United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

U.N. Stats: Life Longer and Healthier In Iran

            A new U.N. report highlights Iran’s significant progress in providing citizens with a long and healthy life, access to education and a decent standard of living. Between 1980 and 2012, Iran’s life expectancy at birth increased by 22.1 years, mean years of schooling increased by 5.7 years, and expected years of schooling increased by 5.7 years. The gross national income per capita also increased by about 48 percent between 1980 and 2012.
           The U.N. Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of health, education and standard of living. Iran’s HDI is now 0.742 —in the high human development category—positioning the country at 76 out of 187 countries and territories. In 1980, just after the Islamic Revolution, Iran’s HDI was only 0.443. The following are excerpts from the 2013 U.N. Human Development Report.
Table A: Iran’s HDI trends based on consistent time series data, new component indicators and new methodology
Life expectancy at birth
Expected years of schooling
Mean years of schooling
GNI per capita (2005 PPP$)
HDI value
Figure 1 below shows the contribution of each component index to Iran (Islamic Republic of)’s HDI since 1980.
Long-term progress can be usefully assessed relative to other countries–both in terms of geographical location and HDI value. For instance, during the period between 1980 and 2012 Iran (Islamic Republic of), India and Pakistan experienced different degrees of progress toward increasing their HDIs (see figure 2). 
Figure 2: Trends in Iran (Islamic Republic of)’s HDI 1980-2012
Iran (Islamic Republic of)’s 2012 HDI of 0.742 is below the average of 0.758 for countries in the high human development group and above the average of 0.558 for countries in South Asia. From South Asia, countries which are close to Iran (Islamic Republic of) in 2012 HDI rank and population size are Bangladesh and Pakistan, which have HDIs ranked 146 and 146 respectively (see table B).
Click here for the full report and summary.
Click here for the explanatory note on Iran.


U.N. Stats: Iran’s Gender Gap

            A new U.N. report ranked Iran 107 out of 148 countries on the Gender Inequality Index (GII), which measures reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity of women. Iran’s maternal mortality ratio and adolescent fertility rate are relatively low compared to other countries close in level of development and population size, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan.
            But Iran does not score well in other areas of female empowerment. Bangladesh and Pakistan have lower GII rankings, yet women occupy about 20 percent of parliamentary seats in either country. Only 3.1 percent of seats in Iran’s parliament are held by women despite their high level of education. About 62 percent of Iranian women have reached a secondary or higher level of education compared to 69 percent of men. Female participation in Iran’s labor force, 16.4 percent, is also low. The following is an excerpt from the 2013 Human Development Report, with a link to the full text at the end.
            The Gender Inequality Index (GII) reflects gender-based inequalities in three dimensions – reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity. Reproductive health is measured by maternal mortality and adolescent fertility rates; empowerment is measured by the share of parliamentary seats held by each gender and attainment at secondary and higher education by each gender; and economic activity is measured by the labour market participation rate for each gender. The GII replaced the previous Gender-related Development Index and Gender Empowerment Index. The GII shows the loss in human development due to inequality between female and male achievements in the three GII dimensions. (For more details on GII please see Technical note 3 in the Statistics Annex).
            Iran (Islamic Republic of) has a GII value of 0.496, ranking it 107 out of 148 countries in the 2012 index. In Iran (Islamic Republic of), 3.1 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women, and 62.1 percent of adult women have reached a secondary or higher level of education compared to 69.1 percent of their male counterparts. For every 100,000 live births, 21 women die from pregnancy related causes; and the adolescent fertility rate is 25 births per 1000 live births. Female participation in the labour market is 16.4 percent compared to 72.5 for men.
            In comparison Bangladesh and Pakistan are ranked at 111 and 123 respectively on this index.
Table D: Iran (Islamic Republic of)’s GII for 2012 relative to selected countries and groups
GII value
GII Rank
Maternal mortality ratio
Adolescent fertility rate
Female seats in parliament (%)
Population with at least secondary education (%)
Labour force participation rate (%)
Iran (Islamic Republic of)
South Asia
High HDI
Click here for the full report and summary.

Click here for the explanatory note on Iran.



U.N. Stats: Iran's Slow Population Growth

            Iran’s low fertility rate has produced a rapidly aging population, according to a new U.N. report. The rate has declined from 2.2 births per woman in 2000 to 1.6 in 2012. This has pushed the median age of Iranians to 27.1 years in 2010, up from 20.8 years in 2000. The median age could reach 40 years by 2030, according to the U.N. Population Division. An elderly and dependent population may heavily tax Iran’s public health infrastructure and social security network.

In mid-2012, the Islamic Republic announced plans to cut back the family program that had brought down the fertility rate from 6.6 births in 1977 to about 2 births per woman in 2000. The supreme leader said it was “wrong” to continue the family planning program in later years, and he called on women to have more children. Iran's annual population growth rate is projected to be just one percent until 2015. The following table is an excerpt from the 2013 U.N. Human Development Report.


a Projections based on medium-fertility variant.
b The natural sex ratio at birth is commonly assumed and empirically confirmed to be 105
male births to 100 female births.
c Data are annual average of projected values for 2010–2015.
d Data are average annual estimates for 2000–2005.
Population: De facto population in a country, area or region as of 1 July.
Annual population growth rate: Average annual exponential growth rate for the period specified.
Urban population: De facto population living in areas classified as urban according to the criteria
used by each area or country as of 1 July.
Median age: Age that divides the population distribution into two equal parts—that is, 50% of the
population is above that age and 50% is below it.
Total dependency ratio: Ratio of the sum of the population ages 0–14 and ages 65 and older to the population ages 15–64.
Total fertility rate: Number of children that would be born to each woman if she were to live to the
end of her child-bearing years and bear children at each age in accordance with prevailing age-specific fertility rates.
Sex ratio at birth: Number of male births per female birth.
Click here for the full report and summary.
Click here for the explanatory note on Iran.


Latest on the Race: Appeals to Khatami to Run

Garrett Nada

            Iran’s political limelight is increasingly focused on whether former President Mohammad Khatami will run again. On March 16, 91 reformist leaders published an open letter calling on Khatami, who was president from 1997 to 2005, to run again in the June 14 election.
            The 91 signatories to the open letter — who include leading political activists and former ministers — blamed Iran’s growing economic woes on government mismanagement. It said:
      “Today, our nation has been entrusted with a precious legacy. Unfortunately, suffering, malice, rancor, and ill-posed problems are part of the official policy, which has put the country in a continually concerning situation for both sides [reformists and conservatives].”
      The letter said the June 14 election offers a chance for new leadership to bring “peace, well-being, progress and international credibility” to Iran. The signatories recalled Khatami’s moderate approach to politics and his unparalleled popularity. They also offered thanks to his administration. “We hope that today, for the sake of the people, he may… in this crucial moment, accept this responsibility [to run for president].” So far, Khatami has not indicated whether he will run.
A Reformist Playbook for the Next President
            In mid-March, 46 advisors, economists and political activists who were active during Khatami’s presidency released a comprehensive report titled “Fears and Hopes, Dos and Don’ts.” The study, which was presented to Khatami, attempts to provide solutions to Iran’s economic, social, political and cultural problems.
            The report says that Iran’s economic growth and development encountered new obstacles after 2005, although it did not mention the president by name. The report argues that a small number of individuals and banks now hold a disproportionately large amount of capital, which has exacerbated corruption. Many Iranians now face rising unemployment and high inflation, according to the study. Between 10 and 15 million are impoverished. The report warns that poverty is a major factor behind the rise in crime, corruption, violence, and drug addiction.
            The study group, in its appeal to Khatami, outlined 11 principles to help solve Iran’s problems:
            ·Uphold the law and the constitution
            ·Protect freedom based on the rule of law
            ·Maintaining the honor and dignity of human beings and society
            ·Safeguarding civil rights for all peoples regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation
            ·Uphold equality of people before the law
            ·Deal with people in a fair and honest way
            ·Develop both the individual and society, and tie economic growth to social justice
            ·Preserve Iran’s national interests when interacting with other countries
            ·Develop natural resources in a sustainable way
            ·Ensure government efficiency and beneficial interaction with the market and civil society
            ·Promote economic and social stability based on sustainable growth and development
            Khatami thanked the group for the study. “[I] hope that the next steps… to solve the problems” will be implemented, he reportedly wrote. Khatami has until mid-May to register to run. Candidates for the June 14 election must also be approved by the Guardian Council.
Garrett Nada is a Program Assistant at USIP in the Center for Conflict Management.
Photo credit: Mohammad Khatami by Copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org), swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger (World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2007) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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Latest on the Race: Reformists Regroup to Run

Garrett Nada
            Iran’s reformers appear to be rejoining the political fray, with the first reform candidate entering the presidential race and new pressure on former President Mohammad Khatami to run as well. So far, the field of about twenty candidates is otherwise dominated by conservatives with diverse political affiliations.

            Mostafa Kavakebian, Secretary General of the Democracy Party (or Mardom Salary) and editor of its paper with the same name, became the first reformer to enter the presidential race. At a March 16 press conference, the former member of parliament claimed that 18 of 33 reformist groups back his candidacy.

      But Kavakebian appears to be playing it safe at a difficult time for reformers, whose two opposition candidates for president in 2009 are under house arrest. In the disputed 2009 election, Kavakebian supported reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. Yet in mid-March, he told students at Rejaei University in Tehran that he no longer supports the detained leader, the Tehran Chronicle reported. “The constitution and the supreme leader would have the final word in my administration,” Kavakebian told the press on March 16.
Kavakebian’s Move
            Born in 1963, Kavakebian served in parliament from 2004 to 2012. Iranian news media refer to him as either a reformist or having “reformist leanings.” He was going to run for president in 2005 but withdrew after he performed poorly in early polls. Voters ultimately elected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the ultra conservative who steps down this summer due to term limits. Kavakebian was the chairman of the parliamentary Reformist Alliance coalition from 2011 to 2012. But he lost his seat in the March 2012 parliamentary election, when priciplists (fundamentalists) won about 75 percent of the open seats.
            Through Mardom Salary’s paper, Kavakebian has harshly criticized Ahmadinejad’s economic policies. As Iran’s rial plummeted to less than half its value a year earlier, the paper opined in September 2012, “It would be good for the president to tell us whether he really knows anything about the surge in the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar.” In October 2012, another article claimed that the government is “unable to provide basic necessities due to economic mismanagement.”
            On other issues, Kavakebian has supported improved relations with the United States to lift sanctions, although only if Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approves. Kavakebian’s interest in foreign relations is evident on what appears to be his official Facebook profile. He posts links to breaking news stories on Iran-U.S. relations.
            On March 1, Kavakebian reposted a picture of the U.S. and Iranian flags, with links to news articles on Secretary of State Kerry’s February trip to Europe. “Iran is a country with a government was elected and that sits in the United Nations,” Kerry told the press in France.
            Kavakebian called on the government to allow more private media in Iran. “T.V. and radio must not be expressly confined to state media,” he told the press on March 16, 2013.
            The Democracy Party originally put Kavakebian’s name forward in January, but he did not formally declare his candidacy until mid-March. He has pledged to withdraw from the race if former President Khatami decides to run, according to Mehr News Agency. The following are excerpted remarks by Kavakebian.
U.S.-Iran Relations
            “We will try to terminate all sorts of sanctions and restrictions on Iranian individuals, banks and the economy. This demands improvement of ties with the United States. The timing is not right yet. But if it takes a turn for the better, we should have a plan. Under article 176 of the Iranian constitution, the Supreme National Security Council can tell us when we can do so, of course with endorsements of the leadership.” March 16, 2013 in an interview with Press TV
            “I believe that the current situation is not fit for opening relations with the United States, and that thorough planning is needed for that… [I was] one of Ahmadinejad’s first critics when he introduced [the idea of improving] relations with the United States.” March 16, 2013, at a press conference
            “I personally think the direct talks between Iran and the U.S. could be constructive and useful for both sides. But at the current conditions, Iran cannot handle such talks with American side. During the past six years, Obama administration has passed several rounds of resolutions against Islamic Republic.” March 2013, to students at Rajaei University
Presidential Election
            “Mardom Salary (Democracy Party) will definitely take part in the coming election. But the probable coalition between reformist political parties can change the conditions… In that time, I was a member of Mousavi’s [2009 presidential ] campaign, but currently I don’t support him…” March 2013, to students at Rajaei University
            “On the reformist side, only 3 to 4 candidates ― who oppose the fundamentalism of the other 30 to 40 candidates― are being considered. It is easier to build consensus [among reformists] from a group of 3 to 4… I am going to have a young cabinet, and I will introduce a third of my cabinet before the elections…” March 2013, to Iranian news agencies
            “From the first day, we announced that if [former President Mohammad] Khatami stands as a candidate, Mardom Salary will withdraw its candidacy…” January 2013, to Mehr News Agency
Nuclear Program
            “The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors should be banned from re-entering the country if they once again publish unreal reports on Tehran's peaceful nuclear program.” January 2012, to Iranian news agencies
Garrett Nada is a Program Assistant at USIP in the Center for Conflict Management.
Photo Credits: Mostafa Kavakebian via Akhbar Siasy and Facebook
Online news media are welcome to republish original blog postings from this website in full, with a citation and link back to The Iran Primer website (www.iranprimer.com) as the original source. Any edits must be authorized by the author. Permission to reprint excerpts from The Iran Primer book should be directed to permissions@usip.org

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