Iranian Revolution

Iranian Revolution

"'The Iranian Revolution (mostly known as the Islamic Revolution, [ Islamicaaaa Revolution] , Iran Chamber.] [ Islamic Revolution of Iran] , MS Encarta.] [ [ The Islamic Revolution] , Internews.] [ [ Iranian Revolution] .] [ Iran Profile] , PDF.] ["The Shah and the Ayatollah: Iranian Mythology and Islamic Revolution" (Hardcover), ISBN 0-275-97858-3, by Fereydoun Hoveyda, brother of Amir Abbas Hoveyda.] Persian: انقلاب اسلامی, Enghelābe Eslāmi) was the revolution that transformed Iran from a monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution and founder of the Islamic Republic. [ Encyclopædia Britannica] .] It has been called "the third great revolution in history," following the French and Bolshevik revolutions, [Marvin Zonis quoted in Wright, "Sacred Rage" 1996, p.61] and an event that "made Islamic fundamentalism a political force ... from Morocco to Malaysia." [Nasr, Vali, "The Shia Revival", Norton, (2006), p.121]

Although some might argue that the revolution is still ongoing, its time span can be said to have begun in January 1978 with the first major demonstrations to overthrow the Shah, [ [ The Iranian Revolution] .] and concluded with the approval of the new theocratic Constitution — whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country — in December 1979. In between, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi fled Iran in January 1979 after strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the country, and on February 1, 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran to a greeting by several million Iranians. [ Ruhollah Khomeini] , Encyclopedia Britannica.] The final collapse of the Pahlavi dynasty occurred shortly after on February 11 when Iran's military declared itself "neutral" after guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting. Iran officially became an Islamic Republic on April 1, 1979 when Iranians overwhelmingly approved a national referendum to make it so. [ [ Iran Islamic Republic] , Encyclopedia Britannica.]

The revolution was unique for the surprise it created throughout the world: [Amuzegar, "The Dynamics of the Iranian Revolution," (1991), p.4, 9-12] it lacked many of the customary causes of revolution — defeat at war, a financial crisis, peasant rebellion, or disgruntled military; [Arjomand, "Turban" (1988), p. 191.] produced profound change at great speed; [Amuzegar, Jahangir, "The Dynamics of the Iranian Revolution," SUNY Press, p.10] overthrew a regime thought to be heavily protected by a lavishly financed army and security services; [Harney, "Priest" (1998), p. 2.] [Abrahamian "Iran" (1982), p. 496.] and replaced an ancient monarchy with a theocracy based on Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (or "velayat-e faqih"). Its outcome — an Islamic Republic "under the guidance of an 80-year-old exiled religious scholar from Qom" — was, as one scholar put it, "clearly an occurrence that had to be explained.…"Benard, "The Government of God" (1984), p. 18.]

Not so unique but more intense is the dispute over the revolution's results. For some it was an era of heroism and sacrifice that brought forth nothing less than the nucleus of a world Islamic state — "a perfect model of splendid, humane, and divine life… for all the peoples of the world." [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, [ "As Soon as Iran Achieves Advanced Technologies, It Has the Capacity to Become an Invincible Global Power] ," 9/28/2006 Clip No. 1288.] At the other extreme, disillusioned Iranians explain the revolution as a time when "for a few years we all lost our minds," [Shirley, "Know Thine Enemy" (1997), pp. 98, 104, 195.] and as a system that, "promised us heaven, but ... created a hell on earth." [Akhbar Ganji talking to Afshin Molavi. Molavi, Afshin, "The Soul of Iran," Norton paperback, (2005), p.156.]

Causes of the revolution

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:

*The unpopularity of the Shah's regime: the perception that the Shah was beholden to - if not a puppet of - a non-Muslim Western power, (the United States), [Brumberg, "Reinventing Khomeini" (2001).] Shirley, "Know Thine Enemy" (1997), p. 207.] whose culture was contaminating that of Iran's; that the Shah's regime was oppressive, corrupt, and extravagant. [Mackay, "Iranians" (1998), pp. 236, 260.] Harney, "The Priest" (1998), pp. 37, 47, 67, 128, 155, 167.]
*The technical failures of the regime: the bottlenecks, shortages and inflation, of the regime's overly-ambitious economic program; [Graham, "Iran" (1980), pp. 19, 96.] the failure of its security forces to deal with protest and demonstration; [Graham, "Iran" (1980) p. 228.] the overly centralized royal power structure. [Arjomand, "Turban" (1998), pp. 189–90.]
*The growth of the Islamic revival that opposed Westernization and saw Ayatollah Khomeini as following in the footsteps of the beloved Shi'a Imam Husayn ibn Ali, and the Shah as a modern day version of Hussein's foe, the hated tyrant Yazid I;Taheri, "The Spirit of Allah" (1985), p. 238.]
*The underestimation of the Islamist movement of Ayatollah Khomeini by the Shah - who thought they were a minor threat - [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p. 178.] Hoveyda "Shah" (2003) p. 22.] Abrahamian, "Iran" (1982), pp. 533–4.] and by the anti-Shah secularists - who thought Khomeninists could be sidelined. [Schirazi, "The Constitution of Iran" (1997), pp. 293–4.]

Ideology of Iranian revolution

The ideology of the revolution can be summarized as populist, nationalist and most of all Shi'a Islamic.

Contributors to the ideology included Jalal Al-e-Ahmad, who formulated "Gharbzadegi" -- the idea that Western culture was a plague or an intoxication that alienated Muslims from their roots and identity and must be fought and expelled.Mackay, "Iranians" (1996) pp. 215, 264–5.] Ali Shariati influenced many young Iranians with his interpretation of Islam as the one true way of awakening the oppressed and liberating the Third World from colonialism and neo-colonialism. [Keddie, "Modern Iran", (2003) p.201-7]

And most of all Ayatollah Khomeini, the man who dominated the revolution itself. He preached that revolt, and especially martyrdom, against injustice and tyranny was part of Shia Islam, [ [ The Last Great Revolution Turmoil and Transformation in Iran] , by Robin WRIGHT.] that Muslims should reject the influence of both Soviet and American superpowers in Iran with the slogan "not Eastern, nor Western - Islamic Republican" ( _fa. نه شرقی نه غربی جمهوری اسلامی)

Even more importantly he developed the ideology of "velayat-e faqih," that Muslims, in fact everyone, required "guardianship," in the form of rule or supervision by the leading Islamic jurist or jurists -- such as Khomeini himself. [Dabashi, "Theology of Discontent" (1993), p.419, 443] Rule by Islamic jurists would protect Islam from innovation and deviation by following traditional sharia law exclusively, and in so doing would prevent poverty, injustice, and the "plundering" of Muslim land by foreign unbelievers. [Khomeini; Algar, "Islam and Revolution," p.52, 54, 80]

Establishing and obeying this Islamic government was so important it was "actually an expression of obedience to God," ultimately "more necessary even than prayer and fasting" for Islam because without it true Islam will not survive. [See: Velayat-e faqih (book by Khomeini)#Importance_of_Islamic_Government] It was a universal principle, not one confined to Iran. All the world needed and deserved just government, i.e. true Islamic government. [ [ khomeinism] ]

This revolutionary vision of theocratic government was in stark contrast to that of other revolutionaries - traditionalist Shia clerics, Iran's democratic secularists and Islamic leftists. Consequently, prior to the overthrow of the Shah, the revolution's ideology was known for its "imprecision" [Abrahamian "Iran"(1982), p.478-9] or "vague character," [Amuzegar, "Dynamics of the Iranian Revolution" (1991), p.10] with the specific character of velayat-e faqih/theocratic waiting to be made public when the time was right. [Schirazi, "Constitution of Iran" (1997) p.29-32] Khomeini believed the opposition to velayat-e faqih/theocratic government by the other revolutionaries was the result of propaganda campaign by foreign imperialists eager to prevent Islam from putting a stop to their plundering. This propaganda was so insidious it had penetrated even Islamic seminaries and made it necessary to "observe the principles of taqiyya" (i.e. dissimulation of the truth in defense of Islam), when talking about (or not talking about) Islamic government. [See: ] [Khomeini and Algar, "Islam and Revolution" (1981), p.34]

In the end, the revolutionary ideology prevailed. Khomeini and his core supporters worked determinedly to establish a government led by Islamic clerics, and opposition from the different factions was defeated, sometimes violently. (see below: Khomeini takes power, Consolidation of power by Khomeini and Opposition to the revolution)

Background of the revolution

Anti-clericalism of the Pahlavi dynasty

Following the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1906, Iran's first constitution came into effect, approved by the Majlis. The constitution established a special place for Twelver Shi'a Islam. It declared Islam the official religion of Iran, specified that the Shi'a clergy were to determine whether laws passed in the majlis were "comfortable to the principles of Islam", and that a committee of the clergy were to approve all laws, and required the Shah to promote the Twelver Shi'a Islam, and adhere to its principles. [] (See: Supplementary Fundamental Laws)

However, after the rise of the Pahlavi dynasty, Reza Pahlavi, like his contemporary Atatürk, tried to secularize and westernize Iran. He marginalized the Shi'a clergy, and put an end to Islamic laws and tried unveiling women. Reza Pahlavi tried to secularize Iran by ignoring the religious constitution. By the mid-1930s, Reza Shah's style of rule had caused intense dissatisfaction to the Shi'a clergy throughout Iran, thus creating a gap between religious institutions and the government. [Rajaee, Farhang, " [ Islamic Values and World View: Farhang Khomeyni on Man, the State and International Politics, Volume XIII] " (PDF), University Press of America. ISBN 0-8191-3578-X] He banned traditional Iranian dress for both men and women, in favour of western dress.Kapuściński, Ryszard. "Shah of Shahs." Translated from Polish by William R. Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand. New York: Vintage International, 1992.] Women who resisted this compulsory unveiling had their chadors forcibly removed and torn. He dealt harshly with opposition: troops were sent to massacre protesters at mosques and nomads who refused to settle. Both liberal and religious newspapers were closed and many imprisoned.

1940s: The Shah comes to power

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi came to power in 1941 after 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. Mossadegh had been voted into power through a democratic election. Through a military coup d'état aided by a CIA and MI6 covert operation, codenamed Operation Ajax, Mossadegh was overthrown and arrested and the Shah returned to the throne. Iranian sentiment has remembered this undermining of Iranian democratic process as a chief complaint against the United States and Britain.

Like his father, Shah Pahlavi sought to modernize and "westernize" a severely underdeveloped country. As R. Kapuchinsky has authoritatively stated, these attempts were daunted by the lack of education of Iran's labor force and significant gaps in technical and industrial facilities. He retained close relationships with the United States and several other western countries, and was frequently recognized by the American presidential administrations for his policies and steadfast opposition to Communism. Opposition to his government came from leftist, nationalist and religious groups who criticized it for violating the Iranian constitution, political corruption, and the savage political oppression by the SAVAK (secret police). Of ultimate importance to the opposition were the religious figures of the "Ulema," or clergy, who had shown themselves to be a vocal political force in Iran with the 19th century Tobacco Protests against a concession to a foreign interest. The clergy had a significant influence on the majority of Iranians who tended to be the religious, traditional and alienated from any process of Westernization.

1960s: Rise of Ayatollah Khomeini

Khomeini, the future leader of the Iranian revolution was declared as a marja, by the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom in 1963, following the death of Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Husayn Borujerdi. He also came to political prominence that year leading opposition to the Shah and his program of reforms known as the White Revolution. Khomeini attacked the Shah's program — breaking up property owned by some Shi’a clergy, 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 — declaring that the Shah had "embarked on the destruction of Islam in Iran." ["Nehzat" by Ruhani vol. 1 p. 195, quoted in Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p. 75.]

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 said 86 were killed in the rioting; Khomeini supporters stated that at least 15,000 were killed; ["Islam and Revolution", p. 17.] while some say that post-revolutionary reports from police files indicate that more than 380 were killed. [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p. 112.] 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 November 1964 Khomeini was re-arrested and sent into exile where he remained for 14 years until the revolution.

A period of "disaffected calm" followed. [Graham, "Iran" 1980, p. 69.] 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. Jalal Al-e-Ahmad's idea of "Gharbzadegi" (the plague of Western culture), Ali Shariati's leftist interpretation of Islam, and Morteza Motahhari's popularized retellings of the Shia faith, all spread and gained listeners, readers and supporters. Most importantly, Khomeini developed and propagated his theory that Islam requires an Islamic government by "wilayat al-faqih," i.e. rule by the leading Islamic jurist. In a series of lectures in early 1970, later published as a book ("", or "Islamic government, Guardianship of the jurist" in English), Khomeini argued that Islam requires obedience to sharia law alone, and this in turn requires that the leading Islamic jurist or jurists must not only guide Muslims but run the government.

While Khomeini did not talk about this concept in interviews and talks with outsiders, the book was widely distributed in religious circles, especially among Khomeini's students ("talabeh"), ex-students (clerics), and small business leaders. This group also began to develop what would become a powerful and efficient network of opposition [Taheri, "The Spirit of Allah" (1985), p. 196.] 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 [Graham, "Iran" (1980), p. 213.] who admired Khomeini's leadership though they were to clash with and be suppressed by his movement after the revolution.

1970s: Pre-revolutionary conditions and events inside Iran

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. [Hiro, Dilip. Iran Under the Ayatollahs. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1985. p. 57.] 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." [Wright, "Last" (2000), p. 220.]

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. [Graham, "Iran" (1980) p. 94.] 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. [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p. 174.] Attempts by this party to take a populist stand with "anti-profiteering" campaigns fining and jailing merchants, 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. [Graham, "Iran" (1980), p. 96.]

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 the throne by Cyrus the Great. "Iran jumped overnight from the Muslim year 1355 to the royalist year 2535." [Abrahamian, "Iran" (1982), p. 444.] 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. As cultural and religious conservatives, many of these people, already disposed to view the Shah's secularism and Westernization as "alien and wicked", [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p. 163.] went on to form the core of revolution's demonstrators and "martyrs". [Graham, "Iran" (1980), p. 226.]

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 granting amnesty to 357 political prisoners in February, and allowing Red Cross to visit prisons, beginning what is said to be 'a trend of liberalization by the Shah'. Through the late spring, summer and autumn liberal opposition formed organizations and issued open letters denouncing the regime. [Abrahamian, "Iran" (1982), pp. 501–3.] Later that year a dissent group (the Writers' Association) gathered without the customary police break-up and arrests, starting a new era of political action by the Shah's opponents. [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), pp. 183–4.]

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.' A 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. [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), pp. 184–5.] Taheri, "Spirit" (1985), pp. 182–3.]

Opposition groups and organizations

Opposition groups under the Shah tended to fall into three major categories: constitutionalist, Marxist, and Islamist.

Constitutionalists, including National Front of Iran, wanted to revive constitutional monarchy including free elections. Without elections or outlets for peaceful political activity though, they had lost their relevance and had little following.

Marxists groups were illegal and heavily suppressed by SAVAK internal security apparatus. They included the Tudeh Party of Iran; the Organization of Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas (OIPFG) and the breakaway Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas (IPFG), two armed organizations; and some minor groups. [ "Ideology, Culture, and Ambiguity: The Revolutionary Process in Iran"] , "Theory and Society", Vol. 25, No. 3 (Jun., 1996), pp. 349–88.] Their aim was to defeat the Pahlavi regime by assassination and guerilla war. Although they played an important part in the revolution, they never developed a large base of support.

Islamists were divided into several groups. The Freedom Movement of Iran was formed by religious members of the National Front of Iran. It also was a constitutional group and wanted to use lawful political methods against the Shah. This movement comprised Bazargan and Taleqani. The People's Mujahedin of Iran was a quasi-Marxist armed organization that opposed the influence of the clergy and later fought the Islamic government. Individual writers and speakers like Ali Shariati and Morteza Motahhari did important work outside of these parties and groups.

Amongst the close followers of Ayatollah Khomeini, there were some minor armed Islamist groups which joined together after the revolution in the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization. The Coalition of Islamic Societies was founded by religious bazaaris [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p.80] (traditional merchants). The Combatant Clergy Association comprised Motahhari, Beheshti, Bahonar, Rafsanjani and Mofatteh who later became the major governors of Islamic Republic. They used a cultural approach to fight the Shah.

Because of internal repression, opposition groups abroad, like the Confederation of Iranian students, the foreign branch of Freedom Movement of Iran and the Islamic association of students, were important to the revolution.

1978: Outbreak of the Revolution

The early visible opposition by liberals was based in the urban middle class, a section of the population that was fairly secular and wanted the Shah to adhere to the Iranian Constitution of 1906, not a republic ruled by Islamic clerics. [Abrahamian, "Iran Between" (1980), pp. 502–3.] Prominent in it was Mehdi Bazargan and his liberal, moderate Islamic group Freedom Movement of Iran, and the more secular National Front.

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 [Mackay, "Iranians" (1996), p. 276.] by avoiding specifics — at least in public — that might divide the factions. [Abrahamian, "Iran Between" (1980), pp. 478–9]

The various anti-Shah 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.

The first major demonstration

The first of the major demonstrations against the Shah led by Islamic groups came in January 1978. Angry students and religious leaders in the city of Qom demonstrated against a libelous story attacking Khomeini run in the official press. The army was sent in, dispersing the demonstrations and killing several students (two according to the government, 70 according to the opposition). [Abrahamian, "Iran" (1982), p. 505.]

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 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, and other symbols of the Shah regime were destroyed; again security forces intervened, killing many. On May 10 the same occurred.

Ayatollah Shariatmadari joins the opposition

In May, government commandos burst into the home of Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari, a leading cleric and political moderate, and shot dead one of his followers right in front of him. Shariatmadari abandoned his quietist stance and joined the opposition to the Shah.Mackey, "Iranians" (1996) p. 279.]

The Shah attempted to appease protestors by dampening inflation, making appeals to the moderate clergy, and by firing his head of SAVAK and promising free elections the next June. [Harney, "The Priest" (1998), p. 14.] But the anti-inflationary cutbacks in spending led to layoffs — particularly among young, unskilled workers living in city slums. By summer 1978, these workers, often from traditional rural backgrounds, joined the street protests in massive numbers. Other workers went on strike and by November the economy was crippled by shutdowns. [Abrahamian, "Iran" (1982), pp. 510, 512, 513.]

The Shah approaches the United States

Facing a revolution, the Shah appealed to the United States for support. Because of its history and strategic location, Iran was important to the United States. It was 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 Persian Gulf. But the Pahlavi regime had also recently garnered unfavorable publicity in the West for its human rights record. [Abrahamian, "Iran" (1982), p. 498–9.] In the United States Iran was not considered in danger of revolution. A CIA analysis in August 1978, just six months before the Shah fled Iran for good, had concluded that the country `is not in a revolutionary or even a pre-revolutionary situation.`" [Carter, Jimmy, "Keeping the Faith: Memoirs of a president", Bantam, 1982, p.438]

The Carter administration followed "no clear policy" on Iran.Keddie, "Modern Iran" (2003), p. 235.] The U.S. ambassador to Iran, William H. Sullivan, recalls that the U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski “repeatedly assured Pahlavi that the U.S. backed him fully." President Carter arguably failed at following up on those assurances. 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 believed the revolution was unstoppable. [Keddie, "Modern Iran" (2003), pp. 235–6.] After visiting the Shah in summer of 1978, Secretary of the Treasury Blumenthal complained of the Shah's emotional collapse, reporting, "You've got a zombie out there." [Shawcross, "The Shah's Last Ride" (1988), p. 21.] Brzezinski and Energy Secretary James Schlesinger (Secretary of Defense under Ford) were adamant in their assurances that the Shah would receive military support. Brzezinski still advocated a U.S. military intervention to stabilize Iran even when the Shah's position was believed to be untenable. President Carter could not decide how to stabilize the situation; he was certainly against another coup. Initially, there appeared to be support for a peaceful transfer of power, however this option evaporated when Khomeini and his followers swept through the country, taking power on February 12, 1979.

Conspiracy theories

Some Iranians believe the lack of intervention and sometime sympathy for the revolution by high-level American officials indicate the U.S. "was responsible for Khomeini's victory." A more extreme position asserts that the Shah's overthrow was the result of a "sinister plot to topple a nationalist, progressive, and independent-minded monarch." [Amuzegar, Jahangir, "Dynamics of Iranian Revolution: The Pahlavis' Triumph and Tragedy" SUNY Press, (1991) p.4, 21, 87]

Abadan arson attack

As violence continued, over 400 people died in the Cinema Rex Fire arson attack in August in Abadan. Although movie theaters had been a common target of Islamist demonstrators [Taheri, "Spirit" (1985) p. 220.] [In a recent book by Hossein Boroojerdi, called "Islamic Revolution and its roots", he claims that Cinema Rex was set on fire using chemical material provided by his team operating under the supervision of "Hey'at-haye Mo'talefe (هیأتهای مؤتلفه)", an influential alliance of religious groups who were among the first and most powerful supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini.] such was the distrust of the regime and effectiveness of its enemies' communication skills that the public believed SAVAK had set the fire in an attempt to frame the opposition. [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p. 187.] The next day 10,000 relatives and sympathizers gathered for a mass funeral and march shouting, ‘burn the Shah’, and ‘the Shah is the guilty one.’ [W. Branigin, ‘Abadan Mood Turns Sharply against the Shah,’ "Washington Post", 26, August 1978]

Black Friday

By September, the nation was rapidly destabilizing, with major protests becoming a regular occurrence. The Shah introduced martial law, and banned all demonstrations. A massive protest broke out in Tehran, in what became known as Black Friday.

The clerical leadership spread rumours that "thousands have been massacred by Zionist troops." [Taheri, "The Spirit of Allah" (1985), p. 223.] The troops were actually ethnic Kurds who had been fired on, and the number killed not 15,000 but closer to 700, [Ayatollah Shariatmadari, quoted in Taheri, "Spirit" (1985), p. 309.] but in the mean time the appearance of government brutality alienated 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". [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p. 189.]

Ayatollah Khomeini in Paris

Shah decided to seek the deportation of Ayatollah Khomeini from Iraq and on September 24, 1978, Iraqi regime sieged the house of Khomeini in Najaf. He was informed that his continued residence in Iraq was contingent on his abandoning political activity, a condition he rejected. On October 3, he left Iraq for Kuwait, but was refused entry at the border. Finally October 6 Ayatollah Khomeini embarked for Paris. On October 10 he took up residence in the suburb of Neauphle-le-Château in a house that had been rented for him by Iranian exiles in France. From now on the journalists from across the world made their way to France, and the image and the words of the Ayatollah Khomeini soon became a daily feature in the world's media. [ [ History of Iran: Ayatollah Khomeini ] ]

Muharram protests

On December 2, during the Islamic month of Muharram, 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. [Abrahamian, Iran: Between Two Revolutions (1982), pp. 521–2.]


Ayatollah Khomeini stated that "60,000 men, women and children were martyred by the Shah's regime," [ A Question of Numbers Web: August 08, 2003 Rouzegar-Now Cyrus Kadivar ] ] and this number appears in the constitution of the Islamic Republic. [ [ The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran. THE PRICE THE NATION PAID ] ] A member of the Iranian parliament gave a figure "70,000 martyrs and 100,000 wounded who fought to destroy the rotten monarchy." More recently, a former researcher at the Martyrs Foundation (Bonyad Shahid), Emad al-Din Baghi, estimates the number of casualties suffered by the anti-Shah movement between 1963 and 1979 at 3,164, with 2,781 killed in the 1978 and 1979 clashes between demonstrators and the Shah's army and security forces.

Victory of revolution and fall of monarchy

The Shah leaves

On January 16, 1979 the Shah and the empress left Iran at the demand 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." [Taheri, "Spirit" (1985), p. 240.] Bakhtiar dissolved SAVAK, freed political prisoners, ordered the army to allow mass demonstrations, promised free elections and invited Khomeinists and other revolutionaries into a government of "national unity". [ [ "Demonstrations allowed"] , ABC Evening News for Monday, January 15, 1979.] After stalling for a few days 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.

Khomeini's return and fall of the monarchy

On February 1 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran to rapturous greeting by several million Iranians. Khomeini had flown back to Iran in a chartered Air France Boeing 747. [,9171,920102-2,00.html The Khomeini Era Begins - TIME ] ] Not only the undisputed leader of the revolution, [Taheri, "Spirit" (1985), p. 146.] he had now 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.’ [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p. 200.] Crowds were now known to chant "Islam, Islam, Khomeini, We Will Follow You," and even "Khomeini for King." [ What Are the Iranians Dreaming About?] by Michel Foucault, Chicago: University Press.]

On the day of his arrival Khomeini made clear his fierce rejection of Bakhtiar's regime in a speech promising ‘I shall kick their teeth in.’ He appointed his own competing interim prime minister Mehdi Bazargan on February 4, `with the support of the nation’ and 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.’ [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p. 204.] As Khomeini's movement gained momentum, soldiers began to defect to his side. On February 9 about 10 P.M. a fight broke out between loyal Immortal Guards and pro-Khomeini rebel Homafaran of Iran Air Force, with Khomeini declaring jihad on loyal soldiers who did not surrender. [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), pp. 205–6.] Revolutionaries and rebel soldiers gained the upper hand and began to take over police stations and military installations, distributing arms to the public. The final collapse of the provisional non-Islamist government came at 2 p.m. February 11 when the Supreme Military Council declared itself "neutral in the current political disputes… in order to prevent further disorder and bloodshed." [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p. 206.] Abrahamian, "Iran" (1982), p. 529.] TV and Radio stations, palaces of Pahlavi dynasty and government buildings were then occupied by revolutionaries.

This period, from February 1 to 11, known as the "Decade of Fajr," is celebrated every year in Iran. [ Adnki] .] [ [ Iran 20th] , 1999-01-31, CNN World.] February 11 is "Islamic Revolution's Victory Day", a national holiday with state sponsored demonstrations in every city. [ RFERL] .] [ [ Iran Anniversary] , 2004-02-11, CBC World.]

Consolidation of power by Khomeini

The Khomeini-appointed Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan supported the establishment of a reformist, democratic parliamentary government. [Moin, "Khomeini," 2000, p. 203] Operating separately were 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"). [Keddie, "Modern Iran" (2003), pp. 241–2.] While the moderate Bazargan and his Provisional Revolutionary Government (temporarily) reassured the middle class, it became apparent they did not have power over the "Khomeinist" revolutionary bodies, particularly the Revolutionary Council and later the Islamic Revolutionary Party. Inevitably the overlapping authority of the Revolutionary Council (which had the power to pass laws) and Revolutionary government was a source of conflict, [Keddie, "Modern Iran" (2003) p.245] despite the fact that both had been approved by and/or put in place 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. [Moin, "Khomeini," 2000, p. 217.] The constitution was sent for review to the newly-elected Assembly of Experts for the Constitution which was dominated by allies of Khomeini. Despite the fact that Khomeini had originally declared it ‘correct’, [Schirazi, "The Constitution of Iran," 1997, p. 22–3.] 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 for the Constitution created a powerful post of Supreme Leader for Khomeini, [] who was in charge of the military and security services, and appointed several top government and judicial officials. A less powerful president was to be elected every four years. Another theocratic body, the Council of Guardians, was given veto power over candidates for president, parliament, and the body that elected the Supreme Leader (the Assembly of Experts) as well as laws passed by the legislature.

Organizations of the revolution

Revolutionary Council

The Revolutionary Council was formed by Khomeini to manage the revolution shortly before he returned to Iran. Its existence was kept a secret during the early, less secure time of the revolution. It has been described as "a parallel government" that passed laws and competed with the official Provisional Revolutionary Government [Keddie, "Modern Iran", (2003) p.245] which had also been designated by Khomeini. The council served as the undisputed government of Iran from the resignation of Bazargan until the formation of first parliament. (6 Nov 1979 - 12 Aug 1980). [ [ Iran] , World Statesmen.]

Provisional Revolutionary Government

The Provisional Revolutionary Government was established following the overthrow of the monarchy by order of Ayatollah Khomeini on February 4, 1979, while another interim government of Shapour Bakhtiar (the Shah's last Prime Minister) was still in power. Ayatollah Khomeini commanded Iranians to obey Bazargan as a religious duty.

As a man who, though the guardianship ["Velayat"] that I have from the holy lawgiver [the Prophet] , I hereby pronounce Bazargan as the Ruler, and since I have appointed him, he must be obeyed. The nation must obey him. This is not an ordinary government. It is a government based on the "sharia". Opposing this government means opposing the "sharia" of Islam ... Revolt against God's government is a revolt against God. Revolt against God is blasphemy. [Khomeini, "Sahifeh-ye Nur", vol.5, p.31, translated by Baqer Moin in "Khomeini" (2000), p.204] [ چرا و چگونه بازرگان به نخست وزیری رسید؟] The commandment of Ayatollah Khomeini for Bazargan and his sermon on February 5.]

His government lasted only a few months and the ministers all resigned after American Embassy officials were taken hostage on November 4, 1979. Bazargan had been a supporter of the original revolutionary draft constitution rather than theocracy by Islamic jurist, and his resignation was received by Khomeini without complaint, saying "Mr. Bazargan ... was a little tired and preferred to stay on the sidelines for a while." Khomeini later described his appointment of Bazargan as a "mistake." [Moin, "Khomeini,"(2000), p.222] The PRG is often described as "subordinate" to the Revolutionary Council, and being in constant conflict with the numerous more radical "komiteh" or revolutionary committees. [Arjomand, "Turban for the Crown," (1988) p.135)]

Revolutionary Committees

The first "komiteh" or committees "sprang up everywhere" as autonomous organizations in late 1978. Organized in mosques, schools and workplaces, they mobilized people, organized strikes and demonstrations, and distributed scarce commodities. After February 12th, many of the 300,000 rifles and sub-machine guns seized from military arsenalsBakhash, "Reign of the Ayatollahs," (1984), p.56] ended up with the committees who confiscated property and arrested those they believed to be counter-revolutionaries. The postrevolutionary committees were "far greater in number, less disciplined", and "vastly more powerful." In Tehran alone there were 1500 committees. Inevitably there was conflict between the committees and the other sources of authority, particularly the Provisional Government. [Bakhash, "Reign of the Ayatollahs," (1984), p.57]

To establish some discipline Khomeini put Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani in charge of the komiteh. [Arjomand, "Turban for the Crown" (1988) p.135] Komiteh also served as "the eyes and ears" of the new regime, and are credited by critics with "many arbitrary arrests, executions and confiscations of property".Moin, "Khomeini" (2000) p.211] In the summer of 1979, the komitehs were purged to eradicate the influence of the leftist guerilla movements that had infiltrated them.

Islamic Republic Party

The Islamic Republic Party was started by Khomeini lieutenant Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini Beheshti and the Coalition of Islamic Societies within a few days of the Khomeini's arrival in Iran. It "operated on every level of society, from government offices to almost all city quarters..."Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p.210-1] and worked to establish theocratic government by velayat-e faqih in Iran outmaneuvering opponents and wielding power on the street through the Hezbollah. Activists included merchants of the bazaar and "a large segment of the politically active clergy."

The party achieved a large majority in the first parliament and successfully suppressed the Islamic Republic's first president, Banisadr, and his supporters in mid-1981. A campaign of terror against the IRP followed, mounted by the guerrilla group People's Mujahedin of Iran or MEK. On the 28 June, 1981, a bombing of the office of the Islamic Republic Party killed around 70 high-ranking officials, cabinet members and members of parliament, including Mohammad Beheshti, the secretary-general of the party and head of the Islamic Party's judicial system. His successor Mohammad Javad Bahonar was in turn assassinated on September 2. Because of these events and other assassinations the Islamic Party was weakened in 1981. It was dissolved in 1987.

Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps

The Revolutionary Guard or "Pasdaran-e Enqelab", was established by a decree issued by Khomeini on May 5 1979 "to protect the revolution from destructive forces and counter-revolutionaries,` [Moin, "Khomeini", (2003), p.211-2] i.e. as a counterweight both to the armed groups of the left, and to the Iranian military, which had been part of the Shah's power base. 6,000 persons were initially enlisted and trained, [Baskhash, "Reign of the Ayatollahs", (1984) p.63] but the guard eventually grew into "a full-scale" military force "with air force and navy branches". Its work involves both conventional military duties, helping Islamic forces abroad, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, and internal security, such as the suppression of narcotics trafficking, riots by the discontented, and unIslamic behavior by members of the public. [Mackey, "Iranians" (1996), p.371] It has been described as "without a doubt the strongest institution of the revolution" [Schirazi, "Constitution of Iran", (1997) p.151]


"Oppressed mobilization" or "Baseej-e Mostaz'afin" was founded at the command of Khomeini in 1980, to be organized by the Revolutionary Guard. [ Niruyeh Moghavemat Basij - Mobilisation Resistance Force ] ] Its purpose was to mobilize volunteers of many skills -- doctors, engineers, but primarily to mobilize those too old or young to serve in other bodies. Baseej (also Basij) often provided security, and helped police and the army. Baseej were also used to attack opposition demonstrators and ransack opposition newspaper offices, who were believed to be enemies of the revolution.. [Keddie, "Modern Iran," (2003) p.275]


The Hezbollah or Party of God, were the "strong-arm thugs" who attacked demonstrators and offices of newspapers critical of Khomeini, and later a wider variety of activities found to be undesirable for "moral" or "cultural" reasons.Schirazi, "Constitution of Iran," (1987)p.153] Hezbollah is/was not a tightly structured independent organisation but more a movement of loosely bound groups usually centered around a mosque. Although in the early days of the revolution Khomeinists -- those in the Islamic Republican Party -- denied connection to Hezbollah, maintaining its attacks were the spontaneous will of the people over which the government had no control, in fact Hezbollah was supervised by "a young protegee of Khomeini," Hojjat al-Islam Hadi Ghaffari. [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p.211]

Jihad of Construction

Jihad of construction, or "Jahad-e Sazandegi," began as a movement of "volunteers to help with the 1979 harvest", but soon took on a "broader, more official role" in the countryside. It is involved with "road building, piped water, electrification, clinics, schools, and irrigation canals." [Keddie, "Modern Iran" (2003), p.286] It also provides "extension services, seeds, loans," etc. to small farmers [Bakhash, Reign of the Ayatollahs," (1984) p.202] Finally it was merged with agriculture ministry in 2001 to form the Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture. [ [ The Minstry of Jihad-e Agriculture] ]

The Islamic republic

Khomeini takes power

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 influence had different interpretations of the broad goals of the revolution: an end to tyranny, more Islamic and less American and Western influence, more social justice and less inequality.

Khomeini had "overwhelming ideological, political and organizational hegemony," [Azar Tabari, ‘Mystifications of the Past and Illusions of the Future,’ in "The Iranian Revolution and the Islamic Republic: Proceedings of a Conference," ed. Nikki R. Keddie and Eric Hooglund (Washington DC: Middle East Institute, 1982) pp. 101–24.] but this was in large part because his non-theocratic allies believed he had neither the interest in nor ability to rule, [Schirazi, "Constitution of Iran" (1997), p.93-4] and intended to be more a spiritual guide than a power holder. 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," [" [ Democracy? I meant theocracy] ", by Dr. Jalal Matini, translation & introduction by Farhad Mafie, August 5, 2003, "The Iranian".] [ Islamic Clerics] , [ Khomeini Promises Kept] , [ Gems of Islamism] .]

There is some dispute over whether "what began as an authentic and anti-dictatorial popular revolution based on a broad coalition of all anti-Shah forces was soon transformed into an Islamic fundamentalist power-grab" [Zabih, Sepehr "Iran Since the Revolution" Johns Hopkins Press, 1982, p.2 ] after the return of Khomeini, or whether the non-theocratic groups played a role in the early days of the revolution, but did not seriously challenge Khomeini's movement in popular support. [For example, Islamic Republic Party and allied forces controlled approximately 80% of the seats on the Assembly of Experts of Constitution. (see: Bakhash, "Reign of the Ayatollahs" (1983) p.78-82) An impressive margin even allowing for electral manipulation] Whichever was the case, Khomeini's forces prevailed, eliminating with skillful timing both adversaries and unwanted allies from power [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000), p. 203.] and implemented his "wilayat al-faqih" design for an Islamic Republic led by himself as Supreme Leader. [Schirazi, "Constitution of Iran " (1997), pp. 24–32.]

In the first year of revolution there were two centers of power: the Provisional Revolutionary Government, and the revolutionary organizations. Foundation of revolutionary organizations and councils was begun by leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. These official and popular organizations managed revolutionary situation and established new Islamic state.

Establishment of Islamic republic government

Referendum of 12 Farvardin

On March 30 and 31 (Farvardin 10, 11) Iranians voted on whether Iran should become an "Islamic Republic" though the ballot did not define the term or include a constitution. On Farvardin 12 a 98.2% vote in favor was announced, with Khomeini declaring the result a victory of "the oppressed ... over the arrogant." [ [] ] Several secularist and communist groups boycotted the vote but turnout was very high. Opponents also claims the vote in favor was a result of a lack of definition of Islamic Republic.Fact|date=June 2008

Assembly of Experts of Constitution

The seventy-three-member Assembly of Experts for Constitution was elected in the summer of 1979 to write a new constitution for the Islamic Republic. The Assembly was originally conceived of as a way expediting the draft constitution which Khomeini supporters had started working when Khomeini was still in exile, but which leftists found too conservative and wanted to make major changes to. Ironically, it was the Assembly that made major changes, instituting principles of theocracy by velayat-e faqih, adding on a faqih Supreme Leader, and increasing the power and clerical character of the Council of Guardians which could veto un-Islamic legislation. The new constitution was opposed by some clerics, including Ayatollah Shariatmadari, and secularists who urged a boycott. It was approved by referendum on December 2 and 3, 1979, by over 98 percent of the vote. [ [ History of Iran: Iran after the victory of 1979's Revolution ] ]

Hostage Crisis

In October 1979 the United States admitted the exiled and ailing Shah into the country for cancer treatment. In Iran there was an immediate outcry with both Khomeini and leftist groups demanding the Shah's return to Iran for trial and execution. Revolutionaries were reminded of Operation Ajax, 26 years earlier when the Shah fled abroad while American CIA and British intelligence organized a coup d'état to overthrow his nationalist opponent.

Youthful supporters of Khomeini, calling themselves Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line invaded the embassy compound. Although the students later said they did not expect to occupy the embassy for long, their action received official support and triggered the Iran hostage crisis where 52 American diplomats were held hostage for 444 days. Khomeini supported the hostage-taking not only out of his enmity for the ex-Shah but to advance the cause of theocratic government and outflank his opponents, or as he told his future President, "This action has many benefits. ... This has united our people. Our opponents do not dare act against us. We can put the constitution to the people's vote without difficulty, and carry out presidential and parliamentary elections." [Moin, "Khomeini," (2000), p.228] The anti-theocratic liberals who opposed keeping the hostages split from anti-theocratic leftist guerilla organizations who supported it.

Attempts to extradite the Shah for execution were unsuccessful. The Shah left America for Egypt, where he had been given exile by Pres. Anwar Sadat, and where he died less than a year after the hostage taking. This did not end the crisis, however, which switched focus to allegations that the American embassy was a "nest of spies". Embassy documents were released by Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line showing moderates had met with U.S. officials, although similar evidence of high ranking Islamists having also done so did not see the light of day. [Moin, "Khomeini," (2000), p.248-9]

After over a year of captivity (444 days) the hostages were released in a settlement that "did not meet any of Iran's original demands" and was considered "almost wholly favorable to the United States." [Keddie, "Modern Iran," (2003), p.252] The crisis did succeed in radicalizing the revolution and further weakening Iranian moderates. Among the moderate causualties of the hostage crisis was Prime Minister Bazargan who resigned in November unable to enforce the government's order to release the hostages. [Keddie, "Modern Iran" (2003), p.249] Another legacy was the weakening of the Iranian economy from economic sanctions placed on Iran by America which are still in place. [Bakhash, "Reign of the Ayatollahs", (1984), p.236] [Brumberg, Daniel "Reinventing Khomeini, university of Chicago Press, (2001), p.118]

Opposition to the revolution

Iranian dissent and its suppression

The first to be executed by revolutionary leadership were members of the old regime: senior generals, and a couple of months later over 200 of the Shah's senior civilian officials [Moin, "Khomeini," 2000, p. 208.] as punishment and to eliminate the danger of coup d’État. Brief trials lacking defense attorneys, juries, transparency or opportunity for the accused to defend themselves [Bakhash, "The Reign of the Ayatollahs" (1984), p. 61.] were held by revolutionary judges such as Sadegh Khalkhali, the "Sharia" judge. Among those executed 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, [Mackay, "Iranians," 1996, p. 373.] although these attacks are thought to have stopped after the early 1990s. [Keddie, "Modern Iran," (2003), p.268]

Communist guerrillas and federalist parties revolted in some regions comprising Khuzistan, Kurdistan and Gonbad-e Qabus which resulted in fighting among them and revolutionary forces. These revolts began in April and lasted for several months or years depending on the region.

By early March revolutionaries hoping for a government based on liberal democracy were given a taste of disappointments to come when Khomeini announced "Do not use this term, ‘democratic.’ That is the Western style." [Bakhash, Shaul, "The Reign of the Ayatollahs", p. 73.] In mid August several dozen newspapers and magazines opposing Khomeini's idea of Islamic government — theocratic rule by jurists or "velayat-e faqih" — were shut down.Schirazi, "Constitution of Iran" (1997) p. 51.] Moin, "Khomeini," 2000, pp. 219–20.] Khomeini angrily denounced protests against the press closings, saying "we thought we were dealing with human beings. It is evident we are not." [Moin, "Khomeini," 2000, p. 219.] 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. [Moin, "Khomeini," 2000, p. 232.] 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 8,000 military officers deemed too "Westernized" [Arjomand, Said Amir, "Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran," Oxford University Press, 1988 p. 144.]

Khomeini sometimes used "takfir" (declaring someone guilty of apostasy, a capital crime) 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." [Schirazi, Asghar, "The Constitution of Iran," Tauris 1997, p. 127.]

One of the last organized opponents of theocratic rule was the People's Mujahedin of Iran, a guerrilla group that unlike most of the opposition was armed and accustomed to using violence. In February 1980 concentrated attacks by "hezbollahi" toughs began on the meeting places, bookstores, newsstands of Mujahideen and other leftists [Bakhash, "The Reign of the Ayatollahs" (1984) p. 123.] driving the left underground. People's Mujahideen retaliated with a campaign of bombing assassination including the killing of 72 at the Islamic Republican Party headquarters on June 28, 1981 [Moin, "Khomeini" (2000) pp. 241–2.] President Mohammad Ali Rajai and Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar were also assassinated that year. [ Iran] Backgrounder, [ HRW] .]

Western/U.S.-Iranian relations

Neighboring regimes and the Iran–Iraq War

The Islamic Republic positioned itself as a revolutionary beacon under the slogan "neither East nor West" (i.e. follow neither Soviet nor American/West European models), and called for the overthrow of capitalism, American influence, and social injustice in the Middle East and the rest of the world. Revolutionary leaders in Iran gave and sought support from non-Islamic as well as Islamic Third World causes — e.g. the PLO, Sandinistas in Nicaragua, Irish IRA and anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa — even to the point of favoring non-Muslim revolutionaries over more conservative Islamic causes such as the neighboring Afghan Mujahideen. [Roy, "Failure of Political Islam" (1994), p. 175.]

In its region, Iranian Islamic revolutionaries called specifically for the overthrow of monarchies and their replacement with Islamic republics, much to the alarm of its smaller Sunni-run Arab neighbors Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf States. Most of these countries were monarchies and all had sizable Shi'a populations - including a majority population in Iraq and Bahrain. In 1980, Iraq whose government was Sunni Muslim and Arab nationalist, invaded Iran in an attempt to seize the oil-rich predominantly Arab province of Khuzistan and destroy the revolution in its infancy. Thus 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. The war also became an opportunity for the regime to crush its remaining opponents, mostly the Soviet-backed leftist groups, dishing out harsh treatment, including torture and imprisonment.

Realizing its mistake, the Iraqis offered Iran a truce. Khomeini rejected it, announcing the only condition for peace was that "the regime in Baghdad must fall and must be replaced by an Islamic Republic." [Wright, "In the Name of God" (1989), p. 126.] 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. [ Expansion of the Islamic Revolution and the War with Iraq] , [ Gems of Islamism] .]

Post-revolutionary impact


Internationally, the initial impact of the Islamic revolution was immense. In the non-Muslim world it has changed the image of Islam, generating much interest in the politics and spirituality of Islam. [Shawcross, William, "The Shah's Last Ride" (1988), p. 110.] In the Mideast and Muslim world, particularly in its early years, it triggered enormous enthusiasm and redoubled opposition to western intervention and influence. Islamist insurgents rose in Saudi Arabia (the 1979 week-long takeover of the Grand Mosque), Egypt (the 1981 machine-gunning of the Egyptian President Sadat), Syria (the Muslim Brotherhood rebellion in Hama), and Lebanon (the 1983 bombing of the American Embassy and French and American peace-keeping troops). [ Fundamentalist Power] , Martin Kramer.]

Although ultimately these rebellions did not succeed, other activities have had more long term impact. The Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 fatwa calling for the killing of Salman Rushdie for his allegedly blasphemous book The Satanic Verses, demonstrated that even citizens of a foreign country living in that country were not safe from the long arm of the Islamic revolution. The Islamic revolutionary government itself is credited with financing and helping create such groups as the powerful Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan. In Lebanon, Iran's generous financing of Hezbollah helped establish that group as a major political and military power which fought against Israeli occupation and its proxy South Lebanon Army, and expanded Shia Islam's influence. [Harik, Judith Palmer, "Hezbollah, the Changing Face of Terrorism" (2004), 40]

The revolution has won praise from some Muslim leaders. Hamas Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh:

You are also continuing the same path that was initiated by Imam Khomeini, since you have always supported the Palestinian people, and I hope that we will meet each other at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the near future. [ Khamenei] .]

Others have been less complementary. Scholar Vali Nasr argues that the only country outside Iran the revolution has had a "measure of lasting influence" prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq is in Lebanon. [Nasr, Vali, "The Shia Revival" Norton, (2006), p.141] Others claim the devastating Iran–Iraq War "mortally wounded ... the ideal of spreading the Islamic revolution," [Keddie, "Modern Iran" (2003) p.241] or that Iran has lost "its place as a great regional power," [Roy, "Failure of Political Islam" (1994), p. 193.] because the ideology of the revolution prevents Iran from following a "nationalist, pragmatic" foreign policy.

Iranians have also complained of the international impact on individual citizens. As one complained to an Iranian-American journalist: "What has come of us. Our currency is worthless. Those backward Arabs go to Europe with rials, and we can barely visit Turkey with our worthless tomans!" [Molavi, Afshin, "The Soul of Iran", Norton, (2005), p.18]


Internally, some goals of the revolutionary — broadening education and health care for the poor, and particularly governmental promotion of Islam, and the elimination of secularism and American influence in government — have met with unqualified successes; others — such as greater political freedom, governmental honesty and efficiency, economic equality and self-sufficiency, and even popular religious devotion [Roy, "Failure of Political Islam" (1994), p. 199.] [Iran "has the lowest mosque attendance of any Islamic country." according to [ of the revolution] ] — have not. [ [ Khomeini Promises Kept] , [ Gems of Islamism] .] Overall, however, dissatisfaction is widespread.

Human development

One of the highlights of the revolution has been an increase in literacy. Although the Shah's regime had created a popular and successful Literacy Corps and also worked to raise literacy rates, ["Iran, the Essential Guide to a Country on the Brink", Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2006, p.212] the Islamic Republic replaced it with a Literacy Movement Organization (LMO), based on Islamic principles. [ [ Iran] , the UNESCO EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports.] The program is credited with much of the country's success in more than halving illiteracy rates from 52.5 per cent in 1976 to 24 per cent, at the last count in 2002. [ [ National Literacy Policies, Islamic Republic of Iran] ] [ Adult education offers new opportunities and options to Iranian women] , UNGEI.] [ [ Adult education offers new opportunities and options to Iranian women] , UNFPA.] In the field of health, maternal and infant mortality rates have both been cut significantly. [Howard, Jane. "Inside Iran: Women's Lives", Mage publishers, 2002, p.89]

Population growth was encouraged for the first nine years of the revolution, but in 1988 youth unemployment concerns prompted the government to do "an amazing U-turn" and Iran now has "one of the world's most effective" family planning programs. [Keddie, Modern Iran (2003) p.287-8] Overall, Iran's Human development Index rating has climbed significantly from 0.569 in 1980 to 0.732 in 2002, on par with neighbour Turkey. [ [ Iran: Human Development Index] ] [ [ Turkey: Human Development Index] ]

Political freedom

Iran has elected governmental bodies at the national, provincial and local levels for which all males and females from the age of 15 on up may vote. (See Politics and Government of Iran) Although these bodies are subordinate to theocracy — which has veto power over who can run for parliament (or Islamic Consultative Assembly) and whether its bills can become law — they have more power than equivalent organs under the Shah's regime. Four of the 290 parliamentary seats are allocated for the minority Christian (3 seats), Jewish (1 seat) and Zoroastrian (1 seat) communities in rough proportion with their population [ Constitution] , [ Iran Online] .] — giving at least token acknowledgment of individual or minority rights.WRIGHT, [ The Last Great Revolution] , NY Times Books.] Khomeini met with the Jewish community upon his return from exile in Paris and issued a fatwa decreeing that the Jews were to be protected. Similar edicts also protect Iran's tiny Christian minority. [ [ IRAN: Life of Jews Living in Iran ] ]

Religious minorities

On the other hand, religious minorities in Iran complain of discrimination, 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 Khamene’i 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'. [ ADL Says Iranian Attempt to Monitor Bahais Sets 'Dangerous Precedent'] , [ ADL] .]

Political repression

Political repression has been a major complaint against the Islamic Republic. Grumbling once done about the tyranny and corruption of the Shah and his court is now directed against "the Mullahs." [Shirley, "Know Thine Enemy" (1997)] Fear of SAVAK has been replaced by fear of Revolutionary Guards, and other religious revolutionary enforcers. [Schirazi, "Constitution of Iran," 1997, p. 153.] Violations of human rights by the theocratic regime is said by some to be worse than during the monarchy, [" [ Ganji: Iran's Boris YELTSIN] ," by Amir Taheri, "Arab News" July 25, 2005] and in any case extremely grave. [ Backgrounder] , [ HRW] .] Torture, the imprisoning of dissidents, and the murder of prominent critics is commonplace. Censorship is handled by the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, without whose official permission, "no books or magazines are published, no audiotapes are distributed, no movies are shown and no cultural organization is established." [ Naghmeh Zarbafian in "My Sister, Guard Your Veil, My Brother, Guard Your Eyes" (2006), (p.63)]


The impact on women of the revolution has been particularly mixed. One of the striking features of the revolution was the large scale participation of women — from traditional backgrounds — in demonstrations. [Graham "Iran" (1980) p. 227.] However, with the establishment of the Islamic republic in, women's rights in Iran were severely curtailed, and women almost immediately began to protest. [,9171,916725,00.html?iid=chix-sphere The Unfinished Revolution] , "Time Magazine", April 2, 1979; accessed September 21, 2008.] [ ] , Nikki R. Keddie, "Social Research" via, Summer 2000; accessed September 21, 2008.] Within months of the founding of the Islamic Republic the 1967 Family Protection Law was repealed, female government workers were forced to observe Islamic dress code, women were barred from becoming judges, beaches and sports were sex-segregated, the marriage age for girls was reduced to 13 and married women were barred from attending regular schools. [ Chronology of Events Regarding Women in Iran since the Revolution of 1979] , Elham Gheytanchi, "Social Research" via FindArticles, Summer 2000; accessed September 21, 2008.]

Female university enrollment has risen steadily, reaching 66% in 2003. [Keddie,"Modern Iran" (2003) p.286] The authorities are increasingly alarmed by this development. [ Women graduates challenge Iran] , Francis Harrison, BBC, September 26, 2006; accessed September 21, 2008.] [ Iran: Does Government Fear Educated Women?] , Iraj Gorgin, Radio Free Europe, February 10, 2008; accessed September 21, 2008.] There are large numbers of women in the civil service and higher education, one example being the 14 women who were elected to the Islamic Consultative Assembly in 1996. On the other hand, the Islamic revolution is ideologically committed to inequality for women in inheritance and other areas of the the civil code; and especially committed to segregation of the sexes. Many places, from "schoolrooms to ski slopes to public buses", are strictly segregated. Females caught by revolutionary officials in a mixed-sex situation can be subject to virginity tests. [Wright, "The Last Great Revolution," (2000), p.136.] "Bad hijab" ― exposure of any part of the body other than hands and face — is subject to punishment of up to 70 lashes or 60 days imprisonment. [Wright, "The Last Great Revolution" (2000), p.136.] [ [] Video: `Iranian Police Enforces "Islamic Dress Code" on Women in the Streets of Tehran,` April 15, 2007]

In recent years under the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, women have faced curtailed rights, and multiple reports of women being beaten, jailed and persecuted have been reported. [ UN: Hold Ahmadinejad Accountable for Iran Rights Crisis] , Human Rights Watch, September 18, 2008; accessed September 21, 2008.] [ Iranian Dissidents at Forum Speak On Ahmadinejad, Women's Rights] , , "New York Sun", Kayvon Afshari, October 17, 2007; accessed September 21, 2008.]


Iran's economy has not prospered. Dependence on petroleum exports is still strong. [Keddie, "Modern Iran", (2003), p.271.] Per capita income, which fluctuates with the price of oil, has fallen by one estimate to as low as 1/4 of what it was during the Shah's era [Low reached in 1995, from: Mackey, "Iranians", 1996, p. 366.] ["According to World Bank figures, which take 1974 as 100, per capita GDP went from a high of 115 in 1976 to a low of 60 in 1988, the year war with Iraq ended ..." (Keddie, "Modern Iran", 2003, p.274)] and is still less than it was before the revolution. Unemployment among Iran's population of young has steadily risen as job creation has failed to keep up,"Still failing, still defiant", "Economist", December 9, 2004.] a high level of corruption being blamed in part. ["Iran: Bribery and Kickbacks Persists Despite Anti-Corruption Drive." "Global Information Network," July 15, 2004 p. 1.]

"Gharbzadegi" ("westoxification") or western cultural influence stubbornly remains, brought by music recordings, videos, and satellite dishes. [ Culture] , Khomeini Promises Kept, [ Gems of Islamism] .] One post-revolutionary opinion poll found 61% of students in Tehran chose "Western artists" as their role models with only 17% choosing "Iran's officials." [‘Political Inclinations of the Youth and Students,’ "Asr-e Ma," n.13, 19 April 1995 in Brumberg, "Reinventing Khomeini" (2001), pp. 189–90.]

ee also

* 1979 energy crisis
* Guerrilla groups of Iran
* History of Iran
* History of political Islam in Iran
* History of the Islamic Republic of Iran
* Human rights in Islamic Republic of Iran
* Iran hostage crisis
* People's Mujahedin of Iran
* Persecution of Bahá'ís
* Persian Constitutional Revolution
* Ruhollah Khomeini
* Timeline of Iranian revolution
* White Revolution
* Wilayat al-Faqih
* Organizations of the Iranian Revolution

References and notes


*cite book |author=Amuzgar, Jahangir |title=The Dynamics of the Iranian Revolution: The Pahlavis' Triumph and Tragedy: 31. |publisher=SUNY Press|year=1991
*cite book |author=Arjomand, Said Amir |title=Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran |publisher=Oxford University Press|year=1988
*cite book |author=Abrahamian, Ervand |title=Iran between two revolutions|publisher=Princeton University Press|year=1982
*cite book |author=Bakhash, Shaul |title=Reign of the Ayatollahs" |publisher=Basic Books, |year=1984
*cite book |author=Benard, Cheryl and Khalilzad, Zalmay |title="The Government of God" — Iran's Islamic Republic
publisher=Columbia University Press|year=1984

*cite book |author=Graham, Robert|title=Iran, the Illusion of Power |publisher=St. Martin's Press |year=1980
*cite book |author=Harney, Desmond|title=The priest and the king: an eyewitness account of the Iranian revolution
publisher=I.B. Tauris|year=1998

*cite book |author=Harris, David|title=The Crisis: the President, the Prophet, and the Shah — 1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam |publisher=Little, Brown|year=2004
*cite book |author=Hoveyda, Fereydoun|title=The Shah and the Ayatollah: Iranian mythology and Islamic revolution |publisher=Praeger|year=2003
*cite book |author=Kapuscinski, Ryszard |title=Shah of Shahs |publisher=Harcourt Brace, Jovanovich |year=1985
*cite book |author=Keddie, Nikki |title=Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution |publisher=Yale University Press|year=2003
*cite book |author=Kepel, Gilles |title=The Trail of Political Islam |publisher=Harvard University Press|year=2002
*cite book |author=Mackey, Sandra |title=The Iranians: Persia, Islam and the Soul of a Nation |publisher=Dutton |year=1996
*cite book |author=Miller, Judith|title=God Has Ninety Nine Names |publisher=Simon & Schuster |year=1996
*cite book |author=Moin, Baqer |title=Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah |publisher=Thomas Dunne Books |year=2000
*cite book |author=Roy, Olivier |title=The Failure of Political Islam | translated by Carol Volk | publisher=Harvard University Press |year=1994
*cite book |author=Ruthven, Malise|title=Islam in the World|publisher=Oxford University Press|year=2000
*cite book |author=Schirazi, Asghar |title=The Constitution of Iran |publisher=Tauris |year=1997
*cite book |author=Shirley, Edward|title=Know Thine Enemy |publisher= Farra|year=1997
*cite book |author=Taheri, Amir|title=The Spirit of Allah |publisher=Adler & Adler |year=1985
*cite book |author=Wright, Robin |title=The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil And Transformation In Iran |publisher=Alfred A. Knopf: Distributed by Random House |year=2000
*cite book |author=Zabih, Sepehr|title="Iran Since the Revolution |publisher=Johns Hopkins Press |year=1982
*cite book |author=Zanganeh, Lila Azam (editor) |title=My Sister, Guard Your Veil, My Brother, Guard Your Eyes : Uncensored Iranian Voices |publisher=Beacon Press| year=2006

Further reading

* (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.
* Ladjevardi, Habib (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
* Milani, Abbas, "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.
* Nobari, Ali Reza, ed. "Iran Erupts: Independence: News and Analysis of the Iranian National Movement." Stanford: Iran-America Documentation Group, 1978.
* Nomani, Farhad & Sohrab Behdad, "Class and Labor in Iran; Did the Revolution Matter?" Syracuse University Press. 2006. ISBN 0-8156-3094-8
* Pahlavi, Mohammad Reza, "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.
* Shawcross, William, "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, January 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.

External links

* [ Islamic Revolution of Iran, Encarta]
* [ The Iranian revolution, Britannica]
* […%22+#PPA31,M1 The Dynamics of the Iranian Revolution: The Pahlavis' Triumph and Tragedy]

Historical articles

* [ The Story of the Revolution] — a detailed web resource from the BBC World Service Persian Branch, devoted to the Iranian Revolution (audio recordings in Persian, transcripts in English).
* [ The Reunion — The Shah of Iran's Court] — BBC Radio 4 presents an audio program featuring reminiscences of the Iranian Revolution by key members of the pre-Revolutionary elite.
* [ Brzezinski's role in the 1979 Iranian Revolution] , Payvand News, March 10, 2006.
* [ The Iranian Revolution] .
* [ The Iranian revolution] , Cyber Essays.
* [ The Islamic revolution] , Internews.

Analytical articles

* [ The Last Great Revolution Turmoil and Transformation in Iran] by Robin Wright.
* [ Islamic Revolution] by Bernard Lewis
* [ Islamic Revolution: An Exchange] by Abbas Milani, Tomis Kapitan, Reply by Bernard Lewis
* [ What Are the Iranians Dreaming About?] by Michel Foucault
* [ The Seductions of Islamism, Revisiting Foucault and the Iranian Revolution] by Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson
* [ The Religious Background of the 1979 Revolution in Iran]
* [ What Happens When Islamists Take Power? The Case of Iran]
* [ Power? The Case of Iran The, Iranian Revolution] by Ted Grant
* [ Class Analysis of the Iranian Revolution of 1979] by Satya J. Gabriel
* [ The Cause of The Iranian Revolution] by Jon Curme
* [ History of Undefeated, A few words in commemoration of the 1979 Revolution] By Mansoor Hekmat, Communist Thinker and Revolutionary

Revolution in pictures

* [] by Akbar Nazemi
* [ Iranian Revolution, Photos] by Kaveh Golestan
* [ Photos from Kave Kazemi]
* [ The Iranian Revolution in Pictures]
* [ Iranian revolution in pictures] , BBC World

Revolution in Videos

* [ Video Archive of Iranian Revolution]

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