Also known as Persia, Iran is today one of the most controversial and debated countries where traditional Islam is mixed with a technological development that, despite being slow, has contributed to the isolationism that nowadays affects the country.
Cradle of great civilisations such as the Assyrian, thanks to its geographical position and its natural resources, Iran has always had a key role in the political world context. During the Classic Era (V sec B.C) Iran lived its maximum expansion with the Achaemenid empire. Led by Cyrus the Great, it controlled a territory that spread from current India to current Libya, with Persepolis as capital.
The destruction of the empire in 334 B.C by Alexander the Great radically changed the country that was dominated by several Hellenistic empires. Among them, the Parthian and the Sasanian empires had a key role and, for great part of their history, they conducted wars against Romans for a total of 700 years. During the Middle Age, Persia was weakened by the wars against Romans and thus conquered by Muslims; a slow process of islamisation started in the country that during the Islamic Golden Age (VIII-XIV sec A.D.) became an important centre of literature, philosophy and medicine as well as a crossroad of the merchant routes also known as “Silk Roads”.
The mongol invasion (1220 A.D) led by Gengis Khan brought devastation in Persia which witnessed the loss of 10-15 million people and the fragmentation of the country. The latter was then reunified (1370 A.D.) by Tamerlan who, with extreme brutality (numerous are the evidences of extreme violence against the local population), dominated for the following century and a half. After the fall of the Timurid empire, several dynasties alternated in Persia and modified uses and costumes of the cities, that, even today, maintain the sign of it. Among them, the Safavid (1501-1722) that promoted the splendour of Isfahan thanks to the king Abbas I, the Qagiar (1729-1925), keen on ostentation but not on the democratic development of the country, and the Pahlavi dynasties (1925-1979), that never opposed but almost promoted external interferences, in particular of the UK, the USA and the Soviet Union, all mostly interested in Iran’s natural resources.
The large scale of corruption, the interferences on political and economical choices, like the attempted coup supported by CIA also known as “Ajax operation” as well as the imposed westernisation and the economical and social inequalities, all contributed to increase a general dissatisfaction that manifested itself with the Islamic revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeyni. The latter, at the time on exile in France, spread anti regime messages through audiocassette and came back as winner to Iran on January 31st, 1979. Since then, the Iranian history has been signed by wars, like the one against Iraq (1980-1988), economic crisis, mostly related to imposed economic sanctions by western countries, limitation of freedom of expression and lack of civil rights.
However, the impression you have speaking with Iranians is that, once again, they are tired of the sociopolitical situation and want to change their conditions. This time, though, they don’t want a revolution but slow and moderate changes that would stop the isolation and would lead to a fairer and less corrupted society. On the other hand, the leading class doesn’t seem to take into consideration the aspiration of their citizens and, how it often happens, history risks to repeat itself.