Situated in the Middle East with the Caspian Sea to its north and the Persian Gulf to the south, Iran shares borders with Azeraijan, Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Officially the country’s name was changed from Persia to Islamic Republic of Iran in 1935.
Due to its geographical location, Iran has been at the crossroads of migration. While a majority of the population of Iran is made up of ethnic Persians, roughly a quarter of the people are Azerbaijanis. Most of the migrant groups in the highlands and mountains are Khurds, Qashqai, Lurs, and Bakhtiari. Towards the northern part of the country Turkic and Tartar influences are easily seen. A large portion of the population is rural living in agrarian villages with a scattering of nomadic people.
Islam is the official religion of Iran, with more than 90% of the population belonging to the Shiite sect. The remaining Kurds and Arabs belong to Sunni sect. There are also some Zoroastrians found in the towns of Yazd, Kerman and a few others. There are also small minorities of Protestants, Roman Catholics and Jews.
The backbone of Iran’s economy is the oil industry. It accounts for roughly 80% of the country’s export revenues. Textile industry of Iran takes second place in terms of importance with the cities of Tehran and Esfahan being the chief centres. Other industries include food processing, sugar refining and petrochemical production. Handicrafts like carpet weaving and manufacture of silk, jewellery and ceramics also play a vital role in the country’s economy.
Agriculture in Iran contributes a little over 20% to gross national product and accounts for one third of the nation’s labour force. A little more than ten per-cent of the land is arable with the Caspian region and the valleys to the northwest being the main food producing regions. Wheat and rice are the main crops with cotton, corn, barley, sugar beets, fruits, nuts and dates also being grown. Illegitimate opium poppy cultivation is also fairly common. The major problems in agriculture include outdated farming methods in addition to overworked and under-fertilized soil.
Government: Islamic republic, Parliamentary system, Theocracy
Official language: Persian Language
Total Area: 636,293 sq mi (1,648,000 sq km)
Monetary unit: Rial
Dialling code: +98