Iran

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Posted by motoman 03/01/2009 @ 11:43

Tags : iran, asia, world

News headlines
Obama Rips Iran in Tactical Shift - Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama delivered his sharpest criticism of Iran's election and political crackdown, throwing into question his plan for diplomatic outreach to Tehran that stands at the center of his broader Middle East security strategy....
Iran says elections were fair; World leaders criticize recent ... - Free Speech Radio News
Iran´s powerful Guardian Council declared that the country´s disputed presidential election results will stand, saying it could find no evidence of any major irregularities. Iranian authorities say President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the elections with...
Neda Soltani, young Iranian woman shot - Examiner.com
Thousands of people inside and outside Iran have written online tributes to the Neda, many condemning the government and praising her as a martyr. Neda worked part-time at a travel agency in Iran and that the government barred the family from holding a...
Netanyahu: Peace possible if Iran's regime changes - eTaiwan News
AP Israel could pursue a peaceful relationship with Iran if the Islamic nation were led by a different government, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview published by a German newspaper Monday. Netanyahu was reported as telling...
Iran opposition momentum 'growing' - BBC News
The bbc's correspondent in Tehran, Jon Leyne, has said pro-reform protesters in Iran seem to be growing increasingly angry and determined. He was speaking after riot police broke up demonstrations on the streets of Tehran on Saturday....
UK Firm's Mistweetment Of Iran Is PR Disaster - Sky News
Furniture chain Habitat has been accused of hijacking global interest in the bloody protests in Iran to market its spring collection on Twitter. Using the name @HabitatUk, they "tweeted" updates about new products on the site....
Iran's diplomatic ties nosedive - BBC News
Meanwhile, Iran's Guardian Council has said there were no major polling irregularities in the election and ruled out an annulment. Restrictions have been placed on the BBC and other foreign news organisations in Iran. Reporters are not allowed to cover...
Signs of fraud in Iran, but no ironclad proof - Seattle Times
By Glenn Kessler and Jon Cohen Energized by a public appearance by reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, in blue shirt, hundreds of thousands marched Monday in Tehran, even as Iran's supreme leader ordered a review of election results....
Iran election: What Chris Farley can teach us - Entertainment Weekly
While watching the street protests in Iran these past two weeks -- turns out more votes were cast in 50 cities in the June 12 presidential election than the actual number of Iranians who live there -- I kept asking myself the same question....
Iran and Turkey - Hürriyet
Fear mongers in our society often come up with the thesis that increasing conservatism and strengthening the place of religion in the governance of the country over the past seven years indicated that Turkey can turn into a second Iran one day....

Cinema of Iran

"The Last Supper" touches on traditional Iranian cinema taboos such as inter-generational marriage.

The cinema of Iran (or Persian cinema) is a flourishing film industry with a long history. Many popular commercial films are annually made in Iran, and Iranian art films win praise around the world.

Film festivals that honour Iranian films are held annually around the globe. Along with China, Iran has been lauded as one of the best exporters of cinema in the 1990s. Some critics now rank Iran as the world's most important national cinema, artistically, with a significance that invites comparison to Italian neorealism and similar movements in past decades. World-renowned Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke and German filmmaker Werner Herzog, along with many film critics from around the world, have praised Iranian cinema as one of the world’s most important artistic cinemas.

Besides films made in Iran, the terms "Iranian cinema" and "Persian cinema" can also refer to the cinema of the Iranian Cultural Continent ("Greater Iran"), such as Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The term may also refer to movies made using the Persian language but filmed or produced in other regions, such as Europe and the United States or to movies made by Iranians in languages other than Iranian ones.

This style and complexity of visual representation reached its high peak about a thousand years later during the Sassanian reign. A bas-relief in Taq-e-Bostan (western Iran) depicts a complex hunting scene. In these visual representations, movements and actions are articulated in a sophisticated manner. It is even possible to see the progenitor of the cinema close-up: a wounded wild pig escaping from the hunting ground.

After the conversion from Zoroastrianism to Islam — a religion in which visual symbols were avoided — Persian art continued its visual practices. Persian miniatures are great examples of such attempts. The deliberate lack of perspective enabled the artist to have different plots and sub-plots within the same image space. A very popular form of such art was Pardeh-Khani. Another type of art in the same category was Naqqali.

Other than-popular dramatic performance arts, before the advent of cinema in Iran, are Khaymeshab-bazi (puppet show), Saye-bazi (shadow plays), Rouhozi (comical acts), and Ta'zieh.

Cinema was only five years old when it came to Persia at the beginning of the 20th century. The first Persian filmmaker was Mirza Ebrahim Khan Akkas Bashi, the official photographer of Muzaffar al-Din Shah, the Shah of Persia from 1896–1907. After a visit to Paris in July 1900, Akkas Bashi obtained a camera and filmed the Shah's visit to Europe upon the Shah's orders. He is said to have filmed the Shah’s private and religious ceremonies, but no copies of such films exist today. A few years after Akkas Bashi started photography, Khan Baba Motazedi, another pioneer in Iranian motion picture photography emerged. He shot a considerable amount of newsreel footage during the reign of Qajar to the Pahlavi dynasty.

In 1904, Mirza Ebrahim Khan Sahhafbashi opened the first movie theater in Tehran. After Mirza Ebrahim Khan, several others like Russi Khan, Ardeshir Khan, and Ali Vakili tried to establish new movie theaters in Tehran. Until the early 1930s, there were little more than 15 theatres in Tehran and 11 in other provinces.

In 1925, an Armenian-Iranian cinematographer, Ovanes Ohanian, decided to establish the first film school in Iran. Within five years he managed to run the first session of the school under the name "Parvareshgahe Artistiye cinema" (The Cinema Artist Educational Centre).

In 1932, Abdolhossein Sepanta made the first Iranian sound film, entitled Lor Girl. Later, in 1935, he directed movies such as Ferdowsi (the life story of the most celebrated epic poet of Iran), Shirin and Farhaad (a classic Iranian love story), and Black Eyes (the story of Nader Shah's invasion of India). In 1937, he directed Laili and Majnoon, an Eastern love story similar to the English story of Romeo and Juliet.

The present day Iranian film industry owes a lot of its progress to two industrious personalities, Esmail Koushan and Farrokh Ghaffari. By establishing the first National Iranian Film Society in 1949 at the Iran Bastan Museum and organizing the first Film Week during which English films were exhibited, Ghaffari laid the foundation for alternative and non-commercial films in Iran.

Early Persian directors like Abdolhossein Sepanta and Esmail Koushan took advantage of the richness of Persian literature and ancient Persian mythology. In their work, they put emphasized ethics and humanity.

The 1960s was a significant decade for Iranian cinema, with 25 commercial films produced annually on average throughout the early ‘60s, increasing to 65 by the end of the decade. The majority of production focused on melodrama and thrillers.

The movie that really boosted the economy of Iranian cinema and initiated a new genre was Ganj-e-Qarun (Croesus Treasure), made in 1965 by Siamak Yasami. Four years later Masud Kimiaie made Kaiser. With Kaiser (Qeysar), Kimiaie depicted the ethics and morals of the romanticized poor working class of the Ganj-e-Qarun genre through his main protagonist, the titular Qeysar. But Kimiaie's film generated another genre in Iranian popular cinema: the tragic action drama.

With the screening of the films Kaiser and The Cow, directed by Masoud Kimiay and Darius Mehrjui respectively in 1969, alternative films established their status in the film industry. Attempts to organize a film festival that had begun in 1954 within the framework of the Golrizan Festival, called for the boring of fruits with the Sepas Festival in 1969 and the endeavors of Ali Mortazavi, which resulted in the formation of the Tehran World Festival in 1973.

Post-revolutionary Iranian cinema has been celebrated in many international forums and festivals for its distinct style, themes, authors, idea of nationhood, and cultural references. Starting With Viva... by Khosrow Sinai and followed by Many excellent Iranian directors who emerged in the last few decades, such as Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi. Kiarostami, who some critics regard as one of the few great directors in the history of cinema, planted Iran firmly on the map of world cinema when he won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Taste of Cherry in 1997.

The continuous presence of Iranian films in prestigious international festivals such as Cannes, the Venice Film Festival, and Berlin Film Festival attracted world attention to Iranian masterpieces., as Iranian films have repeatedly been nominated for or won prestigious prizes at those festivals. In 2006, six Iranian films, with six different styles, represented Iranian cinema at the Berlin Film Festival, and critics considered this a remarkable event in the history of Iranian cinema.

An important step was taken in 1998 when the Iranian government began to fund ethnic cinema. Since then Iranian Kurdistan has seen the rise of numerous filmmakers. In particular the film industry got momentum in Iranian Kurdistan and the region has seen the emergence of filmmakers such as Bahman Ghobadi, actually the entire Ghobadi family, Ali-Reza Rezai, Khosret Ressoul and many other younger filmmakers.

Today, the Iranian box office is dominated by commercial Iranian films. Foreign films are not commonly shown in movie theaters as part of a ban on films originating from the West. But heavily censored versions of classic and contemporary Hollywood productions are shown on state television. Uncensored versions are easily available in black markets. Iranian art films are often not screened officially, and are viewable via illegal DVDs which are easily available. Nevertheless, some of these acclaimed films were screened in Iran and had box office success. Examples include Rassul Sadr Ameli's "I’m Taraneh, 15", Rakhshan Bani-Etemad's "Under the skin of the City", Bahman Ghobadi's "Marooned in Iraq" and Manijeh Hekmat's "Women’s Prison".

For many years, the most visible face of Iranian commercial cinema was Mohammad Ali Fardin, who starred in a number of popular successful films. In the more conservative social climate of Iran after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, however, he came to be considered an embarrassment to Iranian national identity and his films — which depicted romance, alcohol, scantily-clad women, and a lifestyle now condemned by the Islamic government — were banned. Although this would effectively prevent Fardin from making films for the remainder of his life, the ban did little to diminish his broad popularity with Iranian moviegoers: His funeral in Tehran was attended by 20,000 mourners. Before Fardin, one could argue, Iran simply did not have a commercial cinema.

During the war years, crime thrillers such as Senator (1983), The Eagles (1984), Boycott (1985), The Tenants (1986), and Kani Manga (1987) occupied the first position on the sales charts.

Officially, the Iranian government disdains American cinema: in 2007 President Ahmadinejad's media adviser told the Fars news agency, "We believe that the American cinema system is devoid of all culture and art and is only used as a device." However, numerous western commercial films such as Edison, The Illusionist, Passion of the Christ, House of Sand and Fog, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Others and The Aviator have been screened in Iranian cinemas and Iranian film festivals since the revolution. Despite great pride in the country’s more than one hundred year old film history, Western cinema is enormously popular among Iran’s young people, and practically every recent Hollywood film is available on CD, DVD, or video. Conservative-controlled state television has also broadcast more Western movies -- partly because millions of Iranians have been switching to the use of banned satellite television equipment.

There is no particular love of Arab or Indian cinema among the Iranian masses – in the last eight years, there has not been a single film from these countries screened in Iran. 6 to 8 Hollywood films make it to Iranian movie theaters each year.

In the 1960s, there were 'New Wave' movements in the cinema of numerous countries. The pioneers of the Iranian New Wave were directors like Forough Farrokhzad,Khosrow Sinai, Sohrab Shahid Saless, Bahram Beizai, and Parviz Kimiavi. They made innovative art films with highly political and philosophical tones and poetic language. Subsequent films of this type have become known as the New Iranian cinema to distinguish them from their earlier roots. The most notable figures of the Iranian New Wave are Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi, Majid Majidi, Bahram Beizai, Darius Mehrjui, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Khosrow Sinai, Sohrab Shahid-Saless, Parviz Kimiavi, Samira Makhmalbaf, Amir Naderi, and Abolfazl Jalili.

The factors leading to the rise of the New Wave in Iran were, in part, due to the intellectual and political movements of the time. A romantic climate was developing after the 19 August 1953 coup in the sphere of arts. Alongside this, a socially committed literature took shape in the 1950s and reached a peak in the 1960s, which may consider as the golden era of contemporary Persian literature.

Features of New Wave Iranian film, in particular the works of legendary Abbas Kiarostami, can be classified as postmodern.

While Kiarostami and Panahi represent the first and second generations of New wave filmmakers respectively, the third generation is represented by Bahman Ghobadi, Maziar Miri, Asghar Farhadi, Mani Haghighi, and Babak Payami, along with newly emerged filmmakers such as Kiarash Anvari, Maziar Bahari, Sadaf Foroughi, Saman Saloor, and Mona Zandi-Haqiqi.

Parallel to the Iranian New Wave, with its neorealist and minimalist art cinema, there exists a so-called "popular art cinema" in Iran. Filmmakers who belong to this circle make films with a broader range of audience than the narrow spectrum of highly educated people who admire the New Wave, but believe that their movies are also artistically sound. Filmmakers such as Nasser Taghvaee and Ali Hatami are the best examples of this cinematic movement (some of these filmmakers also make new wave films (e.g. Mum's Guest by Darius Mehrjui).

Following the rise of the Iranian New Wave, there are now record numbers of film school graduates in Iran and each year more than 20 new directors make their debut films, many of them women. In the last two decades, there have been a higher percentage of women directors in Iran than in most countries in the West.

Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, writer and director is probably Iran's best-known and certainly most prolific female filmmaker. She has established herself as the elder stateswoman of Iranian cinema with documentaries and films dealing with social pathology. Samira Makhmalbaf directed her first film, The Apple, when she was only 17 years old and won the Cannes Jury Prize in 2000 for her following film ‘’The Blackboard’’.

In 2006, Marjane Satrapi, became a member of the Cannes Film festival Jury. She is an Iranian contemporary graphic novelist, illustrator and author of the best selling "Persepolis". In 2007 she won the Cannes jury prize.

War cinema in Iran was born simultaneously with the beginning of Iran–Iraq War. However, it took many years until it found its way and identity by defining characteristics of Iranian war cinema. In the Alleys of Love1990, by Khosrow Sinai shows the most poematic view on the Iran Iraq war and still after years, is one of the leading films about this historical event from a humanistic aspect, although unlike other Iranian war cinema which are fully supported by the Iranian government this film was made with numerous difficulties. In the past decades, the Iranian film industry has produced many war films. In the Iranian war film genre, war has often been portrayed as glorious and "holy," bringing out the good in the protagonist and pandering to nationalist sentiments. Tears of Cold and Duel were two films that have gone beyond the traditional view of war.

There exist some evidences suggesting that Ancient Iranians made animations. An animated piece on an earthen goblet made 5000 years ago was found in Burnt City in Sistan-Baluchistan province, southeastern Iran. The artist has portrayed a goat that jumps toward a tree and eats its leaves.

The first Tehran International Animation Festival was held in 1999, four decades after the time the production of first animation films in Iran. The Second Tehran International Animation Festival was held in February 2001. Apart from Iranian films, animations from 35 foreign countries participated in the festival.

In 2002, Iranian director, Mehdi Parizad, shot a documentary on Azeri filmmaking. On January 10, 2005, The Azeri cinema event "Prospects of Azeri Cinema" opened at Tehran's Contemporary Arts Museum. In 1990, Mohsen Makhmalbaf made "Time of Love". The film's dialogues are both in Turkish and Persian language.

In 1998, Abolfazl Jalili made "Dance of Dust" in Kurdish and English. The film won Silver Leopard at Locarno Film Festival and FIPRESCI Prize at London Film Festival. In 1999, The Wind Will Carry Us, by Abbas Kiarostami, was partly shot in Iran's Kurdistan province. It was presented at both the Venice Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival.

Kurdish cinema came to international prominence in 2000 with the screening of two Kurdish language movies simultaneously at the Cannes Film Festival, namely, The Blackboard by Samira Makhmalbaf (entirely in Kurdish) and A Time for Drunken Horses by Bahman Ghobadi (in Kurdish and Persian).

In 2000, Farhad Mehranfar made "The Legend of Love" which tells the story of Khazara, a young female medical student who wanders courageously among nomadic Kurdish tribes looking for her fiancé, who has set off to tend the wounded in a town besieged by Iraqi attacks. The film won Special Jury Award in Santa Barbara International Film Festival (2001).

In 2002, Songs from my Motherland (aka Marooned in Iraq), another movie by Bahman Ghobadi in Kurdish and Persian, was presented at Cannes. The movie won prizes at several other international festivals.

In 2005, Iranian director Jamil Rostami won the Fajr Festival's Simorgh for Best Director in Asia and Middle East for his Kurdish language movie Requiem of Snow written by Sholeh Shariati. In 2006, Ghobadi's Half Moon (in Kurdish and Persian) won the Golden Seashell at the San Sebastian Film Festival. The film was shot in Iranian Kurdistan and Iran's renowned actors Golshifteh Farahani, Hassan Poorshirazi and Hedyeh Tehrani (also executive and assistant director) acted in this movie. The music in the movie was made by Iran's world-class musician Hossein Alizadeh.

Among other advocates of folk cinema is Iranian director Reza Allamehzadeh who trained and supported many young Kurdish directors.

Cinema of Afghanistan is slowly rising after a long period of silence. Before the September 11th attacks, Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf attracted world attention to Afghanistan by his celebrated movie, Kandahar. It was an attempt to tell the world about a forgotten country. The film brought cinema of Afghanistan to Cannes film festival for the first time in history. Later on, Yassamin Maleknasr, Abolfazl Jalili, Samira Makhmalbaf, and Siddiq Barmak did significant contribution to Persian cinema in Afghanistan. Barmak's first Persian film Osama (2003) won several awards in Cannes and London film festivals. Siddiq Barmak is also director of the Afghan Children Education Movement (ACEM), an association that promotes literacy, culture and the arts, founded by Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The school trains actors and directors for the emerging cinema of Afghanistan.

The situation of Afghan immigrants has been also addressed extensively by Iranian cinematographers. The first step in this field was taken by Mohsen Makhmalbaf in Bicycle ran in 1998. Other examples in this line are Jafar Panahi's White Balloon in 1994, Abbas Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry in 1997, Majid Majidi's Rain and Bahram Beizaei's Killing Mad Dogs.

In 2000, Djomeh made by one of Abbas Kiarostami’s assistants, Hassan Yektapanah; the story focuses on the plight of one of the two million young Afghan refugees in Iran without legal status. When the non-professional Afghan actor, used in this film, was invited to the Hamburg Film Festival, and then denied re-entry to Iran, his story became another film, Heaven's Path in 2002, by the architect-actor-film-maker Mahmoud Behraznia, who lives in Germany.

In Tajikistan, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the internationally known Iranian movie director, is playing the same role as he played in the reconstruction of the cinema of post-Taliban Afghanistan. The first Didar Film Festival, the first film festival to be held in Tajikistan, took place in 2004. The festival and the House of Cinema of Makhmalbaf (in Iran) allocated grants for the creation of short-feature film by young and gifted filmmakers Mirzob Nugmanov, Aloviddin Abdullaev, Denis Mechetov, Shahruyor Nazari, and grant to Bakhtiyor Kakhorov for the creation of a cartoon.

In 2002, Jamshid Usmonov won FIPRESCI Prize at London film festival for his Persian language comedy, Angel on the Right.

In 2003, Iran’s Film Week was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Several Iranian films including My Eyes for You, Last Supper, Bride, Avicenna, and Passion, went on screen at the Vatan Cinema in Dushanbe.

Tajikistan’s Filmmakers Guild which is an affiliate of Moscow Filmmakers Guild, in a ceremony on August 26, 2005 held in Dushanbe’s House of Cinema, presented the Guild’s honorary membership to Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Makhmalbaf made two of his 18 feature films in Tajikistan: “Silence” in Persian and “Sex and Philosophy” in Russian are the titles.

Amongst the pioneers of French New Wave were François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Goddard, Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer or Barbet Schroeder (born in Tehran, Iran in 1941 where his German geologist Father was on assignment).

During the first half of the 20th century, France was the major destination for Iranian students who wished to study abroad. Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Fereydoun Hoveyda was one of them. Fereydoun Hoveyda played a major role in French cultural scene and especially in the field of Cinema, for he was the protégé of François Truffaut whom he befriended and with which he helped create the well-known film magazine Les Cahiers du Cinéma that spearheaded the French Nouvelle Vague or New Wave Cinema. He also worked closely with Italian film director Roberto Rossellini on several film scripts during that period. Fereydoun Hoveyda was not the only Iranian of his generation to play an active role in promoting the French Cinéma d'Auteur. Youssef Ishaghpour is another example.

Another Iranian figure in French New Wave was Shusha Guppy a singer, writer and filmmaker who was Jacques Prévert's girlfriend. However, the most important contribution to the French New Wave cinema is that of Serge Rezvani an Iranian poet born in Tehran in 1928. He played a major role as music composer of both François Truffaut Jules et Jim and Jean Luc Godard Pierrot le Fou, considered as landmarks of French New Wave Cinema. Farah Diba studied at the Beaux Arts and became the focus of attention and the French Press was to see her as the new Persian Cinderella. Farah Diba was one of the rare foreign dignitaries to become a permanent member of the French Academie des Beaux Arts .

Iranian Robert Hossein (son of legendary musician Aminollah Hossein) started his acting career with his French Armenian friend Chahnour Varinag Aznavourian (known as the famed crooner Charles Aznavour) in the mid fifties essentially type casted as " Mr. Tough Guy ". However he got international acclaim in the early Sixties particularly in Europe, Russia and Asia as the mysterious " Jeoffrey, Comte de Peyrac " lover of the lovely Michèle Mercier in the soft erotic-adventure film series of Angélique Marquise des Anges . In the seventies and eighties he was to play opposite Jean Paul Belmondo in police thrillers like The Professional . Hossein became known for being a talented theater director and his taste for popular historical vehicles involving large sets and numerous actors.

After the overthrow of French President Charles De Gaulle, Iranian Anicée Shahmanesh became known under the screen name Anicée Alvina, playing a French girl in a British film hit called Friends , the music score of which propelled British Pop Star Elton John. She was also to take on a courageous Lesbian role in the screen adaptation of Françoise Mallet-Joris' novel Le Rempart des Béguines.

Two major documentaries were produced in these years by respectively Agnès Varda and the duo Claude Lelouche-Claude Pinoteau.

Agnès Varda, first to be discovered to young actor Gérard Depardieu in her 1970 film Nausicaa , directed a love story set in Isfahan (1976) between a French woman (Valérie Mairesse) visiting Iran as a tourist and her guide an Iranian Man (Ali Raffi). The film was entitled Plaisir D'Amour en Iran. The romantic film was shot on location in The Masjed Shah.

Claude Pinoteau and Claude Lelouche on the other hand shot their documentary just after the Persepolis Celebrations in 1971. They decided to address the urban transformations and cultural emancipation that the country was subject to by the early seventies.

Several Iranian expats such as Philippe Khorsand or Persian play writer/actor Yasmina Reza have also gained notice in recent years. The latter is particularly known for her highly intellectual introspections in such plays like Art (Sean Connery bought the film rights advised by his French wife).

Iranian American community is the largest Iranian community out of Iran. In December 2006 a showcase of Modern Independent Iranian-American Cinema was held in San Francisco.

There is an Iranian presence in Hollywood commercial cinema. Academy Award nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo appeared in the House of Sand and Fog which portrays the life of Iranian-Americans. Bahar Soomekh appeared in the award wining Crash, produced by Iranian American Bob Yari, while actress Nazanin Boniadi appears in Iron Man.

1996 film Seven Servants, a USA-Germany co-production, was written and directed by Daryush Shokof, with Anthony Quinn in the lead and David Warner as supporting cast. It was a landmark as a first film made by an Iranian director out of Iran and with Hollywood elements participating in it. The film went on to more than 20 major film festivals world wide.

2006 film Apocalypto was written by Australian-American Mel Gibson and Iranian Farhad Safinia who was also a producer. It earned Golden Globe, BAFTA and BFCA nominations for Best Foreign-Language Film. It was nominated for 79th Academy Award for Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Makeup. Sound editing of the film was done by another Iranian sound editor Kami Asgar.

2008 film Body of Lies by Sir Ridley Scott, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe also stars Golshifteh Farahani. Already a huge star in Iran, she is also considered the first Iranian star to play in a Hollywood film.

Although Iranian composers usually have their own special style and music structure, they all share one thing: melodic, lively rhythms. That might be because they often begin with folkloric songs and shift to film music. In the past few decades, a few composers have emerged in the Iranian cinema with highly appraised works. Composers like Morteza Hannaneh, Fariborz Lachini, Ahmad Pejman, Majid Entezami, Babak Bayat, Naser Cheshmazar and Hossein Alizadeh were some of the most successful score composers for Iranian films in the past decades.

Film festivals have a rather long history in Iran that goes back to 1950s. The first Tehran International Film Festival opened in April 1973. Although the festival never reached the level of Cannes and Venice, however, it managed to become well known as a class A festival. It was a highly reputable festival and many well-known filmmakers took part in it with their films. Great filmmakers such as Francesco Rosi, Grigori Kozintsev, Alain Tanner, Pietro Germi, Nikita Mikhalkov, Krzysztof Zanussi, Martin Ritt won the festival's awards.

The Fajr Film Festival has taken place since 1983. It was intended to be as magnificent and spectacular as possible from its very onset. It had a background as powerful as that of the Tehran International Film Festival and wanted to remain on the same track. Although the Fajr Film Festival is not yet classed among the top film festivals, it has been successful in making policies and setting examples for the future of Iranian cinema. In its early years it had a competition section for professional as well as amateur film (8 mm, 16 mm). Since 1990, there has been an international along with the national competition. The festival also features a competition for advertisement items like posters, stills and trailers. In 2005, the festival added competitions for Asian as well as spiritual films. The top prize is called Crystal Simorgh.

This festival has taken place since 1985. In its first three years, it was part of the Fajr Film Festival. From 1988 to 1989, it was located in Tehran and in 1996, it was held in Kerman. The festival features international and national film and video competitions. The top prize is called Golden Butterfly.

On September 12, the national day of Iranian cinema, a celebration is held annually by the House of Cinema. In the 2006 event, Akira Kurosawa was honored.

First presence of Iranian cinema in Cannes dates back to 1991 when in the alleys of love by Khosrow Sinai and then 1992 when Life and nothing more by Abbas Kiarostami represented Iran in the festival.

The first film from Iranian cinema that won a prize in Locarno festival was khaneie doost kojast directed by Abbas Kiarostami (1989).

Although the Iranian film industry is flourishing, its filmmakers have operated under severe censorship rules, both before and after the revolution. Some Iranian films that have been internationally acclaimed are banned in Iran itself. Conversely, some Iranian filmmakers have faced hostility in other countries.

Dariush Mehrjui's seminal film Gaav (The Cow, 1969) is now considered a pioneering work of the Iranian New Wave. The film was sponsored by the state, but they promptly banned it upon completion because its vision of rural life clashed with the progressive image of Iran that the Shah wished to project, while its prominence at international film festivals annoyed the regime.

After the Iranian revolution, filmmakers experienced even more restrictions. Several films now regarded as the seeds of a renaissance in Iranian art films, such as Bahram Beizai's Cherikeh-ye Tara (Ballad of Tara, 1980) and Marg-e Yazd-e Gerd (Death of Yazd-e Gerd, 1982), and Amir Naderi's Jostoju (Search, 1982), were banned in Iran.

Since the mid 1980s, Iran's policy on film censorship has been changed in order to promote domestic film production: the strict censorship eased a little after December 1987. Old directors resurfaced and new ones emerged. However, the application of the rules is often inconsistent. Several films have been refused release inside Iran, but have been given export permits to enter international film festivals. Even here, the censorship is inconsistent: May Lady by Rakhshan Bani-Etemad (1998) got through but her contribution to Stories of Kish (1999) did not.

Several of Mohsen Makhmalbaf's films are also banned in Iran. For example, Time of Love and The night of Zaiandeh-rood were banned for dealing with physical love and for raising doubts about the revolution.

In 2001, feminist filmmaker Tahmineh Milani made The Hidden Half, which was accused of presenting the anti-revolutionary forces in a positive light. Milani was jailed and her belongings stolen. Many Iranian and international artists and filmmakers protested and demanded her release. Eventually President Khatami and the Minister of Culture were able to secure her release. Of a subsequent film, Two Women, Milani has said " was banned for seven months and before I could even start on it my script was banned for seven years. It was eventually released and was a box office hit in Iran.

Among Iran's censorship rules is a ban on the depiction of women without headscarves. Joy of Madness, a documentary about the process of casting At Five in the Afternoon, was banned when Samira Makhmalbaf's own headscarf was deemed "insufficiently modest". Tahmineh Milani's Kakadu, which was about the environment, was banned and still cannot be seen in Iran because it depicts a beautiful eight-year old girl who is not wearing a headscarf.

In Nargess, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad who is a pioneer of Iranian cinema, pushes censorship codes to the limits, questioning the mores of society, showing desperate people overwhelmed by social conditions and a couple living together without being married.

Several other Iranian film makers have experienced hostilities from other countries. In November 2001 in Afghanistan, Taliban officials, who banned movies and most filmmaking, arrested three of Majid Majidi's crew members who were helping him secretly shoot Barefoot to Herat, a documentary on the country's internal refugees. Samira Makhmalbaf also survived a kidnapping in Afghanistan.

In March 2007, a bomb explosion severely injuring several actors and crew members halted production in Afghanistan of Two Legged Horse, the film by Iranian helmer Samira Makhmalbaf. Mohsen Makhmalbaf was the target of two unsuccessful murder attempts when he shot Kandahar in Iran near the Afghan border in 2000, and his daughter Hana was twice the victim of a failed abduction attempt during the shooting of Samira's last film At Five in the Afternoon in the Afghan capital Kabul in 2002.

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Iran

Iran holds 10% of the world's proven oil reserves and 15% of its gas. It is OPEC's second largest exporter and the world's fourth oil producer.

Iran (Persian: ايران, /irɒn/↔ (help·info)), officially the Islamic Republic of Iran and formerly known internationally as Persia until 1935, is a country in Central Eurasia, located on the northeastern shore of the Persian Gulf and the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. Since 1949, both the names "Persia" and "Iran" are used, however, Iran is used for an official and political context. The name Iran is a cognate of Aryan, and means "Land of the Aryans".

The 18th largest country in the world in terms of area at 1,648,195 km², Iran has a population of over seventy million. It is a country of special geostrategic significance due to its central location in Eurasia. Iran is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. As Iran is a littoral state of the Caspian Sea, which is an inland sea and condominium, Kazakhstan and Russia are also Iran's direct neighbors to the north. Iran is bordered on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and on the west by Turkey and Iraq. Tehran is the capital, the country's largest city and the political, cultural, commercial, and industrial center of the nation. Iran is a regional power, and occupies an important position in international energy security and world economy as a result of its large reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

Iran is home to one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations, with historical and urban settlements dating back to 7000 BC. The first Iranian dynasty formed during the Elamite kingdom in 2800 BC. The Iranian Medes unified Iran into an empire in 625 BC. They were succeeded by three Iranian Empires, the Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids, which governed Iran for more than 1000 years. Iranian post-Islamic dynasties and empires expanded the Persian language and culture throughout the Iranian plateau. Early Iranian dynasties which re-assereted Iranian independence included the Buyids, Samanids, Tahirids and Safarrids. The blossoming of Persian literature, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, mathematics and art became major elements of Muslim civilization and started with the Saffarids and Samanids. Iran was once again reunified as an independent state in 1501 by the Safavid dynasty—who promoted Twelver Shi'a Islam as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning points in the history of Islam. "Persia's Constitutional Revolution" established the nation's first parliament in 1906, within a constitutional monarchy. Iran officially became an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979, after the Iranian 1979 Revolution.

Iran is a founding member of the UN, NAM, OIC and OPEC. The political system of Iran, based on the 1979 Constitution, comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The highest state authority is the Supreme Leader. Shia Islam is the official religion and Persian is the official language.

The term Iran (ایران) in modern Persian derives from the Proto-Iranian term Aryānā, first attested in Zoroastrianism's Avesta tradition. Ariya- and Airiia- are also attested as an ethnic designator in Achaemenid inscriptions. The term Ērān, from Middle Persian Ērān (written as ʼyrʼn) is found on the inscription that accompanies the investiture relief of Ardashir I at Naqsh-e Rustam. In this inscription, the king's appellation in Middle Persian contains the term ērān (Pahlavi ʼryʼn), while in the Parthian language inscription that accompanies it, the term aryān describes Iran. In Ardashir's time, ērān retained this meaning, denoting the people rather than the state.

Notwithstanding this inscriptional use of ērān to refer to the Iranian peoples, the use of ērān to refer to the geographical empire is also attested in the early Sassanid period. An inscription relating to Shapur I, Ardashir's son and immediate successor, includes regions which were not inhabited primarily by Iranians in Ērān regions, such as Armenia and the Caucasus." In Kartir's inscriptions the high priest includes the same regions in his list of provinces of the antonymic Anērān. Both ērān and aryān come from the Proto-Iranian term Aryānām, (Land) of the (Iranian) Aryas. The word and concept of Airyanem Vaejah is present in the name of the country Iran (Lit. Land of the Aryans) inasmuch as Iran (Ērān) is the modern Persian form of the word Aryānā.

Iran is the eighteenth largest country in the world. Its area roughly equals that of the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Germany combined, or slightly less than the state of Alaska. Its borders are with Azerbaijan (432 km/268 mi) and Armenia (35 km/22 mi) to the north-west; the Caspian Sea to the north; Turkmenistan (992 km/616 mi) to the north-east; Pakistan (909 km/565 mi) and Afghanistan (936 km/582 mi) to the east; Turkey (499 km/310 mi) and Iraq (1,458 km/906 mi) to the west; and finally the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south. Iran's area is 1,648,000 km² (approximately 636,300 sq mi).

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 5,610 m (18,405 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. This is because the mountain ranges are too high for rain clouds to reach these regions. The only large plains are found along the coast of the Caspian Sea and at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, where Iran borders the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab (or the Arvand Rūd) river. Smaller, discontinuous plains are found along the remaining coast of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman.

Iran's climate ranges from arid or semiarid, to subtropical along the Caspian coast and the northern forests. On the northern edge of the country (the Caspian coastal plain) temperatures nearly fall below freezing and it remains humid for the rest of the year. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 29 °C (85 °F). Annual precipitation is 680 mm (27 in) in the eastern part of the plain and more than 1,700 mm (67 in) in the western part. To the west, settlements in the Zagros basin experience lower temperatures, severe winters with below zero average daily temperatures and heavy snowfall. The eastern and central basins are arid, with less than 200 mm (eight in) of rain, and have occasional deserts. Average summer temperatures exceed 38 °C (100 °F). The coastal plains of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in southern Iran have mild winters, and very humid and hot summers. The annual precipitation ranges from 135 to 355 mm (five to fourteen inches).

Iran's wildlife is composed of several animal species including bears, gazelles, wild pigs, wolves, jackals, panthers, Eurasian lynx, and foxes. Other domestic animals include, sheep, goats, cattle, horses, water buffalo, donkeys, and camels. The pheasant, partridge, stork, eagles and falcon are also native to Iran.

Iran is divided into thirty provinces (ostān), each governed by an appointed governor (استاندار, ostāndār). The provinces are divided into counties (shahrestān), and subdivided into districts (bakhsh) and sub-districts (dehestān).

Iran has one of the highest urban growth rates in the world. From 1950 to 2002, the urban proportion of the population increased from 27% to 60%. The United Nations predicts that by 2030 80% of the population will be urban. Most internal migrants have settled near the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Ahvaz, and Qom. The listed populations are from the 2006/07 (1385 AP) census. Tehran, with population of 7,705,036, is the largest city in Iran and is the Capital city. Tehran is home to around 11% of Iran's population. Tehran, like many big cities, suffers from severe air pollution. It is the hub of the country's communication and transport network.

Mashhad, with a population of 2.8 million, is the second largest Iranian city and the centre of the province of Razavi Khorasan. Mashahd is one of the holiest Shi'a cities in the world as it is the site of the Imam Reza shrine. It is the centre of tourism in Iran and between 15 and 20 million pilgrims go to the Imam Reza's shrine every year. Another major Iranian city is Isfahan (population 1,986,542), which is the capital of Isfahan Province. The Naghsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city contains a wide variety of Islamic architectural sites ranging from the eleventh to the 19th century. The growth of suburb area around the city has turned Isfahan to the second most populous metropolitan area (3,430,353). The other major Iranian cities are Karaj (population 1,732,275), Tabriz (population 1,597,312) and Shiraz (population 1,227,331). Karaj is located in Tehran province and is situated 20 km west of Tehran, at the foot of Alborz mountains; however, the city is increasingly becoming an extension of metropolitan Tehran.

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. Avestan is an eastern Old Iranian language that was used to compose the sacred hymns and canon of the Zoroastrian Gathas in c. 1000 BC.

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.

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 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, tranquility, 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.

In 334 BC, Alexander the Great invaded the Achaemenid Empire, 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.

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.

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". 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 defeat at Carrhae in 53 BC.

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. 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 and scholarship.

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 was killed, turning the streets of Persian cities such as 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". 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. 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. He was followed by yet another conqueror, Tamerlane, who established his capital in Samarkand. The waves of devastation prevented many cities such as Neishabur from reaching their pre-invasion population levels until the 20th century, eight centuries later. But both Hulagu, Tamerlane, 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.

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. The Safavid Dynasty frequently warred with the 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, as 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 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.

In 1925, 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 to use 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, 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. 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. 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. Although both nationalists and Marxists joined with Islamic traditionalists to overthrow the Shah, tens of thousands were killed and executed by the Islamic regime afterward, the revolution ultimately resulted in an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

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". 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. While most of the female and African American hostages were released within the first months, the remaining fifty-two hostages were held for 444 days. Subsequently attempts by the Jimmy Carter administration to negotiate or rescue were unsuccessful. In January 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. 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, 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. The total Iranian casualties of the war were estimated to be anywhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000; with more than 100,000 Iranians being victims of Iraq's chemical weapons. 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.

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. Rafsanjani served until 1997 when he was succeeded by the moderate reformist Mohammad Khatami. 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. However, Khatami is widely regarded as having been unsuccessful in achieving his goal of making Iran more free and democratic. 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.

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. In a controversial exercise of its authority, the Council has drawn upon a narrow interpretation of Iran's constitution to veto parliamentary candidates. 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 "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. The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader and has the constitutional authority to remove the Supreme Leader from power at any time. 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.

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, planning, co-ordinating and implementing of social, cultural, educational, health, economic, and welfare requirements of their constituencies.

Iran's foreign relations are based on two strategic principles: eliminating outside influences in the region and pursuing extensive diplomatic contacts with developing and non-aligned countries. Iran maintains diplomatic relations with almost every member of the United Nations, except for Israel, which Iran does not recognize, and the United States since the Iranian Revolution. Since 2005, Iran's Nuclear Program has become the subject of contention with the West because of suspicions regarding Iran's military intentions. This has led the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Iran on select companies linked to this program, thus furthering its economic isolation on the international scene.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has two types of armed forces: the regular forces Islamic Republic of Iran Army, Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, Islamic Republic of Iran Navy and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), totalling about 545,000 active troops. Iran also has around 350,000 Reserve Force totaling around 900,000 trained troops. Iran has not invaded any country over the past two centuries. Iran has a paramilitary, volunteer militia force within the IRGC, called the Basij, which includes about 90,000 full-time, active-duty uniformed members. Up to 11 million men and women are members of the Basij who could potentially be called up for service; GlobalSecurity.org estimates Iran could mobilize "up to one million men". This would be among the largest troop mobilizations in the world. In 2005, Iran's military spending represented 3.3% of the GDP or $91 per capita, the lowest figure of the Persian Gulf nations. Iran's military doctrine is based on deterrence.

Since the Iranian revolution, to overcome foreign embargo, Iran has developed its own military industry, produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, guided missiles, submarines, and fighter planes. In recent years, official announcements have highlighted the development of weapons such as the Hoot, Kowsar, Zelzal, Fateh-110, Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles, and a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The Fajr-3 (MIRV) is currently Iran's most advanced ballistic missile, it is a liquid fuel missile with an undisclosed range which was developed and produced domestically.

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 from crude oil exports (80% as of 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 was at 6% (2008). Because of these figures and the country’s diversified but small industrial base, the United Nations classifies Iran's economy as semi-developed.

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 such as the bonyads have often been managed badly, making them ineffective and uncompetitive with years. Currently, the government is trying to privatize these industries, and, despite successes, there are still several problems to be overcome, such as the lagging corruption in the public sector (and, therefore, nationalized industries) 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 $4 billion on fuel imports, because of contraband and inefficient domestic use. Oil industry output averaged 4 million barrels per day (640,000 m³/d) 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, and the first solar thermal plant is to come online in 2009. Demographic trends and intensified industrialization have caused electric power demand to grow by 8% per year. The government’s goal of 53,000 megawatts of installed capacity by 2010 is to be reached by bringing on line new gas-fired plants and by adding hydroelectric, and nuclear power generating capacity. Iran’s first nuclear power plant at Bushehr is set to go online by mid-2009.

Iran is a diverse country consisting of people of many religions and ethnic backgrounds cemented by the Persian culture. The majority of the population speaks the Persian language, which is also the official language of the country, as well as other Iranian languages or dialects. Turkic languages and dialects (most importantly Azeri) are spoken in different areas in Iran. Additionally, Arabic is spoken in the southwestern parts of the country.

The main ethnic groups are Persians (51%), Azeris (24%), Gilaki and Mazandarani (8%), Kurds (7%), Arabs (3%), Baluchi (2%), Lurs (2%), Turkmens (2%), Laks, Qashqai, Armenians, Persian Jews, Georgians, Assyrians, Circassians, Tats, Mandaeans, Gypsies, Brahuis, Hazara, Kazakhs and others (1%).

Iran's population increased dramatically during the latter half of the 20th century, reaching about 72 million by 2008. In recent years, however, Iran's birth rate has dropped significantly. Studies show that Iran's rate of population growth will continue to slow until it stabilizes above 90 million by 2050. More than two-thirds of the population is under the age of 30, and the literacy rate is 82%. Women today compose more than half of the incoming classes for universities around the country and increasingly continue to play pivotal roles in society.

Iran hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world, with more than one million refugees, mostly from Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2006, Iranian officials have been working with the UNHCR and Afghan officials for their repatriation. According to estimates, between two and three million Iranian citizens have emigrated to other countries, mostly since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Religion in Iran is dominated by the Twelver Shi'a branch of Islam, which is the official state religion and to which about 89% of Iranians belong. About 9% of Iranians belong to the Sunni branch of Islam, mainly Kurds and Iran's Balochi Sunni. The remaining 2% are non-Muslim religious minorities, including Bahá'ís, Mandeans, Hindus, Yezidis, Yarsanis, Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians. The latter three minority religions are officially recognized and protected, and have reserved seats in the Majlis (Parliament). However the Bahá'í Faith, Iran's largest religious minority, is not officially recognized, and has been persecuted during its existence in Iran. Since the 1979 revolution the persecution of Bahá'ís has increased with executions, the denial of civil rights and liberties, and the denial of access to higher education and employment.

According to the Iranian Constitution, the government is required to provide every citizen of the country with access to social security that covers retirement, unemployment, old age, disability, accidents, calamities, health and medical treatment and care services. This is covered by public revenues and income derived from public contributions. The World Health Organization in the last report on health systems ranks Iran's performance on health level 58th, and its overall health system performance 93rd among the world's nations.

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, 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 to the broader Muslim world.

After Islamicization of Iran 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, including 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. 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. Nowrouz 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. Iran is also famous for its caviar. 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.

Article 15 of the Iranian constitution states that the "Official language (of Iran)... is Persian...... the use of regional and tribal languages in the press and mass media, as well as for teaching of their literature in schools, is allowed in addition to Persian." Persian serves as a lingua franca in Iran and most publications and broadcastings are in this language. Next to Persian there are many publications and broadcastings in other relatively large languages of Iran such as Azeri, Kurdish and even in relatively smaller ones such as Arabic and Armenian. Many languages have originated from Iran, but Persian is the most used language. Persian is a tongue belonging to the Aryan or Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages. The oldest records in Old Persian date back to the Achaemenid Empire and examples of Old Persian have been found in present-day Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. In the late 8th century, the Persian language was highly Arabized and written in a modified Arabic script. This caused a movement supporting the revival of Persian. An important event of this revival was the writing of the Shahname by Ferdowsi (Persian: Epic of Kings), Iran's national epic, which is said to have been written entirely in native Persian. This gave rise to a strong reassertion of Iranian national identity, and is in part credited for the continued existence of Persian as a separate language.

Greater Iran is home to one of the richest artistic traditions in world history and encompasses many disciplines, including architecture, painting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stone masonry. Carpet-weaving is one of the most distinguished manifestations of Persian culture and art, and dates back to ancient Persia. Persians were among the first to use mathematics, geometry, and astronomy in architecture and also have extraordinary skills in making massive domes which can be seen frequently in the structure of bazaars and mosques. The main building types of classical Iranian architecture are the mosque and the palace. Iran, besides being home to a large number of art houses and galleries, also holds one of the largest and valuable jewel collections in the world.

Iran ranks seventh among countries in the world with the most archeological architectural ruins and attractions from antiquity as recognized by UNESCO. Fifteen of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites are creations of Iranian architecture and the mausoleum of Maussollos was identified as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Ancient Iranians built Qanats and Yakhchal to provide and keep water. The first windmill appeared in Iran in the 9th century. Iranians contributed significantly to the current understanding of astronomy, natural science, medicine, mathematics, and philosophy. Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī is widely hailed as the father of algebra. The discovery ethanol (alcohol) was first achieved by Persian alchemists such as Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi. Throughout the Middle Ages, the natural philosophy and mathematics of the Ancient Greeks and Persians were furthered and preserved within Persia. The Academy of Gundishapur was a renowned centre of learning in the city of Gundeshapur during late antiquity and was the most important medical centre of the ancient world during the sixth and seventh centuries. During this period, Persia became a centre for the manufacture of scientific instruments, retaining its reputation for quality well into the 19th century.

Iran strives to revive the golden age of Persian science. The country has increased its publication output nearly tenfold from 1996 through 2004, and has been ranked first in terms of output growth rate followed by China. Despite the limitations in funds, facilities, and international collaborations, Iranian scientists remain highly productive in several experimental fields as pharmacology, pharmaceutical chemistry, organic chemistry, and polymer chemistry. Iranian scientists are also helping construct the Compact Muon Solenoid, a detector for CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

In the biomedical sciences, Iran's Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics is a UNESCO chair in biology. in late 2006, Iranian scientists successfully cloned a sheep by somatic cell nuclear transfer, at the Rouyan research centre in Tehran.

The Iranian nuclear program was launched in the 1950s. Iran's current facilities includes several research reactors, a uranium mine, an almost complete commercial nuclear reactor, and uranium processing facilities that include a uranium enrichment plant. The Iranian Space Agency launched its first reconnaissance satellite named Sina-1 in 2006, and a space rocket in 2007, which aimed at improving science and research for university students.

Iran placed its domestically-built satellite, Omid into the orbit on it's 30th anniversary of Iranian Revolution, on February 2, 2009, through Safir rocket, becoming the ninth country in the world capable of both producing a satellite and sending it into space from a domestically-made launcher.

Iranian scientists outside of Iran have also made some major contributions to science. In 1960, Ali Javan co-invented the first gas laser and fuzzy set theory was introduced by Lotfi Zadeh. Iranian cardiologist, Tofy Mussivand invented and developed the first artificial cardiac pump, the precursor of the artificial heart. Furthering research and treatment of diabetes, HbA1c was discovered by Samuel Rahbar. Iranian physics is especially strong in string theory, with many papers being published in Iran. Iranian-American string theorist Cumrun Vafa proposed the Vafa-Witten theorem together with Edward Witten.

With two thirds of Iran's population under the age of 25, sports constitutes a highly active portion of Iran's society, both traditional and modern. Iran hence was the birthplace of sports such as polo, and Varzesh-e Pahlavani. Freestyle wrestling has been traditionally referred to as Iran's national sport, but today, the most popular sport in Iran is football (soccer), with the national team having reached the World Cup finals three times, and having won the Asian Cup on three occasions. Iran was the first country in the Middle East to host the Asian Games. It is home to several unique skiing resorts, with the Tochal resort being the world's fifth-highest ski resort (3,730 m/12,238 ft at its highest station) situated only fifteen minutes away from Tehran. Being a mountainous country, Iran offers enthusiasts abundant challenges for hiking, rock climbing, and mountain climbing. Iranian women are also active in sports.

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Economy of Iran

Iran holds 10% of the world's proven oil reserves and 15% of its gas. It is OPEC's second largest exporter and the world's fourth oil producer.

The economy of Iran is dominated by oil and gas exports which constituted 70% of government revenue and 80% of export earnings as of 2008. It has a large public sector, with an estimated 60% of the economy directly controlled and centrally planned by the state. A unique feature of Iran's economy is the large size of the religious foundations, or Bonyads, whose combined budgets are said to make up as much as half that of the central government.

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.

High oil prices in recent years have enabled Iran to amass nearly US$ 80 billion in foreign exchange reserves. Yet this increased revenue has not eased economic hardships, which include double-digit unemployment and inflation; inflation climbed to 26% as of December 2008. The economy has seen only moderate growth. Iran's educated population, economic inefficiency, and insufficient foreign and domestic investment have prompted an increasing number of Iranians to seek employment overseas, resulting in significant "brain drain".

Pre-revolutionary Iran's economic development was rapid. Traditionally an agricultural society, by the 1970s, Iran had achieved significant industrialization and economic modernization. However, the pace of growth had slowed dramatically by 1978, just before the Islamic revolution.

Iran's long-term objectives since the 1979 revolution have been economic independence, full employment, and a comfortable standard of living for its citizens, but at the end of the 20th century the country's economic future was lined with obstacles. Iran's population more than doubled in a 20-year period, resulting in an increasingly young population. In a traditionally rural and agrarian country, agricultural production has fallen consistently since the 1960s. By the late 1990s, Iran was a major food importer, and economic hardship in the countryside had driven vast numbers of people to migrate to the largest cities.

The rates of literacy and life expectancy in Iran are high for the region, but so, too, is the unemployment rate, and inflation is regularly in the range of 20% annually. Iran remains highly dependent on its one major industry, the extraction of petroleum and natural gas for export, and the government faces increasing difficulty in providing opportunities for a younger, better-educated workforce. This has led to a growing sense of frustration among lower- and middle-class Iranians.

After the end of hostilities with Iraq in 1988, the government tried to develop the country's communication, transportation, manufacturing, health care, education and energy infrastructures (including its prospective nuclear power facilities) and has begun the process of integrating its communication and transportation systems with those of neighboring states. Iran's sustained economic loss because of the war is estimated at $500 billion.

The fourth Five-Year Economic Development Plan (2005-10) sets the guidelines and points the direction which the trade sector will be taking over the next five years. The focus for the government has been on expanding trade interaction with the global community and pursuing an active presence in international markets. To achieve this would require raising exports substantially. Another area of focus has been to develop free trade zones and turning them into gateways to international markets.

On the domestic front, the priority has been to improve social justice by regulating the domestic market and maintaining a supply of basic commodities. The latter would require improvements to the subsidy distribution system to relieve the government of the huge financial burden of subsidy payments. Another obligation the plan places on the government is to provide economic justification for the pricing of basic commodities and public services.

Iran is projected to produce 29 million tons of steel by the end of the Fourth Economic Development Plan (2005-2010) and 55 million tons by 2025. The five-year economic development plan also calls for the creation of a "national Internet", a target growth of 15% annually for the railroad network, introduction of foreign banks, a fourfold expansion of petrochemical output to 56 million tons per year, downsizing of the public workforce by 5%, the creation of 700,000 new jobs per year, the generation of 6,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity through nuclear technology by 2010 to meet its increasing demand for energy, and the establishment of 50-60 industrial parks by the end of the fifth Five-Year Socioeconomic Development Plan by 2015. Turning to "Vision 2025", the plan has set an investment target of $3.7 trillion within two decades of which $1.3 trillion should be in the form of foreign investment.

The Iranian Government declared its intention to privatize most state industries after the Iran–Iraq War in 1988, in an effort to stimulate the ailing economy. The sale of state-owned factories and companies proceeded slowly, however, mostly because of opposition by a nationalist majority in Majlis, the Iranian parliament. Most industries, comprising 70% of the economy in 2006, remained state-owned. The majority of heavy industry—including steel, petrochemicals, copper, automobiles, and machine tools—was in the public sector, while most light industry was privately owned.

According to Article 44 of the Constitution, the economy of Iran is to consist of three sectors: state, cooperative, and private, and is to be based on systematic and sound planning. The state sector is to include all large-scale industries, foreign trade, major minerals, banking, insurance, power generation, dams and large-scale irrigation networks, radio and television, post, telegraph and telephone services, aviation, shipping, roads, railroads and the like; all these will be publicly owned and administered by the State. The cooperative sector is to include cooperative companies (Bonyads) and enterprises concerned with production and distribution, in urban and rural areas, in accordance with Islamic criteria. 120,000 cooperatives are in operation across the country employing about 15 million people. The private sector consists of those activities concerned with construction, agriculture, animal husbandry, industry, trade, and services that supplement the economic activities of the state and cooperative sectors.

A strict interpretation of the above has never been enforced in the Islamic Republic and the private sector has been able to play a much larger role than is outlined in the Constitution. In recent years, the role of the private sector has been further on the increase. Furthermore, an amendment of the article in 2004 has allowed 80% of state assets to be privatized, 40% of which will be conducted through the "Justice Shares" scheme and the rest through the Bourse Organization. The government will keep the title of the remaining 20%.

In the early 21st century the service sector contributed the largest percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP), followed by industry (mining and manufacturing) and agriculture. In 2008, about 55% of the government's budget came from oil and natural gas revenues, and 31% came from taxes and fees. In 2007 the GDP was estimated at $206.7 billion ($852.6 billion at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)), or $3,160 per capita ($12,300 at PPP). The informal economy is also important. Because of these figures and the country’s diversified but small industrial base, the United Nations classifies Iran's economy as semideveloped (1998). According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Iran will need $70 to $75 a barrel for its crude to balance its budget in 2008-2009.

The following is the trend chart of the Iranian GDP at market prices estimated by the IMF. with figures in millions of Iranian rial For PPP comparisons, the US dollar is exchanged at 3,149.33 Iranian rials only.

Agriculture contributes just over 11% to the gross national product and employs a third of the labor force. The industrial sector—including mining, manufacturing, and construction—contributed 42% of the GDP and employed 31% of the labor force in 2004. Mineral products, notably petroleum, dominate Iran’s exports revenues (80%), but mining employs less than 1% of the country’s labor force. In 2004 the service sector ranked as the largest contributor to the GDP (48%) and employed 44% of workers. In 2005, Iranian women accounted for 33% of the workforce (out of 25 million people). In 2006, the average annual salary for Iranian nationals was $2,700. According to experts, annual economic growth above five per cent would be needed to keep pace with the 900,000 new labour force entrants each year. Migrant Iranian workers abroad remitted less than $2 billion home in 2006.

There is a minimum national wage applicable to each sector of activity fixed by the Supreme Labor Council. In 2005 the minimum wage, determined by the Supreme Labor Council, was about US$120 per month (US$1,440 per year). Membership in the social security system for all employees is compulsory.

Although Iranian workers have, in theory, a right to form labour unions, there is, in actuality, no union system in the country. Workers are represented ostensibly by the Workers' House, a state-sponsored institution that nevertheless attempts to challenge some state policies. Guild unions operate locally in most areas but are limited largely to issuing credentials and licenses. The right of workers to strike is generally not respected by the state, and since 1979 strikes have often been met by police action.

The comprehensive Labor Law covers all labor relations in Iran, including hiring of local and foreign staff. The Labor Law provides a very broad and inclusive definition of the individuals it covers, and written, oral, temporary and indefinite employment contracts are all recognized.

The Iranian Labor Law is very employee-friendly and makes it extremely difficult to layoff staff. Employing personnel on consecutive six-month contracts is illegal, as is dismissing staff without proof of a serious offence. Labor disputes are settled by a special labor council, which usually rules in favor of the employee.

Social protection covers the employees between the age of 18 and 65 years, and the financing is shared between the employee (7% of the wages), the employer (20-23%) and the State (which supplements the contribution of the employer up to a total value of 3%). Social protection is extended to the self-employed workers, who voluntarily contribute between 12% and 18% of their income depending on the protection sought. The social security makes it possible to ensure the employees against unemployment, the disease, old age (retirement pension), the occupational accidents. Iran did not legislate in favour of a universal social protection, but in 1996, the Center of the statistics of Iran estimates that more than 73% of the Iranian population is covered by social security.

Civil servants, the regular military, law enforcement agencies, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s second major military organization, have their own pension systems. In 2003 the minimum standard pension was 50% of the worker’s earnings but not less than the amount of the minimum wage. Iran spent 22.5% of its 2003 national budget on social welfare programs. More than 50% of that amount covered pensions.

Welfare programs for the needy are managed by more than 30 individual public agencies, and semi-state organizations called Bonyads, as well as by several private non-governmental organizations. In 2003, the government began to consolidate its welfare organizations in an effort to eliminate redundancy and inefficiency. Bonyads are a consortium of over 120 organizations which are tax-exempt, receive government subsidies and religious donations and answer directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran. They control over 20% of Iran's GDP and they are involved in everything from vast soybean and cotton fields to hotels to soft drinks to auto-manufacturing to shipping lines. Bonyads are overstaffed, corrupt, and generally not profitable. In 2007, Iran had 12 million people living below the poverty line. Six million of these people were not supported by any foundation or organization.

About 20% of the land in Iran is arable. The main food-producing areas are in the Caspian region and in the valleys of the northwest. Some northern and western areas support rain-fed agriculture, while other areas require irrigation for successful crop production.

The principal obstacles to agricultural production are primitive farming methods, overworked and underfertilized soil, poor seed, and scarcity of water. About one third of the cultivated land is irrigated; the construction of multipurpose dams and reservoirs along the rivers in the Zagros and Alborz mountains has increased the amount of water available for irrigation. Agricultural programs of modernization, mechanization, and crop and livestock improvement, and programs for the redistribution of land are increasing agricultural production.

Wheat, the most important crop, is grown mainly in the west and northwest; rice is the major crop in the Caspian region. Barley, corn, cotton, sugar beets, tea, hemp, tobacco, fruits (including citrus), potatoes, legumes (beans and lentils), vegetables, fodder plants (alfalfa and clover), spices (including cumin, sumac, and saffron (world's largest producer)), nuts (pistachios (world's largest producer), almonds, and walnuts), and dates are also grown, and livestock is raised. Livestock products include lamb, goat meat, beef, poultry, milk, eggs, butter, cheese, wool, and leather. Honey is collected from beehives, and silk is harvested from silkworm cocoons. The northern slopes of the Alborz mountains are heavily wooded, and forestry products are economically important; the cutting of trees is rigidly controlled by the government, which also has a reforestation program. The rivers that drain into the Caspian Sea are fished for salmon, salmon, carp, trout, pike and sturgeon.

Since 1979 commercial farming has replaced subsistence farming as the dominant mode of agricultural production. By 1997, the gross value of products in Iran's agricultural sector had reached $25 billion. Iran has attained 90% self-sufficiency in essential agricultural products; total rice production fails to meet domestic food requirements, however, making substantial imports necessary. In 2007 Iran reached self-sufficiency in wheat production, and for the first time became a net wheat exporter. By 2003, a quarter of Iran's non-oil exports were agricultural based. Major agricultural exports include fresh and dried fruits, nuts, animal hides, processed foods, and spices.

Iran has a long tradition of producing artisan goods, including Persian carpets, ceramics, copperware and brassware, glass, leather goods, textiles, and woodwork. Iran’s rich carpet-weaving tradition dates from pre-Islamic times, and it remains an important industry and contributes substantially to rural incomes. There is an estimated population of 1.2 million weavers in Iran producing carpets for domestic markets and international export. Iran exports more than $500 million worth of hand-woven carpets each year (2008). Textile mills, based on domestic cotton and wool, employed about 400,000 people in 2000 and are centred in Tehran, Esfahan and along the Caspian coast.

Large-scale manufacturing in factories began in the 1920s and developed gradually. During the Iran–Iraq War, Iraq bombed many of Iran’s petrochemical plants, and the large oil refinery at Abadan was badly damaged and forced to halt production. Reconstruction of the refinery began in 1988 and production resumed in 1993. However, the war also stimulated the growth of many small factories producing import-substitution goods and materials needed by the military.

The country’s major manufactured products are petrochemicals (w/a fertilizer plant in Shiraz), steel (w/mills in Esfahan and Khuzestan), and copper products. Other important manufactures include automobiles (with production crossing the 1 million mark in 2005), home and electric appliances (television sets, refrigerators, washing machines, and other consumer items), telecommunications equipment, cement, industrial machinery (Iran has the largest operational stock of industrial robots in West Asia), paper, rubber products, agricultural products and processed foods (including refined sugar and vegetable oil), leather products and pharmaceuticals. In 2006, 55 pharmaceutical companies in Iran produced more than 96% (quantitatively) of medicines on the market worth $1.2 billion annually.

As of 2001, there were 13 public and privately owned automakers within Iran, of which two - Iran Khodro and Saipa - accounted for 94% of the total domestic production. Iran Khodro, which produced the most prevalent car brand in the country - the Paykan, which has been replaced in 2005 by the Samand -, was still the largest with 61% of the market in 2001, while Saipa contributed 33% of Iran’s total production in the same year. The other car manufacturers, such as the Bahman Group, Kerman Motors, Kish Khodro, Raniran, Traktorsazi, Shahab Khodro, and others together produced only 6%. These automakers produce a wide range of automobiles including motorbikes, passenger cars, vans, mini trucks, medium sized trucks, heavy duty trucks, minibuses, large size buses and other heavy automobiles used in commercial and private activities in the country. Iran ranked the world's 16th biggest automaker in 2006 and has a fleet of 7 million cars, which translates to almost one car per ten persons in the country (including trucks and buses). Iran car exports are projected to reach $1 billion by March 2009.

Iran's 2005 defense budget was estimated to be $6.3 billion (3.3% of GDP) by London's International Institute for Strategic Studies or $91 per capita. Iran's defense industry has taken great strides in the past 25 years, and now manufactures many types of arms and equipment. Since 1992, Iran's Defense Industries Organization (DIO) has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, guided missiles, submarines, and a fighter plane. As of 2006, Iran had exported weapons to 57 countries, including NATO members, and sold $100 million worth of military equipment abroad.

The annual turnover in the construction industry amounted to $38.4 billion in 2005. Until the early 1950s the construction industry was limited largely to small domestic companies. Increased income from oil and gas and the availability of easy credit, however, triggered a subsequent building boom that attracted major international construction firms to Iran. This growth continued until the mid-1970s, when, because of a sharp rise in inflation, credit was tightened and the boom collapsed. The construction industry had revived somewhat by the mid-1980s, but housing shortages have remained a serious problem, especially in the large urban centres as well as the poor quality of many constructions, which need anti-seismic reinforcement and/or renovation. Iran has a large dam building industry. Today 70% of the Iranians own homes. Construction is one of the most important sectors in Iran accounting for 20–50% of the total private investment. One of the prime investment targets of well off Iranians as tangible.

Energy wastage in Iran amounts to six or seven billion dollars (2008). The energy consumption in the country is extraordinarily higher than international standards. Iran recycles 28% of its used oil and gas whereas the figure for certain countries stands at 60%. Iran paid $84 billion in subsidies for oil, gas and electricity in 2008.

Iran holds 10% of the world's proven oil reserves. Iran also has the world's second largest reserves of natural gas (15% of the world's total), mainly in South Pars; these are exploited primarily for domestic use. Since 1913 Iran has been a major oil exporting country. The chief oil fields are found in the central and southwestern parts of the Zagros mountains in western Iran. Oil also is found in northern Iran and in the offshore waters of the Persian Gulf. Domestic oil and gas, along with hydroelectric power facilities, provide the country with power. Iran built its first $1 billion nuclear power plant in Bushehr in March 2009, called Bushehr 1.

In the late 1970s, it ranked as the fourth largest oil producer (OPEC's second largest oil producer) and the second largest oil exporter in the world. Following the 1979 revolution, however, the government reduced daily oil production in accordance with an oil conservation policy. Further production declines occurred as result of damage to oil facilities during the imposed war with Iraq. Oil production began increasing in the late 1980s due to the repair of damaged pipelines and the exploitation of newly discovered offshore oil fields in the Persian Gulf.

Major refineries are located at Abadan (site of the country's first refinery, built 1913), Kermanshah, and Tehran but fail to meet domestic demand for gasoline. The oil refining industry of the country needs a $15 billion investment for its development over the next 5 years to become self-sufficient and end imports. Pipelines move oil from the fields to the refineries and to such exporting ports as Abadan, Bandar-e Mashur, and Kharg Island. In the late 1990s, Iran's state-owned oil and gas industry entered into major exploration and production agreements with foreign consortia, notably in Asalouyeh among other projects.

By 2004, Iran’s annual oil production was 1.4 billion barrels, creating a net profit of $50 billion. Iran manufactures 50-80% of its industrial equipments domestically, including refineries, oil tankers, oil rigs, offshore platforms and exploration instruments. In February 2008 the Iranian Oil Bourse was inaugurated in Kish Island to trade crude oil and petrochemical products. The transactions are made in Iranian rial and other major currencies (except for USD).

Iran’s mining industry is under-developed. Mineral production contributes only 0.6% to the country’s GDP. Add other mining-related industries and this figure increases to just 4%. Many factors have contributed to this, namely lack of suitable infrastructure, legal barriers, exploration difficulties, and government control over all resources.

Although the petroleum industry provides the majority of economic revenues, about 75% of all mining sector employees work in mines producing minerals other than oil and natural gas. These include coal, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, chromium, barite, salt, gypsum, molybdenum, strontium, silica, uranium, and gold (most as a coproduct of the Sar Cheshmeh copper complex operations). The mines at Sar Cheshmeh in Kerman Province contain the world's second largest lode of copper ore. Large iron ore deposits lie in central Iran, near Bafq, Yazd, and Kerman. The government owns 90% of all mines and related large industries in Iran and is seeking foreign investment for the development of the mining sector. In the steel and copper sectors alone, the government is seeking to raise around $1.1 billion in foreign financing.

Urbanization has contributed to significant growth in the service sector. Important service industries include public services (including education), commerce, personal services, professional services, and tourism. Iran's national science budget is about $900 million (2005) and it has not been subject to any significant increase since 15 years ago. Iran allocates around 0.4% of its GDP to R&D, which ranks it "far behind industrialized societies".

The constitution entitles Iranians to basic health care. In the early 2000s, about 65% of the population was covered by the voluntary national health insurance system. Although over 85% of the population use an insurance system to reimburse their drug expenses, the government heavily subsidises pharmaceutical production/importation in order to increase affordability of medicines and vaccines. The total market value of Iran’s health and medical sector was almost $240 billion in 2002 and was forecast to rise to $310 billion by 2007.

Despite efforts in the 1990s toward economic liberalization, government spending—including expenditures by quasi-governmental foundations (Bonyad) that dominate the economy—has been high. Estimates of service sector spending in Iran are regularly more than two-fifths of the GDP, and much of that is government-related spending, including military expenditures, government salaries, and social service disbursements.

The tourist industry declined dramatically during the war with Iraq in the 1980s but has subsequently revived. 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. The most popular tourist destinations are Esfahan, Mashhad, and Shiraz. In the early 2000s the industry still faced serious limitations in infrastructure, communications, regulatory norms, and personnel training. The majority of the 300,000 tourist visas granted in 2003 were obtained by Asian Muslims, who presumably intended to visit important pilgrimage sites in Mashhad and Qom. Several organized tours from Germany, France, and other European countries come to Iran annually to visit archaeological sites and monuments. Iran currently ranks 68th in tourism revenues worldwide. Iran with attractive natural and historical sites is rated among the 10 most touristic countries in the world. 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.

The government makes loans and credits available to industrial and agricultural projects, primarily through banks. Iran’s unit of currency is the rial. The official exchange rate averaged 8,614 rials to the U.S. dollar in 2004. However, rials are exchanged on the unofficial market at a higher rate. In 1979, the government nationalized all private banks and announced the establishment of a banking system whereby, in accordance with Islamic law, interest on loans was replaced with handling fees; the system went into effect in the mid-1980s.

The banking system consists of the central bank also known as Bank Markazi, which issues currency and oversees all state and private banks; several commercial banks that are headquartered in Tehran but have branches throughout the country; two development banks; and a housing bank that specializes in home mortgages. Accounts of the state-owned commercial banks are dominated by loans to state and Bonyad enterprises, large-scale private firms and four thousand wealthy/connected individuals who don't always repay their loans. The government began to privatize the banking sector in 2001, when it issued licenses to two new privately owned banks. Iranian reserves in foreign banks in mid-February 2008 reached over $81 billion.

The Tehran Stock Exchange trades the shares of more than 400 registered companies. The stock market capitalisation of listed companies in Iran was valued at $70 billion in 2008. According to experts, the economy of Iran has many investment opportunities, particularly on its stock exchange. Iran's electronic commerce will reach 10,000 billion rials ($1 billion) by March 2009.

The government runs the broadcast media, which includes five national radio stations and five national television networks, as well as dozens of local radio and television stations. In 2000 there were 252 radios and 158 television sets in use for every 1,000 residents. There were 219 telephone lines and 110 personal computers for every 1,000 residents. Computers for home use became more affordable in the mid-1990s, and since then demand for access to the Internet has increased rapidly, where Iran has now the world's fourth largest number of bloggers. In 1998 the Ministry of Post, Telegraph & Telephone (renamed Ministry of Information & Communication Technology) began selling Internet accounts to the general public. In 2006, the Iranian telecom industry's revenues were estimated at $1.2 billion.

According to the Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries (EJISDC), the information and communications technology (ICT) sector had a 1.1-1.3% share of GDP in 2002. About 150,000 people are employed in the ICT sector, including around 20,000 in the software industry. There were 1,200 registered information technology (IT) companies in 2002, 200 of which were involved in software development. Software exports stood around $50 million in 2008.

Iran has an extensive paved road system linking most of its towns and all of its cities. In 2007 the country had 178,152 kilometers (111,000 mi) of roads, of which 66% were paved. There were 55 passenger cars for every 1,000 inhabitants. Trains operated on 11,106 km (6,942 mi) of railroad track.

The country’s major port of entry is Bandar-Abbas on the Strait of Hormuz. After arriving in Iran, imported goods are distributed throughout the country by trucks and freight trains. The Tehran-Bandar-Abbas railroad, opened in 1995, connects Bandar-Abbas to the railroad system of Central Asia via Tehran and Mashhad. Other major ports include Bandar Anzali and Bandar e-Torkeman on the Caspian Sea and Korramshahr and Bandar Imam Khomeini on the Persian Gulf. Dozens of cities have airports that serve passenger and cargo planes. Iran Air, the national airline, was founded in 1962 and operates domestic and international flights. All large cities have mass transit systems using buses, and several private companies provide bus service between cities. Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz, Tabriz, Ahvaz and Esfahan are in the process of constructing underground mass transit rail lines. More than one million people work in the transportation sector, accounting for 9% of GDP (2008).

Petroleum constitutes the bulk of Iran's exports (80%), valued at $46.9 billion in 2006. Iran's non-oil exports stood at $16.3 billion in the year ending March 20, 2007, a rise of 47.2% from the previous period. Pistachios, liquefied propane, methanol (methyl alcohol,) hand-woven carpets and automobiles are the core items of Iran's non-oil exports. Iran' s export of technical and engineering services in 2007-08 was $2.7 billion; 40% of the export of technical services pertains to Central Asia and the Caucasus. About 30%, equivalent to $350 million, to Iraq, and close to 20% ($205 million) to Africa and North Africa. The total volume of imports to Iran rose by 189% from $13.7 billion in 2000 to an estimated $39.7 billion in 2005.

Iran's major commercial partners are China, India, Germany, South Korea, Japan, France, Russia and Italy. Iran's trade with India crossed US$13 billion in 2007, an 80% increase in trade volume within a year. From 1950 until 1978, the United States was Iran's foremost economic and military partner; thus participating greatly in the modernization of its infrastructure and industry. After the Iranian Revolution in 1979 though, the United States ended its economic and diplomatic ties, banned Iranian oil imports and froze $12 billion of its assets. In 1996, the U.S. Government passed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) which prohibits U.S. (and non-U.S. companies) from investing and trading with Iran for more than $20 million annually, with the exception, since 2000, for items like pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, caviar and Persian rugs.

Since the mid 90's, Iran has increased its economic cooperation with other developing countries in "south-south integration" including Syria, India, China, South Africa, Cuba and Venezuela. Iran is expanding its trade ties with Turkey and Pakistan and shares with its partners the common objective for the creation of a single economic market in West and Central Asia called ECO.

Since 2003, Iran has increasingly invested in the economy and reconstruction of its neighboring countries like in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Dubai, UAE, it is estimated that Iranian expatriates are handling over 20% of its domestic economy with an equal proportion of its population. Money is invested in the local real estate market and import-export businesses, collectively known as the Bazaar, and geared towards providing Iran and other countries with the demanded consumer goods. In 2006, the combined net worth of the Iranian citizens abroad was about 1.3 trillion dollars.

Since 2006, Iran's Nuclear Program has become the subject of contention with the West because of suspicions regarding Iran's military intentions. This has led the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Iran on select companies linked to this program, thus furthering its economic isolation on the international scene.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, some indirect oilfield development agreements were made with foreign firms. Buyback contracts in the oil sector, for instance, were arranged in which the contractor funded all the investments, and then received remuneration from the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) in the form of an allocated production share, then transferred operation of the field to NIOC after a set number of years, at which time the contract was completed.

Foreign investment has been hindered by unfavorable or complex operating requirements and by international sanctions, although in the early 2000s the Iranian government liberalized investment regulations. Iran absorbed $24.3 billion of foreign investment from Iranian calendar year 1993 to 2007. Foreign transactions with Iran amounted to $150 billion worth of major contracts between 2000 and 2007, including private and government lines of credit. In 2007, Iran had $62 billion worth of assets abroad.

Firms from over 50 countries have invested in Iran, with Asia and Europe receiving the largest share. Asian firms have invested over $11.6 billion in 190 Iranian projects, with those from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) leading the way, followed by Singapore, Indonesia and Oman. Over 20 European countries, particularly Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, made investments worth over $10.9 billion in 253 projects. The UK, Turkey, Italy and France also have had a great share in Iranian investments. Companies from Canada, Panama, the USA and Jamaica are also involved in seven economic projects in Iran, valued over $1.4 billion. Investors from Mauritius, Liberia and South Africa have invested a combined total of $8 billion in Iran. In addition, Australia has invested $682 million in an Iranian project.

Foreign investors have concentrated their activity in a few sectors of the economy: energy, vehicle manufacture, copper mining, construction, utilities, petrochemicals, clothing, food and beverages, telecom, and pharmaceuticals.

Iran has an observer status at the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 2005. The United States has consistently blocked Iran's bid to join the WTO since Tehran first asked for membership several years ago.

Yet, if Iran does eventually gain membership status in the WTO, among other prerequisites, copyright laws will have to be obeyed in Iran. This would require a major overhaul of business and trade operations in Iran, a change which many experts believe would be a price too heavy for Iran's economy to pay at the present time. Still, Iran is hoping to attract billions of dollars worth of foreign investment while creating a more favorable investment climate, such as reduced restrictions and duties on imports and the creation of free trade zones like in Qeshm, Chabahar and Kish Island.

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Source : Wikipedia