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Iran: Local Government
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Local Government


As of 1987, Iran was divided into twenty-four provinces (ostans). Each province was subdivided into several counties (shahrestans). Shahrestans numbered 195, each of which was centered on the largest town within its boundaries. Most shahrestans took their names from those towns that served as county seats. All of the shahrestans consisted of two or more districts, or bakhshs. The 498 bakhshs were further subdivided into rural subdistricts (dehestans). Each dehestan consisted of several villages dispersed over an average area of 1,600 square kilometers.

The prerevolutionary provincial administrative structure was still employed in 1987. Thus, each province was headed by a governor general (ostandar), who was appointed by the minister of interior. Each county was headed by a governor (farmandar), also appointed by the minister of interior. Local officials, such as the chiefs of districts (bakhshdars), rural subdistricts (dehyars), and villages, were appointed by the provincial governors general and county governors; these local officials served as representatives of the central government.

Prior to the Revolution, the governor general was the most powerful person in each province. Since 1979, however, the clerical imam jomehs, or prayer leaders, have exercised effective political power at the provincial level. The imam jomeh is the designated representative of the faqih in each county. Until 1987 each imam jomeh was appointed from among the senior clergy of the county. In June 1987, Khomeini approved guidelines for the election of imam jomehs. The imam jomehs have tended to work closely with the komitehs (revolutionary committees) and the Pasdaran, and in most counties these organizations are subordinate to the imam jomehs.

Data as of December 1987

Last Updated: December 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iran was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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