, and service sectors, in addition to manufacturing and financial services,[519] with over 40 industries directly involved in the Tehran Stock Exchange. The stock exchange has been one of the best performing exchanges in the world over the past decade.[520] With 10% of the world's proven oil reserves and 15% of its gas reserves, Iran is considered an energy superpower.

As of 2024, Iran is the world's 19th largest economy by PPP, and 34th by GDP. 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.[521] The service sector contributes the largest percentage of the GDP, followed by industry (mining and manufacturing) and agriculture.[522]

Tehran is the economic power house of Iran.[523] About 30% of Iran's public-sector workforce and 45% of its large industrial firms are located in the city, and almost half of these workers are working for the government.[524] The Central Bank of Iran is responsible for developing and maintaining the Iranian rial, the country's currency. The government does not recognise trade unions other than the Islamic labour councils, which are subject to the approval of employers and the security services.[525] Unemployment has remained above 10% since 1997, and the unemployment rate for women is almost double that of the men.[526]

As of May 2023, the market capital of Tehran Stock Exchange was estimated at $1.45 trillion.[527]

In 2006, about 45% of the government's budget came from oil and natural gas revenues, and 31% from taxes and fees.[528] Iranian budget deficits have been a chronic problem, mostly due to large-scale state subsidies, that include foodstuffs and especially petrol, totalling more than $84 billion in 2008 for the energy sector alone.[529][530] 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 five-year period and increase productivity and social justice.[531] The administration continues to follow the market reform plans of the previous one, and indicates that it will diversify Iran's oil-reliant economy. Iran has also developed a biotechnology, nanotechnology, and pharmaceutical industry.[532] Currently, the government is trying to privatise these industries.

Iran has leading manufacturing industries in the fields of automobile manufacture, transportation, construction materials, home appliances, food and agricultural goods, armaments, pharmaceuticals, information technology, and petrochemicals in the Middle East.[533] According to 2012 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization, Iran is among the world's top five producers of apricots, cherries, sour cherries, cucumbers and gherkins, dates, eggplants, figs, pistachios, quinces, walnuts, and watermelons.[534] Economic sanctions against Iran have damaged the economy.[535]

Tourism

Around 12 million tourists visit Kish Island annually.[536][537][538]

Iran's tourism had constantly been growing before the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching nearly 9 million foreign visitors in 2019, the world's third fastest-growing tourism destination before the pandemic.[539][540] In 2021 and 2022, Iran's tourism industry grew 40% for two years in a row, expanding the sector's share to 4.7% of country's national economy.[541] In September and October 2023, Iran achieved a positive balance compared to the same period in 2019.[542] Iran's tourism experienced a growth of 48.5% in 2023, attracting over 5.2 million visitors.[542] The Iranian government ended visa requirements for 60 countries in 2023.[543]

97.7% of all tourist visits in Iran are for leisure purposes, while 2.3% are for business, indicating the country's strong appeal as a tourist destination.[544] Alongside the capital, the most popular tourist destinations are Isfahan, Shiraz and Mashhad.[545] Iran is fast emerging as a preferred destination for medical tourism.[546][547]

Travels from other Western Asian countries to Iran grew 31% in the first seven months of 2023, surpassing that of Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.[548] Domestic tourism in Iran is one of the world's largests, with the Iranian tourists spent $33.3 billion in 2021.[549][550][551][552] Iran projects investment of over $32 billion in the tourism sector by 2026.[553]

Agriculture and fishery

Paddy field in Bandpey, Northern Iran.

Roughly one-third of Iran's total surface area is suited for farmland. Only 12% of the total land area is under cultivation (arable land, orchards and vineyards) but less than one-third of the cultivated area is irrigated; the rest is devoted to dryland farming. Some 92 percent of agricultural products depend on water.[554] The western and northwestern portions of the country have the most fertile soils. Iran's food security index stands at around 96 percent.[555][556][557] 3% of the total land area is used for grazing and fodder production. Most of the grazing is done on mostly semi-dry rangeland in mountain areas and on areas surrounding the large deserts of Central Iran. Progressive government efforts and incentives during the 1990s, improved agricultural productivity, helping Iran toward its goal of reestablishing national self-sufficiency in food production.

Access to the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and many river basins provides Iran the potential to develop excellent fisheries. The government assumed control of commercial fishing in 1952. Expansion of the fishery infrastructure enabled the country to harvest an estimated 700,000 tons of fish annually from the southern waters.

Since the Revolution, increased attention has been focused on producing fish from inland waters. Between 1976 and 2004, the combined take from inland waters by the state and private sectors increased from 1,100 tons to 110,175 tons.[558]

Iran is the world's largest producer and exporter of caviar, exporting more than 300 tonnes annually.[559][560]

Industry and services

Iran is the world's 16th car manufacturer, with IKCO being the largest in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa.[561]

Iran is globally ranked 16th in car manufacturing, ahead of the UK, Italy, and Russia.[562][563] It has outputted 1.188 million cars in 2023, a 12% growth compared to the previous years. Iran has exported various cars to countries such as Venezuela, Russia and Belarus. From 2008 to 2009, Iran leaped to 28th place from 69th in annual industrial production growth rate.[564] Iranian contractors have been awarded several foreign tender contracts in different fields of construction of dams, bridges, roads, buildings, railroads, power generation, and gas, oil and petrochemical industries. As of 2011, some 66 Iranian industrial companies are carrying out projects in 27 countries.[565] Iran exported over $20 billion worth of technical and engineering services over 2001–2011. The availability of local raw materials, rich mineral reserves, experienced manpower have all played crucial role in winning the bids.[566]

45% of large industrial firms are located in Tehran, and almost half of these workers work for the government.[567] The Iranian retail industry is largely in the hands of cooperatives, many of them government-sponsored, and of independent retailers in the bazaars. The bulk of food sales occur at street markets, where the Chief Statistics Bureau sets the prices.[568] Iran's main exports are to Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Syria, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Canada, Venezuela, Japan, South Korea and Turkey.[569][570] Iran's automotive industry is the second most active industry of the country, after its oil and gas industry. Iran Khodro is the largest car manufacturer in the Middle East, and ITMCO is the biggest tractor manufacturer. Iran is the 12th largest automaker in the world. Construction is one of the most important sectors in Iran accounting for 20–50% of the total private investment.

Iran is one of the most important mineral producers in the world, ranked among 15 major mineral-rich countries.[571] Iran's oil and gas industry is the most active industry of the country.[572]

Iran has become self-sufficient in designing, building and operating dams and power plants. Iran is one of the six countries in the world that manufacture gas- and steam-powered turbines.[573]

Transport and energy

Iran Air is the flag carrier of Iran. Its known as Huma domestically, which is the name of a mythical Iranian bird, and the symbol of the airways.

In 2011 Iran had 173,000 kilometres (107,000 mi) of roads, of which 73% were paved.[574] In 2008 there were nearly 100 passenger cars for every 1,000 inhabitants.[575] The Tehran Metro is the largest metro system in the Middle East.[576][577] It carries more than 3 million passengers a day. In 2018, 820 million trips were made on Tehran Metro.[578][579] Trains operate on 11,106 km (6,942 mi) of track.[580] The country's major port of entry is Bandar-Abbas on the Strait of Hormuz. After arriving in Iran, imported goods are distributed throughout the country by trucks and freight trains. The TehranBandar-Abbas railroad connects Bandar-Abbas to the railroad system of Central Asia via Tehran and Mashhad. Other major ports include Bandar e-Anzali and Bandar e-Torkeman on the Caspian Sea and Khorramshahr and Bandar-e Emam Khomeyni on the Persian Gulf.

Dozens of cities have airports that serve passenger and cargo planes. Iran Air, the national airline, was founded in 1962 and operated domestic and international flights. All large cities have mass transit systems using buses, and several private companies provide bus services between cities. Over a million people worked in the transportation sector, accounting for 9% of GDP.[581]

South Pars Gas-Condensate field in Bushehr province, the world's largest natural gas field. It holds 8% of the world's total gas reserves.[582]

Iran is an energy superpower and the petroleum industry in Iran plays an important part in it.[583][584] It has the world's second largest proved gas reserves, with 33.6 trillion cubic metres,[585] and the third largest natural gas production. It also ranks third in oil reserves with an estimated 209,000,000,000 barrels.[586] It is OPEC's second largest oil exporter. In 2004, Iran produced 5.1 percent of the world's total crude oil (3.9 million barrels (620,000 m3; 160 million US gal) per day), which generated revenues of US$25 billion to US$30 billion and was the country's primary source of foreign currency.[587][588] Iran's oil and gas reserves are estimated at 1.2 trillion barrels.[589] Iran holds 10% of the world's proven oil reserves and 15% of its gas.

Iran manufactures 60–70% of its industrial equipment domestically, including various turbines, pumps, catalysts, refineries, oil tankers, drilling rigs, offshore platforms, towers, pipes, and exploration instruments.[590] 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 was to come online in 2009. Iran is the world's third country to have developed GTL technology.[591]

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 adding hydropower and nuclear power generation capacity. Iran's first nuclear power plant went online in 2011. It is the second nuclear power plant in the Middle East.[592][593]

In 2019, Iran discovered a new oil field in the country's south with over 50 billion barrels of crude.[594][595][596][597][598][599] In April 2024, The NIOC discovered giant shale oil deposits in 10 different locations, added more than 2.6 billion barrels of oil to Iran's crude oil and natural gas reserves.[600][601][602]

Iran plans to invest a total of $500 billion in the oil sector by 2025.[603][604]

Science and technology

Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, a Persian polymath, architect, philosopher, physician, scientist, and theologian.

Iran has made considerable advances in science and technology, despite international sanctions. In recent years, the growth in Iran's scientific output is reported to be the fastest in the world. In the biomedical sciences, Iran's Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics has a UNESCO chair in biology.[605] In late 2006, Iranian scientists successfully cloned a sheep at the Royan Research Center in Tehran.[606] Stem cell research in Iran is among the top 10 in the world.[607] Iran ranks 15th in the world in nanotechnologies.[608][609][610] 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 A. Zadeh.[611] Iranian cardiologist Tofigh Mussivand invented and developed the first artificial cardiac pump, the precursor of the artificial heart. Furthering research and treatment of diabetes, the HbA1c was discovered by Samuel Rahbar. A substantial number of papers in string theory are published in Iran.[612] In August 2014, Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman, as well as the first Iranian, to receive the Fields Medal, the highest prize in mathematics.[613] Iran 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.[614] According to a study by SCImago in 2012, Iran would rank fourth in the world in terms of research output by 2018, if the current trend persists.[615]

The Iranian humanoid robot Sorena 2, which was designed by engineers at the 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.[616]

Iranian Space Agency

The historic launch of Safir.

The Iranian Space Agency (ISA) was established on 28 February 2004. Iran became an orbital-launch-capable nation in 2009,[617] and is a founding member of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Iran placed its domestically built satellite Omid into orbit on the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, on 2 February 2009,[618] through its first expendable launch vehicle Safir, becoming the ninth country in the world capable of both producing a satellite and sending it into space from a domestically made launcher.[619] Simorgh's launch in 2016, is the successor of Safir.[620]

On 20 January 2024, Iran launched the Soraya satellite into its highest orbit yet (750 km),[621][622] a new space launch milestone for the country.[623][624] It was launched by Qaem 100 rocket.[625][626][627]

On 28 January 2024, Iran successfully launched three indigenous satellites, The Mahda, Kayan and Hatef,[628] into orbit using the Simorgh carrier rocket.[629][630] It was the first time in country's history that it simultaneously sent three satellites into space.[631][632] The three satellites are designed for testing advanced satellite subsystems, space-based positioning technology, and narrowband communication.[633]

On 29 February 2024, Iran launched its domestically developed imaging satellite, Pars 1, from Russia into orbit.[634][635] This was done for the second time since August 2022, when Russia launched another Iranian remote-sensing, The Khayyam satellite, into orbit from Kazakhstan, reflecting deep scientific cooperation between the two countries.[636][637]

Iran is the world's 7th country to produce uranium hexafluoride, and controls the entire nuclear fuel cycle.[638]

Telecommunication

Iran's telecommunications industry is almost entirely state-owned, dominated by the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI). As of 2020, 70 million Iranians use high-speed mobile internet. Iran is among the first five countries which have had a growth rate of over 20 percent and the highest level of development in telecommunication.[639] Iran has been awarded the UNESCO special certificate for providing telecommunication services to rural areas.

Demographics

Population of Iranian provinces and counties in 2021

Iran's population grew rapidly from about 19 million in 1956 to about 85 million by February 2023.[640] However, Iran's fertility rate has dropped dramatically, from 6.5 children born per woman to about 1.7 two decades later,[641][642][643] leading to a population growth rate of about 1.39% as of 2018.[644] Due to its young population, studies project that the growth will continue to slow until it stabilises around 105 million by 2050.[645][646][647]

Iran hosts one of the largest refugee populations, with almost one million,[648] mostly from Afghanistan and Iraq.[649] According to the Iranian Constitution, the government is required to provide every citizen with access to social security, covering retirement, unemployment, old age, disability, accidents, calamities, health and medical treatment and care services.[650] This is covered by tax revenues and income derived from public contributions.[651]

The country 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%.[652] Iran's population is concentrated in its western half, especially in the north, north-west and west.[653]

Tehran, with a population of around 8.8 million (2016 census), is Iran's capital and largest city. The country's second most populous city, Mashhad, has a population of around 3.3 million (2016 census), and is capital of the province of Razavi Khorasan. Isfahan has a population of around 2.2 million (2016 census) and is Iran's third most populous city. It is the capital of Isfahan province and was also the third capital of the Safavid Empire.

 
Largest cities or towns in Iran
2016 census
Rank Name Province Municipal pop. Rank Name Province Municipal pop.
Tehran
Tehran
Mashhad
Mashhad
1 Tehran Tehran 8,693,706 11 Rasht Gilan 679,995 Isfahan
Isfahan
Karaj
Karaj
2 Mashhad Razavi Khorasan 3,001,184 12 Zahedan Sistan and Baluchestan 587,730
3 Isfahan Isfahan 1,961,260 13 Hamadan Hamadan 554,406
4 Karaj Alborz 1,592,492 14 Kerman Kerman 537,718
5 Shiraz Fars 1,565,572 15 Yazd Yazd 529,673
6 Tabriz East Azarbaijan 1,558,693 16 Ardabil Ardabil 529,374
7 Qom Qom 1,201,158 17 Bandar Abbas Hormozgan 526,648
8 Ahvaz Khuzestan 1,184,788 18 Arak Markazi 520,944
9 Kermanshah Kermanshah 946,651 19 Eslamshahr Tehran 448,129
10 Urmia West Azarbaijan 736,224 20 Zanjan Zanjan 430,871

Ethnic groups

Ethnic group composition remains a point of debate, mainly regarding the largest and second largest ethnic groups, the Persians and Azerbaijanis, due to the lack of Iranian state censuses based on ethnicity. The World Factbook has estimated that around 79% of the population of Iran is a diverse Indo-European ethno-linguistic group,[654] with Persians (including Mazenderanis and Gilaks) constituting 61% of the population, Kurds 10%, Lurs 6%, and Balochs 2%. Peoples of other ethnolinguistic groups make up the remaining 21%, with Azerbaijanis constituting 16%, Arabs 2%, Turkmens and other Turkic tribes 2%, and others (such as Armenians, Talysh, Georgians, Circassians, Assyrians) 1%.

The Library of Congress issued slightly different estimates: 65% Persians (including Mazenderanis, Gilaks, and the Talysh), 16% Azerbaijanis, 7% Kurds, 6% Lurs, 2% Baloch, 1% Turkic tribal groups (including Qashqai and Turkmens), and non-Iranian, non-Turkic groups (including Armenians, Georgians, Assyrians, Circassians, and Arabs) less than 3%.[655][656]

Languages

"I am Cyrus the king, an Achaemenid", in Old Persian, Elamite and Akkadian languages; Pasargadae, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The majority of the population speaks Persian, the official language of the country.[3] Others include speakers of several other Iranian languages within the greater Indo-European family and languages belonging to some other ethnicities living in Iran.

The Gilaki and Mazenderani languages are widely spoken in Gilan and Mazenderan, northern Iran. The Talysh language is also spoken in parts of Gilan. Varieties of Kurdish are concentrated in the province of Kurdistan and nearby areas. In Khuzestan, several distinct varieties of Persian are spoken. Southern Iran also houses the Luri and Lari languages.

Azerbaijani, the most-spoken minority language in the country,[657] and other Turkic languages and dialects are found in various regions, especially Azerbaijan.

Notable minority languages in Iran include Armenian, Georgian, Neo-Aramaic, and Arabic. Khuzi Arabic is spoken by the Arabs in Khuzestan, and the wider group of Iranian Arabs. Circassian was also once widely spoken by the large Circassian minority, but, due to assimilation, no sizable number of Circassians speak the language anymore.[658][659][660][661]

Percentages of spoken language continue to be a point of debate, most notably regarding the largest and second largest ethnicities in Iran, the Persians and Azerbaijanis. Percentages given by the CIA's World Factbook include 53% Persian, 16% Azerbaijani, 10% Kurdish, 7% Mazenderani and Gilaki, 7% Luri, 2% Turkmen, 2% Balochi, 2% Arabic, and 2% the remainder Armenian, Georgian, Neo-Aramaic, and Circassian.[4]

Religion

Iranian people by religion,
2011 General Census Results[662]
Note: other groups are officially excluded
Religion Percent Number
Muslim 99.3789% 74,682,938
Christian 0.1566% 117,704
Zoroastrian 0.0336% 25,271
Jewish 0.0117% 8,756
Other 0.0653% 49,101
Undeclared 0.3538% 265,899

Twelver Shia Islam is the official state religion, to which about 90% to 95% of the population adhere.[663][664][665][666] According to the World Values Survey, 96.6% of Iranians believe in Islam, but 14.3% identify as not religious.[667] According to the CIA World Factbook, around 90–95% of Iranian Muslims associate themselves with the Shia branch of Islam, the official state religion, and about 5–10% with the Sunni and Sufi branches of Islam.[668]

Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, the largest mosque in the world by area. 25 million Shias visiting the shrine annually.[669]

There is a large population of adherents of Yarsanism, a Kurdish indigenous religion, estimated to be over half a million to one million followers.[670][671][672][673][674] The Baháʼí Faith is not officially recognized and has been subject to official persecution.[675] Since the Revolution, the persecution of Baháʼís has increased.[676][677] Irreligion is not recognized by the government.

Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and the Sunni branch of Islam are officially recognised by the government and have reserved seats in the Parliament.[678] Iran is home to the largest Jewish community in the Muslim World and the Middle East, outside of Israel.[679][680] Around 250,000 to 370,000 Christians reside in Iran, and Christianity is the country's largest recognised minority religion, most are of Armenian background, as well as a sizable minority of Assyrians.[681][682][683][684] The Iranian government has supported the rebuilding and renovation of Armenian churches, and has supported the Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran. In 2019, the government registered the Vank Cathedral, in the New Julfa district of Isfahan, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Currently three Armenian churches in Iran have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.[685][686]

Education

Sharif University of Technology, widely considered as the nation's most prestigious and leading institution forSTEM fields.

Education in Iran is highly centralised. K–12 is supervised by the Ministry of Education, and higher education is under the supervision of the Ministry of Science and Technology. According to UNESCO, Iran's literacy rate among people aged 15 years and older was 85.54% as of 2016, with men (90.35%) being significantly more educated than women (80.79%).[687] According to this report, Iranian government expenditure on education amounts to around 4% of the GDP.

The requirement to enter into higher education is to have a high school diploma and pass the Iranian University Entrance Exam (the konkur). Many students do a 1–2-year course of pre-university (piڑ-dāneڑgāh).[688] Iran's higher education is sanctioned by different levels of diplomas, including an associate degree (kārdāni; also known as fowq e diplom) delivered in two years, a bachelor's degree (kārڑenāsi; also known as lisāns) delivered in four years, and a master's degree (kārڑenāsi e arڑad) delivered in two years, after which another exam allows the candidate to pursue a doctoral programme (PhD; known as doktorā).[689]

Health

Razavi Hospital, accredited by ACI for its quality Health Services.[690]

Healthcare is provided by the public-governmental system, the private sector, and NGOs.[691]

Iran is the only country in the world with a legal organ trade.[692] Iran has been able to extend public health preventive services through the establishment of an extensive Primary Health Care Network. As a result, child and maternal mortality rates have fallen significantly, and life expectancy at birth has risen. Iran's medical knowledge rank is 17th globally, and 1st in the Middle East and North Africa. In terms of medical science production index, Iran ranks 16th in the world.[693] Iran is fast emerging as a preferred destination for medical tourism.[546]

The country faces the common problem of other young demographic nations in the region, which is keeping pace with growth of an already huge demand for various public services. An anticipated increase in the population growth rate will increase the need for public health infrastructures and services.[694] About 90% of Iranians have health insurance.[695]

Culture

Art

Kamal-ol-molk's Mirror Hall of Golestan Palace, often considered a starting point in Iranian modern art. [696]

Iran has one of the richest art heritages in world history and has been strong in many media including architecture, painting, literature, music, metalworking, stonemasonry, weaving, calligraphy and sculpture. At different times, influences from the art of neighbouring civilizations have been very important, and latterly Persian art gave and received major influences as part of the wider styles of Islamic art.

From the Achaemenid Empire of 550 BC–330 BC, the courts of successive dynasties have generally led the style of Persian art, and court-sponsored art has left many of the most impressive survivals. In ancient times, the surviving monuments of Persian art are notable for a tradition concentrating on the human figure (mostly male, and often royal) and animals. Persian art continued to place larger emphasis on figures than Islamic art from other areas, though for religious reasons now generally avoiding large examples, especially in sculpture. The general Islamic style of dense decoration, geometrically laid out, developed in Iran into a supremely elegant and harmonious style combining motifs derived from plants with Chinese motifs such as the cloud-band, and often animals that are represented at a much smaller scale than the plant elements surrounding them. Under the Safavid Empire in the 16th century, this style was used across a wide variety of media, and diffused from the court artists of the king, most being mainly painters.

By the time of the Sasanians, Iranian art came across a general renaissance.[697] During the Middle Ages, Sasanian art played a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asian mediaeval art.[698][699][700][701] The Safavid era is known as the Golden Age of Iranian art.[702] Safavid art exerted noticeable influences upon the neighbouring Ottomans, the Mughals, and the Deccans, and was also influential through its fashion and garden architecture on 11th–17th-century Europe.

Iran's contemporary art traces its origins to the time of Kamal-ol-molk, a prominent realist painter at the court of the Qajar Empire who affected the norms of painting and adopted a naturalistic style that would compete with photographic works. A new Iranian school of fine art was established by Kamal-ol-Molk in 1928, and was followed by the so-called "coffeehouse" style of painting.

Iran's avant-garde modernists emerged by the arrival of new western influences during World War II. The vibrant contemporary art scene originates in the late 1940s, and Tehran's first modern art gallery, Apadana, was opened in September 1949 by painters Mahmud Javadipur, Hosein Kazemi, and Hushang Ajudani.[703] The new movements received official encouragement by the mid-1950s,[704] which led to the emergence of artists such as Marcos Grigorian.[705]

Architecture

Chehel Sotoun Palace in Isfahan, built during the Safavid Empire with example of a talar. UNESCO World Heritage Site.[706]

The history of architecture in Iran dates back to at least 5,000 BC with characteristic examples distributed over a vast area from what is now Turkey and Iraq to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and from the Caucasus to Zanzibar. The Iranians made early use of mathematics, geometry and astronomy in their architecture, yielding a tradition with both great structural and aesthetic variety.[707] The guiding motif of Iranian architecture is its cosmic symbolism.[708] Iranian architecture displays great variety, both structural and aesthetic, from a variety of traditions and experience.

Without sudden innovations, and despite the repeated trauma of invasions and cultural shocks, it developed a recognizable style distinct from other regions of the Muslim world. Its virtues are "a marked feeling for form and scale; structural inventiveness, especially in vault and dome construction; a genius for decoration with a freedom and success not rivalled in any other architecture".[709]

In addition to historic gates, palaces, and mosques, the rapid growth of cities such as the capital Tehran has brought about a wave of construction. Iran ranks seventh among UNESCO's list of countries with the most archaeological ruins and attractions from antiquity.[710]

World Heritage Sites

Iran ranks 10th globally in terms of UNESCO-listed monuments, with 27.[711] These include Persepolis, Naghsh-e Jahan Square, Chogha Zanbil, Pasargadae, Golestan Palace, Arg-e Bam, Behistun Inscription, Shahr-e Sukhteh, Susa, Takht-e Soleyman, Hyrcanian forests, the city of Yazd and more. Iran also has 24 Intangible Cultural Heritage, or "Human treasures", which ranks 5th worldwide.[712][713]

Weaving

The Pazyryk Carpet. Circa 400 BC.

Iran's carpet-weaving has its origins in the Bronze Age and is one of the most distinguished manifestations of Iranian art. Carpet weaving is an essential part of Persian culture and Iranian art. Persian rugs and carpets of various types were woven in parallel by nomadic tribes in village and town workshops, and by royal court manufactories alike. As such, they represent miscellaneous, simultaneous lines of tradition, and reflect the history of Iran, Persian culture, and its various peoples. Although the term "Persian carpet" most often refers to pile-woven textiles, flat-woven carpets and rugs like Kilim, Soumak, and embroidered tissues like Suzani are part of the rich and manifold tradition of Persian carpet weaving.

Iran is the world's largest producer and exporter of handmade carpets, producing three-quarters of the world's output and having a share of 30% of export markets.[714][715] In 2010, the "traditional skills of carpet weaving" in Fars Province and Kashan were inscribed to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.[716][717][718] Carpet weaving is an essential part of Persian culture and Iranian art. Within the group of Oriental rugs produced by the countries of the "rug belt", the Persian carpet stands out by the variety and elaborateness of its manifold designs.

Carpets woven in towns and regional centres like Tabriz, Kerman, Ravar, Neyshabour, Mashhad, Kashan, Isfahan, Nain and Qom are characterized by their specific weaving techniques and use of high-quality materials, colours and patterns. Hand-woven Persian rugs and carpets have been regarded as objects of high artistic and utilitarian value and prestige since the first time they were mentioned by ancient Greek writers.

Literature

Tombs of Hafez and Saadi in Shiraz.

Iran's oldest literary tradition is that of Avestan, the Old Iranian sacred language of the Avesta, which consists of the legendary and religious texts of Zoroastrianism and the ancient Iranian religion.[719] Persian is considered one of the four main bodies of world literature.[720] The Persian language was used and developed further through Persianate societies in Asia Minor, Central Asia, and South Asia, leaving extensive influences on Ottoman and Mughal literatures, among others. Iran has a number of famous mediaeval poets, most notably Mawlana, Ferdowsi, Hafez, Sa'adi, Omar Khayyam, and Nezami Ganjavi.[721] Described as one of the great literatures of humanity,[722] including Goethe's assessment of it as one of the four main bodies of world literature,[723] Persian literature has its roots in surviving works of Middle Persian and Old Persian, the latter of which dates back as far as 522 BCE, the date of the earliest surviving Achaemenid inscription, the Behistun Inscription. The bulk of surviving Persian literature, however, comes from the times following the Muslim conquest in c. 650 CE. After the Abbasids came to power (750 CE), the Iranians became the scribes and bureaucrats of the Islamic Caliphate and, increasingly, also its writers and poets. The New Persian language literature arose and flourished in Khorasan and Transoxiana because of political reasons, early Iranian dynasties of post-Islamic Iran such as the Tahirids and Samanids being based in Khorasan.[724]

Philosophy

Scholars Pavilion is a monument donated by Iran to the United Nations Office at Vienna, with statues of Iranian mediaeval scholars inside it.

Iranian philosophy can be traced back as far as to Old Iranian philosophical traditions and thoughts which originated in ancient Indo-Iranian roots and were considerably influenced by Zarathustra's teachings. Throughout Iranian history and due to remarkable political and social changes such as the Arab and Mongol invasions, a wide spectrum of schools of thoughts showed a variety of views on philosophical questions extending from Old Iranian and mainly Zoroastrianism-related traditions, to schools appearing in the late pre-Islamic era such as Manicheism and Mazdakism as well as various post-Islamic schools. Iranian philosophy after the Muslim conquest, is characterized by different interactions with the Old Iranian philosophy, the Greek philosophy and with the development of Islamic philosophy. The Illumination School and the Transcendent Philosophy are regarded as two of the main philosophical traditions of that era in Iran.

The Cyrus Cylinder is often seen as a reflection of the questions and thoughts expressed by Zoroaster and developed in Zoroastrian schools of the Achaemenid era.[725] The earliest tenets of Zoroastrian schools are part of the extant scriptures of the Zoroastrian religion in Avestan. Among them are treatises such as the Zatspram, Shkand-gumanik Vizar, and Denkard, as well as older passages of the Avesta and the Gathas.[726] Contemporary Iranian philosophy has been limited in its scope by intellectual repression.[727]

Mythology and folklore

Statue of Rostam, one of the greatest Persian heroes, with his horse Rakhsh, in Mashhad.[728]

Iranian mythology consists of ancient Iranian folklore and stories of extraordinary beings reflecting on good and evil (Ahura Mazda and Ahriman), actions of the gods, and the exploits of heroes and creatures. The tenth-century Persian poet, Ferdowsi, is the author of the national epic known as the Shahnameh ("Book of Kings"), which is for the most part based on Xwadāynāmag, a Middle Persian compilation of the history of Iranian kings and heroes,[729] as well as the stories and characters of the Zoroastrian tradition, from the texts of the Avesta, the Denkard, the Vendidad and the Bundahishn. Modern scholars study the myths to shed light on the religious and political institutions of not only Iran but of the Persosphere, which includes regions of West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, and Transcaucasia where the culture of Iran has had significant influence.

Storytelling has an significant presence in Iranian folklore and culture.[730] In classical Iran, minstrels performed for their audiences at royal courts and in public theatres.[731] A minstrel was referred to by the Parthians as gōsān, and by the Sasanians as huniyāgar.[732] Since the Safavid Empire, storytellers and poetry readers appeared at coffeehouses.[733][734] After the Iranian Revolution, it took until 1985 to found the MCHTH (Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts),[735] a now heavily centralized organization, supervising all kinds of cultural activities. It held the first scientific meeting on anthropology and folklore in 1990.[736]

Museums

National Museum of Iran, in Tehran

The National Museum of Iran in Tehran is the country's most important cultural institution.[737] As the first and biggest museum in Iran, the institution includes the Museum of Ancient Iran and the Museum of the Islamic Era. The National Museum is the world's most important museum in terms of preservation, display and research of archaeological collections of Iran,[738] and ranks as one of the few most prestigious museums globally in terms of volume, diversity and quality of its monuments.[739]

There are many other popular museums across the country such as the Golestan Palace (UNESCO World Heritage Site), The Treasury of National Jewels, Reza Abbasi Museum, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Sa'dabad Complex, The Carpet Museum, Abgineh Museum, Pars Museum, Azerbaijan Museum, Hegmataneh Museum, Susa Museum and more. In 2019, around 25 million people visited the museums.[740][741]

Music and dance

Karna, an ancient Iranian musical instrument from the sixth century BC, kept at the Persepolis Museum.[742]

Iran is the apparent birthplace of the earliest complex instruments, dating to the third millennium BC.[743] The use of angular harps have been documented at the sites Madaktu and Kul-e Farah, with the largest collection of Elamite instruments documented at Kul-e Farah. Xenophon's Cyropaedia mentions singing women at the court of the Achaemenid Empire. Under the Parthian Empire, the gōsān (Parthian for "minstrel") had a prominent role in society.[744][745]

The history of Sasanian music is better documented than the earlier periods and is especially more evident in Avestan texts.[746] By the time of Chosroes II, the Sasanian royal court hosted a number of prominent musicians, namely Azad, Bamshad, Barbad, Nagisa, Ramtin, and Sarkash. Iranian traditional musical instruments include string instruments such as chang (harp), qanun, santur, rud (oud, barbat), tar, dotar, setar, tanbur, and kamanche, wind instruments such as sorna (zurna, karna) and ney, and percussion instruments such as tompak, kus, daf (dayere), and naqare.

Iran's first symphony orchestra, the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, was founded by Qolam-Hoseyn Minbashian in 1933. By the late 1940s, Ruhollah Khaleqi founded the country's first national music society and established the School of National Music in 1949.[747]

Iranian pop music has its origins in the Qajar era.[748] It was significantly developed since the 1950s, using indigenous instruments and forms accompanied by electric guitar and other imported characteristics. Iranian rock emerged in the 1960s and hip hop in the 2000s.[749][750]

Dancers on a piece of ceramic from Cheshmeh-Ali (Shahr-e-Rey), 5000 BC.

Iran has known dance in the forms of music, play, drama or religious rituals since at least the 6th millennium BC. Artifacts with pictures of dancers were found in many archaeological prehistoric sites.[751] Genres of dance in Iran vary depending on the area, culture, and language of the local people, and can range from sophisticated reconstructions of refined court dances to energetic folk dances.[752] Each group, region, and historical epoch has specific dance styles associated with it. The earliest researched dance from historic Iran is a dance worshipping Mithra. Ancient Persian dance was significantly researched by Greek historian from Herodotus. Iran was occupied by foreign powers, causing a slow disappearance of heritage dance traditions.

The Qajar period had an important influence on Persian dance. In this period, a style of dance began to be called "classical Persian dance". Dancers performed artistic dances in the court of the king for entertainment purposes such as coronations, marriage celebrations, and Norouz celebrations. In the 20th century, the music came to be orchestrated and dance movement and costuming gained a modernistic orientation to the West.

Fashion and clothing

An Iranian model in Tehran.

The exact date of the emergence of weaving in Iran is not yet known, but it is likely to coincide with the emergence of civilization. Ferdowsi and many historians have considered Keyumars to be first to use animals' skin and hair as clothing, while others propose Hushang.[753] Ferdowsi considers Tahmuras to be a kind of textile initiator in Iran. The clothing of ancient Iran took an advanced form, and the fabric and colour of clothing became very important. Depending on the social status, eminence, climate of the region and the season, Persian clothing during the Achaemenian period took various forms. This clothing, in addition to being functional, had an aesthetic role.[753]

Cinema, animation and theatre

A third-millennium BC earthen goblet discovered at the Burnt City in southeastern Iran depicts what could be the world's oldest example of animation.[754] The earliest attested Iranian examples of visual representations, however, are traced back to the bas-reliefs of Persepolis, the ritual centre of the Achaemenid Empire.[755]

The first Iranian filmmaker was probably Mirza Ebrahim (Akkas Bashi), the court photographer of Mozaffar-ed-Din of the Qajar Empire. Mirza Ebrahim obtained a camera and filmed the Qajar ruler's visit to Europe. Later in 1904, Mirza Ebrahim (Sahhaf Bashi) opened the first public cinema in Tehran.[756] The first Iranian feature film, Abi and Rabi, was a silent comedy directed by Ovanes Ohanian in 1930. The first sounded one, Lor Girl, was produced by Ardeshir Irani and Abd-ol-Hosein Sepanta in 1932.

Asghar Farhadi, the two-time Academy Award winner Iranian director, and one of the most prominent filmmakers in the 21st century.[757]

Iran's animation industry began by the 1950s and was followed by the establishment of the influential Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in January 1965.[758][759]

With the screening of the films Qeysar and The Cow, directed by Masoud Kimiai and Dariush Mehrjui respectively in 1969, alternative films set out to establish their status in the film industry and Bahram Beyzai's Downpour and Nasser Taghvai's Tranquility in the Presence of Others followed soon. Attempts to organise a film festival, which had begun in 1954 within the framework of the Golrizan Festival, resulted in the festival of Sepas in 1969. The endeavours also resulted in the formation of Tehran's World Film Festival in 1973.[760]

After the Revolution and following the Cultural Revolution, a new age emerged in Iranian cinema, starting with Long Live! by Khosrow Sinai and followed by many other directors, such as Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi. Kiarostami, an acclaimed Iranian director, planted Iran firmly on the map of world cinema when he won the Palme d'Or for Taste of Cherry in 1997.[761] The continuous presence of Iranian films in prestigious international festivals, such as the Cannes Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival, attracted world attention to Iranian masterpieces.[762] In 2006, six Iranian films represented Iranian cinema at the Berlin International Film Festival. Critics considered this a remarkable event in the history of Iranian cinema.[763][764]

Asghar Farhadi, a well-known Iranian director, has received a Golden Globe Award and two Academy Awards, representing Iran for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012 and 2017, with A Separation and The Salesman.[765][766][767]

Reproduction of the third-millennium BC goblet from Shahr-e Sukhteh, Iran, possibly the world's oldest example of animation, kept at the National Museum of Iran.[768]

In 2020, Ashkan Rahgozar's "The Last Fiction" became the first representative of Iranian animated cinema in the competition section in both Best Animated Feature and Best Picture categories at the Academy Awards.[769][770][771][772][773][774]

The oldest Iranian initiation of theatre can be traced to ancient epic ceremonial theatres such as Sug-e Siāvuڑ ("mourning of Siāvaڑ"), as well as dances and theatre narrations of Iranian mythological tales reported by Herodotus and Xenophon.

Iran's traditional theatrical genres include Baqqāl-bāzi ("grocer play", a form of slapstick comedy), Ruhowzi (or Taxt-howzi, comedy performed over a courtyard pool covered with boards), Siāh-bāzi (in which the central comedian appears in blackface), Sāye-bāzi (shadow play), Xeyme-ڑab-bāzi (marionette), and Arusak-bāzi (puppetry), and Ta'zie (religious tragedy plays).[775]

The Roudaki Hall is home to the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, the Tehran Opera Orchestra, and the Iranian National Ballet Company, and was officially renamed Vahdat Hall after the Revolution.

Media

IRIB, the Iranian state-controlled media corporation.

Iran's largest media corporation is the state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance is responsible for the cultural policy, including activities regarding communications and information.[776] Most of the newspapers published in Iran are in Persian, the country's official and national language. The country's most widely circulated periodicals are based in Tehran, among which are Etemad, Ettela'at, Kayhan, Hamshahri, Resalat, and Shargh.[551] Tehran Times, Iran Daily, and Financial Tribune are among English-language newspapers based in Iran.

Iran ranks 17th among countries by number of Internet users. Google Search is Iran's most widely used search engine and Instagram is the most popular online social networking service.[777] Direct access to many worldwide mainstream websites has been blocked in Iran, including Facebook, which has been blocked since 2009. About 90% of Iran's e-commerce takes place on the Iranian online store Digikala, which has around 750,000 visitors per day and is the most visited online store in the Middle East.[778]

Cuisine

Chelow kabab (rice and kebab), one of Iran's national dishes.

Iranian main dishes include varieties of kebab, pilaf, stew (khoresh), soup and āsh, and omelette. Lunch and dinner meals are commonly accompanied by side dishes such as plain yogurt or mast-o-khiar, sabzi, salad Shirazi, and torshi, and might follow dishes such as borani, Mirza Qasemi, or kashk e bademjan. In Iranian culture, tea is widely consumed.[779][780] Iran is the world's seventh major tea producer.[781] One of Iran's most popular desserts is the falude.[782] There is also the popular saffron ice cream, known as Bastani Sonnati ("traditional ice cream"),[783] which is sometimes accompanied with carrot juice.[784] Iran is also famous for its caviar.[785]

Typical Iranian main dishes are combinations of rice with meat, vegetables and nuts. Herbs are frequently used, along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots and raisins. Characteristic Iranian spices and flavourings such as saffron, cardamom, and dried lime and other sources of sour flavoring, cinnamon, turmeric and parsley are mixed and used in various dishes.

Sports

Dizin, the biggest ski resort in the Middle East
Azadi Stadium in Tehran, West Asia's largest football stadium

Iran is most likely the birthplace of polo,[786][787][788] locally known as Chogan, with its earliest records attributed to the ancient Medes.[789] Freestyle wrestling is traditionally considered the national sport of Iran, and the national wrestlers have been world champions on many occasions. Iran's traditional wrestling, called koڑti e pahlevāni ("heroic wrestling"), is registered on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list.[790]

Being a mountainous country, Iran is a venue for skiing, snowboarding, hiking, rock climbing,[791] and mountain climbing.[792][793] It is home to several ski resorts, the most famous being Tochal, Dizin, and Shemshak.[794] The resort of Tochal, located in the Alborz mountain rage, is the world's fifth-highest ski resort (3,730 m or 12,238 ft at its highest station). Dizin is the largest Iranian ski resort, and its officially granted the title by FIS to administer official and international competitions.[795]

Iran's National Olympic Committee was founded in 1947. Wrestlers and weightlifters have achieved the country's highest records at the Olympics. In September 1974, Iran became the first country in West Asia to host the Asian Games.[796][797][798]

Football is the most popular sport in Iran, with the men's national team having won the Asian Cup on three occasions. The men's national team ranks first in Asia and 22nd in the world according to the FIFA World Rankings (as of September 2021).[799] The Azadi Stadium in Tehran is the largest association football stadium in Western Asia and on the list of top-20 best stadiums in the world.[800]

Volleyball is the second most popular sport.[801][802] Having won the 2011 and 2013 Asian Men's Volleyball Championships, the men's national team is the strongest team in Asia, and ranks eighth in the FIVB World Rankings (as of July 2017).

Basketball is also popular, with the men's national team having won three Asian Championships since 2007.[803]

Observances

Haft-Seen, a custom of Nowruz, the I