Iran is the 18th largest country of the world. It stretches from the Caspian Sea in north to the Persian Gulf in the south. Iran is one of the world’s major countries in oil export and it is rich in natural resources. It has land borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan in the north, Afghanistan and Pakistan on the east, and Iraq and Turkey in the west.
Elements of the history section are drieved from the Lonely Planet Guide 2012.
Iran has been home to organized urban settlements since atleast 4000 BC and even from those times the history of Iran has been intertwined with the history of the region as a whole. Initially the Elamites and Medes paid tribute to the greater Mesopotamian powers of Sumeria and Neo-Assyria. But for about 1100 years from 550 BC a succession of Iranian empires were the superpowers that dominated the region from Egypt, the Mediterranean and the borders of Europe in the west to the Indus River in the East. It began with the Achaemenids, was interrupted by Alexander the Great and the Seleucids, and continued with Parthian and Sassanid dynasties.
The arrival of the Arabs in AD 633 was a turning point in Iranian history, when the Zoroastrian religion was replaced by Islam. What followed was a pattern that would recur for hundreds of years: a strong ruler creates an empire, his death begins the slow fragmentation of control and another ruler sweeps the weakened state aside to begin his own empire. The players included the Arabs, several local and Turkish dynasties and the Mongols.
In 1502 the Safavid dynasty reestablished Iran as an independent state, adopted Shi’a Islam as the official religion and expanded the empire across much of the region. Their demise in 1722 led to another round of short-term dynasties before the Qajars, and later the Pahlavis, continued the royal rule until the 1979 revolution brought with it the Islamic Republic.
The Human Development Index – or HDI – is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development.
These are long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living.
Iran’s HDI value – for the year 2012 – is 0.742. This puts the country in the “high human development” category. (UNDP uses four HDR categories: very high, high, medium and low.)
Iran’s current position is 76 out of 187 countries. More than this, Iran has made considerable progress in human development when measured over the past 32 years.
According to UNDP calculations, between the years 1980 and 2012, Iran’s HDI value increased by 67 per cent – or at an average annual increase of about 1.6 per cent.
During the same period, for other countries in the High Human Development group (the group containing Iran), the average annual gain was only about half of what Iran managed – 0.73 per cent. For all countries on the planet, the average gain was even less – only 0.69 per cent.
This means that Iran’s annual growth in its HDI was over double the global average. Simultaneously, this would imply that – from a human development standpoint – during the period 1980-2012, Iran’s policy interventions were both significant and appropriate to produce improvements in human development.
The Report also says that Iran achieved the second highest reduction in HDI shortfall – among developing countries – during the 22 year period between 1990 and 2012. Only one country (the Republic of Korea) was able to do better.
What do these numbers actually mean for the average citizen?
The first component of the HDI is “a long and health life”. UNDP measures this in terms of life expectancy at birth. During the period from 1980, Iran increased this measure from 51 years to 73 years.
The second component is “access to knowledge”. The yardstick is expected years of schooling starting in 1980. Iran recorded an increase from 8.7 to 14.4 years – an impressive achievement.
The third component is “a decent standard of living”. Here again the increase has been considerable. Having attained the status of a Middle Income Country, Iran is now playing its own part in the “Rise of the South”.
Here are other relevant facts:
In Iran, for every 100,000 live births, only 21 women die from pregnancy-related causes. The group averagefor other “high HDI” countries is 47.
In Iran, the adolescent fertility rate is 25 births per 1000 live births. The group average is 50.
There are nonetheless persistent development challenges. Unemployment combined with inflation are persistent challenges. The 2013 HDR also points to areas to be addressed in terms of gender equity.
Nonetheless, for the period, 1980-2012, Iran’s policy interventions – and actions – have produced significant improvements in its human development index.
Despite such positive progress, Iran strives to meet a range of development challenges such as poverty, environmental degradation and disaster preparedness. Iran is very rich in natural resources and conservation of biodiversity and the wildlife remains one of the most important challenges in the time of climate change.