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 2014
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: 2014
Despite improvements in the health system and greater recognition of addictions and stigmatised diseases such as HIV, healthcare gaps remain.
Medical care in Tehran
An MSF team continued to provide medical and psychological care, as well as voluntary counselling, social support and testing for HIV and hepatitis, to some of Iran’s most vulnerable residents in Darvazeh Ghar, southern Tehran.
A team of community workers and peer educators also worked with us to reach people in need. The health clinic, which opened in 2012, offers care to drug addicts and those excluded from regular medical services, primarily women, including sex workers, and children under 15.
Specific attention is given to the most-at risk populations for sexually transmitted infections and infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C and tuberculosis.
Patients include drug users (including children) and their family members, sex workers and child labourers.
In 2015, we are developing a specific approach to the management of hepatitis C and HIV. We will undertake activities to try and reduce the risks of infection and hope to start working with male drug users.
Find out more in our 2014 International Activity Report.
At the end of 2013, MSF had 31 staff in Iran. MSF has worked in the country since 1990.