About Iran

Photo by Ali Majdfar, Valasht Lake
photo by Ali Majdfar of Valasht Lake, IRAN

The Islamic Republic of Iran covers an area of over 1.6 million sq. km. (the seventeenth largest country in terms of geography). It is located in southwest Asia, in the Middle East.

click for larger, more detailed map
maps obtained from the Perry-Castaneda Map Collection at the University of Texas

Population
According to the 2006 Population and Housing Census*, Iran has a population of 70,495,782. The population density is 43 persons per square km, and the annual average population growth rate stands at 1.6 percent. Of the whole population, 50.9 percent are male and 49.1 percent are female.

Iran is a highly urbanized country, with 70.9 percent of its 17,501,771 families living in urban areas. Nearly 8 percent of Iranian cities have more than 100,000 inhabitants. The most populated cities in Iran are, respectively, Tehran (7,088,287), Meshed (2,427,316), Shiraz (1,227,331), Isfahan (1,602,110) and Tabriz (1,398,060).

Twenty-nine percent of Iran’s families live in rural areas. More than 21,000 Iranian families were designated as unsettled households in Iran’s 2006 Census.

The total number of births in 2006 amounted to 1,253,506 of which 51.3 percent were boys and 48.7 percent were girls. Sixty-seven percent of births were to families resident in urban areas. The total deaths in this year were 408,563, from which 56 percent were male and 44 percent were female. Sixty-three percent of the decedents were urban residents.

The number of marriages that took place in 2006 was 778,023, a 1.2 percent decrease compared to the previous year. The registered divorces in the same period were as high as 94,040, which constituted an 11.6 percent increase compared to the year before.

Photo by Ali Majdfar, Kelar Dasht
photo by Ali Majdfar of Kelar Dasht, IRAN

Employment
In the same year the population aged 10 and over reached 59,523,000, of which 40.6 percent were economically active (some of which includes child labor). It has been reported that of the recent said figure 20,476,000 thousand were employed and 2,999,000 unemployed or seeking for work.

Of the 35,538,000 non-economically active population, 13,117 thousand were students, 16,057,000 were housewives, 2,974,000 income recipients, and 3,389,000 others. In 2006, the unemployment rate for males age 10 and older was 10 percent, and for females age 10 and older it was 15 percent. In urban and rural areas, the unemployment rate has respectively been 13.4 percent and 7.1 percent. In the same year, the unemployment rate of the economically active population aged 15-24 reached 23.3 percent.

Culture
As a single example of recent Iranian culture and history, the film Baadeh Sabah (Lover’s Wind), by Lamorisse (1970) portrays a combination of nature, history, archaeology, poetry and fiction. It is also a documentary of many rural and tribal cultures and lifestyles that have more or less vanished by now.
Persian version: http://www.ubu.com/film/lamorisse_vent-farsi.html
English version: http://www.ubu.com/film/lamorisse_vent.html

Summary and implications for social change
Iran is a country of paradoxes. While the majority of citizens in the Islamic Republic of Iran enjoy an average quality of life, some 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line (2003 UN Common Country Assessment). Among issues plaguing the IRI are a high unemployment rate and an unequal distribution of wealth or income, especially in rural areas. In Iran’s rural areas, it can generally be stated that the population struggles with lower household incomes, lower literacy rates, and higher rates of unemployment as compared to urban centers.

Political and social change has never seemed so attainable as at the present moment. One in three people in Iran is between the ages of 15 and 29 according to the 2006 Iranian census. As well, half of Iran’s 70 million citizens is under the age of 30. To these young Iranians, the 1979 Islamic revolution is part of Iran’s history but not necessarily a source of pride or impetus for social and political discourse. Instead, one can be hopeful that change, politically and socially, is part of the consciousness of the Iranian youth. That is, if Iran’s young citizens remain in the country: it is estimated that 40 billion dollars a year is lost due to the youth of Iran leaving their homeland in search of better jobs and greater opportunities to succeed both economically and politically.

The furor that erupted in the wake of the 2009 presidential election has put the spotlight on Iran’s youth. Seeing the election as fraudulent, the many Iranian college students continue to protest in favor of political and social freedom. This is despite the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s current regime has cracked down on all freedoms of expression. The viability of Iran’s current regime would seem to be dependent on the degree to which it is equipped to deal with the social and economic demands of its youth. Current regime actions and policies indicate that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is in serious misalignment with its most important demographic.

* Unless otherwise noted, all population data on this page are drawn from the summary of findings of the 2006 Population and Housing Census, conducted by the Statistical Centre of Iran.

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