Iran, also known as Persia, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia, the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and Azerbaijan; with Kazakhstan and Russia across the Caspian Sea; to the northeast by Turkmenistan; to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second-largest nation in the Middle East and the 18th-largest in the world; with 78.4 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 17th most populous nation. It is the only country that has both a Caspian Sea and Indian Ocean coastline. Iran has long been of geostrategic importance because of its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz.
The Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1906 established the nation's first parliament, which operated within a constitutional monarchy. Following a coup d'état by the U.K. and the U.S. in 1953, Iran gradually became autocratic. Growing dissent against foreign influence and political repression culminated in the Iranian Revolution, which led to the end of the Imperial State of Iran and the establishment of an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979. Tehran is the capital and largest city, serving as the cultural, commercial, and industrial center of the nation.
Quotes by Iranians
- In America, there’s a reverence for soldiers. One is constantly reminded of their courage, their sacrifice. Soldiers have an implied halo of selflessness, they move with a dignified bearing. Flight attendants upgrade uniformed soldiers to first class, restaurants offer veteran discounts, strangers shake their hands and say: “Thank you for your service.”
In Iran every able-bodied male between the ages of 18-35 who isn’t rich or crafty enough to get out of it serves in the army at some point. It’s treated not as a noble calling, but as an annoyance.
- Anonymous, How I learned to stop worrying and love the Iranian army, The Guardian (23 July, 2015)
- Iran is home to a diverse range of wildlife, from bears and gazelles to Caspian seals and rare snakes. But the country's wildlife is under severe strain. Urban development and hunting have all but destroyed some of the rare species that once roamed Iran. As many as 120 Iranian breeds are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. Most famous of these are the Iranian cheetah, of which only 50 still survive, and the Persian leopard, now numbering about 5,000.
- Siavash Ardalan, "The big business of trophy hunting in Iran", BBC Persian (11 August, 2015)
- The reason most of my countrymen would tell you that they carry a grudge against the United States is that the U.S. government has given its unconditional support to a monarch who has terrorized a whole nation, plundered its wealth and bought billions of dollars' worth of military equipment which neither he nor our nation knows how to use.
- Reza Baraheni (1977) The Crowned Cannibals: Writings on Repression in Iran, p. 10
- Where are your valiant warriors and your priests? Where are your hunting parties and your feasts? Where is that warlike mien, and where are those? Great armies that destroyed our country's foes? . . . Count Iran as a ruin, as the lair of lions and leopards! Look now and despair!
- Kaiumers first sat upon the throne of Persia, and was master of the world.
- Iran's civilization and culture has become imbued and infused with humanitarianism, respect for the life, belief and faith of others, propagation of tolerance and compromise and avoidance of violence, bloodshed and war. The luminaries of Iranian literature, in particular our Gnostic literature, from Hafiz, Mowlavi [better known in the West as Rumi] and Attar to Saadi, Sanaei, Naser Khosrow and Nezami, are emissaries of this humanitarian culture.
- There are approximately 100,000 clerics in Iran and over 60,000 of them are in Qom. Most of them are theology students who have been studying there for many years, between 10-25 years on average.... Every student has to study a minimum of 25 years before he can attain the status of ‘ayatollah’, however most students spend 10 years studying in the hawza.
- As an Iranian Jew raised in Tehran, educated in the United States, and a frequent visitor to Israel, the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran has pulled me in different directions. Like many Iranians, I am thankful that – at least for now – my country of birth will be spared a military attack. As a naturalised American, I am keen to avoid another costly entanglement in the abyss that is called the Middle East. But as a Jew? This is where my loyalties seem questionable to the large Iranian-American Jewish community, which avidly supports the state of Israel. As a Jew I am expected to condemn any accommodation with a regime that denies the holocaust and routinely calls for the destructıon of the Jewish state. As a Jew I am steadfast in my defence of the country that is resolute in its defence of the Jewish cause. As a Jew I tread with caution. As an Iranian I march with hope. I understand and appreciate this dichotomy. Being a Jew was never easy in a Muslim country. Like Esther and Mordechai and the feast of Purim, our story has had biblical dimensions of miracles and misfortunes. Iranian Jews were emancipated by Cyrus the Great and alternatively integrated or persecuted by successive Persian dynasties that spanned 2500 years.But they mostly persevered, adopted the language and the customs, and made indelible contributions to one of the most beautiful cultures in the world. The large Iranian-American Jewish community in the United States, whose population is estimated to be close to 120,000, still speak, read, and write Farsi, celebrate Persian holidays, and reminisce about the “good old days before the revolution”. But even as they yearn for a free Iran, they do not see themselves as part of its future. Iran is no longer Persian, they say. It has become a strange hybrid Arab country that threatens the existence of Israel. In that vein, any threat, real or perceived, prompts an emotional response in my community on a par with receiving catastrophic news. In fact, any news short of a complete change to liberal democracy is considered unacceptable. But western-style democracy has eluded Iran for centuries, and the reality is that the nuclear train has already left the station. The best the world can do is to put mechanisms in place that may alter the behaviour of the regime, in the hope of gradual normalisation of relations between Iran and the west. Is it guaranteed? Absolutely not. Is it worth a try? Yes.
- Nazee Moinian, "I am a Jewish Iranian-American in favour of the nuclear deal", The Guardian (12 August, 2015)
- Foreign travellers in Iran, not only recently but in previous generations, have observed that some of our citizens habitually lie … In our culture, steeped in history as we are, some liars actually try to explain and justify their behaviour by referring back to past national catastrophes. For example, they will tell you, when Mongol hordes overran the country, lying was the price to pay for personal survival ; and that gave us the habit of mendacity. Whatever its merits as an historical explanation, this point of view certainly offers a pitifully weak justification for today's liars.
- Muhammad Reza Pahlavi (1961) Mission for my Country, London, pp. 246-247.
- I found that many Americans did not even know that a country named Iran existed, let alone what it was like. Even among the diplomatic corps and among well-educated people, there was a vagueness about who the Iranians were or what the culture was, a tendency to confuse Iran with Iraq or to mistakenly assume that Iran is an Arab country simply because it is an Islamic nation. This fuzziness about the world outside is unique to America; among the intelligensia of European countries, for example, there is generally a higher level of awareness and information regarding cultures other than their own.
- Ashraf Pahlavi (1980), Faces in a Mirror, Prentice Hall, p. 100.
- Iran is the land of lofty mystics and a treasure of spirituality.
- Majd Nasseri, as quoted in "Iran Helping Turkey Organize Rumi Confab", Iran Daily (17 March 2007)
- I come from the noble land of Iran, representing a great and renowned nation, famous for its age old civilization as well as its distinguished contribution to the founding and expansion of the Islamic civilization; a nation that has survived the strong winds of despotism, reactionism and submission, relying on its cultural and human wealth; a nation which pioneered in the East the establishment of civil society and constitutional government in the course of its contemporary history, even though as a result of foreign interference and domestic deficiencies, at times it may have faltered in its course; a nation which has been at the forefront of the struggle for independence and against colonialism, though its national movement was subverted by a foreign- orchestrated coup. And, a nation which carries the torch of its popular revolution, not won by force of arms or a coup, but by dethroning of the regime of coup d'etat through the power of "word" and "enlightenment". In the course of its new experience, our nation has endured eight years of an imposed war, pressure, sanctions and various allegations. It has also fallen victim to terrorism, this ominous and sinister phenomenon of the twentieth century.
- Whereas now Iranian cinema shows the Iranian people to the world. The US has tried very hard to make an entire people out to be terrorists. The Iranian cinema tries to say that the Iranian people are very warm and poetic people.
- Mohsen Makhmalbaf, as quoted in "Gabbeh and A Moment of Innocence: two films directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf", WSWS (23 September 2006).
- The relationship between Iran and the United States is a complicated and difficult question. There is a chronic wound, which is difficult to heal. However, it is not impossible provided there is goodwill and mutual respect between the two countries.
- What normal country has three former presidents, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Muhammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who can’t obtain passports to travel abroad? And dozens of former high officials in jail, plus an ex-prime minister, Mir-Hussein Mussavi, and a former speaker of parliament, Mehdi Karrubi, under house arrest without charge?
- Amir Taheri, "Have the Mullah's Abandoned their Dreams of Empire?", Elaph.com, (November 16, 2014)
- For some 12 centuries poetry has been the Iranian people’s principal medium of expression. Iran may be the only country where not a single home is found without at least one book of poems. Initially, Persian poets had a hard time to define their place in society. The newly converted Islamic rulers suspected the poets of trying to revive the Zoroastrian faith to undermine the new religion. Clerics saw poets as people who wished to keep the Persian language alive and thus sabotage the ascent of Arabic as the new lingua franca. Without the early Persian poets, Iranians might have ended up like so many other nations in the Middle East who lost their native languages and became Arabic speakers. Early on, Persian poets developed a strategy to check the ardor of the rulers and the mullahs. They started every qasida with praise to God and Prophet followed by panegyric for the ruler of the day. Once those “obligations” were out of the way they would move on to the real themes of the poems they wished to compose. Everyone knew that there was some trick involved but everyone accepted the result because it was good. Despite that modus vivendi some poets did end up in prison or in exile while many others spent their lives in hardship if not poverty. However, poets were never put to the sword. The Khomeinist regime is the first in Iran’s history to have executed so many poets. Implicitly or explicitly, some rulers made it clear what the poet couldn’t write. But none ever dreamt of telling the poet what he should write.
- As a nation-state, Iran has no problems with anybody. As a vehicle for the Khomeinist ideology it has problems with everybody, starting with the Iranian people. The Khomeinist regime makes no secret of its intense hatred for Iranian culture, which it claims has roots in “the age of ignorance” (jahiliyyah). To admire this regime because of Iranian culture is like admiring Hitler for Goethe and Beethoven and praising Stalin for Pushkin and Tchaikovsky. This regime has executed tens of thousands of Iranians, driven almost 6 million into exile, and deprived the nation of its basic freedoms. It has also killed more Americans, often through surrogates, than al Qaeda did on 9/11. Not a single day has passed without this regime holding some American hostages. Iran as a nation is a solid friend of America. Iran as a vehicle for the Khomeinist revolution is an eternal enemy of “The Great Satan.” The only realistic strategy for the United States would be to help it stop being the Islamic Republic and become Iran again. President Obama’s policy, however, points in the opposite direction. He has made it harder for the Iranian people to regain their human rights.
- All of us are Iranian and wherever and in whatever post we are should try to elevate status of our dear country.
- Majid Samii, as quoted in "Iranian professor says his medal belongs to whole Iranians" IRNA (29 September 2007)
Quotes by non-Iranians
- Where will it [Iran] drop it [the future nuclear bomb], this bomb? On Israel? It would not have gone off 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed to the ground.
- I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran [if it attacks Israel]. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them. That's a terrible thing to say but those people who run Iran need to understand that because that perhaps will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish and tragic.
- Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, and Somalia are the only countries in the world that still execute people in public.
- Jeanine Di Giovanni, "When It Comes To Beheadings, ISIS Has Nothing Over Saudi Arabia" (24 October 2014), Newsweek.
- The American people have the greatest respect and admiration for the Iranian people. Your Kings from Cyrus and Darius are known among those famous monarchs who have advanced the cause of humanity. Your scientists have contributed to the foundations on which we have built our industrial society. Your philosophers and poets have enriched the culture of the west.
- Over 100,000 Jews lived in Iran prior to the 1979 revolution... Many left right afterward, and the population has slowly declined ever since. Jewish leaders estimate there are between 12,000 and 30,000 Jews here today, making Iran's the second-largest Jewish population in the Middle East after Israel. But those who have chosen to stay in Iran have a long history of opposition to hawkish Israeli governments. Many consider themselves Jews but not Zionists. The Islamic Republic of Iran allows freedom of worship for Jews and Christians... [Unlike] some other countries in the region and in Europe, Jewish temples in Iran have not been attacked... But institutional restrictions on Jews remain... They are not able to get certain government jobs reserved for Muslims and are banned from serving as professional soldiers, although they face conscription like other Iranians.
- Reese Erlich, "Iran's Jewish community gets behind nuclear deal with U.S.", USA Today (7 August, 2015)
- The White House has yet to fully address why an Iranian government, when it receives the estimated $150 billion windfall from unfrozen assets that’s to follow sanctions relief plus the benefits of reopened trade, will not significantly increase its terror-sponsorship in the short term.
- Nicholas M. Gallagher, "Iran Unbowed: State Dept: Iran Still a Leading Terror Sponsor", The American Interest, (23 June 2015)
- Everything I learned about Iranians, I learned working in the pool room. I met a lot of liars, and I know Iranians are liars.
- Lindsey Graham, as quoted in "Republican conference: Day two - Bush 'proud' of family" (22 May 2015), by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, United Kingdom: British Broadcasting Corporation.
- One of the signs of Iran's underdevelopment is the culture of rumor and paranoia that attributes all ills to the manipulation of various demons and satans. And, of course, the long and rich history of British imperial intervention in Persia does provide some support for the notion. But you have no idea how deep is the primitive belief that it is the Anglo-Saxons—more than the CIA, more even than the Jews—who are the puppet masters of everything that happens in Iran.
- To say that Iran doesn't practice terrorism is like saying Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees.
- Benjamin Netanyahu, as quoted in Israeli PM: Iran doesn’t practice terrorism like Jeter isn’t a shortstop, The New York Post, (29 September, 2014)
- Our differences are real, and the difficult history between our nations cannot be ignored. But it is possible to change. The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel—that’s a dead end. A different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.
- Only Iran, in fact, still holds out the promise of sustaining Obama's initial hopes for a fresh start with Muslims.
- Iran is not North Korea. It's far worse. Pyongyang's dictators never plotted terrorist attacks across five continents and in thirty cities, including Washington, D.C. Tehran's Ayatollahs did. North Korea is not actively undermining pro-western governments in its region or planting agents in South America. Iran is. And North Korea, unlike Iran, did not kill many hundreds of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
- Iran has a long history. People of the world can learn much from the portrayal of Iranian civilization by the Iranian arts over such a long period of time.
- Paul Sheldon Foote, as quoted in "Iranian culture in the Eyes of Americans" by Moj News Agency (2007).
- In Iran, the walls of homes are transparent and the halls of justice are opaque. This ‘morality’ campaign shows how fragile respect for privacy and personal dignity is in Iran today.
- Joe Stork, as quoted in "Iran: End Arrests on Immorality Charges", Human Rights News (17 May 2007)
- The Persians ruled for a thousand years and did not need us Arabs even for a day. We have been ruling them for one or two centuries and cannot do without them for an hour.
- A democratic Iran would be a natural ally of the United States while the Saudis, with their popularly backed medieval system, are natural enemies. At some point the U.S. will pivot, and the pivot will likely be permanent, but until the clerical regime in Tehran reforms itself out of all recognition or is overthrown from below, we're stuck with the awkward and ailing alliance we have. Let's try not to squander it further.
- With the way the world’s going a nuclear Iran is going to be the least of our problems in 10 or 15 years. Iranian nukes will be a break from swimming through our climate-change flooded cities fighting ebola zombies with our teeth because we can’t hold guns thanks to our iPhone-shaped hand tumors.
- John Stewart The Daily Show July 21st 2015