macrohistory & world report

Islamic Republic of Iran

Map of Iran

Iran (capital Tehran) and neighboring states

World Factbook as of October 2014: "Iran's economy is marked by statist policies, an inefficient state sector, and reliance on oil, a major source of government revenues. Price controls, subsidies, and other distortions weigh down the economy, undermining the potential for private-sector-led growth. Private sector activity is typically limited to small-scale workshops, farming, some manufacturing, and services. Significant informal market activity flourishes and corruption is widespread. New fiscal and monetary constraints on Tehran, following the expansion of international sanctions in 2012 against Iran's Central Bank and oil exports, significantly reduced Iran's oil revenue, forced government spending cuts, and fueled a 60% currency depreciation. Economic growth turned negative in 2012 and 2013, for the first time in two decades. Iran continues to suffer from double-digit unemployment and underemployment. Lack of job opportunities has convinced many educated Iranian youth to seek jobs overseas, resulting in a significant brain drain."

Economic growth rate
2013: -1.5%
2012: -1.9%
2011:  3%
2010: 3.2%
2009: 3.5%

Labor force in agriculture

Unemployment rate
2013: 16%
2012: 15.5%
2011: 15.3%
2010: 14.6%

Public debt
2010: 11.6% of GDP

Export partners
2010: China 19%, India 14.8%, Japan 11.6%, Turkey 8%, South Korea 6.7%, Italy 6.2%, Spain 4.7%

Income Distribution – GINI index
Ranks 45th among 141 countries (lower rank number is less equal).

Health expenditures
2009: 3.9% of GDP

Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP
2006: 2.5%


Living in an urban area
2010: 71%

Net migration rate
2012: A net loss of 0.11 persons per 1,000 population per year

Ethnic groups
2008: Persian 61%, Azeri 16%, Kurd 10%, Lur 6%, Baloch 2%, Arab 2%, Turkmen and Turkic tribes 2%, other 1%

Muslims 98%. Of these, 89% are Shia and 9% are Sunni. Other (includes Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i) 2%.


Between Iraq and Pakistan. Size equivalent to 1,284 by 1,284 kilometers, or roughly 800 by 800 miles. 2440 kilometers of coastline along the Persian Gulf. A lot of desert and mountains.


(As of May 2014) Ali Khamenei, chief of state, (Supreme Leader) since 4 June 1989, Combatant Clergy Association (medieval clerical party). Head of government: Hassan Rouhani (president) since 3 August 2013, Islamic Republican Party. Shia Islam.

World Factbook: "Theocratic republic." Capital: Tehran.

Sex outside of marriage is illegal. Punishment by death can be imposed, or the lash.

Iran is one of three countries with a law against flag desecration.

Recent History

Called Persia until 1935. Iran is pronounced EAR-ran, not EYE-ran.

April 1, 1979: Islamic Republic of Iran proclaimed.

March 2008: In parliamentary elections, conservatives maintain their 70 percent majority, despite inflation that has reached 19 percent. Iranians are supporting what they see as their nation under attack. Liberal reformers, who dominated the political scene from the late 1990s to 2004, win ten more seats, to 50 seats-- 17.2% of the 290 seats.

June 13, 2010: Iran remains a sham democracy. Real democracies give freedom to an opposition that is not trying to overthrow it by force. One year has passed since President Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election. Hopes of the demonstrators for change around the corner has faded. But government oppression continues. The BBC reports that, "Monitoring of the internet and phones has risen to new levels." Iranian exiles have become "less willing to speak out... Many Iranians have fallen into a sullen acquiescence, frustrated that their hope for change have slipped away."

More Iranians think of themselves as middle class and are reported by the BBC as having aspiration for a freer, more secular lifestyle. The population is young and outward looking. The BBC describes those wanting political change as having been "unable to broaden their core support into the working classes, and also into the diverse regions of Iran, where the different ethnic groups have also been antagonized by Mr Ahmadinejad."

March 2012: In new parliamentary elections all candidates were pre-approved by Iran's Guardian Council. In effect the elections were between conservative factions: largely, those who support President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad or Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The leaders of the opposition movement have been under house arrest and not allowed to take part participate in elections.

The World Factbook

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