Country Profile of Iran


Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979, when the monarchy was overthrown and clerics took over political power under Ayatollah Khomeini.

The revolution ended the rule of the Shah, who had alienated powerful religious, political and popular forces through a programme of modernisation and Westernisation, coupled with severe repression of dissenters.

Iran was one of the largest empires of antiquity and has long maintained its own cultural identity, speaking its own language and adhering to the Shiite interpretation of Islam.

Superior Leader: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iranian leader Ali KhameneiIranian leader Ali Khamenei

(Getty Images)

The Supreme Leader – the highest authority in the country – appoints the heads of the judiciary, the military and the media. He also confirms the election of the president.

Ali Khamenei was appointed for life as successor to Ayatollah Khomeini in June 1989. He previously served two consecutive terms as president in the 1980s.

Incoming President: Masoud Pezeshkian

Masoud PezeshkianMasoud Pezeshkian

(Getty Images)

Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian was elected president of Iran in July 2024, defeating his conservative rival Saeed Jalili.

He received 53.3% of the more than 30 million votes, while Jalili received 44.3% of the votes in the second round.

The second round took place after no candidate had won a majority in the first round of the election. Turnout was historically low at 40%.

The elections were called after Iran’s previous president Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash in May, which killed seven others.

Dr. Pezeshkian, a heart surgeon and member of Iran’s parliament, has criticized Iran’s notorious morality police and caused a stir when he promised “unity and cohesion” and an end to Iran’s “isolation” from the world.

He also called for “constructive negotiations” with Western powers over an extension of the failed 2015 nuclear deal, in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for easing Western sanctions.

The president is the highest elected official and second in rank to the supreme leader. He is responsible for the day-to-day running of the government and has significant influence over domestic policy and foreign affairs.

However, its powers are relatively limited – especially in the area of ​​security. The President’s Ministry of the Interior heads the national police force. However, its commander is appointed by the Supreme Leader and is directly responsible to him.

The same goes for the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij.

The powers of the president can also be checked by parliament. Parliament can then introduce new laws.

The Guardian Council, which includes the Supreme Leader’s closest allies, is in turn tasked with approving new laws and can also veto them.

Newspaper kiosk in IranNewspaper kiosk in Iran

(Getty Images)

All broadcasts from Iranian soil are controlled by the state and reflect official ideology. A wider range of opinions can be found online and in the printed press.

Iran is one of the most repressive countries in the world for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Ancient ruins of Persepolis, IranAncient ruins of Persepolis, Iran

Iran has a rich historical heritage that can be seen in places like Persepolis (Getty Images)

Some important dates from Iran’s recent history:

1794 – Mohammad Khan Qajar seizes power and founds the Qajar dynasty.

1921 – Military commander Reza Khan seizes power and is later crowned Reza Shah Pahlavi.

1941 – Britain and Russia occupied Iran during World War II.

1953 – A coup organized by British and American intelligence services leads to the overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.

1979 – Iranian revolution ousts the Shah.

1980-1988 – War between Iran and Iraq.

1989 – Ayatollah Khomeini, the supreme leader and founder of the Islamic Republic, dies and is replaced by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

1997 – Reformist Mohammad Khatami is elected president by an overwhelming majority.

2004 – The US says Iran’s nuclear program is a growing threat and calls for international sanctions.

2005 – Hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is elected president.

2009 – Ahmadinejad is re-elected in a disputed election that sparks months of mass protests known as the “Green Movement”.

2013 – Moderate Hassan Rouhani is elected president.

2015 – Iran and major world powers reach agreement on its controversial nuclear activities. Tehran agrees to reduce its nuclear program in exchange for partial lifting of sanctions.

2018 – The US withdraws from the 2015 international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and imposes sanctions on Tehran.

2020 – Qasem Soleimani, head of the IRGC’s external wing, the Quds Force, and probably the most powerful figure in Iran after Ayatollah Khamenei, is assassinated by the US in Iraq.

2021 – Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi is elected president.

2022 – Massive nationwide protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody.

2024 – President Raisi dies in a helicopter crash, after which reformist Masoud Pezeshkian is elected president.

Leader of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah KhomeiniLeader of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini

The leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, returned from exile in 1979 (Getty Images)

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