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Iran (/ɪˈrɑːn/ (About this sound listen), also /ɪˈræn/; Persian: ایران Irān [ʔiːˈɾɒːn] (About this sound listen)), also known as Persia (/ˈpɜːrʒə/), officially the Islamic Republic of Iran (Persian: جمهوری اسلامی ایران Jomhuri-ye Eslāmi-ye Irān (About this sound listen)), is a sovereign state in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia, the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the exclave of Nakhchivan; to the north by the Caspian Sea; to the northeast by Turkmenistan; to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. With over 79.92 million inhabitants (as of March 2017), Iran is the world’s 18th-most-populous country. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second-largest country in the Middle East and the 18th-largest in the world. It is the only country with both a Caspian Sea and an Indian Ocean coastline. The country’s central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, make it of great geostrategic importance. Tehran is the country’s capital and largest city, as well as its leading economic and cultural .
Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdoms in the 4th millennium BC. It was first unified by the Iranian Medes in the 7th century BC, and reached its greatest extent during the Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC, stretching from Eastern Europe to the Indus Valley, becoming the largest empire the world had yet seen. The Iranian realm fell to Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, but reemerged shortly after as the Parthian Empire, followed by the Sasanian Empire, which became a leading world power for the next four centuries.
Arab Muslims conquered the empire in the 7th century AD, largely displacing the indigenous faiths of Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism with Islam. Iran made major contributions to the Islamic Golden Age that followed, producing many influential figures in art and science. After two centuries, a period of various native Muslim dynasties began, which were later conquered by the Turks and the Mongols. The rise of the Safavids in the 15th century led to the reestablishment of a unified Iranian state and national identity, which followed the country’s conversion to Shia Islam, marking a turning point in Iranian and Muslim history. By the 18th century, under Nader Shah, Iran briefly possessed what was arguably the most powerful empire at the time. The 19th-century conflicts with the Russian Empire led to significant territorial losses. Popular unrest culminated in the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, which established a constitutional monarchy and the country’s first legislature. Following a coup instigated by the United Kingdom and the United States in 1953, Iran gradually became closely aligned with the West, and grew increasingly autocratic. Growing dissent against foreign influence and political repression led to the 1979 Revolution, which followed the establishment of an Islamic republic, a political system which includes elements of a parliamentary democracy vetted and supervised by a theocracy governed by an autocratic “Supreme Leader”. During the 1980s, the country was engaged in a war with Iraq, which lasted for almost nine years and resulted in a high number of casualties and financial loss for both sides.
According to international observers, the current Iranian government is oppressive, with human rights abuses commonplace. Since the 2000s, Iran’s controversial nuclear program has raised concerns, which is part of the basis of the international sanctions