Iran -- Geography --
Name: Islamic Republic of Iran
Capital City: Tehran
Languages: Persian (official)
Official Currency: Iranian rial
Population: 68 017 900 (18)
Land Area: 1 648 000 sq km (17)
Landforms: Iran consists of the Iranian Plateau with the exception of the coasts of the Caspian Sea and Khuzestan. It is one of the world's most mountainous countries, its landscape dominated by rugged mountain ranges that separate various basins or plateaux from one another. The populous western part is the most mountainous, with ranges such as the Caucasus, Zagros and Alborz Mountains; the latter contains Iran's highest point, Mount Damavand at 5,604 m (18,386 ft), which is not only the country's highest peak but also the highest mountain on the Eurasian landmass west of the Hindu Kush. The Northern part of Iran is covered by dense rain forests called Shomal or the Jungles of Iran. The eastern part consists mostly of desert basins such as the Dasht-e Kavir, Iran's largest desert, in the north-central portion of the country, and the Dasht-e Lut, in the east, as well as some salt lakes.
Land Divisions: 30 ostans
Iran -- History --
Early history (3200 BC–625 BC)
Dozens of pre-historic sites across the Iranian plateau point to the existence of ancient cultures and urban settlements in the fourth millennium BC, centuries before the earliest civilizations arose in nearby Mesopotamia. Proto-Iranians first emerged following the separation of Indo-Iranians, and are traced to the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex.
Aryan, (Proto-Iranian) tribes arrived in the Iranian plateau in the third and second millennium BC, probably in more than one wave of emigration, and settled as nomads. Further separation of Proto-Iranians into "Eastern" and "Western" groups occurred due to migration.
By the first millennium BC, Medes, Persians, Bactrians and Parthians populated the western part, while Cimmerians, Sarmatians and Alans populated the steppes north of the Black Sea. Other tribes began to settle on the eastern edge, as far as on the mountainous frontier of north-western Indian subcontinent and into the area which is now Balochistan.
Others, such as the Scythian tribes spread as far west as the Balkans and as far east as Xinjiang.
Pre-Islamic Statehood (625 BC–651 AD)
The Medes are credited with the unification of Iran as a nation and empire (625–559 BC), the largest of its day, until Cyrus the Great established a unified empire of the Medes and Persians leading to the Achaemenid Empire (559–330 BC), and further unification between peoples and cultures.
After Cyrus' death, his son Cambyses continued his father's work of conquest, making significant gains in Egypt. Following a power struggle after Cambyses' death Darius I was declared king (ruled 522–486 BC). Under Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great, the Persian Empire eventually became the largest and most powerful empire in human history up until that point.
The borders of the Persian empire stretched from the Indus and Oxus Rivers in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, extending through Anatolia (modern day Turkey) and Egypt.
This led to an Achaemenid campaign against Greece known as the Greco-Persian Wars which lasted the first half of the 5th century BC.
Fighting ended with the peace of Callias in 449 BC.
The rules and ethics emanating from Zoroaster's teachings were strictly followed by the Achaemenids who introduced and adopted policies based on human rights, equality and banning of slavery.
The Parthian Empire (238 BC - 226 AD), led by the Arsacid Dynasty, was the third Iranian kingdom to dominate the Iranian plateau, after defeating the Greek Seleucid Empire, beginning in the late 3rd century BC, and intermittently controlled Mesopotamia between ca. 150 BC and 224 AD. These were the third native dynasty of ancient Iran and lasted five centuries. After the conquests of Media, Assyria, Babylonia and Elam, the Parthians had to organize their empire. The former elites of these countries were Greek, and the new rulers had to adapt to their customs if they wanted their rule to last. As a result, the cities retained their ancient rights and civil administrations remained more or less undisturbed.
The end of the Parthian Empire came in 224 AD, when the empire was loosely organized and the last king was defeated by Ardashir I, one of the empire's vassals. Ardashir I then went on to create the Sassanid Empire. Soon he started reforming the country both economically and militarily.. Unlike the diadochic Seleucids and the succeeding Arsacids, who used a vassalary system, the Sassanids—like the Achaemenids—had a system of governors personally appointed by the Emperor and directed by the central government. The Romans suffered repeated losses particularly by Ardashir I, Shapur I, and Shapur II.
In 632 raiders from the Arab peninsula began attacking the Sassanid Empire. Iran was defeated, paving way for the Islamic conquest of Persia.
During Parthian, and later Sassanid era, trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the great civilizations of China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Indian subcontinent, and Rome, and helped to lay the foundations for the modern world. The Parthians were innovators of many architecture designs such as that of Ctesiphon, which later influenced European Romanesque architecture. Under the Sassanids, Iran expanded relations with China. Arts, music, and architecture greatly flourished, and centers such as the School of Nisibis and Academy of Gundishapur became world renowned centers of science.
Middle Ages (652–1501)
After the Islamic conquest of Persia, Iran was annexed into the Arab Umayyad Caliphate. But the Islamization of Iran was to yield deep transformations within the cultural, scientific, and political structure of Iran's society: The blossoming of Persian literature, philosophy, medicine and art became major elements of the newly-forming Muslim civilization. The Iranian contribution to this new Islamic civilization caused the Islamic Golden Age.
The cultural revival of the post-Abbasid period led to a resurfacing of Iranian national identity. The resulting cultural movement reached its peak during the 9th and 10th centuries. The most notable effect of the movement was the continuation of the Persian language, the language of the Persians and the official language of Iran to the present day. Iranian philosophy after the Islamic conquest, is characterized by different interactions with the Old Iranian philosophy, the Greek philosophy and with the development of Islamic philosophy. During this period, hundreds of scholars and scientists vastly contributed to technology, science and medicine, later influencing the rise of European science during the Renaissance.
In 1218, the eastern Khwarazmid provinces of Transoxiana and Khorasan suffered a devastating invasion by Genghis Khan. During this period more than half of Iran's population was killed.
Early Modern Era (1501–1921)
Iran's first encompassing Shi'a Islamic state was established under the Safavid Dynasty (1501–1722) by Shah Ismail I. The Safavid Dynasty soon became a major political power and promoted the flow of bilateral state contacts. The Safavid Dynasty frequently warred with the Ottoman Empire, Uzbek tribes and the Portuguese Empire.
With the setting of the new capital in Tehran, marking the dawn of the Qajar Dynasty in 1794. Iran suffered several wars with Imperial Russia during the Qajar era, resulting in Iran losing almost half of its territories to Imperial Russia and the British Empire. In spite of The Great Game Iran managed to maintain her sovereignty and was never colonized, unlike neighbouring states in the region. Repeated foreign intervention and a corrupt led to various protests, which by the end of the Qajar period resulted in Persia's constitutional revolution establishing the nation's first parliament in 1906, within a constitutional monarchy.
Recent history (1921–)
In 1925 Reza Shah initiated industrialization, railroad construction, and the establishment of a national education system. Reza Shah sought to balance Russian and British influence, but when World War II started, his nascent ties to Germany alarmed Britain and Russia. In 1941, Britain and the USSR invaded Iran in order to utilize Iranian railroad capacity during World War II. The Shah was forced to abdicate in favour of his son, Mohammad Reza.
In 1951 Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh was elected prime minister. As prime minister, Mossadegh became enormously popular in Iran after he nationalized Iran's oil reserves. In response, Britain embargoed Iranian oil and, amidst Cold War fears, invited the United States to join in a plot to depose Mossadegh, and in 1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized Operation Ajax. The operation was successful, and Mossadegh was arrested on 19 August 1953. After Operation Ajax, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's rule became increasingly autocratic. With American support, the Shah was able to rapidly modernize Iranian infrastructure, but he simultaneously crushed all forms of political opposition with his intelligence agency, SAVAK. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became an active critic of the Shah's White Revolution and publicly denounced the government. Khomeini was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. After his release in 1964 Khomeini publicly criticized the United States government. The Shah was persuaded to send him into exile by General Hassan Pakravan. Khomeini was sent first to Turkey, then to Iraq and finally to France. While in exile, he continued to denounce the Shah.
The Iranian Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolution, began in January 1978 with the first major demonstrations against the Shah. After strikes and demonstrations paralysed the country and its economy, the Shah fled the country in January 1979 and Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile to Tehran. Iran officially became an Islamic Republic on 1 April 1979 when Iranians overwhelmingly approved a national referendum to make it so. In December 1979 the country approved a theocratic constitution, whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country. The speed and success of the revolution surprised many throughout the world, as it had not been precipitated by a military defeat, a financial crisis, or a peasant rebellion.
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein decided to take advantage of what he perceived to be disorder in the wake of the Iranian Revolution and its unpopularity with Western governments. Of chief importance to Iraq was Khuzestan which not only has a substantial Arab population, but boasted rich oil fields as well. On 22 September 1980 the Iraqi army invaded Iran at Khuzestan, precipitating the Iran–Iraq War.
Although Saddam Hussein's forces made several early advances, by 1982, Iranian forces managed to push the Iraqi army back into Iraq. Khomeini sought to export his Islamic revolution westward into Iraq. The war then continued for six more years until 1988, when Khomeini accepted a truce mediated by the United Nations.
Following the Iran–Iraq War President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his administration concentrated on a pragmatic pro-business policy of rebuilding and strengthening the economy without making any dramatic break with the ideology of the revolution. During his two terms as president, Khatami advocated freedom of expression, tolerance and civil society, constructive diplomatic relations with other states including EU and Asian governments, and an economic policy that supported free market and foreign investment. In the 2005 presidential elections Iran made yet another change in political direction when conservative populist candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was elected over Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Iran -- Economy --
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. Its economic infrastructure has been improving steadily over the past two decades but continues to be affected by inflation and unemployment. In the early 21st century the service sector contributed the largest percentage of the GDP, followed by industry (mining and manufacturing) and agriculture. In 2006, about 45% of the government's budget came from oil and natural gas revenues, and 31% came from taxes and fees. Government spending contributed to an average annual inflation rate of 14% in the period 2000–2004. Iran has earned $70 billion in foreign exchange reserves mostly (80%) from crude oil exports (2007). In 2007, the GDP was estimated at $206 billion ($852 billion at PPP), or $3,160 per capita ($12,300 at PPP).
Iran's official annual growth rate is at 6%. Because of these figures and small industrial base, the United Nations classifies Iran's economy as semi-developed.
The services sector has seen the greatest long-term growth in terms of its share of GDP, but the sector remains volatile.
State investment has boosted agriculture with the liberalization of production and the improvement of packaging and marketing helping to develop new export markets. Thanks to the construction of many dams throughout the country in recent years, large-scale irrigation schemes, and the wider production of export-based agricultural items like dates, flowers, and pistachios, produced the fastest economic growth of any sector in Iran over much of the 1990s.
Close to 1.8% of national employment is generated in the tourism sector which is slated to increase to 10% in the next five years.
About 1,659,000 foreign tourists visited Iran in 2004; most came from Asian countries, including the republics of Central Asia, while a small share came from the countries of the European Union and North America. Iran currently ranks 89th in tourist income, but is rated among the 10 most touristic countries in the world.
Weak advertising, unstable regional conditions, a poor public image in some parts of the world, and absence of efficient planning schemes in the tourism sector have all hindered the growth of tourism.
The administration continues to follow the market reform plans of the previous one and indicated that it will diversify Iran's oil-reliant economy. Iran has also developed a biotechnology, nanotechnology, and pharmaceuticals industry.
The strong oil market since 1996 helped ease financial pressures on Iran and allowed for Tehran's timely debt service payments. Iranian budget deficits have been a chronic problem, mostly due to large-scale state subsidies, that include foodstuffs and especially gasoline, totaling more than $84 billion in 2008 for the energy sector alone.
The authorities so as the private sector have put in the past 15 years an emphasis on the local production of domestic-consumption oriented goods such as home appliances, cars, agricultural products, pharmaceutical, etc. Today, Iran possesses a good manufacturing industry, despite restrictions imposed by foreign countries.
However, nationalized industries have often been managed badly, making them ineffective and uncompetitive with years.Today, the government is trying to privatize these industries and despite some successes, there are still several problems to be overcome such as the lagging corruption in the public sector and lack of competitiveness.
Globally, Iran has leading manufacture industry in the fields of car-manufacture and transportations, construction materials, home appliances, food and agricultural goods, armaments, pharmaceuticals, information technology, power and petrochemicals.
Iran ranks second in the world in natural gas reserves and also second in oil reserves. It is OPEC's 2nd largest oil exporter. In 2005, Iran spent US$4 billion dollars on fuel imports, because of contraband and inefficient domestic use. Oil industry output averaged 4 million barrels per day in 2005, compared with the peak of six million barrels per day reached in 1974. In the early 2000s, industry infrastructure was increasingly inefficient because of technological lags. Few exploratory wells were drilled in 2005.
In 2004, a large share of Iran’s natural gas reserves were untapped. 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. Demographic trends and intensified industrialization have caused electric power demand to grow by 8% per year. Iran’s first nuclear power plant at Bushehr is set to go online late 2008 or early 2009.
Iran -- Culture --
The Culture of Iran is a mix of ancient pre-Islamic culture and Islamic culture. Iranian culture has long been a predominant culture of the Middle East and Central Asia. The Sassanid era was an important and influential historical period in Iran as Iranian culture influenced China, India and Roman civilization considerably, and so influenced as far as Western Europe and Africa. This influence played a prominent role in the formation of both Asiatic and European medieval art. This influence carried forward to the Islamic world. Much of what later became known as Islamic learning, such as philology, literature, jurisprudence, philosophy, medicine, architecture and the sciences were based on some of the practises taken from the Sassanid Persians.
After Islamicization of Iran Islamic rituals have penetrated in the Iranian culture. Daily life in modern Iran is closely interwoven with Shia Islam and the country's art, literature, and architecture are an ever-present reminder of its deep national tradition and of a broader literary culture. The Iranian New Year (Nowruz) is an ancient tradition celebrated on 21 March to mark the beginning of spring in Iran. It is also celebrated in Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and previously also in Georgia and Armenia. It is also celebrated by the Iraqi and Anatolian Kurds. Norouz was nominated as one of UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2004.
The cuisine of Iran is diverse, with each province featuring dishes, as well as culinary traditions and styles, distinct to their regions. The main Persian cuisines are combinations of rice with meat, chicken or fish and some onion, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. Herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins. To achieve a balanced taste, characteristic flavourings such as saffron, dried limes, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed delicately and used in some special dishes. Onions and garlic are normally used in the preparation of the accompanying course, but are also served separately during meals, either in raw or pickled form. Iranian food is not spicy.
Iranian cinema has thrived in modern Iran, and many Iranian directors have garnered worldwide recognition for their work. Iranian movies have won over three hundred awards in the past twenty-five years. One of the best-known directors is Abbas Kiarostami. The media of Iran is a mixture of private and state-owned, but books and movies must be approved by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance before being released to the public. The Internet has become enormously popular among the Iranian youth. Iran is now the world's fourth largest country of bloggers.
Iran -- Political system, law and government --
Iran is a Islamic Republic
President: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005)
The political system of the Islamic Republic is based on the 1979 Constitution. The system comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The Supreme Leader of Iran is responsible for delineation and supervision of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Supreme Leader is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, controls the military intelligence and security operations; and has sole power to declare war or peace. The heads of the judiciary, state radio and television networks, the commanders of the police and military forces and six of the twelve members of the Council of Guardians are appointed by the Supreme Leader. The Assembly of Experts elects and dismisses the Supreme Leader on the basis of qualifications and popular esteem. The Assembly of Experts is responsible for supervising the Supreme Leader in the performance of legal duties.
After the Supreme Leader, the Constitution defines the President of Iran as the highest state authority. The President is elected by universal suffrage for a term of four years and can only be re-elected for one term. Presidential candidates must be approved by the Council of Guardians prior to running in order to ensure their allegiance to the ideals of the Islamic revolution. The President is responsible for the implementation of the Constitution and for the exercise of executive powers, except for matters directly related to the Supreme Leader, who has the final say in all matters. The President appoints and supervises the Council of Ministers, coordinates government decisions, and selects government policies to be placed before the legislature. Eight Vice-Presidents serve under the President, as well as a cabinet of twenty two ministers, who must all be approved by the legislature. Unlike many other states, the executive branch in Iran does not control the armed forces. Although the President appoints the Ministers of Intelligence and Defense, it is customary for the President to obtain explicit approval from the Supreme Leader for these two ministers before presenting them to the legislature for a vote of confidence. Iran's current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was elected in a run-off poll in the 2005 presidential elections. His term expires in 2009.
As of 2008 the Legislature of Iran (also known as the Majlis of Iran) is a unicameral body. Before the Iranian Revolution, the legislature was bicameral, but the upper house was removed under the new constitution. The Majlis of Iran comprises 290 members elected for four-year terms. The Majlis drafts legislation, ratifies international treaties, and approves the national budget. All Majlis candidates and all legislation from the assembly must be approved by the Council of Guardians. The Council of Guardians comprises twelve jurists including six appointed by the Supreme Leader. The others are elected by the Parliament from among the jurists nominated by the Head of the Judiciary. The Council interprets the constitution and may veto Parliament. If a law is deemed incompatible with the constitution or Sharia (Islamic law), it is referred back to Parliament for revision. The Expediency Council has the authority to mediate disputes between Parliament and the Council of Guardians, and serves as an advisory body to the Supreme Leader, making it one of the most powerful governing bodies in the country.
The Supreme Leader appoints the head of Iran's Judiciary, who in turn 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 offenses, including crimes against national security. The decisions of the revolutionary courts are final and cannot be appealed. The Special Clerical Court handles crimes allegedly committed by clerics, although it has also taken on cases involving lay people. The Special Clerical Court functions independently of the regular judicial framework and is accountable only to the Supreme Leader. The Court's rulings are final and cannot be appealed.
The Assembly of Experts, which meets for one week annually, comprises 86 clerics elected by adult suffrage for eight-year terms. As with the presidential and parliamentary elections, the Council of Guardians determines candidates' eligibility. The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader and has the constitutional authority to remove the Supreme Leader from power at any time.
Local City Councils are elected by public vote to four-year terms in all cities and villages of Iran. According to article seven of Iran's Constitution, these local councils together with the Parliament are "decision-making and administrative organs of the State". This section of the constitution was not implemented until 1999 when the first local council elections were held across the country. Councils have many different responsibilities including electing mayors, supervising the activities of municipalities; studying the social, cultural, educational, health, economic, and welfare requirements of their constituencies; planning and co-ordinating national participation in the implementation of social, economic, constructive, cultural, educational and other welfare affairs.