Boroujerdi and Rahimkhani have assembled an extraordinary wealth of information about Iranian politics. The 445-page "Who's Who" is remarkable for its scope, presenting biographical information on over 2,300 people, noting uniquely important information including family ties, pre-revolution imprisonment, and service in the Iran-Iraq war.
The other 408 pages are arguably even more useful. A detailed chronology of major Iranian political events is followed by chapters on each major institution, including the Guardian Council, judiciary, presidency, cabinet, Majlis, Assembly of Experts, and municipal councils. Each chapter presents results from every election, lists of office holders (including every member of the Majlis with their years in office), and other facts, such as the breakdown of the cabinet ministers by birthplace, clerical status, and past service in the Revolutionary Guards. The authors also present information not systematically available, for example, data on the profession of deputies' fathers in the first Majlis but not subsequent ones. A reader interested in getting a flavor of Iranian politics could usefully spend hours leafing through these chapters.
For much of the information presented, the source is the "authors' database." That is to be expected but is also problematic. Many Iranian political figures have been caught misrepresenting their educational accomplishments and likely other parts of their backgrounds. Boroujerdi and Rahimkhani note that "there was often no way of independently verifying the information individuals provided about themselves." They would have been well advised to note discrepancies and unverified claims. It is also incumbent on Boroujerdi and Rahimkhani to make their data accessible to those with questions although that presents problems about the confidentiality of sources.
The authors should also have prominently noted the problematic nature of some of their data. What the Islamic Republic claims happened is not necessarily what actually happened. The most obvious example is the 2009 presidential election results, but that is hardly the only one. Boroujerdi and Rahimkhani note, "It has become commonplace for the Ministry of Interior and the Statistical Center of Iran to offer different statistics on the number of eligible voters in any given election. The researcher has to decide which source to use. In addition, Iranian government agencies often put information about current legislation or election results on official websites for a short period of time and later make it unavailable to the general public." These are not minor problems.
In short, Postrevolutionary Iran: A Political Handbook is a monumental accomplishment, but one wishes the authors had been a bit more meticulous and cautious.
Washington Institute for Near East Policy