known officially as the Islamic Republic of Iran since the revolution of 1979,
is the modern name, since 1935, of the country formerly known to Europeans as
in ancient times by the Greeks and Jews, and later called
Parthia in ancient times by the Romans,
following the conquest of Alexander the Great. Iran is the name given to the
country by its inhabitants, The name was officially adopted in 1935 by
Reza Shah of the
Iran lies to the east
of Iraq, beyond the Persian Gulf and the Shat al Arab waterway,
and has over 70 million inhabitants in an area of about 1.65 million square
kilometers, To the east, Iran borders on Afghanistan and Pakistan. To the
north lie the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan and Azerbeijan. The capital of Iran
is Tehran. Principle cities include Teheran, the capital, Mashhad and Qom. The Farsi majority are not
Arabs and adhere to the
sect of the
religion, rather than the majority
belief. Unlike most countries of the
Middle East, Iran was never part of the
and has a continuous national tradition dating back to ancient times. The
majority of the inhabitants are Farsi and speak Farsi, a non-semitic
Indo-Aryan language written with the
alphabet and with a strong admixture of words derived from
The principle ethnic minorities of Iran include
and Jews. Minority religious beliefs include Assyrian Christians, the Bahai
Zoroastrianism. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution of the
Ayatollah Khomeini, life has been unpleasant for non-Muslim minorities.
In particular, Bahai
shrines were desecrated and Bahai
schoolteachers were executed.
Iran is an "Islamic Republic." It is
nominally a democracy, but is in fact a police state ruled by a few
religious leaders, and in particular by the head of the Supreme Council, the
Ayatollah Rafsanjani. The current president of Iran is
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, He was reelected amid widespread charges of election
fraud, which were brutally suppressed.
See larger Map of Iran
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
History of modern Iran Map of
Khomeini, Ayatollah Ruholla
Encyclopedia of the Middle East
Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being
constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of
existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org. Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary
is at our Middle East Glossary.
Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is
often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or
Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew.
There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for
Pronunciation - Arabic and
Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a"
in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat." The " 'A " is guttural. " 'H "-
the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah')
designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching
the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant
The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural
sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is
not like the English "r."
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