Iranian Revolution

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Protestors take to the street in support of Ayatollah Khomeini.

The Iranian Revolution (the Islamic Revolution<ref></ref><ref></ref><ref></ref><ref></ref><ref></ref><ref>The Shah and the Ayatollah: Iranian Mythology and Islamic Revolution (Hardcover), ISBN 0275978583, by Fereydoun Hoveyda, brother of Amir Abbas Hoveyda.</ref>) was the 1979 revolution that transformed Iran from a constitutional monarchy, under Shah (King) Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to a populist theocratic Islamic republic under the rule of Ayatollah (or Imam, as he is known in Iran) Ruhollah Khomeini.

The revolution was unique for the surprise it created in the world stage: the speed at which such profound change occurred, the leading role religion took, the fact that the regime was thought to be heavily protected from overthrow by a lavishly financed army and security services,<ref>Harney, Priest (1998), p.2; Abrahamian Iran (1982), p.496</ref> and the lack of many the customary causes of revolution -- defeat at war, a financial crisis, peasant rebellion, or disgruntled military. <ref>Arjomand, Turban (1988), p.191</ref>

The outcome -- an Islamic Republic under the guidance of an 80-year-old exiled religious scholar from Qom, encouraged by sporadic but enthusiastic popular demonstrations in the formerly (reports had asserted) cosmopolitan Tehran -- dealt a resounding blow to many well-regarded theories. ... It was, clearly, an occurrence that had to be explained. ..." <ref>Benard, "The Government of God" (1984), p.18) </ref>

The revolution has been divided into two stages: The first stage saw an alliance of liberal, leftist, and religious groups oust the Shah. The second stage, often named the Islamic Revolution, saw the Ayatollah's rise to and consolidation of power, and the suppression and purge of leaders and groups opposed to Khomeini's theocracy, (including the Islamic Cultural Revolution at Iranian universities).


[edit] Causes

Explanations advanced for why the revolution happened and took the form it did include actions of the Shah and the mistakes and successes of the different political forces:

Errors of the Shah

  • His strong policy of Westernization despite its clash with Iran's Shi'a Muslim cultural and social identity,<ref>Mackay, Iranians (1998), p.259, 261</ref> along with his close identification with and sometimes dependency upon a Western power (the United States); <ref>Mackay, Iranians (1998), p.259, 261; Shirley, Know Thine Enemy, (1997), p.207</ref>
  • Extravagance, corruption and elitism (both real and perceived) of the Shah's policies and of his royal court; <ref>Mackay, Iranians (1998), p.236, 260; Harney, The Priest, (1998), pp.37, 47, 67, 128, 155, 167.</ref>
  • His failure to cultivate supporters in the Shi'a religious leadership to counter Khomeini's campaign against him; <ref>Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, (1985), p.136; Arjomand Turban (1998), p.192</ref>
  • Focusing of government surveillance and repression on the People's Mujahedin of Iran and other leftists while the more popular religious opposition organized, grew and gradually undermined the authority of his regime; <ref>Moin, Khomeini, (2000), p.178; Hoveyda Shah (2003) p.22 </ref>
  • Authoritarian tendencies that violated the Iran Constitution of 1906, <ref>Mackay, Iranians (1998), p.219</ref> including repression of dissent by security services like the SAVAK, <ref>Kapuscinski, Shah of Shahs,(1985)</ref> followed by appeasement and appearance of weakness as the revolution gained momentum; <ref>Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, (1985) p.234-5: Harney, The Priest, (1998), p.65</ref>
  • Failure of his overly ambitious 1974 economic program to meet expectations raised by the oil revenue windfall. Bottlenecks, shortages and inflation were followed by black-markets, attacks on alleged price gougers and austerity measures that angered both the bazaar and the masses; <ref>Graham, Iran, (1980), p.19, 96, </ref>
  • His antagonizing of formerly apolitical Iranians, especially bazaaris, with the creation of a single party political monopoly (the Rastakhiz Party), with compulsory membership and dues for the general public;<ref>Ruthven, Malise, Islam in the World, Oxford University Press, 2000, p.337</ref>
  • His overconfident disinterest in governance and preoccupation with playing the world statesmen during the oil boom, <ref>Taheri, The Spirit of Allah (1985) p.205</ref> followed by a loss of self-confidence and resolution <ref>Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, (1985) p.234-5</ref> and a weakening of his health from cancer <ref>Moin, Khomeini, (2000), p.188</ref> as the revolution gained momentum;
  • Underestimation of the strength of the opposition -- particularly religious opposition -- and the failure to offer either enough carrots or sticks. Efforts to please the opposition were "too little too late," <ref>Graham, Iran (1980), p.231</ref> but no concerted counter-attack was made against the revolutionaries either. <ref>Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, (1985) p.195, 234-5</ref>
  • The personalised nature of the Shah's government, where prevention of any possible competitor to the monarch trumped efficient and effective government and led to the crown's cultivation of divisions within the army and the political elite, <ref>Arjomand, Turban (1998), p.189-190</ref> and ultimately to a lack of support for the regime by its natural allies when needed most (thousands of upper and middle class Iranians and their money left Iran during the beginning of the revolution);<ref>Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, (1985), p.233</ref>

Failures and successes of other political forces

  • Overconfidence of the secularists and modernist Muslims, of liberals and leftists in their power and ability to control the revolution; <ref>Schirazi, The Constitution of Iran, (1997), p.293-4</ref>
  • Cleverness of the Ayatollah Khomeini in winning the support of these liberals and leftists when he needed them to overthrow the Shah by underplaying his hand and avoiding issues (such as guardianship of the jurists) he planned to implement but knew would be a deal breaker for his more secular and modernist Muslim allies; <ref>Moin, Khomeini, (2000), p.200</ref>
  • Cleverness and energy of Khomeini's organizers in Iran who outwitted the Shah's security forces and won broad support with their tactical ingenuity -- amongst other things, fooling Iranians into thinking the Shah's security was more brutal than it was; <ref>Graham, Iran, (1980), p.235</ref>
  • The self-confidence and charisma of Ayatollah Khomeini that allowed him to capture the imagination of masses of Iranians, and be seen by many as a savior figure; <ref>Taheri, The Spirit of Allah (1985), p.238</ref>
  • Policies of the American government, which helped create an image of the Shah as American "puppet" with their high profile and the 1953 subversion of the government on his behalf, but whose pressure on the Shah to liberalize triggered the revolution, and then finally whose failure to read the revolution accurately (particularly the goals of Khomeini) or decide on a clear response to it, may have heightened its radicalism.<ref>Harney, The Priest, (1998), pp.177; Graham, Iran (1980) p.233; Zabih, Iran (1982), p.16 </ref>
History of Iran
Empires of Persia - Kings of Persia

[edit] Precursors to the revolution

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi came to power in 1941 following the deposing of his father, Reza Shah, by an invasion of allied British and Soviet troops in 1941. Reza Shah, a military man, had been known for his determination to modernize Iran and his hostility to the clerical class (ulema). Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi held power until the 1979 revolution with a brief interruption in 1953; when he had faced an attempted revolution. In that year he briefly fled the country after a power-struggle had emerged between himself and his Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, who had nationalized the country's oil fields and sought control of the armed forces. Through a military coup d'etat aided by a CIA and MI6 covert operation, codenamed Operation Ajax, Mossadegh overthrown and arrested and the Shah returned to the throne.

Like his father Shah Pahlavi sought to modernize and westernize his country. He maintained close relations with the United States and most other western countries, and was often praised by American leaders for his policies and steadfast opposition to Communism. Opposition to his government came from leftist, nationalist and religious groups who criticized it for political corruption and the brutal practices of SAVAK (secret police) that also elicited condemnation from many parts of the international community. [citation needed] Of particular importance to the opposition were the religious figures of the Ulema, or clergy, who had proved themselves to be a powerful political voice in Iran with the 19th century Tobacco Protests against a concession to a foreign interest. The clergy had great influence on Iranians, particularly poorer Iranians, who tended to be the most religious, traditional and alienated from any process of Westernization.

[edit] Ayatollah Khomeini

The future leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, first came to prominence in early 1963 leading opposition to the Shah and his program of reforms known as the White Revolution -- universal suffrage (voting rights for women), changes in the election laws that allowed election of religious minorities to office, and changes in the civil code which granted women legal equality in marital issues, breaking up property owned by some Shia clergy. Following Khomeini's public denunciation of the Shah as a "wretched miserable man" and arrest on June 5, 1963, three days of major riots erupted throughout Iran with police using deadly force to quell it. (The Pahlavi government reported 86 killed in the rioting; opposition figures claimed thousands died; post-revolutionary reports from police files indicate more than 380 were killed.<ref>Moin, Khomeini, (2000), p.112</ref>) Khomeini was kept under house arrest for 8 months and released. He continued to agitate against the Shah on issues including the Shah's close cooperation with Israel and especially the Shah's "capitulations" of extending diplomatic immunity to American military personnel. In Nov. 1964 Khomeini was re-arrested and sent into exile where he remained for 14 years until the revolution.

A period of "disaffected calm" followed. <ref>Graham, Iran, 1980, p.69</ref> Dissent was suppressed by SAVAK security service but the budding Islamic revival began to undermine the idea of Westernization as progress that was the basis of the Shah's secular regime. Jala Al-e Ahmad's idea of Gharbzadegi (the plague of Western culture), Ali Shariati's leftist interpretation of Islam, and Morteza Morahhari's popularized retellings of the Shia faith, all spread and gained listeners, readers, supporters. <ref>Mackay, Iranians (1996) p.215, 264-5</ref> Most importantly Khomeini developed his theory that Islam required an Islamic government under rule of jurist or wilayat al-faqih. In a series of lectures in early 1970 that was later published as a book, Khomeini argued that Islam required adherance obediance to sharia law and this required rule by an Islamic jurist or jurists. Khomeini's students and ex-students talabeh/mullahs, and small business leaders or bazaari also began to develop what would become a powerful and efficient network of opposition <ref>Taheri, The Spirit of Allah (1985), p.196</ref> inside Iran, employing mosque sermons, smuggled cassette speeches by Khomeini, and other means. Added to this religious opposition were more modernist students and guerrilla groups <ref>Graham, Iran, (1980), p.213</ref> who admired Khomeini's leadership though they were to clash with and be suppressed by his movement after the revolution.

[edit] Pre-revolutionary conditions and events inside Iran

Image:Mohammadreza Shah.jpg
Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi
Several events in the 1970s set the stage for the 1979 revolution:

In October 1971, the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire was held at the site of Persepolis. Only foreign dignitaries were invited to the three-day party whose extravagances included over one ton of caviar, and preparation by some two hundred chefs flown in from Paris. Cost was officially $40 million but estimated to be more in the range of $100-120 million.<ref> Hiro, Dilip. Iran Under the Ayatollahs. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1985. p. 57.</ref> Meanwhile, the provinces of Baluchistan and Sistan, and even Fars where the celebrations were held, were suffering from drought. "As the foreigners reveled on drink forbidden by Islam, Iranians were not only excluded from the festivities, some were starving." <ref>Wright, Last, (2000), p.220</ref>

By late 1974 the oil boom had begun to produce not "the Great Civilization" promised by the Shah, but an "alarming" increase in inflation and waste and an "accelerating gap" between the rich and poor, the city and the country.<ref>Graham, Iran, (1980)p.94</ref> Nationalistic Iranians were angered by the tens of thousand of skilled foreign workers who came to Iran, many of them to help operate the already unpopular and expensive American high-tech military equipment that the Shah had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on.

The next year the Rastakhiz party was created. It became not only the only party Iranians could belong to, but one the "whole adult population" was required to belong and pay dues to.<ref>Moin Khomeini (2000), p.174</ref> Attempts by this party to take a populist stand with "anti-profiteering" campaigns proved not only economically harmful but also politically counterproductive. Inflation was replaced by a black market and declining business activity. Merchants were angered and alienated.<ref>Graham, Iran (1980), p.96</ref>

In 1976, the Shah's government angered pious Iranian Muslims by changing the first year of the Iranian solar calendar from the Islamic hijri to the ascension to throne by Cyrus the Great. "Iran jumped overnight from the Muslim year 1355 to the royalist year 2535."<ref>Abrahamian, Iran, (1982), p.444</ref> The same year the Shah declared economic austerity measures to dampen inflation and waste. The resulting unemployment disproportionately affected the thousands of recent poor and unskilled migrants to the cities. Culturally and religiously conservative and already ill-disposed to the Shah's secularism and Westernization, many of these same people went on to form the core of revolution's demonstrators and "martyrs". <ref>Graham, Iran, (1980), p.226</ref>

In 1977 a new American President, Jimmy Carter, was inaugurated. In hopes of making post-Vietnam American power and foreign policy more benevolent, he created a special Office of Human Rights which sent the Shah a "polite reminder" of the importance of political rights and freedom. The Shah responded by amnestying 357 political prisoners in February, and allowing Red Cross to visit prisons, beginning a trend of liberalization by the Shah. Through the late spring, summer and autumn liberal opposition formed organizations and issued open letters denoncing the regime. <ref>Abrahamian, Iran (1982, p.501-3</ref> Later that year a dissent group (the Writers' Association) gathered without the customary police break up and arrests, and political action by the Shah's opponents. <ref>Moin Khomeini, (2000) p.182-3</ref>

That year also saw the death of the very popular and influential modernist Islamist leader Ali Shariati (allegedly at the hands of SAVAK) removing a potential revolutionary rival to Khomeini. Finally, in October Khomeini's son Mostafa died. Though the cause appeared to be a heart attack, anti-Shah groups blamed SAVAK poisoning and proclaimed him a `martyr.` Subsequent memorial service for Mostafa in Tehran put Khomeini back in the spotlight and began the process of building Khomeini into the leading opponent of the Shah.<ref>Moin Khomeini (2000), p.184-185; Taheri, Spirit (1985), p.182-3</ref>

[edit] Protests

Early visible opposition at this time came mostly from the urban middle class, a section of the population that was fairly secular and wanted a constitutional monarchy rather than an Islamic republic. Prominent in it was Mehdi Bazargan and his Freedom Movement of Iran, a liberal, moderate Islamic group that was closely linked to Massadegh's National Front. This group saw significant support in Iran and abroad in the West.

The clergy were divided, some allying with the liberal secularists, and others with the Marxists and Communists. Khomeini, who was in exile in Iraq, worked to unite clerical and secular, liberal and radical opposition under his leadership<ref>Mackay, Iranians, (1996), p.276</ref> by avoiding specifics -- at least in public -- that might divide the factions. <ref>Abrahamian, Iran Between, (1980)</ref>

The various anti-establishment groups operated from outside Iran, mostly in London, Paris, Iraq, and Turkey. Speeches by the leaders of these groups were placed on audio cassettes to be smuggled into Iran and listened to by the largely illiterate population.

It was the Islamic groups that first managed to rally the great mass of the population against the Shah. In January 1978 the official press ran a libelous story attacking Khomeini. Angry students and religious leaders protested against the allegations in the city of Qom. The army was sent in, dispersing the demonstrations and killing several (allegedly 70+) students.

According to the Shi'ite customs, memorial services are held forty days after a person's death. In mosques across the nation, calls were made to honour the dead students. Thus on February 18, groups in a number of cities marched to honour the fallen and to protest against the rule of the Shah. This time, violence erupted in Tabriz, and over a hundred demonstrators were killed. The cycle repeated itself, and on March 29, a new round of protests began across the nation. Luxury hotels, cinemas, banks, government offices, girls' schools, and other symbols of the Shah regime were destroyed; again security forces intervened, killing many. On May 10 the same occurred.

This cycle of protest and violence was matched by a downward cycle of disruption and unemployment in the Iranian economy, where destruction and economic disruption from the demonstrations led to cutbacks in spending which led to layoffs (particularly among young, unskilled workers living in city slums) which worsened labor unrest and enflamed revolutionary rioting and destruction. [citation needed]

In May, government commandos burst into the home of leading cleric and political moderate Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari shot dead one of his followers right in front of him. Shariatmadari abandoned his quietist stance and joined the opposition to Shah. <ref>Mackey, Iranians, (1996) p.279</ref> Attempts by the Shah to appease protestors by firing his head of SAVAK and promising free elections the next June had little effect. <ref>Harney, The Priest (1998), p.14</ref>

[edit] United States

Facing a revolution, the Shah of Iran sought help from the United States. Iran occupied a strategic place in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, a pro-American country sharing a long border with America's cold war rival the Soviet Union and the largest, most powerful country in the oil-rich Perisan Gulf. But the Pahlavi regime had also garnered unfavorable publicity for its human rights record. The U.S. ambassador to Iran, William H. Sullivan, recalls that the U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski “repeatedly assured Pahlavi that the U.S. backed him fully." However, President Carter arguably failed to follow through on those promises. On November 4, 1978, Brzezinski called the Shah to tell him that the United States would "back him to the hilt." At the same time, certain high-level officials in the State Department decided that the Shah had to go, regardless of who replaced him. Brzezinski and Energy Secretary James Schlesinger (former Secretary of Defense under Ford), continued to insist that the U.S. would support the Shah militarily. Even in the final days of the revolution, when the Shah was considered doomed no matter the outcome of the revolution, Brzezinski still advocated a U.S. military intervention to stabilize Iran. President Carter could not decide how to appropriately use force, opposed a U.S. coup and ordered the USS Constellation aircraft carrier to the Indian Ocean, but soon countermanded his order. A deal was worked out with the Iranian generals to shift support to a moderate government, but this plan fell apart when Khomeini and his followers swept through the country, taking power 12 February 1979.

[edit] Overthrow of the Shah

As violence continued, 477 people died in a terrible arson fire at a cinema in August in Abadan. Although movie theaters had a been a common target of Islamist demonstrators, such was the popular distrust of the regime and effectiveness of the revolutionaries' communication skills that the public believed SAVAK had set the fire in an attempt to frame the opposition.<ref>Moin Khomeini, (2000), p.187</ref> By September, the nation was rapidly destabilizing, with major protests becoming a regular occurrence. The Shah introduced martial law, and banned all demonstrations.

On Friday, September 8, a massive protest broke out in Tehran, and in what became known as Black Friday

Image:Black friday.jpg
Kudish soldiers fired on demonstrators on 8th September

The clerical leadership spread rumours that "thousands have been massacred by Zionist troops."<ref>Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, (1985), p.223</ref> The troops were actually ethnic Kurds who had been fired on and a post-revolutionary investigation confirmed a relatively small number (87) killed,<ref>Moin, Khomeini, (2000), p.188 </ref> but in the mean time the appearance of government brutality alienating much of the rest of the Iranian people and the Shah's allies abroad. A general strike in October resulted in the paralysis of the economy, with vital industries being shut down, "sealing the Shah's fate."<ref>Moin Khomeini, (2000), p.189</ref>

The protests of 1978 culminated in December, during the holy month of Muharram, one of the most important months for Shia Muslims. On December 12, over two million people filled the streets of Tehran's Azadi Square (then Shahyad Square), to demand the removal of the Shah and return of Khomeini.<ref>Moin, Khomeini, (2000), p.196</ref>

On January 16, 1979 the Shah and the empress left Iran on demands of prime minister Dr. Shapour Bakhtiar (a long time opposition leader himself) and to scenes of spontaneous joy and the destruction "within hours of almost every sign of the Pahlavi dynasty." <ref>Taheri, Spirit, (1985), p.240</ref> Bakhtiar dissolved SAVAK, freed political prisoners, promised free elections and ordered the army to allow mass demonstrations.<ref>"demonstrations allowed"ABC Evening News for Monday, Jan 15, 1979 </ref> After some days of stalling he allowed Ayatollah Khomeini to return to Iran, asking him to create a Vatican-like state in Qom and called upon the opposition to help preserve the constitution.

On Feb. 1 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran to rapturous greeting by several million Iranians. Now not only the undisputed leader of the revolution,<ref>Taheri, Spirit, (1985), p.146</ref> he had become what some called a "semi-divine" figure, greeted as he descended from his airplane with cries of `Khomeini, O Imam, we salute you, peace be upon you.` <ref>Moin, Khomeini, (2000), p.200</ref> Khomeini made clear in a speech the same day as his arrival of his fierce rejection of Bakhtiar's regime, promising `I shall kick their teeth in.` He appointed his own competing interim prime minister Mehdi Bazargan, demanding `since I have appointed him, he must be obeyed.` It was `God's government,` he warned, disobedience against which was a `revolt against God.`<ref>Moin Khomeini, (2000), p.204</ref> As Khomeini's movement gained momentum, soldiers began to defect to his side. Fighting broke out between loyal and pro-Khomeini rebel soldiers with Khomeini declaring jihad on soldiers who did not surrender. <ref>Moin, Khomeini, (2000), p.205-6</ref> The final collapse of the provisional non-Islamist government came on February 11 when the Supreme Military Council declared itself "neutral in the current political disputes ... in order to prevent further disorder and bloodshed." <ref>Moin, Khomeini, (2000), p.206</ref>

[edit] Khomeini takes power

Ayatollah Khomeini was a leader of the opposition to the Shah.

Now began the second, or Islamic phase of the revolution. There was great jubilation in Iran at the ousting of the Shah, but the glue that stuck together the dozens of religious, liberal, secularist, Marxist, and Communist, revolutionary factions—opposition to the Shah—was now gone.

Each of the many groups vying for power had different interpretations of the broad goals of the revolution: an end to tyranny, more Islamic and less American/Western influence, more social justice and less inequality. The one that would prevail was the strongest, Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters. Khomeini was in his mid-70s, had never held public office, been out of Iran for more than a decade, and had told questioners things like "the religious dignitaries do not want to rule." [1] All of this gave many the impression he intended to be more a spiritual guide than a power holder, but with skillful timing Khomeini eliminated both adversaries and unwanted allies and implemented his design for an Islamic Republic led by himself as Supreme Leader.

In the first year of revolution there were two centres of power: the formal government and the revolutionary organizations. The Khomeini-appointed Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan worked to establish a reformist democratic government. Operating separately was the Revolutionary Council made up of Khomeini and his clerical supporters, the Revolutionary Guards, revolutionary tribunals, and at the local level revolutionary cells turned local committees (komitehs). While the moderate Bazargan (temporarily) reassured the Iranian middle class, it became apparent the ultimate decision-making power was in the revolutionary bodies, particularly the Revolutionary Council and later the Islamic Revolutionary Party. They also gained control of the judicial tribunals that were passing judgment on and executing the former officials in the Shah's security services and the military. Inevitably tensions grew between the two authorities, despite the fact that both had been put in place and approved by Khomeini.

In June, the Freedom Movement released its draft constitution; it referred to Iran as an Islamic Republic and included a Guardian Council to veto unIslamic legislation, but had no guardian jurist ruler.<ref>Moin, Khomeini, 2000, p.217</ref> The constitution was sent to the newly-elected "Assembly of Experts" for review, dominated by allies of Khomeini. Despite the fact that Khomeini had originally declared it `correct`, <ref>Schirazi, The Constitution of Iran, 1997, p.22-3</ref>[2] Khomeini (and the assembly) rejected the constitution, Khomeini declaring that the new government should be based "100% on Islam."

A new constitution drawn up by the Assembly of Experts created a powerful post of Supreme Leader for Khomeini, who would control the military and security services, and could veto candidates running for office. A less powerful president was to be elected every four years, but only those candidates approved indirectly by the Supreme Leader (through a Council of Guardians) were permitted to run for the office. Khomeini himself became Head of State for life, as "Leader of the Revolution", and when the constitution was approved by referendum in December 1979, "Supreme Spiritual Leader". Feeling powerless and disagreeing with the direction the nation was moving, Bazargan resigned as Prime Minister in November.

[edit] Opposition to the revolution

[edit] Iranian Dissent and Its Suppression

Revolutionary leadership first executed senior generals, and a couple of months later over 200 of the Shah's senior civilian officials <ref>Moin, Khomeini, 2000, p.208</ref> to eliminate the danger of coup d’État. Brief trials lacking defense attorneys, juries, transparency or opportunity for the accused to defend themselves <ref>Bakhash, The Reign of the Ayatollahs (1984), p.61</ref> were held by revolutionary judges such as Sadegh Khalkhali, the Sharia judge. Among those executed - practically without trial - was Amir Abbas Hoveida, former Prime Minister of Iran. Those who escaped Iran were not immune. A decade later, another former Prime Minister, Dr. Shapour Bakhtiar, was assassinated in Paris, one of at least 63 Iranians abroad killed or wounded since the Shah was overthrown.<ref>Mackay, Iranians, (1996), p.373</ref>

By early March democrats were given a taste of disappointments to come when Khomeini announced "Do not use this term, `democratic.` That is the Western style." <ref>Bakhash, Shaul, The Reign of the Ayatollahs, p.73</ref> In mid August several dozen newspapers and magazines opposing Khomeini's idea of Islamic government -- theocratic rule by jurists or velayat-e faqih [3] -- were shut down. Khomeini angrily denounced protests against the press closings, saying "we thought we were dealing with human beings. It is evident we are not." <ref>Moin Khomeini, (2000), p.219</ref> A half a year later the moderate opposition Muslim People's Republican Party was suppressed with many of the aides of its elderly figurehead, the Grand Ayatollah Shari'atmadari, put under house arrest.<ref>Moin Khomeini, (2000) p.232</ref> In March 1980 the "Cultural Revolution" began. Universities, a leftist bastion, were closed for two years to purge them of opponents to theocratic rule. In July the state bureaucracy began the dismissal of 20,000 teachers and nearly 8000 military officers deemed too "Westernized" <ref>Arjomand, Said Amir, Turban for the Crown : The Islamic Revolution in Iran, Oxford University Press, 1988 p.144</ref>

Khomeini sometimes used takfir, (declaring someone guilty of appostasy, a capital crime) [4] to deal with his opponents. When leaders of the National Front party called for a demonstration in mid-1981 against a new law on qesas, or traditional Islamic retaliation for a crime,`` Khomeini threatened its leaders with the death penalty for apostasy "if they did not repent."<ref>Schirazi, Asghar, The Constitution of Iran, Tauris, 1997 (p.127)</ref>

One of the last organized opponents of theocratic rule was the People's Mujahideen Organization, a guerilla group that unlike most of the opposition was not non-violent. In February 1980 concentrated attacks by hezbollahi toughs began on the meeting places, bookstores, newsstands of Mujahideen and other leftists<ref>The Reign of the Ayatollahs by Shaul Bakhash, p.123 </ref> driving the left underground. People's Mujahideen retaliated with a campaign of bombing assassination including the killing of 70 at the Islamic Republican Party headquarters on June 28, 1981 <ref>Moin Khomeini, (2000) p.241-2</ref> President Mohammad Ali Rajai and Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar were also assassinated that year. [5]

[edit] Western/U.S.-Iranian relations

In October 1979 the United States admitted the Shah into the country for cancer treatment. There was an immediate outcry in Iran with both Khomeini and leftist groups demanding the Shah's return to Iran for trial and execution. Youthful supporters of "Imam" Khomeini took a several dozen hostages at the American embassy, in what became known as the Iran hostage crisis. In America, supporters of the Shah saw Carter's lack of action in support of the Shah as appeasement responsible for the transformation of Iran from ally to enemy and for the hostage situation that followed.[citation needed] Many saw Khomeini's support for the hostage-taking as a shrewd political move to divide Iranian opposition to his new theocratic constitution, the referendum for which was held one month later. Anti-theocratic liberals opposed both the rule of Islamic jurists and the hostage taking, but leftist guerilla organizations set aside their opposition to the new constitution to join the anti-imperialist enthusiasm for occupying the "nest of spies".<ref>Moin, Khomeini, (2000), p.227</ref>

Attempts to extradite the Shah for execution were unsuccessful and he his death in Egypt -- where he had been given exile by Pres. Anwar Sadat -- less than a year after the hostage taking, did not end the crisis.

[edit] Failed Nojeh Coup

In July 1980, the U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski met Jordan's King Hussein in Amman to discuss detailed plans for Saddam Hussein to sponsor a coup in Iran against Khomeini. [citation needed] King Hussein was Saddam's closest confidant in the Arab world, and served as an intermediary during the planning. [citation needed] The Iraqi invasion of Iran would be launched under the pretext of a call for aid from Iranian loyalist officers plotting their own uprising on July 9, 1980 (codenamed Nojeh, after Shahrokhi/Nojeh air base in Hamedan). The Iranian officers were organized by Shapour Bakhtiar, who had fled to France when Khomeini seized power, but was operating from Baghdad and Sulimaniyah at the time of Brzezinski's meeting with Hussein. However, Khomeini learned of the Nojeh Coup plan from Soviet agents in France, Pakistan, and Latin America. [citation needed] Shortly after Brzezinski's meeting with Hussein, [citation needed] the President of Iran, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr quietly rounded up six hundred officers and executed many of them, putting an effective end to the Nojeh Coup [6]. Saddam would decide to invade without the Iranian officer's assistance, beginning the Iran-Iraq war on 22 September 1980.

[edit] Opposition by neighboring regimes and the Iran-Iraq War

The leaders of Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf States were also alarmed by the Iranian revolution, as a Shi'a minority exists among their nations (except in Iraq and Bahrain where Shi'a are the majority) and could ignite a civil war. Under the slogan "neither East nor West" (i.e. follow neither Soviet nor American/European models), revolutionary leaders in Iran gave and sought support from non-Islamic as well as Islamic Third World causes -- e.g. the PLO, Cuba, and anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Iranian revolutionaries called for an end to social injustice, monarchy, Western influence, and corruption in the Middle East and the rest of the world. The emergence of a radical Shia-dominated theocracy and its calls to overthrow monarchies and replace them with Islamic republics scared many of its Sunni Arab neighbors. Thus, in 1980, Iraq (politically controlled by Sunnis at this time), invaded Iran in an attempt to seize the oil-rich predominantly Arab province of Khuzistan and destroy the revolution in its infancy. This began the eight year Iran-Iraq War, one of the most destructive and bloody wars of the 20th century.

A combination of fierce patriot resistance by Iranians and military incompetence by Iraqi forces soon stalled the Iraqi advance and by early 1982 Iran regained almost all the territory lost to the invasion. The invasion rallied Iranians behind the new regime, and past differences were largely abandoned in the face of the external threat. For those who did remain opposed to the new regime, mostly the Soviet-backed leftist groups, the war became an excuse for harsh treatment that saw the new regime use torture and illegal imprisonments, just as the Shah had.

Realizing its mistake, the Iraqis offered Iran a truce but were rejected by Khomeini, who announced the only condition for peace was that "the regime in Baghdad must fall and must be replaced by an Islamic Republic."<ref>Wright, In the Name of God, (1989), p.126</ref> The war continued for another six years with hundreds of thousands of lives lost and great destruction from air attacks. While in the end the revolutionaries failed to expand the Islamic revolution into Iraq, they did solidify their control of Iran.<ref> "Expansion of the Islamic Revolution and the War with Iraq"</ref>

The one area where Iranian influence was extended was into the Lebanese Civil War, where its generous financing of Hezbollah helped establish that group as a major political and military power in Lebanon, first in its fight with Lebanese Sunni and Christian factions and later against Israeli occupation. Nevertheless, Hezbollah's dependence on Iran for military and financial aid is still heavily debated and the Israel-Hezbollah 2006 War was eye-opening to the world in that some Hezbollah weapons were said to be Iranian imports. [7] [8]

[edit] Post-revolutionary impact

Most observers agree the legacy of the revolution has been mixed. Some general revolutionary goals -- particularly the elimination of secularism and American influence in government -- have met with unqualified successes; others -- such as greater political freedom, economic equality and self-sufficiency, mass cultural focus on Islam, and honesty and efficiency in government -- have not.

Grumbling once done about the tyranny and corruption of the Shah and his court is now directed against the "mullahcracy." Fear of SAVAK has been replaced by fear of Revolutionary Guards, and other religious revolutionary enforcers.<ref>Schirazi, Constitution of Iran, 1997, p.153</ref> Despite some degree of representative government or republicanism in the post-revolutionary political structure (see politics of Iran for more depth), the violations of human rights by the theocratic regime is said by some to be worse than during the monarchy, <ref>"GANJI: IRAN'S BORIS YELTSIN," by Amir Taheri, Arab News July 25, 2005,</ref> and in any case extremely grave.[9] Torture, the imprisoning of dissidents, and the murder of prominent critics is commonplace. The oppression of women, whose rights were promoted under the Shah, has been common since the revolution. So has the oppression of religious minorities, particularly the members of the Bahá'í Faith, which has been declared heretical. More than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed or killed, hundreds more have been imprisoned, and tens of thousands have been deprived of jobs, pensions, businesses, and educational opportunities. All national Bahá'í administrative structures have been banned by the government, and holy places, shrines and cemeteries have been confiscated, vandalized, or destroyed. In March 2006, a United Nations report informed the world that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has instructed a number of government agencies, including the revolutionary guard and the police force, to 'collect any and all information about members of the Bahá'í Faith'.[10]

Iran's economy has not prospered. Dependence on petroleum exports is still overwhelming. <ref>Miller, Judith, God Has Ninety Nine Names, 1996, p.440, 442, </ref> Per capita income, which fluctuates with the price of oil, has fallen to as low as 1/4 of what it was during the Shah's era.<ref>(In 1995) Mackey, Iranians, 1996, p.366</ref> Unemployment among Iran's population of young has steadily risen as job creation has failed to keep up, <ref>"Still failing, still defiant", Economist, Dec 9, 2004</ref> a high level of corruption being blamed in part. <ref>("Iran: Bribery and Kickbacks Persists Despite Anti-Corruption Drive." Global Information Network, July 15, 2004 p.1, also "Still failing, still defiant", Economist, Dec 9, 2004</ref>

Gharbzadegi ("westoxification") or western cultural influence stubbornly remains, brought by music recordings, videos, and satellite dishes. The revolution also left Iran isolated internationally, outcast from both the capitalist and communist worlds, with significant trade sanctions by the United States that continue to this day.

Since the revolution, the internal political system has evolved. Since 1997 with the relatively high level (for the region) of Internet penetration (as of 2005, Iran had about 7.5 million internet users — [11], see also Iranian blogs) makes it difficult to stop this continued internal evolution of political thought and organisation, even though "the government systematically blocks websites with political news and analysis from inside Iran and abroad"<ref>Human Rights Report 2006 on Iran Human Rights Watch</ref>

The Iranian revolution is credited by many historians as launching an era of Islamic radicalism, with subsequent Islamic movements such as Hezbollah and Al Qaeda seen as influenced by the notion of a "revolution" to bring about a pure Islamic state.[citation needed]

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

  • Afshar, Haleh, ed. (1985). Iran: A Revolution in Turmoil. Albany: SUNY Press. ISBN 0-333-36947-5.
  • Barthel, Günter, ed. (1983). Iran: From Monarchy to Republic. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.
  • Daniel, Elton L. (2000). The History of Iran. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-30731-8.
  • Esposito, John L., ed. (1990). The Iranian Revolution: Its Global Impact. Miami: Florida International University Press. ISBN 0-8130-0998-7.
  • Harris, David (2004). The Crisis: The President, the Prophet, and the Shah -- 1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam. New York & Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-32394-2.
  • Hiro, Dilip (1989). Holy Wars: The Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-90208-8. (Chapter 6: Iran: Revolutionary Fundamentalism in Power.)
  • Kapuściński, Ryszard. Shah of Shahs. Translated from Polish by William R. Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand. New York: Vintage International, 1992.
  • Kurzman, Charles. The Unthinkable Revolution. Cambridge, MA & London: Harvard University Press, 2004.
  • Habib Ladjevardi (editor), Memoirs of Shapour Bakhtiar, Harvard University Press, 1996.
  • Legum, Colin, et al., eds. Middle East Conte
  • Kurzman, Charles. The Unthinkable Revolution. Cambridge, MA & London: Harvard University Press, 2004. *Kurzman, Charles. The Unthinkable Revolution. Cambridge, MA & London: Harvard University Press, 2004.
  • Habib Ladjevardi (editor), Memoirs of Shapour Bakhtiar, Harvard University Press, 1996. *Habib Ladjevardi (editor), Memoirs of Shapour Bakhtiar, Harvard University Press, 1996.
  • Legum, Colin, et al., eds. Middle East Contemporary Survey: Volume III, 1978-79. New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1980. + *Legum, Colin, et al., eds. Middle East Conte
  • Abbas Milani, The Persian Sphinx: Amir Abbas Hoveyda and the Riddle of the Iranian Revolution, Mage Publishers, 2000, ISBN 0-934211-61-2.
  • Munson, Henry, Jr. Islam and Revolution in the Middle East. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.
  • Nafisi, Azar. "Reading Lolita in Tehran." New York: Random House, 2003.
  • Ali Reza Nobari, ed. Iran Erupts: Independence: News and Analysis of the Iranian National Movement. Stanford: Iran-America Documentation Group, 1978.
  • Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Response to History, Stein & Day Pub, 1980, ISBN 0-8128-2755-4.
  • Rahnema, Saeed & Sohrab Behdad, eds. Iran After the Revolution: Crisis of an Islamic State. London: I.B. Tauris, 1995.
  • Sick, Gary. All Fall Down: America's Tragic Encounter with Iran. New York: Penguin Books, 1986.
  • William Shawcross, The Shah's last ride: The death of an ally, Touchstone, 1989, ISBN 0-671-68745-X.
  • Smith, Frank E. The Iranian Revolution. 1998.
  • Society for Iranian Studies, Iranian Revolution in Perspective. Special volume of Iranian Studies, 1980. [Volume 13, nos. 1-4].
  • Time magazine, Jan 7, 1980. Man of the Year. [Ayatollah Khomeini]
  • U.S. Department of State, American Foreign Policy Basic Documents, 1977-1980. Washington, DC: GPO, 1983. [JX 1417 A56 1977-80 REF - 67 pages on Iran]
  • Yapp, M.E. The Near East Since the First World War: A History to 1995. London: Longman, 1996. [Chapter 13: Iran, 1960-1989]

[edit] References and notes


[edit] Bibliography

  • Arjomand, Said Amir (1988). Turban for the Crown : The Islamic Revolution in Iran. Oxford University Press.
  • Abrahamian, Ervand (1982). Iran between two revolutions. Princeton University Press.
  • Benard, Cheryl and Khalilzad, Zalmay (1984). "The Government of God" - Iran's Islamic Republic. Columbia University Press,.
  • Graham, Robert (1980). Iran, the Illusion of Power. St. Martin's Press.
  • Harney, Desmond (1998). The priest and the king : an eyewitness account of the Iranian revolution. I.B. Tauris.
  • Harris, David (2004). The Crisis: the President, the Prophet, and the Shah--1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam. Little,Brown.
  • Hoveyda, Fereydoun (2003). The Shah and the Ayatollah : Iranian mythology and Islamic revolution. Praeger.
  • Kapuscinski, Ryszard (1985). Shah of Shahs. Harcourt Brace, Jovanovich.
  • Kepel, Gilles (2002). The Trail of Political Islam. Harvard University Press.
  • Mackay, Sandra (1996). The Iranians : Persia, Islam and the Soul of a Nation. Dutton.
  • Miller, Judith (1996). God Has Ninety Nine Names. Simon & Schuster.
  • Moin, Baqer (2000). Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah. Thomas Dunne Books.
  • Ruthven, Malise (2000). Islam in the World. Oxford University Press.
  • Schirazi, Asghar (1997). The Constitution of Iran. Tauris.
  • Shirley, Edward (1997). Know Thine Enemy. Farra.
  • Taheri, Amir (1985). The Spirit of Allah. Adler & Adler,.
  • Wright, Robin (2000). The Last Great Revolution : Turmoil And Transformation In Iran. Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House.
  • Zabih, Sepehr (1982). Iran Since the Revolution. Johns Hopkins Press.

[edit] External links

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