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Iranian Revolution
Part of "Constitutionalization attempts in Iran
""Mass demonstration in Iran, date unknown.jpg
Protesters in the Days before the Victory of the Revolution, "Tehran, "1979
Date 7 January 1978 – 11 February 1979
Location "Iran
Caused by
Goals Overthrow of the "Pahlavi dynasty
Resulted in
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures

"Ruhollah Khomeini

2,781 killed in demonstrations during 1978–79[1][2]
  1. ^ Regency Council was practically dissolved on 22 January 1979, when its head resigned to meet "Ayatollah "Ruhollah Khomeini.
  2. ^ Imperial Iranian Army revoked their allegiance to the throne and declared "neutrality on 11 February 1979.
Pro-government demonstration in Amjadieh stadium, 23 January 1979.
Part of "a series on the
History of the
Iranian Revolution
""1979 Iranian Revolution.jpg

The Iranian Revolution ("Persian: انقلاب ایران‎, "translit. Enqelāb-e Iran; also known as the Islamic Revolution or the 1979 Revolution)[3][4][5][6][7][8] refers to events involving the overthrow of the "Pahlavi dynasty under "Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was supported by the United States,[9] and eventual replacement of "2,500 years of continuous Persian monarchy with an "Islamic Republic under the "Grand Ayatollah "Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution, supported by a wide range of people including various "Islamist and leftist organizations[10] and student movements.

Demonstrations against the Shah commenced in October 1977, developing into a campaign of "civil resistance that included both secular and religious elements[11][12][13] and which intensified in January 1978.[14] Between August and December 1978, "strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the country. The Shah left Iran for exile on 16 January 1979, as the last Persian monarch, leaving his duties to a regency council and "Shapour Bakhtiar who was an opposition-based prime minister. Ayatollah Khomeini was invited back to Iran by the government,[15][16] and returned to "Tehran to a greeting by several million Iranians.[17] The royal reign collapsed shortly after on 11 February when "guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting, bringing Khomeini to official power.[18][19] Iran voted by national "referendum to become an Islamic Republic on "1 April 1979,[20] and to approve a new "theocratic-republican constitution[11][12][21][22] whereby Khomeini became "Supreme Leader of the country in December 1979.

The revolution was unusual for the surprise it created throughout the world:[23] it lacked many of the customary causes of revolution (defeat at war, a "financial crisis, "peasant rebellion, or disgruntled military),[24] occurred in a nation that was experiencing relative prosperity,[15][22] produced profound change at great speed,[25] was massively popular, resulted in the exile of many Iranians,[26] and replaced a "pro-Western authoritarian monarchy[15] with an anti-Western authoritarian "theocracy[15][21][22][Note 1][28] based on the concept of "Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (or velayat-e faqih). It was a relatively "non-violent revolution, and it helped to redefine the meaning and practice of modern revolutions (although there was violence in its aftermath).[29]



Reasons advanced for the occurrence of the revolution and its "populist, "nationalist and, later, "Shi'a Islamic character include a conservative backlash against the "Westernizing and secularizing efforts of the Western-backed Shah,[30] a rise in expectations created by the 1973 oil revenue windfall and an overly ambitious economic program, anger over a short, sharp economic contraction in 1977–78,[Note 2] and other shortcomings of the previous regime.

The Shah's regime became increasingly oppressive, brutal,[35][36] corrupt, and extravagant.[35][37] It also suffered from basic functional failures that brought economic bottlenecks, shortages, and inflation.[38] The Shah was perceived by many as beholden to – if not a puppet of – a non-Muslim Western power (the United States)[39][40] whose culture was affecting that of Iran. At the same time, support for the Shah may have waned among Western politicians and media – especially under "the administration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter – as a result of the Shah's support for "OPEC petroleum price increases earlier in the decade.[41] When President Carter enacted a human-rights policy which said countries guilty of human-rights violations would be deprived of American arms or aid, this helped give some Iranians the courage to post open letters and petitions in the hope that the repression by the government might subside.[42]

The revolution that replaced the monarchy of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi with "Islamism and Khomeini rather than with another leader and ideology, is credited in part to the spread of the Shia version of the "Islamic revival that opposed Westernization and saw "Ayatollah Khomeini as following in the footsteps of the "Shi'a Imam "Husayn ibn Ali and the Shah in the role of Husayn's foe, the hated tyrant "Yazid I.[43] Other factors include the underestimation of Khomeini's Islamist movement by both the Shah's reign – who considered them a minor threat compared to the "Marxists and "Islamic socialists[44][45][46] – and by the "secularist, opponents of the government – who thought the Khomeinists could be sidelined.[47]

Historical background[edit]

Tobacco Protest[edit]

The Shi'a clergy ("Ulema) had a significant influence on Iranian society. The clergy first showed itself to be a powerful political force in opposition to the monarchy with the 1891 "Tobacco Protest. On 20 March 1890, "Nasir al-Din Shah granted a concession to Major G. F. Talbot for a full monopoly over the production, sale, and export of tobacco for fifty years.[48] At the time the Persian tobacco industry employed over 200,000 people and therefore the concession represented a major blow to Persian farmers and bazaaris whose livelihoods were largely dependent on the lucrative tobacco business.[49] The boycotts and protests against it were widespread and extensive because of Mirza Hasan Shirazi's fatwa (judicial decree).[50] Finally Nasir al-Din Shah found himself powerless to stop the popular movement and cancelled the concession.[51] The Tobacco Protest was the first significant Iranian resistance against the Shah and foreign interests, and revealed the power of the people and the Ulema influence among them.[48]

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Press conference on international oil policies. "Niavaran Palace, "Tehran, 1971.

Persian Constitutional Revolution[edit]

The growing discontent continued until the "Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911). The revolution led to the establishment of a "Parliament and approval of the first constitution. Although the constitutional revolution was successful in weakening the autocracy of the "Qajar regime, it failed to provide a powerful alternative government. Consequently, within the decades following the establishment of the new parliament, a number of critical events took place. Many of these events can be viewed as a continuation of the struggle between the constitutionalists and the Shahs of Persia, many of whom were backed by foreign powers against the parliament.

Reza Shah[edit]

Insecurity and chaos created after the Constitutional Revolution led to the rise of General Reza Khan, the commander of the elite Persian Cossack Brigade who seized power in a coup d'état in February 1921. He established a constitutional monarchy, deposing the last of the Qajar shah in 1925 and introduced many social, economic, and political reforms during his reign. A number of these reforms led to public discontent which provides circumstances for an Iranian revolution. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi's father, "Reza Shah, replaced "Islamic laws with Western ones, which forbade traditional Islamic clothing, "separation of the sexes and veiling of women's faces with the "niqab.[52] Police forcibly removed and tore "chadors off women who resisted his ban on the public hijab. In 1935, dozens were killed and hundreds injured in the "Goharshad Mosque rebellion.[53][54][55] On the other hand, in the early rise of "Reza Shah, "Abdul-Karim Ha'eri Yazdi founded the "Qom Seminary and created important changes in seminaries. However, he would avoid entering into political issues, as did other religious leaders who followed him. Hence, no widespread anti-government attempts were organized by clergy during the Reza Shah Rule. However, the future Ayatollah "Khomeini was a student of Sheikh Abdul Karim Ha’eri.[56]

Mosaddegh and The Anglo Iranian Oil Company (today BP)[edit]

From 1901 on, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (renamed the Anglo-Iranian oil company in 1931) - a British oil company - enjoyed the monopoly on sale and production of Iranian oil. It was the most profitable British business in the world. Most Iranians lived in poverty while the wealth generated from Iranian oil played a decisive role in maintaining Britain at the top of the world. In 1951 Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh pledged to throw the company out of Iran, reclaim the petroleum reserves and free Iran from foreign powers.

Mosaddegh nationalized the Anglo-Iranian oil company and became a national hero. The British, however, were outraged and accused him of stealing. The British demanded punishment by the World Court and the United Nations, sent warships to the Persian Gulf and finally imposed a crushing embargo.

Mosaddegh was unmoved by Britain's campaign against him. One European newspaper, the "Frankfurter Neue Presse, reported that Mosaddegh "would rather be fried in Persian oil than make the slightest concession for the British". The British considered an armed invasion, but U.S. President "Harry S. Truman refused his support. U.K. Prime Minister "Winston Churchill decided for a coup. Mosaddegh, however, learned of their plans and ordered the British embassy shuttered in October 1952. All British diplomats and agents had to leave the country.

The British asked Truman for help; Truman, however, sympathized with nationalist movements like Mosaddegh's and had nothing but contempt for old-style imperialists like those who ran Anglo-Iranian. However, "Dwight D. Eisenhower's election as U.S. President in November 1952 changed the U.S.'s stance toward the conflict. On 20 January 1953, U.S. Secretary of State "John Foster Dulles and his brother, director of the C.I.A. "Allen Dulles, told their British counterparts that they were ready to move against Mosaddegh. In their eyes, any country not decisively allied with the United States was a potential enemy. Iran had immense oil wealth, a long border with the Soviet Union and a nationalist Prime Minister. A fall into communism and a "second China" terrified the Dulles brothers. "Operation Ajax was born, deposing the only democratic government Iran ever had.[57]

1953 Iranian coup d'état[edit]

In 1941 Reza Shah was deposed and his son, "Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was installed by an "invasion of allied British and Soviet troops. In 1953, foreign powers (American and British) again came to the Shah's aid – after the young Shah fled the country to "Italy, the British "MI6 aided an American "CIA operative in organizing a "military coup d'état to oust the nationalist and democratically elected Prime Minister "Mohammad Mossadegh.[58]

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was the son of Reza Shah, maintained a close relationship with the U.S. government, both regimes sharing an opposition to the expansion of the Soviet Union, Iran's powerful northern neighbor. Like his father's government, the Shah's was known for its "autocracy, its focus on "modernization and "Westernization and for its disregard for "religious[59] and democratic measures in "Iran's constitution. Leftist and Islamist groups attacked his government (often from outside Iran as they were suppressed within) for violating the Iranian constitution, "political corruption, and the political oppression by the "SAVAK secret police.

White Revolution[edit]

The White Revolution was a far-reaching series of reforms in "Iran launched in 1963 by "Shah "Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and lasted until 1978. Mohammad Reza Shah's reform program was built especially to weaken those classes that supported the traditional system. It consisted of several elements including: the land reform; sales of some state-owned factories to finance the land reform; the enfranchisement of women; nationalization of forests and pastures; formation of a literacy corps; and institution of profit sharing schemes for workers in industry.[60]

The Shah advertised the White Revolution as a step towards westernization[61] and was a way for him to legitimize the Pahlavi dynasty. Part of the reason for launching the White Revolution was that the Shah hoped to get rid of the landlords' influence and create a new base of support among the peasants and working class.[62][63]

Thus the White Revolution in Iran represented a new attempt to introduce reform from above and preserve traditional power patterns. Through land reform, the essence of the White Revolution, the Shah hoped to ally himself with the peasantry in the countryside, and hoped to sever their ties with the aristocracy in the city. What the Shah did not expect was that the White Revolution led to new social tensions that helped create many of the problems the Shah had been trying to avoid. The Shah's reforms more than quadrupled the combined size of the two classes that had posed the most challenges to his monarchy in the past – the intelligentsia and the urban working class. Their resentment towards the Shah also grew since they were now stripped of organizations that had represented them in the past, such as political parties, professional associations, trade unions, and independent newspapers. The land reform, instead of allying the peasants with the government, produced large numbers of independent farmers and landless laborers who became loose political cannons, with no feeling of loyalty to the Shah. Many of the masses felt resentment towards the increasingly corrupt government; their loyalty to the clergy, who were seen as more concerned with the fate of the populace, remained consistent or increased. As Ervand Abrahamian pointed out, The White Revolution had been designed to preempt a Red Revolution. Instead, it paved the way for an