Iran

Introduction 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 vested in a learned religious scholar referred to commonly as the Supreme Leader who, according to the constitution, is accountable only to the Assembly of Experts. US-Iranian 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 and 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 and UN economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement in terrorism and conventional weapons proliferation. Following the election of reformer Hojjat ol-Eslam Mohammad KHATAMI as president in 1997 and similarly a reformer Majles (parliament) in 2000, a campaign to foster political reform in response to popular dissatisfaction was initiated. The movement floundered as conservative politicians, through the control of unelected institutions, prevented reform measures from being enacted and increased repressive measures. Starting with nationwide municipal elections in 2003 and continuing through Majles elections in 2004, conservatives reestablished control over Iran's elected government institutions, which culminated with the August 2005 inauguration of hardliner Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD as president. In December 2006 and March 2007, the international community passed resolutions 1737 and 1747 respectively after Iran failed to comply with UN demands to halt the enrichment of uranium or to agree to full IAEA oversight of its nuclear program. In October 2007, Iranian entities were also subject to US sanctions under EO 13382 designations for proliferation activities and EO 13224 designations for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.
History

Early history (3200 BC–728 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,[6][7][8] centuries before the earliest civilizations arose in nearby Mesopotamia.[31]

Proto-Iranians first emerged following the separation of Indo-Iranians, and are traced to the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex.[32] 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. Avestan is an eastern Old Iranian language that was used to compose the sacred hymns and canon of the Zoroastrian Avesta in c. 1000 BC. Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the Achaemenid empire and later Iranian empires, until the 7th century.

Pre-Islamic Statehood (728 BC–651 AD)

The Medes are credited with the foundation of Iran as a nation and empire (728–559 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's death, his son Cambyses continued his father's work of conquest, making significant gains in Egypt. A power struggle followed Cambyses' death and, despite his tenuous connection to the royal line, Darius I was declared king (ruled 522–486 BC). He was to be arguably the greatest of the ancient Iranian rulers.

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.[33] 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. In 499 BC Athens lent support to a revolt in Miletus which resulted in the sacking of Sardis. This led to an Achaemenid campaign against Greece known as the Greco-Persian Wars which lasted the first half of the 5th century BC. During the Greco-Persian wars Persia made some major advantages and razed Athens in 480 BC, But after a string of Greek victories the Persians were forced to withdraw. Fighting ended with the peace of Callias in 449 BC.

The Achaemenid's greatest achievement was the empire itself. 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. Zoroastrianism spread unimposed during the time of the Achaemenids and through contacts with the exiled Jewish people in Babylon freed by Cyrus, Zoroastrian concepts further propagated and influenced into other Abrahamic religions. The Golden Age of Athens marked by Aristotle, Plato and Socrates also came about during the Achaemenid period while their contacts with Persia and the Near East abounded. The peace, tranquillity, security and prosperity that were afforded to the people of the Near East and Southeastern Europe proved to be a rare historical occurrence, an unparalleled period where commerce prospered, and the standard of living for all people of the region improved.

Alexander the Great invaded Achaemenid territory in 334 BC, defeating the last Achaemenid Emperor Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC. He left the annexed territory in 328–327. In each of the former Achaemenid territories he installed his own officers as caretakers, which led to friction and ultimately to the partitioning of the former empire after Alexander's death. A reunification would not occur until 700 years later, under the Sassanids (see below). Unlike the diadochic Seleucids and the succeeding Arsacids, who used a vassalary system, the Sassanids—like the Achaemenids—had a system of governors (MP: shahrab) personally appointed by the Emperor and directed by the central government. The new empire led by Alexander became the first, of other, later, foreign ruled Iranian empires that came to promote a Persianate society.

Parthia was led by the Arsacid Dynasty (اشکانیان Ashkâniân), who reunited and ruled over 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.

Parthia was the arch-enemy of the Roman Empire in the east, limiting Rome's expansion beyond Cappadocia (central Anatolia). By using a heavily-armed and armoured cataphract cavalry, and lightly armed but highly-mobile mounted archers, the Parthians "held their own against Rome for almost 300 years".[35] Rome's acclaimed general Mark Antony led a disastrous campaign against the Parthians in 36 BC in which he lost 32,000 men. By the time of Roman emperor Augustus, Rome and Parthia were settling some of their differences through diplomacy. By this time, Parthia had acquired an assortment of golden eagles, the cherished standards of Rome's legions, captured from Mark Antony, and Crassus, who suffered "a disastrous defeat" at Carrhae in 53 BC.

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. The Sassanids established an empire roughly within the frontiers achieved by the Achaemenids, referring to it as Erânshahr or Iranshahr, , "Dominion of the Aryans", i.e. of Iranians), with their capital at Ctesiphon.[37] The Romans suffered repeated losses particularly by Ardashir I, Shapur I, and Shapur II.[38] During their reign, Sassanid battles with the Roman Empire caused such pessimism in Rome that the historian Cassius Dio wrote:“
Here was a source of great fear to us. So formidable does the Sassanid king seem to our eastern legions, that some are liable to go over to him, and others are unwilling to fight at all. ”

In 632 raiders from the Arab peninsula began attacking the Sassanid Empire. Iran was defeated in the Battle of al-Qâdisiyah, 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. Parthian remains display classically Greek influences in some instances and retain their oriental mode in others, a clear expression of "the cultural diversity that characterized Parthian art and life".[40] The Parthians were innovators of many architecture designs such as that of Ctesiphon, which bears resemblance to, and might have influenced, European Romanesque architecture.[41][42] Under the Sassanids, Iran expanded relations with China, the arts, music, and architecture greatly flourished, and centres such as the School of Nisibis and Academy of Gundishapur became world renowned centres of science and scholarship.

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. Culturally, politically, and religiously, the Iranian contribution to this new Islamic civilization is of immense importance. Indeed, the culmination of Iran caused the "Islamic Golden Age".

Abu Moslem, an Iranian general , expelled the Umayyads from Damascus and helped the Abbasid caliphs to conquer Baghdad. The Abbasid caliphs frequently chose their "wazirs" (viziers) among Iranians, and Iranian governors acquired a certain amount of local autonomy. Thus in 822, the governor of Khorasan, Tahir, proclaimed his independence and founded a new Persian dynasty of Tahirids. And by the Samanid era, Iran's efforts to regain its independence had been well solidified.

Attempts of Arabization thus never succeeded in Iran, and movements such as the Shuubiyah became catalysts for Iranians to regain their independence in their relations with the Arab invaders. 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. Ferdowsi, Iran's greatest epic poet, is regarded today as the most important figure in maintaining the Persian language.

After an interval of silence Iran re-emerged as a separate, different and distinctive element within Islam. 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. The Illumination School and the Transcendent Philosophy are regarded as two of the main philosophical traditions of that era in Persia.

The movement continued well into the 11th century, when Mahmud-a Ghaznavi founded a vast empire, with its capital at Isfahan and Ghazna. Their successors, the Seljuks, asserted their domination from the Mediterranean Sea to Central Asia. As with their predecessors, the divan of the empire was in the hands of Iranian viziers, who founded the Nizamiyya. 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 were killed,[46] turning the streets of Persian cities like Neishabur into "rivers of blood", as the severed heads of men, women, and children were "neatly stacked into carefully constructed pyramids around which the carcasses of the city's dogs and cats were placed".[47] Between 1220 and 1260, the total population of Iran had dropped from 2,500,000 to 250,000 as a result of mass extermination and famine.[48] In a letter to King Louis IX of France, Holaku, one of the Genghis Khan's grandsons, alone took responsibility for 200,000 deaths in his raids of Iran and the Caliphate.[49] He was followed by yet another conqueror, Tamerlane, who established his capital in Samarkand.[50] The waves of devastation prevented many cities such as Neishabur from reaching their pre-invasion population levels until the 20th century, eight centuries later.[51] But both Hulagu, Timur, and their successors soon came to adopt the ways and customs of that which they had conquered, choosing to surround themselves with a culture that was distinctively Persian.[52]

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 peak was during the rule of Shah Abbas The Great.[53] The Safavid Dynasty frequently locked horns with Ottoman Empire, Uzbek tribes and the Portuguese Empire. The Safavids moved their capital from Tabriz to Qazvin and then to Isfahan where their patronage for the arts propelled Iran into one of its most aesthetically productive eras. Under their rule, the state became highly centralized, the first attempts to modernize the military were made, and even a distinct style of architecture developed. In 1722 Afghan rebels defeated Shah Sultan Hossein and ended the Safavid Dynasty, but in 1735, Nader Shah successfully drove out the Afghan rebels from Isfahan and established the Afsharid Dynasty. He then staged an incursion into India in 1738 securing the Peacock throne, Koh-i-Noor, and Darya-ye Noor among other royal treasures. His rule did not last long however, and he was assassinated in 1747. The Mashhad based Afshar Dynasty was succeeded by the Zand dynasty in 1750, founded by Karim Khan, who established his capital at Shiraz. His rule brought a period of relative peace and renewed prosperity.

The Zand dynasty lasted three generations, until Aga Muhammad Khan executed Lotf Ali Khan, and founded his new capital in Tehran, marking the dawn of the Qajar Dynasty in 1794. The capable Qajar chancellor Amir Kabir established Iran's first modern college system, among other modernizing reforms. 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, via the treaties of Gulistan, Turkmenchay and Akhal. 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 and weakened Qajar rule 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.

Late Modern Era (1921–)

In 1921, Reza Khan overthrew the weakening Qajar Dynasty and became Shah. 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 Pahlavi. 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 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, who was popular in religious circles, 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,[54][55][56] began in January 1978 with the first major demonstrations against the Shah.[57] After strikes and demonstrations paralysed the country and its economy, the Shah fled the country in January 1979 and Ayatollah Khomeini soon returned from exile to Tehran, enthusiastically greeted by millions of Iranians.[58] The Pahlavi Dynasty collapsed ten days later on 11 February when Iran's military declared itself "neutral" after guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting. Iran officially became an Islamic Republic on 1 April 1979 when Iranians overwhelmingly approved a national referendum to make it so.[59][60] 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,[61] as it had not been precipitated by a military defeat, a financial crisis, or a peasant rebellion.[62] Although both nationalists and Marxists joined with Islamic traditionalists to overthrow the Shah, the revolution ultimately resulted in an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Donald Rumsfeld meets Saddam Hussein on 19–20 December 1983. Rumsfeld visited again on 24 March 1984, the day the UN reported that Iraq had used mustard gas and tabun nerve agent against Iranian troops. The New York Times reported from Baghdad on 29 March 1984, that "American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with Iraq and the US, and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been established in all but name."

Iran's relationship with the United States deteriorated rapidly during the revolution. On 4 November 1979, a group of Iranian students seized US embassy personnel, labelling the embassy a "den of spies".[65] They accused its personnel of being CIA agents plotting to overthrow the revolutionary government, as the CIA had done to Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. While the student ringleaders had not asked for permission from Khomeini to seize the embassy, Khomeini nonetheless supported the embassy takeover after hearing of its success.[66] While most of the female and African American hostages were released within the first months,[66] the remaining fifty-two hostages were held for 444 days. The students demanded the handover of the Shah in exchange for the hostages, and following the Shah's death in the summer of 1980, that the hostages be put on trial for espionage. Subsequently attempts by the Jimmy Carter administration to negotiate or rescue were unsuccessful. But in January 19 1981 the hostages were set free according to the Algiers declaration. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein decided to take advantage of what he perceived to be disorder in the wake of the Iranian Revolution and its unpopularity with Western governments. The once-strong Iranian military had been disbanded during the revolution. Saddam sought to expand Iraq's access to the Persian Gulf by acquiring territories that Iraq had claimed earlier from Iran during the Shah's rule. Of chief importance to Iraq was Khuzestan which not only has a substantial Arab population, but boasted rich oil fields as well. On the unilateral behalf of the United Arab Emirates, the islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs became objectives as well. With these ambitions in mind, Hussein planned a full-scale assault on Iran, boasting that his forces could reach the capital within three days. On 22 September 1980 the Iraqi army invaded Iran at Khuzestan, precipitating the Iran-Iraq War. The attack took revolutionary Iran completely by surprise.

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, especially on the majority Shi'a Arabs living in the country. The war then continued for six more years until 1988, when Khomeini, in his words, "drank the cup of poison" and accepted a truce mediated by the United Nations. Tens of thousands of Iranian civilians and military personnel were killed when Iraq used chemical weapons in its warfare. Iraq was financially backed by Egypt, the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact states, the United States (beginning in 1983), France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, and the People's Republic of China (which also sold weapons to Iran). There were more than 100,000 Iranian victims[67] of Iraq's chemical weapons during the eight-year war. The total Iranian casualties of the war were estimated to be anywhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000. Almost all relevant international agencies have confirmed that Saddam engaged in chemical warfare to blunt Iranian human wave attacks; these agencies unanimously confirmed that Iran never used chemical weapons during the war.

Geography 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
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 1.648 million sq km
land: 1.636 million sq km
water: 12,000 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than Alaska
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: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: bilateral agreements or median lines in the Persian Gulf
continental shelf: natural prolongation
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: Kuh-e Damavand 5,671 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur
Land use: arable land: 9.78%
permanent crops: 1.29%
other: 88.93% (2005)
Irrigated land: 76,500 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 137.5 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 72.88 cu km/yr (7%/2%/91%)
per capita: 1,048 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes
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; wetland losses from drought; soil degradation (salination); inadequate supplies of potable water; water pollution from raw sewage and industrial waste; urbanization
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, 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
Politics

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.[71] 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.[71] 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.[71] The Assembly of Experts elects and dismisses the Supreme Leader on the basis of qualifications and popular esteem.[72] 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.[71][73] The President is elected by universal suffrage for a term of four years and can only be re-elected for one term.[73] 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.[74] 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.[71] The President appoints and supervises the Council of Ministers, coordinates government decisions, and selects government policies to be placed before the legislature.[75] Eight Vice-Presidents serve under the President, as well as a cabinet of twenty two ministers, who must all be approved by the legislature.[76] 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.

Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran

As of 2008 the legislature of Iran (also known as the Majlis of Iran) is a unicameral body.[78] 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.[78] The Majlis drafts legislation, ratifies international treaties, and approves the national budget.[79] All Majlis candidates and all legislation from the assembly must be approved by the Council of Guardians.[79][80] 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.[81][73] 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.[73]

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.[82] 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.[82] 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.[82]

The Assembly of Experts, which meets for one week annually, comprises 86 "virtuous and learned" clerics elected by adult suffrage for eight-year terms. As with the presidential and parliamentary elections, the Council of Guardians determines candidates' eligibility.[82] The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader and has the constitutional authority to remove the Supreme Leader from power at any time.[82] As all of their meetings and notes are strictly confidential, the Assembly has never been publicly known to challenge any of the Supreme Leader's decisions.[82]

Finally, 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.

People Population: 65,397,521 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23.2% (male 7,783,794/female 7,385,721)
15-64 years: 71.4% (male 23,636,883/female 23,088,934)
65 years and over: 5.4% (male 1,701,727/female 1,800,462) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 25.8 years
male: 25.6 years
female: 26 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.663% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 16.57 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 5.65 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -4.29 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.054 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.024 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.945 male(s)/female
total population: 1.026 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 38.12 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 38.29 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 37.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.56 years
male: 69.12 years
female: 72.07 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.71 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2005 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 66,000 (2005 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 1,600 (2005 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne diseases: Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever and malaria
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
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: Muslim 98% (Shi'a 89%, Sunni 9%), other (includes Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i) 2%
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: 77%
male: 83.5%
female: 70.4% (2002 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Iran
conventional short form: Iran
local long form: Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran
local short form: Iran
former: Persia
Government type: theocratic republic
Capital: name: Tehran
geographic coordinates: 35 40 N, 51 25 E
time difference: UTC+3.5 (8.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 30 provinces (ostanha, singular - ostan); Ardabil, Azarbayjan-e Gharbi, Azarbayjan-e Sharqi, Bushehr, Chahar Mahall va Bakhtiari, Esfahan, Fars, Gilan, Golestan, Hamadan, Hormozgan, Ilam, Kerman, Kermanshah, Khorasan-e Janubi, Khorasan-e Razavi, Khorasan-e Shemali, Khuzestan, Kohgiluyeh va Buyer Ahmad, Kordestan, Lorestan, Markazi, Mazandaran, Qazvin, Qom, Semnan, Sistan va Baluchestan, Tehran, Yazd, Zanjan
Independence: 1 April 1979 (Islamic Republic of Iran proclaimed)
National holiday: Republic Day, 1 April (1979)
Constitution: 2-3 December 1979; revised 1989 to expand powers of the presidency and eliminate the prime ministership
Legal system: based on Sharia law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 16 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Supreme Leader Ali Hoseini-KHAMENEI (since 4 June 1989)
head of government: President Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD (since 3 August 2005); First Vice President Parviz DAVUDI (since 11 September 2005)
cabinet: Council of Ministers selected by the president with legislative approval; the Supreme Leader has some control over appointments to the more sensitive ministries
note: also considered part of the Executive branch of government are three oversight bodies: 1) Assembly of Experts (Majles-Khebregan), a popularly elected body of 86 religious scholars constitutionally charged with determining the succession of the Supreme Leader (based on his qualifications in the field of jurisprudence and commitment to the principles of the revolution), reviewing his performance, and deposing him if deemed necessary; 2) Expediency Council or the Council for the Discernment of Expediency (Majma-e-Tashkise-Maslahat-e-Nezam), is a policy advisory and implementation board consisting of over 40 permanent members representing all major government factions and includes the heads of the three branches of government, and the clerical members of the Council of Guardians (see next); permanent members are appointed by the Supreme Leader for five-year terms; temporary members, including Cabinet members and Majles committee chairmen, are selected when issues under their jurisdiction come before the Expediency Council; the Expediency Council exerts supervisory authority over the executive, judicial, and legislative branches and resolves legislative issues on which the Majles and the Council of Guardians disagree and since 1989 has been used to advise national religious leaders on matters of national policy; in 2005 the Council's powers were expanded, at least on paper, to act as a supervisory body for the government; 3) Council of Guardians of the Constitution or Council of Guardians or Guardians Council (Shora-ye Negaban-e Qanun-e Assassi) is a 12-member board made up of six clerics chosen by the Supreme Leader and six jurists recommended by the judiciary (which is controlled by the Supreme Leader) and approved by the Majles from a list of candidates recommended by the judiciary (which in turn is controlled by the Supreme Leader) for six-year terms; this Council determines whether proposed legislation is both constitutional and faithful to Islamic law, vets candidates for suitability, and supervises national elections
elections: Supreme Leader appointed for life by the Assembly of Experts; Assembly of Experts elected by popular vote for an eight-year term; last election held 15 December 2006 concurrently with municipal elections; Hojjat ol-Eslam Ali Akbar RAFSANJANI was elected Speaker in September 2007, following the July death of former Speaker Ayatollah Ali Akbar Meshkini-Qomi; president elected by popular vote for a four-year term (eligible for a second term and third nonconsecutive term); last held 17 June 2005 with a two-candidate runoff on 24 June 2005 (next presidential election slated for 2009)
election results: Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD elected president; percent of vote - Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD 62%, Ali Akbar Hashemi-RAFSANJANI 36%
Legislative branch: unicameral Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majles-e-Shura-ye-Eslami or Majles (290 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 20 February 2004 with a runoff held 7 May 2004 (next to be held in March 2008)
election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party - conservatives/Islamists 190, reformers 50, independents 45, religious minorities 5
Judicial branch: The Supreme Court (Qeveh Qazaieh) and the four-member High Council of the Judiciary have a single head and overlapping responsibilities; together they supervise the enforcement of all laws and establish judicial and legal policies; lower courts include a special clerical court, a revolutionary court, and a special administrative court
Political parties and leaders: formal political parties are a relatively new phenomenon in Iran and most conservatives still prefer to work through political pressure groups rather than parties, and often political parties or coalitions are formed prior to elections and disbanded soon thereafter; a loose pro-reform coalition called the 2nd Khordad Front, which includes political parties as well as less formal groups and organizations, achieved considerable success at elections to the sixth Majles in early 2000; groups in the coalition include: Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), Executives of Construction Party (Kargozaran), Solidarity Party, Islamic Labor Party, Mardom Salari, Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization (MIRO), and Militant Clerics Society (Ruhaniyun); the coalition participated in the seventh Majles elections in early 2004; following his defeat in the 2005 presidential elections, former MCS Secretary General and sixth Majles Speaker Mehdi KARUBI formed the National Trust Party; a new conservative group, Islamic Iran Developers Coalition (Abadgaran), took a leading position in the new Majles after winning a majority of the seats in February 2004; following the 2004 Majles elections, traditional and hardline conservatives have attempted to close ranks under the United Front of Principlists; the IIPF has repeatedly complained that the overwhelming majority of its candidates have been unfairly disqualified from the 2008 elections
Political pressure groups and leaders: the Islamic Republic Party (IRP) was Iran's sole political party until its dissolution in 1987; Iran now has a variety of groups engaged in political activity; some are oriented along political lines or based on an identity group; others are more akin to professional political parties seeking members and recommending candidates for office; some are active participants in the Revolution's political life while others reject the state; political pressure groups conduct most of Iran's political activities; groups that generally support the Islamic Republic include Ansar-e Hizballah, Followers of the Line of the Imam and the Leader, Islamic Coalition Party (Motalefeh), Islamic Engineers Society, and Tehran Militant Clergy Association (Ruhaniyat); active pro-reform student groups include the Office of Strengthening Unity (OSU); opposition groups include Freedom Movement of Iran, the National Front, Marz-e Por Gohar, Baluchistan People's Party (BPP), and various ethnic and Monarchist organizations; armed political groups that have been repressed by the government include Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI), Komala, Mujahidin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO), People's Fedayeen, Jundallah, and the People's Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK)
International organization participation: ABEDA, CP, ECO, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, SAARC, SCO (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMEE, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Diplomatic representation in the US: none; note - Iran has an Interests Section in the Pakistani Embassy; address: Iranian Interests Section, Pakistani Embassy, 2209 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007; telephone: [1] (202) 965-4990; FAX [1] (202) 965-1073
Diplomatic representation from the US: none; note - the American Interests Section is located in the Swiss Embassy compound at Africa Avenue, West Farzan Street, number 59, Tehran, Iran; telephone 021 8878 2964 or 021 8879 2364; FAX 021 8877 3265
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red; the national emblem (a stylized representation of the word Allah in the shape of a tulip, a symbol of martyrdom) in red is centered in the white band; ALLAH AKBAR (God is Great) in white Arabic script is repeated 11 times along the bottom edge of the green band and 11 times along the top edge of the red band
Culture

The Culture of Iran is a mix of ancient pre-Islamic culture and Islamic culture. Iranian culture probably originated in Central Asia and the Andronovo culture is strongly suggested as the predecessor of Iranian culture ca. 2000 BC. Iranian culture has long been a predominant culture of the Middle East and Central Asia, with Persian considered the language of intellectuals during much of the 2nd millennium, and the language of religion and the populace before that. The Sassanid era was an important and influential historical period in Iran as Iranian culture influenced China, India and Roman civilization considerably,[107] and so influenced as far as Western Europe and Africa.[108] This influence played a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asiatic medieval art.[109] This influence carried forward to the Islamic world. Most of what later became known as Islamic learning, such as philology, literature, jurisprudence, philosophy, medicine, architecture and the sciences were some of the practises taken from the Sassanid Persians in to the broader Muslim world.[110][111] After the Arab invasion Islamic rituals have penetrated in the Iranian culture. The most noticeable one of them is commemoration of Husayn ibn Ali. Every year in Day of Ashura most of Iranians even Armenians and Zoroastrians participate in mourning for the martyrs of battle of Karbala.

Daily life in modern Iran is closely interwoven with Shia Islam and the country's art, literature, and architecture are an ever-present reminder of its deep national tradition and of a broader literary culture.[112] 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.[113] Norouz was nominated as one of UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2004.[114]

The cuisine of Iran is diverse, with each province featuring dishes, as well as culinary traditions and styles, distinct to their region. Iranian food is not spicy. Most meals consist of a large serving of seasoned rice and an accompanying course, typically consists of meat, poultry, or fish. Herbs are used frequently. 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. Carpet-weaving is undoubtedly one of the most distinguished manifestations of Persian culture and art, and dates back to ancient Persia. The discovery of the Pazirik carpet proves Iran's role in early carpet weaving. The oldest backgammon in the world along with 60 pieces has been unearthed in southeastern Iran.[115]

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. State censorship is often brought upon films which do not meet approval. The Internet has become enormously popular among the Iranian youth. Iran is now the world's fourth largest country of bloggers.[116] Women today compose more than half of the incoming classes for universities around the country and increasingly continue to play pivotal roles in society.

Economy Economy - overview: Iran's economy is marked by an inefficient state sector, reliance on the oil sector (which provides 85% of government revenues), and statist policies that create major distortions throughout. Most economic activity is controlled by the state. Private sector activity is typically small-scale workshops, farming, and services. President Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD failed to make any notable progress in fulfilling the goals of the nation's latest five-year plan. A combination of price controls and subsidies, particularly on food and energy, continue to weigh down the economy, and administrative controls, widespread corruption, and other rigidities undermine the potential for private-sector-led growth. As a result of these inefficiencies, significant informal market activity flourishes and shortages are common. High oil prices in recent years have enabled Iran to amass nearly $70 billion in foreign exchange reserves. Yet this increased revenue has not eased economic hardships, which include double-digit unemployment and inflation. The economy has seen only moderate growth. Iran's educated population, economic inefficiency and insufficient investment - both foreign and domestic - have prompted an increasing number of Iranians to seek employment overseas, resulting in significant "brain drain."
GDP (purchasing power parity): $852.6 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $278.1 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 4.3% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $12,300 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 11%
industry: 45.3%
services: 43.7% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 28.7 million
note: shortage of skilled labor (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 25%
industry: 31%
services: 45% (June 2007)
Unemployment rate: 11% according to the Iranian government (June 2007)
Population below poverty line: 18% (2007 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 33.7% (1998)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 43 (1998)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 17% (July 2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 17% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $64 billion
expenditures: $64 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt: 23.2% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: wheat, rice, other grains, sugar beets, sugar cane, fruits, nuts, cotton; dairy products, wool; caviar
Industries: petroleum, petrochemicals, fertilizers, caustic soda, textiles, cement and other construction materials, food processing (particularly sugar refining and vegetable oil production), ferrous and non-ferrous metal fabrication, armaments
Industrial production growth rate: 4.8% excluding oil (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 170.4 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 97.1%
hydro: 2.9%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 136.2 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 2.761 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 2.074 billion kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 4.15 million bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - consumption: 1.63 million bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - exports: 2.52 million bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - imports: 153,600 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 132.5 billion bbl based on Iranian claims (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 101 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 98.19 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 4.33 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 5.8 billion cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 26.37 trillion cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: $19 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $76.5 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: petroleum 80%, chemical and petrochemical products, fruits and nuts, carpets
Exports - partners: Japan 14%, China 12.8%, Turkey 7.2%, Italy 6.3%, South Korea 6%, Netherlands 4.6% (2006)
Imports: $61.3 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: industrial raw materials and intermediate goods, capital goods, foodstuffs and other consumer goods, technical services
Imports - partners: Germany 12.2%, China 10.5%, UAE 9.3%, France 5.6%, Italy 5.4%, South Korea 5.4%, Russia 4.4% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $104 million (2005 est.)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $69.2 billion (2007 est.)
Debt - external: $13.8 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $4.345 billion (2006 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $138 million (2006 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $45.2 billion (December 2007)
Currency (code): Iranian rial (IRR)
Currency code: IRR
Exchange rates: rials per US dollar - 9,407.5 (2007), 9,227.1 (2006), 8,964 (2005), 8,614 (2004), 8,193.9 (2003)
note: Iran has been using a managed floating exchange rate regime since unifying multiple exchange rates in March 2002
Fiscal year: 21 March - 20 March
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 21.981 million (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 13.659 million (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: currently being modernized and expanded with the goal of not only improving the efficiency and increasing the volume of the urban service but also bringing telephone service to several thousand villages, not presently connected
domestic: the addition of new fiber cables and modern switching and exchange systems installed by Iran's state-owned telecom company have improved and expanded the main line network greatly; main line availability has more than doubled to 22 million lines since 2000; additionally, mobile service has increased dramatically serving nearly 13.7 million subscribers in 2006
international: country code - 98; submarine fiber-optic cable to UAE with access to Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG); Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic line runs from Azerbaijan through the northern portion of Iran to Turkmenistan with expansion to Georgia and Azerbaijan; HF radio and microwave radio relay to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Syria, Kuwait, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; satellite earth stations - 9 Intelsat and 4 Inmarsat (2006)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 72, FM 5, shortwave 5 (1998)
Radios: 17 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 28 (plus 450 repeaters) (1997)
Televisions: 4.61 million (1997)
Internet country code: .ir
Internet hosts: 6,111 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 100 (2002)
Internet users: 18 million (2006)
Transportation Airports: 331 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 129
over 3,047 m: 40
2,438 to 3,047 m: 28
1,524 to 2,437 m: 24
914 to 1,523 m: 32
under 914 m: 5 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 202
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 10
914 to 1,523 m: 145
under 914 m: 46 (2007)
Heliports: 14 (2007)
Pipelines: condensate 7 km; condensate/gas 397 km; gas 19,161 km; liquid petroleum gas 570 km; oil 8,438 km; refined products 7,936 km (2007)
Railways: total: 8,367 km
broad gauge: 94 km 1.676-m gauge
standard gauge: 8,273 km 1.435-m gauge (146 km electrified) (2006)
Roadways: total: 179,388 km
paved: 120,782 km (includes 878 km of expressways)
unpaved: 58,606 km (2003)
Waterways: 850 km (on Karun River; additional service on Lake Urmia) (2006)
Merchant marine: total: 131 ships (1000 GRT or over) 4,721,202 GRT/8,309,580 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 35, cargo 45, chemical tanker 4, container 9, liquefied gas 1, passenger/cargo 4, petroleum tanker 29, roll on/roll off 4
foreign-owned: 1 (UAE 1)
registered in other countries: 33 (Bolivia 1, Cyprus 2, Malta 24, Panama 4, St Kitts and Nevis 1, St Vincent and The Grenadines 1) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Assaluyeh, Bandar Abbas, Bandar-e-Eman Khomeyni
Military Military branches: Islamic Republic of Iran Regular Forces (Artesh): Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force of the Military of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Niru-ye Hava'i-ye Artesh-e Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran; includes air defense); Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enqelab-e Eslami, IRGC): Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force, Qods Force (special operations), and Basij Force (Popular Mobilization Army); Law Enforcement Forces (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for male compulsory military service; 16 years of age for volunteers; soldiers as young as 9 were recruited extensively during the Iran-Iraq War; conscript service obligation - 18 months (2004)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 18,319,545
females age 18-49: 17,541,037 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 15,665,725
females age 18-49: 15,005,597 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 862,056
females age 18-49: 808,044 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 2.5% (2006)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: Iran protests Afghanistan's limiting flow of dammed tributaries to the Helmand River in periods of drought; Iraq's lack of a maritime boundary with Iran prompts jurisdiction disputes beyond the mouth of the Shatt al Arab in the Persian Gulf; Iran and UAE dispute Tunb Islands and Abu Musa Island, which are occupied by Iran; Iran stands alone among littoral states in insisting upon a division of the Caspian Sea into five equal sectors
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 662,355 (Afghanistan), 54,000 (Iraq) (2006)
Trafficking in persons: current situation: Iran is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude; according to foreign observers, women and girls are trafficked to Pakistan, Turkey, the Persian Gulf, and Europe for sexual exploitation, while boys from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are trafficked through Iran en route to Persian Gulf states where they are ultimately forced to work as camel jockeys, beggars, or laborers; Afghan women and girls are trafficked to the country for forced marriages and sexual exploitation; women and children are also trafficked internally for the purposes of forced marriage, sexual exploitation, and involuntary servitude
tier rating: Tier 3 - Iran is downgraded to Tier 3 after persistent, credible reports of Iranian authorities punishing victims of trafficking with beatings, imprisonment, and execution
Illicit drugs: despite substantial interdiction efforts, Iran remains a key transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin to Europe; highest percentage of the population in the world using opiates; lacks anti-money-laundering laws