History of Iran
Iran is among the oldest nations in the world, with a long history dating back tens of thousands of years. Archaeological findings from Iran date back to 100000 years (Palaeolithic era). Early cities had come up by 5000 BC and sophisticated agriculture had also started by then. Susa, Iran’s first great city, was built on the central plateau way back in 3200 B.C. Reputed dynasties have ruled Iran, first being Archaemenid (559-330 BC) founded by Cyrus the great. Hellenistic era started with conquest of Iran by Alexander the great in 330 BC. After Hellenistic rule, Parthian dynasty and Sassanian dynasty ruled, before the eventual Islamic conquest.
Way back in 559 B.C., the Persian Empire took shape in southwestern Iran and conquered the Egyptians and Mesopotamians. Extent of the empire was once from the Mediterranean Sea to what is now Pakistan, but it was eventually conquered by the Greeks in 330 B.C. Greeks were ousted by nomads called Parni around 260 B.C. Parni ruled for some 500 years. The Sassanids assumed power in 224 AD. In A.D. 642, Persia became a part of the Islamic Empire. Reign of shahs of the Safavid Empire began in 1501 AD. In the late 18th century, foreign powers, including Britain and Russia, took control of parts of Persia. In 1921, a Persian army officer Reza Khan sought to end outside influence and took control. He was the one who renamed the country Iran in 1935. In 1941 Reza khan’s son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi became shah.
In 1979, Pahlavi was forced to flee in light of corruption allegations against him, thus ended the reign of the shahs in Iran. Religious leaders have ruled the country since then, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini being the first. His ten years in power were marked by a long Iran-Iraq war.
Islam and Iran
The relationship between Islam and Iran is both intrinsic and complex. Islam reached Iran via Arab-Islamic conquest in 650 AD. Islamization of Iran was not easy and initially Islam was rejected by Iranians by gradually Islam spread across Iranian plateau turning it into an Islamic state for ever. Before Islamic conquest main religion practiced in Iran was Zoroastrian but after Islamic conquest persecution of Zoroastrians at the hands of Muslims led to decline of Zoroastrianism in Iran and mass conversions and sporadic immigration of Zoroastrians. Still Iranians are holding on to their pre-Islamic roots. Islamic Revolution of 1979 has converted Iran into a theocratic Islamic dictatorship and there is absolutely no space for beliefs other than Islamic.