Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979, when the monarchy was overthrown and clerics assumed political control.
The Iranian revolution put an end to the rule of the Shah, who had alienated powerful religious, political and popular forces with a programme of modernisation and westernisation coupled with heavy repression of dissent.
MSF in Iran 2015
Persia, as Iran was known before 1935, was one of the greatest empires of the ancient world, and the country has long maintained a distinct cultural identity within the Islamic world by retaining its own language and adhering to the Shia interpretation of Islam.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first worked in Iran in 1990. Our work in the country has provided a response to healthcare exclusion.
Shukrieh, methadone patient
“I didn’t become an addict in my husband’s home. I was already addicted when I lived with my mother.
"She and my brothers were addicts. I used to take 25 pills but now I swallow three teaspoons of syrup. But if I get there too late, they won’t give it to me.”
Zarha, a triage nurse in Darvazeh Ghar
“This clinic offers prostitutes some hope. When they come for the first time, they are suspicious, but by the third visit, they’re completely changed.
"They are more at ease because they know that we want to help them and that we are here for them. This is the only place where they can receive the medical care they need.”
MSF’s work in Iran: 2015
Despite improvements in health services and in the treatment of addictions and stigmatised diseases such as HIV, many people in Iran still have difficulty accessing the care they need.
Healthcare in Tehran
MSF has been running a health centre in Darvazeh Ghar, one of the poorest areas of Tehran, since 2012.
The project aims to reduce the incidence of diseases among vulnerable women and children under 15, by providing access to healthcare for former drug addicts (including children) and their families, pregnant women, sex workers, child labourers and other marginalised people.
MSF provides medical and psychological care, as well as social support, in collaboration with other organisations in Tehran.
In 2015, 6,583 outpatient, 1,899 gynaecological and obstetric and 1,742 mental health consultations were carried out. Special attention is paid to the groups most at risk of sexually transmitted infections and infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C and tuberculosis.
Rapid diagnostic tests are available and patients can be referred to specialised Ministry of Health centres for treatment. This year, 764 voluntary counselling and testing sessions for HIV were conducted.
The centre has a community-based approach and integrates basic healthcare with health promotion activities, which have been adapted to people’s needs in this area of southern Tehran.
Outreach activities include patient follow-up and health education sessions in the community. Peer workers play an essential role in helping MSF communicate with harder-to-reach populations.
Find out more in our 2015 International Activity Report.
At the end of 2015, MSF had 30 staff in Iran. MSF has worked in the country since 1990.