Iran Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Iran > Map Economy History

Facts About Iran

Background: Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and the shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces established a theocratic system of government with ultimate political authority nominally vested in a learned religious scholar. Iranian-US relations have been strained since a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held it until 20 January 1981. During 1980-88, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq that eventually expanded into the Persian Gulf and led to clashes between US Navy and Iranian military forces between 1987-1988. Iran has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for its activities in Lebanon and elsewhere in the world and remains subject to US economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement. Following the elections of a reformist president and Majlis in the late 1990s, attempts to foster political reform in response to popular dissatisfaction have floundered as conservative politicians have prevented reform measures from being enacted, increased repressive measures, and consolidated their control over the government.
Government type: theocratic republic
Capital: Tehran
Currency: 10 Iranian rials (IR) = 1 toman; note - domestic figures are generally referred to in terms of the toman

Geography of Iran

Location: Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan
Geographic coordinates: 32 00 N, 53 00 E
Area:
total: 1.648 million sq km
land: 1.636 million sq km
water: 12,000 sq km
Land boundaries:
total: 5,440 km
border countries: Afghanistan 936 km, Armenia 35 km, Azerbaijan-proper 432 km, Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave 179 km, Iraq 1,458 km, Pakistan 909 km, Turkey 499 km, Turkmenistan 992 km
Coastline: 2,440 km
note: Iran also borders the Caspian Sea (740 km)
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: natural prolongation
exclusive economic zone: bilateral agreements, or median lines in the Persian Gulf
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast
Terrain: rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
highest point: Qolleh-ye Damavand 5,671 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur
Land use:
arable land: 10%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 27%
forests and woodland: 7%
other: 55% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 94,000 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes along western border and in the northeast
Environment - current issues: air pollution, especially in urban areas, from vehicle emissions, refinery operations, and industrial effluents; deforestation; overgrazing; desertification; oil pollution in the Persian Gulf; inadequate supplies of potable water.
Environment - international agreements:
party to:  Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note: strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, which are vital maritime pathways for crude oil transport

People of Iran

Almost two-thirds of Iran's people are of Aryan origin--their ancestors migrated from Central Asia. The major groups in this category include Persians, Kurds, Lurs, and Baluchi. The remainder are primarily Turkic but also include Arabs, Armenians, Jews, and Assyrians.

The 1979 Islamic revolution and the war with Iraq transformed Iran's class structure politically, socially, and economically. In general, however, Iranian society remains divided into urban, market-town, village, and tribal groups. Clerics, called mullahs, dominate politics and nearly all aspects of Iranian life, both urban and rural. After the fall of the Pahlavi regime in 1979, much of the urban upper class of prominent merchants, industrialists, and professionals, favored by the former Shah, lost standing and influence to the senior clergy and their supporters. Bazaar merchants, who were allied with the clergy against the Pahlavi shahs, have also gained political and economic power since the revolution. The urban working class has enjoyed somewhat enhanced status and economic mobility, spurred in part by opportunities provided by revolutionary organizations and the government bureaucracy.

Unemployment, a major problem even before the revolution, has many causes, including population growth, the war with Iraq, and shortages of raw materials and trained managers. Farmers and peasants received a psychological boost from the attention given them by the Islamic regime but appear to be hardly better off in economic terms. The government has made progress on rural development, including electrification and road building but has not yet made a commitment to land redistribution.

Most Iranians are Muslims; 89% belong to the Shi'a branch of Islam, the official state religion, and about 10% belong to the Sunni branch, which predominates in neighboring Muslim countries. Non-Muslim minorities include Zoroastrians, Jews, Baha'is, and Christians.

Population: 68,017,860 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  32.97%
15-64 years:  62.38%
65 years and over:  4.65%
Population growth rate: 0.86% 
Birth rate: 17.1 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 5.41 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: -4.51 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 29.04 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  69.95 years
male:  68.61 years
female:  71.37 years 
Total fertility rate: 2.02 children born/woman 
Nationality:
noun: Iranian(s)
adjective: Iranian
Ethnic groups: Persian 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%
Religions: Shi'a Muslim 89%, Sunni Muslim 10%, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i 1%
Languages: Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Turkic and Turkic dialects 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, other 2%
Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 72.1%
male: 78.4%
female: 65.8% (1994 est.)

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Iran > Map Economy History