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Map of Iran
Introduction Iran
Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces subsequently crushed westernizing liberal elements. Militant Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held it until 20 January 1981. During 1980-88, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq over disputed territory. Key current issues affecting the country include the pace of accepting outside modernizing influences and reconciliation between clerical control of the regime and popular government participation and widespread demands for reform.
Geography Iran
Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan
Geographic coordinates:
32 00 N, 53 00 E
Map references:
Middle East
total: 1.648 million sq km
land: 1.636 million sq km
water: 12,000 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than Alaska
Land boundaries:
total: 5,440 km
border countries: Afghanistan 936 km, Armenia 35 km, Azerbaijan-proper 432 km, Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave 179 km, Iraq 1,458 km, Pakistan 909 km, Turkey 499 km, Turkmenistan 992 km
2,440 km; note - Iran also borders the Caspian Sea (740 km)
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: natural prolongation
exclusive economic zone: bilateral agreements or median lines in the Persian Gulf
mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast
rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
highest point: Kuh-e Damavand 5,671 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur
Land use:
arable land: 10.17%
permanent crops: 1.16%
other: 88.67% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
75,620 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes along western border and in the northeast
Environment - current issues:
air pollution, especially in urban areas, from vehicle emissions, refinery operations, and industrial effluents; deforestation; overgrazing; desertification; oil pollution in the Persian Gulf; wetland losses from drought; soil degradation (salination); inadequate supplies of potable water; water pollution from raw sewage and industrial waste; urbanization
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, which are vital maritime pathways for crude oil transport
People Iran
66,622,704 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 31.6% (male 10,753,218; female 10,273,015)
15-64 years: 63.7% (male 21,383,542; female 21,096,307)
65 years and over: 4.7% (male 1,633,016; female 1,483,606) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.77% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
17.54 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
5.39 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
-4.46 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.1 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
28.07 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 70.25 years
female: 71.69 years (2002 est.)
male: 68.87 years
Total fertility rate:
2.01 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.01% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
noun: Iranian(s)
adjective: Iranian
Ethnic groups:
Persian 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%
Shi'a Muslim 89%, Sunni Muslim 10%, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i 1%
Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Turkic and Turkic dialects 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, other 2%
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 72.1%
male: 78.4%
female: 65.8% (1994 est.)
Government Iran
Country name:
conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Iran
conventional short form: Iran
local short form: Iran
local long form: Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran
former: Persia
Government type:
theocratic republic
Administrative divisions:
28 provinces (ostanha, singular - ostan); Ardabil, Azarbayjan-e Gharbi, Azarbayjan-e Sharqi, Bushehr, Chahar Mahall va Bakhtiari, Esfahan, Fars, Gilan, Golestan, Hamadan, Hormozgan, Ilam, Kerman, Kermanshah, Khorasan, Khuzestan, Kohkiluyeh va Buyer Ahmad, Kordestan, Lorestan, Markazi, Mazandaran, Qazvin, Qom, Semnan, Sistan va Baluchestan, Tehran, Yazd, Zanjan
1 April 1979 (Islamic Republic of Iran proclaimed)
National holiday:
Republic Day, 1 April (1979)
2-3 December 1979; revised 1989 to expand powers of the presidency and eliminate the prime ministership
Legal system:
the Constitution codifies Islamic principles of government
15 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-KHAMENEI (since 4 June 1989)
elections: leader of the Islamic Revolution appointed for life by the Assembly of Experts; president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 8 June 2001 (next to be held NA 2005)
election results: (Ali) Mohammad KHATAMI-Ardakani reelected president; percent of vote - (Ali) Mohammad KHATAMI-Ardakani 77%
cabinet: Council of Ministers selected by the president with legislative approval
head of government: President (Ali) Mohammad KHATAMI-Ardakani (since 3 August 1997); First Vice President Dr. Mohammad Reza AREF-YAZDI (since 26 August 2001)
Legislative branch:
unicameral Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majles-e-Shura-ye-Eslami (290 seats, note - changed from 270 seats with the 18 February 2000 election; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 18 February-NA April 2000 (next to be held NA 2004)
election results: percent of vote - NA%; seats by party - reformers 170, conservatives 45, and independents 10, 65 seats up for runoff; note - election on 5 May 2000 (reformers 52, conservatives 10, independents 3)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court
Political parties and leaders:
the following organizations appeared to have achieved considerable success at elections to the sixth Majlis in early 2000: Assembly of the Followers of the Imam's Line, Freethinkers' Front, Islamic Iran Participation Front, Moderation and Development Party, Servants of Construction Party, Society of Self-sacrificing Devotees
Political pressure groups and leaders:
active student groups include the pro-reform "Organization for Strengthening Unity" and "the Union of Islamic Student Societies'; groups that generally support the Islamic Republic include Ansar-e Hizballah, Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution, Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam, and the Islamic Coalition Association; opposition groups include the Liberation Movement of Iran and the Nation of Iran party; armed political groups that have been almost completely repressed by the government include Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK), People's Fedayeen, Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan; the Society for the Defense of Freedom
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
none; note - Iran has an Interests Section in the Pakistani Embassy; address: Iranian Interests Section, Pakistani Embassy, 2209 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007; telephone: [1] (202) 965-4990
Diplomatic representation from the US:
none; note - protecting power in Iran is Switzerland
Flag description:
three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red; the national emblem (a stylized representation of the word Allah in the shape of a tulip, a symbol of martyrdom) in red is centered in the white band; ALLAH AKBAR (God is Great) in white Arabic script is repeated 11 times along the bottom edge of the green band and 11 times along the top edge of the red band
Economy Iran
Economy - overview:
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. President KHATAMI has continued to follow the market reform plans of former President RAFSANJANI and has indicated that he will pursue diversification of Iran's oil-reliant economy although he has made little progress toward that goal. The strong oil market in 1996 helped ease financial pressures on Iran and allowed for Tehran's timely debt service payments. Iran's financial situation tightened in 1997 and deteriorated further in 1998 because of lower oil prices. Subsequent rises in oil prices have afforded Iran fiscal breathing room but do not solve Iran's structural economic problems, including the encouragement of foreign investment and the containment of inflation.
purchasing power parity - $456 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
5% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $7,000 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 19%
industry: 26%
services: 55% (2002 est.)
Population below poverty line:
53% (1996 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
17.3% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
18 million
note: shortage of skilled labor (1998)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 30%, industry 25%, services 45% (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate:
14% (1999 est.)
revenues: $24 billion
expenditures: $22 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2001 est.)
petroleum, petrochemicals, textiles, cement and other construction materials, food processing (particularly sugar refining and vegetable oil production), metal fabricating, armaments
Industrial production growth rate:
5.5% excluding oil (2001 est.)
Electricity - production:
120.33 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 94%
hydro: 6%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
111.907 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, rice, other grains, sugar beets, fruits, nuts, cotton; dairy products, wool; caviar
$24 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities:
petroleum 85%, carpets, fruits and nuts, iron and steel, chemicals
Exports - partners:
Japan 20.5%, Italy 7%, UAE 5.9%, France 4.7%, China 4.1% (1999)
$19.6 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Imports - commodities:
industrial raw materials and intermediate goods, capital goods, foodstuffs and other consumer goods, technical services, military supplies
Imports - partners:
Germany 11%, Italy 8.3%, China 6.1%, Japan 5.3%, UAE 5% (1999)
Debt - external:
$8.2 billion (2002 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$129 million (1995) (2000 est.)
Iranian rial (IRR)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
from 1997 to 2001, Iran had a multi-exchange-rate system; one of these rates, the official floating exchange rate, by which most essential goods were imported, averaged 1,750 rials per US dollar; in March 2002, the multi-exchange-rate system was converged into one rate at about 7,900 rials per US dollar
Fiscal year:
21 March - 20 March
Communications Iran
Telephones - main lines in use:
6.313 million (1997)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
265,000 (August 1998)
Telephone system:
general assessment: inadequate but currently being modernized and expanded with the goal of not only improving the efficiency and increasing the volume of the urban service but also bringing telephone service to several thousand villages, not presently connected
domestic: as a result of heavy investing in the telephone system since 1994, the number of long-distance channels in the microwave radio relay trunk has grown substantially; many villages have been brought into the net; the number of main lines in the urban systems has approximately doubled; and thousands of mobile cellular subscribers are being served; moreover, the technical level of the system has been raised by the installation of thousands of digital switches
international: HF radio and microwave radio relay to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Syria, Kuwait, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; submarine fiber-optic cable to UAE with access to Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG); Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic line runs from Azerbaijan through the northern portion of Iran to Turkmenistan with expansion to Georgia and Azerbaijan; satellite earth stations - 9 Intelsat and 4 Inmarsat; Internet service available but limited to electronic mail to promote Iranian culture
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 72, FM 5, shortwave 5 (1998)
17 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
28 (plus 450 low-power repeaters) (1997)
4.61 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
8 (2000)
Internet users:
420,000 (2002)
Transportation Iran
total: 6,130 km
broad gauge: 94 km 1.676-m gauge
standard gauge: 6,036 km 1.435-m gauge (187 km electrified)
note: broad-gauge track is employed at the borders with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan which have broad-gauge rail systems; 41 km of the standard-gauge, electrified track is in suburban service at Tehran (2001)
total: 140,200 km
paved: 49,440 km (including 470 km of expressways)
unpaved: 90,760 km (1998 est.)
904 km
note: the Shatt al Arab is usually navigable by maritime traffic for about 130 km; channel has been dredged to 3 m and is in use
crude oil 5,900 km; petroleum products 3,900 km; natural gas 4,550 km
Ports and harbors:
Abadan (largely destroyed in fighting during 1980-88 war), Ahvaz, Bandar 'Abbas, Bandar-e Anzali, Bushehr, Bandar-e Emam Khomeyni, Bandar-e Lengeh, Bandar-e Mahshahr, Bandar-e Torkaman, Chabahar (Bandar Beheshti), Jazireh-ye Khark, Jazireh-ye Lavan, Jazireh-ye Sirri, Khorramshahr (limited operation since November 1992), Now Shahr
Merchant marine:
total: 147 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 4,136,971 GRT/7,166,703 DWT
ships by type: bulk 48, cargo 36, chemical tanker 4, container 10, liquefied gas 1, multi-functional large-load carrier 6, petroleum tanker 30, refrigerated cargo 2, roll on/roll off 9, short-sea passenger 1 (2002 est.)
322 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 122
over 3,047 m: 39
2,438 to 3,047 m: 25
914 to 1,523 m: 27
under 914 m: 4 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 27
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 187
under 914 m: 39 (2002)
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 138
1,524 to 2,437 m: 9
13 (2002)
Military Iran
Military branches:
Islamic Republic of Iran regular forces (includes Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force and Air Defense Command), Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) (includes Ground Forces, Air Force, Navy, Qods [special operations], and Basij [Popular Mobilization Army] forces), Law Enforcement Forces
Military manpower - military age:
21 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 18,868,571 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 11,192,731 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 823,041 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$9.7 billion (FY00)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
3.1% (FY00)
Transnational Issues Iran
Disputes - international:
despite restored diplomatic relations in 1990, Iran lacks maritime boundary with Iraq and disputes land boundary, navigation channels, and other issues from eight-year war; UAE seeks United Arab League and other international support against Iran's occupation of Greater Tunb Island (called Tunb al Kubra in Arabic by UAE and Jazireh-ye Tonb-e Bozorg in Persian by Iran) and Lesser Tunb Island (called Tunb as Sughra in Arabic by UAE and Jazireh-ye Tonb-e Kuchek in Persian by Iran) and attempts to occupy completely a jointly administered island in the Persian Gulf (called Abu Musa in Arabic by UAE and Jazireh-ye Abu Musa in Persian by Iran); Iran insists on division of Caspian Sea into five equal sectors while Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan have generally agreed upon equidistant seabed boundaries; Iran threatens to conduct oil exploration in Azerbaijani-claimed waters, while interdicting Azerbaijani activities
Illicit drugs:
despite substantial interdiction efforts, Iran remains a key transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin to Europe; domestic narcotics consumption remains a persistent problem and Iranian press reports estimate at least 1.8 million drug users in the country

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003