Industry Spotlight: Water Management

Industry Spotlight: Water Management

By Elliot Plaut, Research Associate

Like other countries in the region, Iran faces a severe water crisis due to climate change and poor water management. One of the most visible reminders of this ongoing problem is Lake Urmia. Located in the northwestern corner of Iran, Lake Urmia’s watershed serves an agricultural region with a population of 6.4 million people.  Previously one of the largest salt lakes in the world, Lake Urmia was also once a popular tourist destination. However, the last 20 years of environmental conditions and damming of tributary rivers for irrigation have shrunk Lake Urmia’s surface area by 70% and its water volume by 95%.

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MYTH vs. FACT: Censorship in Iran

MYTH vs. FACT: Censorship in Iran

MYTH:  The Iranian government exercises strict control over the press and tightly censors the Internet and media, making communication with the outside world virtually nonexistent. This censorship makes it impossible for Iranians to publicly criticize the government or to obtain international news and perspectives on current events.

FACT:  In reality, this is only a partial understanding of access to information in Iran. While harsh policies and tactics used against journalists in the country cannot not be understated, Iranians have found many ways to circumvent state censorship, such as bypassing the Internet firewall or accessing international channels via illegal satellite dishes. A full understanding of media and censorship in Iran requires distinguishing government laws from the practices of average Iranians.

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Industry Spotlight: Building & Renovation

Industry Spotlight: Building & Renovation

By Sarah Bryn Witmer, Research Associate

Claiming 21 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Iran’s courtyards and gardens, patterns, textures, and shapes are celebrated and emulated worldwide. In addition to its impressive and historic architecture, however, Iran is also home to a vibrant construction industry with a trend towards modernization. One prime example of a modern gem and model of technological achievement is the Sharifi-ha House in Tehran, designed by Tehran-based firm Nextoffice in 2013: a seven-story home with rooms that rotate and shift at the push of a button. While some Iranians bemoan this kind of change in the architectural landscape, others suggest that modern buildings are more suitable for everyday life and attracting tourists.  Even the modern Sharifi-ha House, however, reflects the staying power of traditional Persian architecture since the concept of rotating rooms was inspired by old Iranian mansions, which had both summer and winter living rooms.

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Media Guide: Naval Incidents between the US and Iran

Media Guide: Naval Incidents between the US and Iran

By Research Fellow Gabriela Billini

Naval incidents between American and Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf have recently received increased media attention. Although such incidents have been occurring for some time, the new US administration and changing political environment in Iran have heightened their significance. In keeping with the goal of our Media Guide series to clarify and explain topics in US-Iran relations, we hope this guide will promote increased understanding of the issues at hand.

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Media Guide: Iran's Ballistic Missile Testing

Media Guide: Iran's Ballistic Missile Testing

By Research Fellow Gabriela Billini

On January 29, 2017, the Islamic Republic of Iran conducted its first ballistic missile test since the beginning of the Trump administration. What followed was a throng of varied, often hyperbolic news reports, few of which contained basic information that would help their audience properly understand the news. In keeping with the goal of our new Media Guide series, this paper intends to explain and clarify the issues surrounding this news topic, for use by the media and news consumers. 

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MYTH vs. FACT: Iranians & Western Culture

MYTH vs. FACT:  Iranians & Western Culture

MYTH: Iranians are isolated from the world and have limited access to Western products and culture. What they know about the West they don’t like, as evidenced by their chants of “Death to America.”

FACT: Despite years of sanctions from abroad and a government that censors much of the media and internet, Iranians actually have broad understanding of and access to Western culture and products. Daily life for young Iranians - particularly those in the major cities - would look quite familiar to most Westerners.

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Industry Spotlight: Food & Beverage

Industry Spotlight: Food & Beverage

By Ariane Gottlieb, Research Associate  

Iran, with its population of nearly 80 million people and recent relief from sanctions, offers significant opportunities for growth, international investment and modernization in its already strong food and beverage industry. Currently, 90% of food and beverage sales are conducted through traditional small grocery outlets and local bakeries. In 2014, 96% of bakery sales were for staples like bread. But, in a country where 65% of the population is under the age of 35, tastes are changing and companies are modernizing and targeting younger consumers by rebranding or adding new products and flavors.  

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Industry Spotlight: Technology Sector

Industry Spotlight: Technology Sector

By Sarah Bryn Witmer, Research Associate

There are many factors that have led to a thriving tech industry in Iran, including abundant resources, lifted sanctions, and a youthful, highly educated population.  Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the industry has also benefited in large part due to active support from the Iranian government. Over a decade ago in 2005, the Islamic Republic released a “20 Year National Vision” statement, known as Vision 2025, describing the state’s intentions to achieve “first place in the areas of economy, science, and technology in the Western South Asia region,” specifically in “high tech [software knowledge] production.”  

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Industry Spotlight: Literature

Industry Spotlight: Literature

By Sarah Bryn Witmer, Research Associate

From ancient poetry to modern graphic novels, Iranian literature has been shaped over the millennia. Combining this extensive history with a national literacy rate of nearly 90%, literature remains important to the country's psyche and a great source of national pride.  

In addition to its cultural significance, Iran’s book industry also plays a role in the economy and in matters of public policy.  In 1992, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance commissioned the creation of the Iran Cultural Fairs Institute in order to establish book fairs across the country and around the world.  As part of this directive, in May 2017 Tehran will host its largest literature-related event of the year, the 30th annual Tehran International Book Fair (TIBF).

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Industry Spotlight: Automobiles

Industry Spotlight: Automobiles

By Ariane Gottlieb, Research Associate  

After oil and gas, the automobile industry is Iran’s third largest, accounting for approximately 10% of the country’s GDP and employing about four percent of the country’s workforce.  Despite setbacks from sanctions, which saw Iran pull back as the number one automobile developer in the Middle East to second place behind Turkey, the auto industry has been growing.  The past decade has shown a six fold increase in production, fueled by both domestic and foreign demand.  Today, the industry produces around 1 million cars each year.

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MYTH vs. FACT: Iranians & Terrorism

MYTH vs. FACT:  Iranians & Terrorism

MYTH: Iranians are likely to carry out terror attacks against the United States, and are properly included in the Trump administration’s travel ban.

FACT: Iranians are not likely to carry out terror attacks against the United States.  Indeed, this myth has no factual basis whatsoever.  More than any of our other Myth vs. Fact articles, this is an extremely serious charge and it requires an even more in-depth look into the factors that are contributing to this misperception.  We hope this article will be informative and widely shared.

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Industry Spotlight: Construction

Industry Spotlight: Construction

By Sarah Bryn Witmer, Research Associate

Iran’s construction industry, currently valued at about $154 billion, is central to the country’s economy and promises steady growth. While the construction industry was in decline before international sanctions were lifted, it has made a quick turnaround: output value is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 6.34% through 2020.  Investment opportunities are also increasing as the country opens up to more international markets and new infrastructure is needed.

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Industry Spotlight: Environment

Industry Spotlight: Environment

Iran has long had its share of environmental issues including air pollution, water management, and the effects of climate change. But in 2016, major developments in environmental policy in Iran helped boost the country’s “green” status. For instance, Iran passed the Clean Air Bill, imposing fines on excess air pollution, and became the 106th nation to ratify the Paris Agreement in early November 2016.  Additionally, the Iranian Department of Environment endorsed several successful environmental campaigns such as “Car-Free Tuesday” and a plan to protect the Persian Leopard.

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Industry Spotlight: Tourism

Industry Spotlight: Tourism

Iran may not be high on most Americans' lists of top tourist destinations, but the tourism industry there has been doing quite well.  Home to a rich cultural and historical heritage, Iran contains architectural remnants that date back over 2000 years with 19 major archaeological sites having been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  After implementation of the JCPOA, the number of tourists visiting in Iran rapidly increased, with Iran currently generating some $8 billion from tourism.  The country expects that number to jump to $30 billion by 2025, with nearly 20 million tourists visiting annually and providing over 1.9 million Iranian jobs.

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MYTH vs. FACT: Iran Tourism

MYTH vs. FACT: Iran Tourism

MYTH:  Iran is a dangerous place where Western tourists – and particularly Americans – are neither welcomed, nor permitted to visit the country

FACT:  Iran is a safe country where Western tourists - including Americans - are warmly and enthusiastically welcomed. Furthermore, it is a wonderful place to explore, full of extraordinary history, amazing architecture, diverse landscapes, delicious food and a vibrant and engaging culture.

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Industry Spotlight: Advertising & Marketing

Industry Spotlight: Advertising & Marketing

Over 60 percent of Iran’s approximately 80 million people are under the age of 30. Since this is the preferred demographic for marketing, it is no surprise that international and local brands alike are competing to reach untapped markets among the nation’s growing youth.  Indeed, the advertising industry in Iran has already grown into a 600-million-dollar giant. Moreover, since Iran has the largest internet and smartphone penetration rate in the Middle East, “Advertising Technology” (AdTech) now plays a major role in modernizing marketing and advertising strategies in the previously economically isolated nation.

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Industry Spotlight: Electronics, Computers, and E-Commerce

Industry Spotlight: Electronics, Computers, and E-Commerce

Iran fosters a thriving domestic tech scene that hosts multi-million dollar companies like Café Bazaar and Aparat and appears ripe for further growth after sanctions relief from the JCPOA.  Around two-thirds of Iran’s population is under the age of 35, while 42% are under 24. In addition to a sizeable young, tech-savvy population, there are roughly 56 million Internet users in Iran, forming a substantial potential customer base for cutting-edge tech startups.

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Industry Spotlight: Banking and Insurance

Industry Spotlight: Banking and Insurance

Prior to the implementation of international sanctions, over 57 private and public foreign bank branches operated outside of Iran, with that number declining until all were eventually closed. With sanctions lifted in January 2016, over 50 new branches are expected to open internationally. There are currently requests by several banks to open branches and resume business within Iran, though some have already begun to handle customers’ transactions within the nation.

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MYTH vs. FACT: Women in Iran

MYTH vs. FACT: Women in Iran

MYTH:  It is a pervasive belief that women in Iran are voiceless victims of the patriarchy, bereft of intellectual energy or otherwise barred from making genuine contributions to Iranian society

FACT:  It’s easy to think that all women in the Middle East face the same set of circumstances. But, in Iran, the state of women’s rights is less a static condition than an evolving reality. They do face serious discrimination, in private and in public – but they have benefited extensively from education and family planning programs. And, today, they are not voiceless. They are the champions of their own cause, well-positioned to make lasting progress.

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