When it comes to the West’s opinion of Iran, it’s difficult not to be pessimistic. A survey of 14 advanced economies – including the US, Denmark, and Japan – found that all countries had critical and negative opinions regarding the Islamic Republic. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the positive aspects of Iran are often glossed over, particularly when it comes to its scientific innovations.
For centuries, Persia has been an epicenter of scientific and mathematical progress. There are countless Persian drawings and documents of maps, medicinal plants, and biological discoveries that paint a picture of a prosperous region dedicated to science and education.
The Persian Empire was responsible for the invention of windmills, air conditioning, irrigation, refrigeration, the postal service, and highways. Persia is also credited for the invention of birthday celebrations, the guitar, and even the “practice of serving dessert after a meal.” So why do westerners despise Iran so much?
In early 20th century Iran, social reforms were initiated to create a secular, modern educational system, but these changes only lasted a few decades. It was not until after the Iranian Revolution that the country was able to rekindle its love for facts and empirical research.
In 2012, Iran had the “fastest-growing scientific output” globally.
In 2012, Iran had the “fastest-growing scientific output” globally and it has been diligent in researching and publishing its scientific findings. Iran’s scientific research has even surpassed China – despite the latter’s overwhelming wealth and power – a noteworthy feat worth recognition.
Today, Iran is upholding its ancient commitment to the scientific world. From beginning construction on a circular particle accelerator in 2021 to marked improvement in the medical sphere and ranking 17th globallyin the Biomedical Sciences field in 2017. The country has come a long way since the Islamic Republic Revolution of 1979, 43 years ago.
2017, especially, was an important year for Iran. According to the Tehran Times, Iran ranked first in publishing scientific articles in the region. When it comes to more tangible improvements that directly affect its citizens’ health and wellbeing, Iran has seen its life-expectancy climb sharply from 50 to 75, giving more individuals a fighting chance to live beyond middle age. Iran’s rank in nano-technology developments also rose steeply, from 54 in 1996 to 15 in 2020, according to SCImago Journal Rank (SJR).
Despite these life-changing developments for Iranian citizens, the mainstream media have consistently failed to acknowledge the merits of the country’s community of scientists and researchers. The Tehran Times blames Iran’s poor reputation on the Western media and believes that Iranian sources are not considered credible or reliable, thus making reports of technological and scientific advances futile.
US imposed sanctions put enormous pressure on Iran’s economy while constraining its researchers.
The West’s distaste for Iran isn’t just limited to public opinion – although that certainly doesn’t help. Former US President Donald Trump, a man infamous for his blatantly racist and Islamophobic tweets and policies, imposed sanctions that put enormous pressure on Iran’s economy while constraining its researchers as they worked to bring the country up the scientific ranks.
The US imposed sanctions, implemented in November 2018, significantly limited the amount of business and revenue Iran could generate. The banking payment-transfer system SWIFT was discontinued for Iranian banks, making simple international purchases or online orders impossible.
The stiff sanctions made paying for and traveling to critical conferences that would integrate Iranian scientists into international academic circles largely impossible.
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According to one anonymous academic who spoke to Nature, “Being unable to do the simplest things like ordering books online or paying registration fees for conferences should speak volumes about the significance of being cut off from the international financial institutions.”
In 2018, researchers at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS) were getting ready to join forces with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City to study cardiovascular disease patterns. The worldwide sanctions immobilized the scientific collaboration because Mount Sinai could not transfer any grant funds to Tehran. The researchers had no choice but to find their own funding, an already difficult task made more arduous given the drop of the Iranian currency by over 50 percent in January that year.
A region once treasured for its revolutionary inventions and achievements has been held back by foreign sanctions and internet banking procedures. If these regulations were imposed to punish those deserving of punishment, that would be one thing. Instead, they directly affect and hinder Iranian citizens actively working to improve their community’s lives.
The 2021 UNESCO Science Report for Iran is filled with impressive statistics that highlight how far Iran has come in terms of receiving patents, providing its population with vaccines, and being on track to meeting its sustainability goals.
The UNESCO report points out that Iran still needs to work on overcoming the “Innovation Paradox.”
However, the UNESCO report points out that Iran still needs to work on overcoming the “Innovation Paradox.” In layman’s terms, they have a lot of excellent knowledge, but the discoveries are yet to be turned into something of significance for Iranian society. Currently, most of the scientific developments are exclusively valuable “at the industrial level.”
While Iran’s human rights record, socio-political stability, and peaceful regional aspirations —all questionable areas in the Islamic Republic— are understandably responsible for its negative reputation, its scientific contribution beyond the nuclear field, should also be considered in determining its global standing. If the west – specifically the US government – continues to look down on Iran, without consideration for its people, it will have little ways to go in terms of advances. Hostility is never a conduit for progress in any space.
That said, life in Iran is surprisingly normal, and like many countries, its scientific community seeks to investigate the unknown. Iran is not a perfect country, but when it comes to science and education, it has been nothing if not persistent.
From the time and glory of its Persian Empire, science and Iran have gone hand in hand. Its people are descendants of the inventors of some of the most essential modern necessities. After all, who can imagine a life without refrigerators, air conditioning, and dessert?