World Country Iran

About the world country Iran, its location, size, population, and who is in power.



Location: In southwestern Asia, between the U.S.S.R. and the Persian Gulf (Indian Ocean). Size: 636,293 sq. mi. (1,648,000 sq. km.).

Population: 40,469,000 (50% Persian, 30% Turkic, 10% Kurdish, 3% Arab and other Semitic).

Who Really Rules: The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a charismatic Shiite religious leader, is the acknowledged leader of the Iranian revolution that overthrew Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in 1979. His word--at least his interpretation of the Koran--is essentially law, but he does not take part in routine government functions. Political power is split between two Islamic revolutionary factions. In the minority are those with relatively moderate, quasi-socialistic tendencies. On the other side, the Islamic Republican party holds a majority in the Iranian parliament--the Majlis--which was also elected in 1980. The Islamic Republicans are led by nationalist, right-wing fundamentalist clergy.

Leftist political groups that fought to bring down the shah are still active, with bases in factories, universities, and even the peasantry. Many of the workers' councils and peasants' councils established during the revolutionary period are still intact, despite opposition from the Islamic leadership.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Farsi-speaking (ethnic Persian) Iranians make up only half the population. Kurds, who number as many as 14 million--in Iraq, Syria, the U.S.S.R., and Turkey as well as in Iran--are generally Sunni Muslims. Active in the rebellion against the shah, armed Kurdish groups have been fighting the Iranian central government for regional autonomy in their northwestern region.

Turkomans, tribespeople in the northeast, have also been fighting for autonomy. There are about a third of a million Turkomans in Iran, and a million more of this Sunni group in the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. Baluchis in southeastern Iran number 2 million, but there are a million more in neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Baluchis are also Sunni, and they have rebelled against central control in all three countries where they reside. Other, less populous tribal groups are equally militant.

Some of the ethnic autonomy movements consider autonomy as only part of a second phase of the Iranian revolution, in which Khomeini's theocracy would be replaced. However, links between the various ethnic groups are weak.

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