60 Interesting Facts about Iran

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published November 2, 2016
  • In Persian, the word Iran means “Land of the Aryans.”[14]
  • In 2012, Iran’s police chief announced that Google is a tool for spying. Additionally, the Iranian government wants to form a “national Internet” that would be under state control.[11]
  • In Iran, couples that want a marriage license are required to take an hour-long lecture on contraception.[3]
  • Iran first participated in the Olympics in 1948 and has sent athletes to every Summer Olympic Games since then, except for 1980 and 1984. Iran has also participated in the winter Olympics multiple times since 1956.[6]
  • Approximately 14.2% of Iranians are obese, making it the 41st most obese country in the world. American Samoa is the largest, with 75% of its population obese. The United States is 6th in the world, with 33.9% of the population obese.[10]
  • The official name of Iran is the Islamic Republic of Iran. It became an Islamic republic in 1979 when the monarchy was overthrown and religious clerics assumed political power under supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini.[13]
  • Tehran, the capital of Iran, suffers severe pollution
  • Iran’s capital and largest city, Tehran, has some of the worst air pollution in the world. An estimated 27 people die a day from air pollution-related diseases.[12]
  • The current Iranian flag was adopted in 1980 and has three equal horizontal bands of green, white, and red. Green is the color of Islam and represents growth, white symbolizes honesty and peace, and red stands for bravery and martyrdom. Centered in the middle white band is the stylized representation of the word “Allah” and the phrase La ilaha illa Allah (“None is worthy of worship but Allah”) in the shape of a tulip. Along the inner edges of the green and red bands are 22 copies of the phrase Allahu Akbar (“God is great”).[12]
  • In 1953, the CIA was involved in a covert operation code named Operation Ajax to overthrow the democratically elected Iranian government of Prime Minister Masaddegh. In return, the Shah rewarded the United States with a 40% stake in Iran’s oil industry. When the Iranians learned of the United State’s role, they would distrust the United States for years to come.[5]
  • In 1979, a group of Islamist students and militants overtook the American Embassy in Tehran. In support of the Iranian revolution, they demanded that the United States hand over Shah Pahlavi, who was dying of cancer and receiving medical treatment in the U.S. After 444 days, just minutes after President Ronald Reagan was sworn into office, the hostages were released.[5]
  • During the Iran-Iraq War, the United States officially supported Iraq and put pressure on other countries to stop selling weapons to Iran. However, the U.S. itself was later found to have been quietly selling weapons to the country. The resulting scandal was Iran-gate, or the Iran-Contra scandal.[5]
  • Nearly half of Iran has an arid desert climate. It receives less than 4 inches of precipitation each year.[4]
  • Iran has the fourth largest oil reserves in the world
  • The Persian Gulf holds 60% of the world’s oil reserves. Iran alone has reserves of 125 billion barrels of oil, or 10% of the world’s total reserves. Iran pumps nearly 4 million barrels of oil each day.[4]
  • Only one river in Iran, the Karun, may be navigated by boat, and then only for short distances.[4]
  • Iran controls 50% of the Caspian Sea caviar market. The eggs of the Caspian beluga sturgeon can fetch up to $160 per ounce. The beluga sturgeon was swimming in lakes at the time of the dinosaurs—but the sturgeon, which can live to be 100 years old, are rapidly disappearing. Environmentalists argue that a full ban on caviar would help the ancient creature.[7]
  • Iran is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations, with settlements dating back to 4000 B.C.[7]
  • Approximately 70% of Iran’s population is under the age of 30.[10]
  • After the Shah of Iran was ousted in 1979, Iran reverted from a legal system to Islamic law. Women under this law are not considered mentally or legally the equal of males. Additionally, children are perceived as the “substance of the male” and merely incubated by the female body. In the case of divorce, women lose all custody of children.[3]
  • In Iran, men who do not marry stay with their natal family their entire life and are described as na-mard (not-men).[3]
  • An Iranian organization offered a reward of $3 million to anyone who killed Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses. The book hinted that some of the verses of the Koran might not be real revelations from God and that the devil disguised himself to give Mohammed false ideas.[5]
  • Since ancient times, people in Iran have used a water supply system called a qanat (or kanat). It collects underground water and moves it through tunnels to places where people need it.[6]
  • The Iranians were pioneer carpet weavers of the ancient world
  • Iranians have woven beautiful rugs for over 2,500 years. When creating rugs, Iranian weavers often make a mistake intentionally. They want to show their belief that “only God is perfect.” After oil, Iran’s second largest export commodity is carpets.[13]
  • The capital of Iran is Tehran, which means, “warm slope.” Nearly 12 million people live there.[14]
  • If a girl in Iran is sexually abused or harassed, blame typically falls on the girl’s mother, for not protecting her daughter, much more than on the offender.[3]
  • If a woman is raped in Iran, the police have the power to force a man to marry his victim, with or without her assent, though he can divorce her immediately after. In Iran, a divorced woman is more marriageable than an unmarried girl with a ruptured hymen.[3]
  • In Iran, there is no legal category for marital rape because a woman is her husband’s property. If there are signs of abuse, male members of her family may threaten her husband, but it is not the duty of the police.[3]
  • In Iran, females over the age of nine must wear a hijab in public. Additionally, religious rules do not allow women to wear bathing suits when men are present.[14]
  • Influential Iranian-Americans include Dara Khosrowshahi, President and CEO, Expedia, Inc; Omid Kordestani, Former Senior Vice President of Google; Isaac Larian, manufacturer of Bratz dolls; David Merage, manufacturer of Hot Pockets; Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay; Christiane Amanpour, news anchor; and Matt Ghaffari, Olympic silver-medal winning wrestler.[5]
  • The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) banned the hijab in 2007, which prevented the Iranian women’s soccer team from playing in a 2012 Olympics qualifier game.[9]
  • Persian culture is famous for beautiful poetry, luxurious rugs, and lush gardens. In fact, the English word “paradise” comes from a Persian word meaning “enclosed garden.”[14]
  • Gardens permeate Iranian culture and history
  • The U.S. Department of State cites Iran along with the Democratic Republic of Congo, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia as hubs of human trafficking. The Iranian government has shown little effort in curbing sexual trafficking. Often it is the girls rather than the traffickers who are tortured and executed for violating Iran’s standards of behavior.[2]
  • Iran has experienced one of the highest urban growth rates in the world, jumping from 27% to 60% between 1950 and 2002. By 2030, 80% of the population will be urban.[10]
  • In recent years, child prostitution has risen 635% in Iran. In Tehran alone, an estimated 84,000 women and girls are in prostitution. Thousands are trafficked as far away as France, Germany, and the UK.[15]
  • Sigheh, or short-term marriages, are permitted under Shari’a law in certain Shia schools. They can last one hour to several years depending on the contract. Many times they are used to satiate male pilgrims who visit holy shrines away from their families.[3]
  • Iran is one of the primary trans-shipment routes for Southwest Asian heroin to Europe. Over 3,600 Iranians have been killed in the past 25 years fighting heroin smugglers.[10]
  • Legend states that the Three Wise Men were Persian (Iranian)
  • The Medes were of Aryan origin and the first people to unify Iran by the 6th century B.C. One of the tribes, the Magi, were powerful Zoroastrian priests. The most famous Magi are the Three Wise Men of the Christian Nativity story who brought gifts to the newborn Christ. The 13th century Italian explorer Marco Polo claimed to have visited the graves of the Three Wise Men in what is now Iran’s capital Tehran.[7]
  • While homosexual relationships are banned in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini decreed that transsexuals are allowed to have sex change operations in Iran. Since 2008, Iran has conducted more sex change operations than any other country in the world, second only to Thailand. The government even provides financial assistance.[1]
  • Iran is one of the world’s largest producers of caviar, pistachios, and saffron.[4]
  • Famous biblical figures purported to be buried in Iran include Esther, Daniel, Cyrus the Great, Darius the Great, and St. Thaddaeus.[13]
  • Iran has one of the only condom factories in the Middle East.[3]
  • Iran has over one million foreign refugees, more than any other country on earth. Most of the refugees are from Afghanistan or are Iraqi Kurds. Consequently, Iran has acquired a large workforce willing to do manual labor for the lowest wages.[5]
  • Iran has one of the highest opiate addiction rates in the world.[13]
  • Because traditional Iranian marriages are very expensive, the government will pay for mass weddings to reduce cost and encourage young Iranians to get married.[3]
  • In 2007, Iran produced the world’s largest handmade carpet for a mosque in the United Arab Emirates. It was the size of a soccer field.[12]
  • In 2007, Iran produced the world’s largest handmade carpet for a mosque in the United Arab Emirates. It was the size of a soccer field.[12]
  • Polo was played in Iran as early as the 6th century B.C., mainly as training for the cavalry.[7]
  • Iran has the highest rate of nose jobs per capita in the world
  • Iran has been dubbed “the nose job capital of the world,” as the Western nose has become the desired nose shape of young Iranian women.[8]
  • Iran is the 18th largest country in the world, with a total of 1,648,195 sq km. It is slightly smaller than Alaska.[10]
  • In 2002, Iran admitted that for the previous 18 years, it had worked undercover on a nuclear energy program with help from Russia. President Ahmadinejad says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful and that Iran has an “inalienable right” to produce nuclear fuel.[5]
  • Poetry holds a special place in Iranian culture. All Iranians can recite lines from famous Persian poems, such as the most famous poem in Iran called Shahnameh or The Epic of Kings.[14]
  • The Shah-En-Shah monument was erected in 1971 to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. The name has since been changed to the Azadi Monument, which means “freedom” in the Farsi language.[12]
  • Women in Iran follow a strict dress code called the hijab. The punishment for not following the hijab is a lashing, although it is not always enforced consistently.[5]
  • Polygamy is legal in Iran, and men can marry up to four wives. Once married, a girl can no longer go to high school. The marriage age of girls is currently 13, up from 9 years old after the Revolution. Boys may marry at 15, the legal age Iranians can vote.[3]
  • The most popular sport in Iran is soccer. The national team has won the Asian Cup three times and played in three World Cup Final competitions.[7]
  • Persians make up the most of Iran (61%), followed by Azeri (16%), Kurd (10%), Lur (6%), Baloch (2%), Arab (2%), Turkmen and Turkic tribes (2%), and other (1%).[10]
  • Islam is the dominant religion in Iran at 98%: Shia 89% and Sunni 9%. Other religions, such as Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and the Baha’i faith make up the remaining 2%.[10]
  • The Persian cat is also known as the Iranian cat
  • The Persian cat is one of the world’s oldest breeds. They originated in the high plateaus of Iran where their long silky fur protected them from the cold. Italian traders brought the breed to Europe in the 17th century, where they became an exotic status symbol.[13]
  • The Iranian population in 2012 was 78,868,711, making it the 18th most populated country in the world.[10]
  • A December 2003 earthquake struck the southeastern city of Bam, Iran, killing more than 30,000 people.[10]
  • In Iran, yogurt is referred to as “Persian Milk,” and many Iranians consider yogurt a miracle food. It is used to treat ulcers, relieve sunburn, and even prolong life. Some people use yogurt as a face mask.[12]
  • Timeline[5][7][12]
    2000 B.C.Central Asians migrate to Iran
    530-330 B.C.Cyrus the Great founds the Persian Empire
    330 B.C.Alexander the Great conquers Persia
    323 B.C.Alexander dies; one of his generals forms the Seleucid Dynasty
    250 B.C.Parthian invaders establish the Parthian (or Arsacid) Empire
    A.D. 224The Sassanids found the Second Persian Empire
    A.D. 637Arabs conquer Persia; Islam becomes the state religion
    1051-1220Reign of the Seljuks
    1258Mongol invaders establish the Il-Khanid Dynasty
    1335The Mongol dynasty collapses; a succession of minor dynasties follows
    1501-1722The Safavids rule the Third Persian Empire
    1796-1925Reign of the Qajars
    1926Reza Khan founds the Pahlavi Dynasty
    1935Persia is named Iran
    1941British and Soviet forces invade; Reza Khan abdicates in favor of his son
    1979The Islamic Revolution; Ayatollah Khomeini comes to power
    1980Iran becomes an Islamic republic
    1980-1988Iran-Iraq War
    1989Ayatollah Khomeini dies
    1997Muhammad Khatami is elected
    2002U.S. President George W. Bush labels Iran part of an “axis of evil”
    2005Text
References

1 Barford, Vanessa. “Iran’s ‘Diagnosed Transsexuals.’” BBC. February 25, 2008. Accessed: March 27, 2012.

2 Doughterty, Jill. “State Department Report Ranks Countries on Human Trafficking.” CNN. July 27, 2011. Accessed: March 27, 2012.

3 Drew, Paula E.. “Iran.” The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. Volume I-IV. Ed. Robert T. Francoeur. 1997-2001. New York, NY: The Continuum Publishing Company. Accessed: March 27, 2012.

4 Fast, April. Iran: The Land (Lands, Peoples, & Cultures). New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2005.

5 Graham, Amy. Iran in the News: Past, Present, and Future. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishing, Inc, 2006.

6 Gray, Leon. Countries of the World: Iran. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2008.

7 Greenblatt, Miriam. Iran (Enchantment of the World, Second Series). New York, NY: Children’s Press, 2003.

8 Holgin, Jaime. “Iran: Nose Capital of the World.” CBS Evening News. February 11, 2009. Accessed: March 27, 2012.

9Iran’s Soccer Team Thwarted by Hijab Ban.” CBS News. June 7, 2011. Accessed: March 27, 2012.

10Iran.” The World Factbook. CIA. March 26, 2012. Accessed: March 27, 2012.

11 McGee, Matt. “Iran: Google Is a Spying Machine.” Search Engine Land. January 10, 2012. Accessed: March 27, 2012.

12 Pohl, Kathleen. Looking at Iran (Looking at Countries). Pleasantville, NY: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2008.

13 Rajendra, Vijeya, Gisela Kaplan, and Rudi Rajendra. Iran (Cultures of the World). New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2004.

14 Richter, Joanne. Iran: The Culture. New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2005.

15 Schubert, Zach. “Iran’s Dark Secret: Child Prostitution and Sex Slaves.” Huffington Post. August 19, 2009. Accessed: March 27, 2012.

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