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Country Reports

Iran Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Most trips to the Islamic Republic of Iran (population 83 million) take place without major incident. Nonetheless, travelers considering travel to Iran should be aware of potential issues and anticipate certain risks.

REGIONS TO AVOID

Certain areas of the country should be avoided for security reasons, particularly regions along the borders with Afghanistan (east), Iraq (west), and Pakistan (southeast). Nonessential travel to regions along the borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Turkey is also advised against. The waters around the Abu Musa and Tunbs islands in the southern Persian Gulf are militarized, and the area is known for persistently high tensions.

TERRORISM

Despite a national security plan in place to prevent terrorist attacks, the threat remains relatively high. Aside from recent threats made by the leaders of Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qa'ida calling on their fighters to perpetrate attacks on Iranian soil, the country is vulnerable to regional instability due to its geographical proximity to Iraq.

The deadliest attacks in recent years occurred in the capital city of Tehran on June 7, 2017, when coordinated assaults at the parliament and at the Imam Khomeini Mausoleum left at least 12 people dead. IS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Foreign travelers are advised to be discreet while in the country and to avoid any form of public gathering, particularly religious processions.

SAFETY AND SECURITY

Overall, Tehran remains a relatively safe place for expatriates, particularly in the northern and central parts of the city. However, due to strained relations between Iran and Western countries - particularly the United States - Western expatriates in the country may face elevated personal security threats. It should be noted that foreigners might be subject to surveillance by Iranian authorities. Anti-Western demonstrations occur with some regularity in Tehran, while local politics over socioeconomic and political conditions have also led to protests and riots; expatriates are advised to avoid any public protests or political demonstrations. In general, however, this should not impact daily life in the city.

While petty crime levels are relatively low, pedestrians may be targeted by drive-by motorbike muggings in Tehran. Other incidents of robbery are sometimes reported, particularly those perpetrated by taxi drivers. In general, it is advised to keep your personal belongings securely on your person, not to wear or display valuables that may tempt a would-be thief, and to be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Security forces and Iranian authorities may be suspicious of foreigners. Any unusual behavior that does not have an obvious explanation can put you at risk of questioning from security forces and authorities. This may include traveling outside of tourist areas, being present near crowds or sensitive sites, having contact with Iranians who are of interest to the authorities, taking photographs (except at major tourist sites), or behavior that could be perceived as contrary to official Iranian interpretations of Islam. The extant threat to foreigners is likely to be higher during periods of national unrest, or if there is a terrorist incident or an increase in tensions between Iran and the international community.

The Iranian authorities do not recognize dual nationality. Embassies have reported trouble protecting their citizens who also hold Iranian citizenship.

POLITICS

The presidential elections of May 2017 resulted in pragmatic reformist Hassan Rouhani securing a second consecutive mandate (57 percent of the votes). Iran will likely continue to seek an outward-facing foreign policy in the coming years, despite a shift in political power in the United States since the arrival of President Donald Trump at the White House. 

Since signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 (colloquially, the "Iran nuclear deal"), Iran has increasingly reintegrated itself into the international community. The fact that Tehran has resumed dialogue with Washington and its allies after years of diplomatic silence is an indication of this rapprochement. Consequently, as of early 2017, Western governments no longer advise their citizens against travel to several areas in Iran, including the cities of Ardabil, Shiraz, Persepolis, Isfahan, Yazd, Kashan, Hamadan, Tabriz, Rasht, Gorgan, and Tehran.

However, Donald Trump's administration could destabilize US-Iran relations in the near-term, as President Trump has expressed the desire to renegotiate the deal.

SOCIAL RISKS

Political protests can erupt in Tehran and other major cities. Even if political demonstrations seem peaceful, travelers are advised to avoid all protests. Demonstrations against socioeconomic crises occur on a regular basis.

Demonstrations against Saudi Arabia often take place in Tehran, particularly in the Golestan, Pasdaran, and Ektiarieh neighborhoods; violence in such protests cannot be ruled out. Violent protests are also possible near the Swiss Embassy, which hosts the US Interests Section.

Violent demonstrations occurred in Tehran and several cities of the country (including the holy Shi'a city of Al-Qom) following the Saudi execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shi'a cleric, on January 2, 2016. A few hours after his death, several thousand demonstrators took to the streets of Tehran to denounce the execution. During these anti-Saudi gatherings, the Embassy of Saudi Arabia was ransacked and torched, leading to the severing of diplomatic ties and the suspension of flights between the kingdom and Iran.

Moreover, the country has faced a resurgence of separatist-linked tensions near the Iraqi, Turkish, and Pakistani borders in recent months. In June 2016, violent armed clashes were reported between fighters of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the city of Piranshahr, near the Iraqi border. Similar fighting also took place in the city of Shno, killing seven people and wounding several others.

NATURAL RISKS

Iran is situated in a very active seismic zone. Earthquakes of varying magnitudes and severity occur regularly. On November 12, 2017, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck the border region separating northern Iraq and western Iran, leaving over 530 people dead and another 7460 injured in Iran. Many other quakes were reported in 2017 including a 6.0 magnitude earthquake (Kerman province) on December 1 that left 51 injured.

Expatriates and visitors should familiarize themselves with the proper safety procedures to follow in the event of an earthquake. Before an earthquake occurs, identify places in your home, school, or place of work that would provide adequate shelter (e.g., preferably under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an interior wall - doorways do not offer good protection from falling objects). Secure items that could be hazardous if they fell (mirrors, bookshelves, etc.). Maintain a stock of basic necessities (water, medication, etc.) and store important documents in one place. Where possible, ensure that your building is earthquake resistant.

In the event of an earthquake, "drop, cover, and hold" (drop to the ground, cover your head and neck with your arms, if a safer place is close by then crawl to it, and hold on). Stay where you are until the shaking stops; do not run outside. More information can be found at this website.

TRANSPORTATION

Roads are in generally good condition; nevertheless, Iran has a high rate of road accidents due to reckless driving. The number of accidents is reportedly rising. In case of a road accident, wait for the police to arrive at the scene of the accident.

Foreign travel within Iran is strictly controlled by the authorities, and subject to authorization. Roadblocks and checkpoints are common. Avoid driving at night. It is advised to rent a car with a driver.

The railway network is incomplete and slow; however, trains from Tehran serve the cities of Mashhad, Bandar Abbas, and Tabriz.

The progressive lifting of international sanctions has allowed several Iranian airlines to be recognized as meeting international aerial safety standards. IranAir, the main Iranian public airline, has been removed from the European Union's blacklist of international airlines that are forbidden to fly in European airspace. Domestic flights serve major cities all over the country.

Many areas of the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf are highly politically sensitive. The waters around the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Persian Gulf are particularly tense, and are militarized.

HEALTH

It is important before you leave to make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. Medical facilities are reasonable in the major cities but poor in remote areas. Many health professionals speak some English. Medicine shortages have been reported due to the irregular delivery of goods to hospitals. Reports indicate that some counterfeit medicines are in circulation.

Tap water is not potable. Cases of cholera are reported during the summer in Iran, including in Tehran, Qom, Isfahan, and Sistan-Baluchestan.

Iran is on the list of countries at risk of its citizens contracting Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS); however, no cases of MERS have yet been reported. MERS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (MERS‐CoV). Typical MERS symptoms include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.

In the south, particularly in the city of Isfahan, some cases of leishmaniasis have been reported. Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease causes by sand flies.

ECONOMY

Credit cards and checks are not accepted in Iran. It is therefore necessary to have cash in euros or US dollars that can be changed into local money at a bank.

It is illegal to exchange money at any location other than a bank.

LEGAL

Iran is a predominantly Shi'a Muslim country. Islamic codes of behavior and dress are strictly enforced (also see CULTURE). You should ensure personal familiarity with, and scrupulously abide by, local law and practice in Iran. Travelers to Iran should familiarize themselves with the following legislation:

The importation and consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden. The consumption or possession of drugs is subject to harsh punishment. Importing pork products is also banned.

Hotels require that all couples who wish to share a room are married.

The Iranian authorities do not recognize dual nationality. This means that Iranian authorities do not accept foreign authorities as having a legitimate role vis-à-vis the affairs or protection of dual nationals who also hold Iranian nationality. This may also apply if your father is Iranian, or you are married to an Iranian man.

Telephone conversations are regularly monitored by Iranian authorities, and international communications are limited. The use of virtual private networks (VPNs) is totally forbidden, and Internet access is restricted. Pornographic magazines, videos, and DVDs are forbidden. Satellite dishes, as well as many Western albums and films, are illegal.

Relationships between non-Muslim men and Muslim women are illegal (though in practice few Westerners have been prosecuted).

Photography near military and other government installations is strictly prohibited.

Climate

Iran has a continental climate with significant temperature variations between seasons. In the majority of the country, a large part of the annual rainfall comes in the winter and spring months. Summers are hot and winters are humid and often very cold. Winters along the coast are mild and summers are hot and humid. The plateau regions are much cooler in the winter, sometimes very cold and summers there are less humid than in the rest of the country. Dry and dusty winds can sometimes be unpleasant (eye irritations, etc.).

Useful Numbers

Country Code: 98 Police: 110 Fire Dept.: 125 Ambulance: 115

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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