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Iranian Revolution

1979 Revolution,Islamic Revolution

انقلاب ایران

Iranian Revolution is a series of social pressures from Iranian public on rulers for reform & change:- Constitutional Monarchy Movement- Nationalization of Oil Industry 1952- Islamic Revolution oif 1979- Green Movement 2009The so-called White Revolution of 1963, although had an impact on land reforms and women suffrage, because of lack of popular support is not considered a revolution (Wikipedia) - Iranian Revolution This article is about the 1979 Iranian (Islamic) revolution in Iran. For the revolution that took place between 1905 and 1911, see Persian Constitutional Revolution. For the series of reforms launched in 1963, see White Revolution. For the 2009–10 uprising, see 2009–10 Iranian election protests. Iranian Revolution (Islamic Revolution, 1979 Revolution) انقلاب اسلامی Parties to the civil conflict Lead figures Casualties
Protesters in Tehran, 1979
Date Location Causes Goals Methods Result
January 1978 - February 1979
  • Discontent with the Shah's rule
  • Exile of Ayatollah Khomeini
  • Social injustice
  • and others
Overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty
  • Demonstrations
  • Strikes
  • Civil resistance
  • Overthrow of Mohammad Rezā Shah Pahlavi
  • Establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran headed by Velayat-e-Faqih
  • Iran–Iraq War
Imperial State of Iran
  • Rastakhiz Party
  • Imperial Iranian Army
    • Imperial Guard
  • Iranian Police
  • Royalist supporters
Revolutionary Council Islamic Revolution Committees Islamic Republican Party
  • Hezbollah of Iran
  • Jahad-e Sazandegi

National Front National Democratic Front FMI Tudeh party Fedai

  • Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian (Majority)
  • Fedaian Organisation (Minority)
  • Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas

Union of Communist Militants MEK Arab Nationalists Kurdish Nationalists Baloch Nationalists

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

Jamshid Amouzegar Jafar Sharif-Emami Ali Neshat Nematollah Nassiri Nasser Moghadam Gholam Ali Oveisi

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti Mahmoud Taleghani Mehdi Bazargan Karim Sanjabi Mansoor Hekmat Massoud Rajavi

2,781 killed in demonstrations during 1978–79

The Iranian Revolution (also known as the Islamic Revolution of Iran or the 1979 Revolution; Persian: انقلاب اسلامی, Enghelābe Eslāmi or انقلاب بیست و دو بهمن) refers to events involving the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was supported by the United States and United Kingdom, and its eventual replacement with an Islamic republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution, supported by various leftist and Islamic organizations and Iranian student movements. While the Soviet Union immediately recognized the new Islamic Republic, it did not actively support the revolution, initially making efforts to salvage the Shah's government.

Demonstrations against the Shah commenced in October 1977, developing into a campaign of civil resistance that was partly secular and partly religious, and intensified in January 1978. Between August and December 1978 strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the country. The Shah left Iran for exile on January 16, 1979 as the last Persian monarch and in the resulting power vacuum two weeks later Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran to a greeting by several million Iranians. The royal reign collapsed shortly after on February 11 when guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting. Iran voted by national referendum to become an Islamic Republic on April 1, 1979, and to approve a new democratic-theocratic hybrid constitution whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country, in December 1979.

The revolution was unusual for the surprise it created throughout the world: it lacked many of the customary causes of revolution (defeat at war, a financial crisis, peasant rebellion, or disgruntled military), produced profound change at great speed, was massively popular, and replaced a pro-Western autocratic monarchy with a republican parliamentary democracy with theocratic elements based on the modern concept of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (or velayat-e faqih). It was a relatively non-violent revolution, achieved without the use of mobs, coup d'etats, or civil wars, and helped to redefine the meaning and practice of modern revolutions (although there was violence in its aftermath).

Its outcome – an Islamic Republic "under the guidance of a religious scholar from Qom" – was, as one scholar put it, "clearly an occurrence that had to be explained".

ContentsCauses Further information: Background and causes of the 1979 Iranian Revolution

Reasons advanced for the occurrence of the revolution and its populist, nationalist, and later, Shi'a Islamic character include a conservative backlash against the Westernizing and secularizing efforts of the Western-backed Shah, a liberal backlash to social injustice, a rise in expectations created by the 1973 oil revenue windfall and an overly ambitious economic program, anger over a short, sharp economic contraction in 1977-78, and other shortcomings of the ancien régime.

The Shah's regime became increasingly oppressive, brutal, corrupt, and extravagant. It also suffered from basic functional failures that brought economic bottlenecks, shortages, and inflation. The Shah was perceived by many as beholden to – if not a puppet of – a non-Muslim Western power (the United States) whose culture was affecting that of Iran. At the same time, support for the Shah may have waned among Western politicians and media – especially under the administration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter – as a result of the Shah's support for OPEC petroleum price increases earlier in the decade.

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

Historical background

Shi'a clergy (Ulema) have had a significant influence on most Iranians, who have tended to be religious, traditional, and opposed to any process of Westernization. The clergy first showed themselves to be a powerful political force in opposition to Iran's monarch with the 1891 Tobacco Protest boycott that effectively destroyed an unpopular concession granted by the Shah giving a British company a monopoly over buying and selling tobacco in Iran.

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

Decades later, the monarchy and the clerics clashed again, this time monarchy holding the upper hand. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi's father, Reza Shah, replaced Islamic laws with western ones, and forbade traditional Islamic clothing, separation of the sexes and veiling of women (hijab). Police forcibly removed and tore chadors off women who resisted his ban on public hijab. In 1935 dozens were killed and hundreds injured when a rebellion by pious Shi'a at the most holy Shi'a shrine in Iran was crushed on his orders.

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

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

Rise of Ayatollah Khomeini Main article: Ruhollah Khomeini See also: Movement of 15 Khordad

The post-revolutionary leader – Shia cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – first came to political prominence in 1963 when he led opposition to the Shah and his "White Revolution", a program of reforms to break up landholdings (including those owned by religious foundations) and allow religious minorities to hold government office.

Khomeini was arrested in 1963 after declaring the Shah a "wretched miserable man" who had "embarked on the destruction of Islam in Iran." Three days of major riots throughout Iran followed, with Khomeini supporters claiming 15,000 dead from police fire. However, much lower estimates of 380 killed and wounded were later made. Khomeini was released after eight months of house arrest and continued his agitation, condemning Iran's close cooperation with Israel and its capitulations, or extension of diplomatic immunity to American government personnel in Iran. In November 1964 Khomeini was re-arrested and sent into exile where he remained for 15 years, until the revolution.

Ideology of the Iranian Revolution Main article: Ideology of the Iranian Revolution
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In this interim period of "disaffected calm" the budding Iranian revival began to undermine the idea of Westernization as progress that was the basis of the Shah's secular reign, and to form the ideology of the 1979 revolution. Jalal Al-e-Ahmad's idea of Gharbzadegi – that Western culture was a plague or an intoxication to be eliminated; Ali Shariati's vision of Islam as the one true liberator of the Third World from oppressive colonialism, neo-colonialism, and capitalism; and Morteza Motahhari's popularized retellings of the Shia faith, all spread and gained listeners, readers and supporters.

Ruhollah Khomeini.

Most importantly, Khomeini preached that revolt, and especially martyrdom, against injustice and tyranny was part of Shia Islam, and that Muslims should reject the influence of both liberal capitalism and communism with the slogan "Neither East, nor West – Islamic Republic!"

Away from public view, Khomeini developed the ideology of velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurist) as government, that Muslims – in fact everyone – required "guardianship," in the form of rule or supervision by the leading Islamic jurist or jurists. Such rule was ultimately "more necessary even than prayer and fasting" in Islam, as it would protect Islam from deviation from traditional sharia law and in so doing eliminate poverty, injustice, and the "plundering" of Muslim land by foreign non-believers.

This idea of rule by Islamic jurists was spread through his book Islamic Government, mosque sermons, smuggled cassette speeches by Khomeini, among Khomeini's opposition network of students (talabeh), ex-students (able clerics such as Morteza Motahhari, Mohammad Beheshti, Mohammad-Javad Bahonar, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Mofatteh), and traditional businessmen (bazaari) inside Iran.

Opposition groups and organizations Main article: Organizations of the Iranian Revolution

Other opposition groups included constitutionalist liberals – the democratic, reformist Islamic Freedom Movement of Iran, headed by Mehdi Bazargan, and the more secular National Front. They were based in the urban middle class, and wanted the Shah to adhere to the Iranian Constitution of 1906 rather than to replace him with a theocracy, but lacked the cohesion and organization of Khomeini's forces.

Marxist groups – primarily the communist Tudeh Party of Iran and the Fedaian guerrillas – had been weakened considerably by government repression. Despite this the guerrillas did help play an important part in the final February 1979 overthrow delivering "the regime its coup de grace." The most powerful guerrilla group – the People's Mujahedin – was leftist Islamist and opposed the influence of the clergy as reactionary.

Some important clergy did not follow Khomeini's lead. Popular ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani supported the left, while perhaps the most senior and influential ayatollah in Iran – Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari – first remained aloof from politics and then came out in support of a democratic revolution.

Khomeini worked to unite this opposition behind him (with the exception of the unwanted `atheistic Marxists`), focusing on the socio-economic problems of the Shah's government (corruption and unequal income and development), while avoiding specifics among the general public that might divide the factions, – particularly his plan for clerical rule which he believed most Iranians had become prejudiced against as a result of propaganda campaign by Western imperialists.

In the post-Shah era, some revolutionaries who clashed with his theocracy and were suppressed by his movement complained of deception, but in the meantime anti-Shah unity was maintained.


Several events in the 1970s set the stage for the 1979 revolution.

The 1971 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire at Persepolis, organized by the government, was attacked for its extravagance. "As the foreigners reveled on drink forbidden by Islam, Iranians were not only excluded from the festivities, some were starving." Five years later the Shah 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."

The oil boom of the 1970s produced "alarming" increase in inflation and waste and an "accelerating gap" between the rich and poor, the city and the country, along with the presence of tens of thousands of unpopular skilled foreign workers. Many Iranians were also angered by the fact that the shah's family was the foremost beneficiary of the income generated by oil, and the line between state earnings and family earnings blurred. By 1976, the shah had accumulated upward of one billion dollars from oil revenue; his family—including sixty-three princes and princesses—had accumulated between five and twenty billion dollars; and the family foundation controlled approximately three billion dollars By mid-1977 economic austerity measures to fight inflation disproportionately affected the thousands of poor and unskilled male migrants to the cities working construction. Culturally and religiously conservative, many went on to form the core of revolution's demonstrators and "martyrs".

All Iranians were required to join and pay dues to a new political party, the Rastakhiz party – all other parties being banned. That party's attempt to fight inflation with populist "anti-profiteering" campaigns – fining and jailing merchants for high prices – angered and politicized merchants while fueling black markets.

In 1977 the Shah responded to the "polite reminder" of the importance of political rights by the new American President, Jimmy Carter, by granting amnesty to some prisoners and allowing the Red Cross to visit prisons. Through 1977 liberal opposition formed organizations and issued open letters denouncing the government.

That year also saw the death of the popular and influential modernist Islamist leader Ali Shariati. This both angered his followers, who considered him a martyr at the hands of SAVAK, and removed a potential revolutionary rival to Khomeini. Finally, in October Khomeini's son Mostafa died of a heart attack, his death also blamed on SAVAK. A subsequent memorial service for Mostafa in Tehran put Khomeini back in the spotlight.

Outbreak History of Iranian Revolution
Part of a series on the
  • Timeline
  • Background
  • Consolidation
  • Casualties
  • Ideology
  • Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists
Revolutionary leaders
  • Mohammad Javad Bahonar
  • Abulhassan Banisadr
  • Mehdi Bazargan
  • Mohammad Beheshti
  • Mostafa Chamran
  • Sadegh Ghotbzadeh
  • Hassan Habibi
  • Hashemi Rafsanjani
  • Ali Khamenei
  • Ahmad Khomeini
  • Ruhollah Khomeini
  • Mahdavi Kani
  • Hussein-Ali Montazeri
  • Morteza Motahhari
  • Mousavi Ardabili
  • Mohammad Ali Rajai
  • Ezzatollah Sahabi
  • Yadollah Sahabi
  • Ali Shariati
  • Mahmoud Taleghani
  • Ebrahim Yazdi
Parties and organizations
  • CCA
  • Guerrilla groups
  • Freedom Movement
  • Fedai
  • Islamic Republic Party
  • MIRO
  • Student Followers of the Imam's Line
  • MKO
  • Tudeh
Official institutions
  • The Interim Government
  • Islamic republic
  • Sepah
  • Basij
  • Assembly of Experts for Constitution
  • Movement of 15 Khordad
  • Black Friday
  • Hostage crisis
  • Cultural Revolution
See also
  • Human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran
Iranian Revolution portal
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  • e

By 1977, the Shah's policy of political liberalization was underway. As a result, with less SAVAK surveillance, for the first time in a decade and a half, opposition figures were able to organize. Secular opponents of the Shah began to meet together in crowds denouncing the government.

Led by the leftist poet Saeed Soltanpour (later executed by the Islamic Republic), the Iranian Writers Association met at the Goethe Institute in Tehran for ten days, to read poetry denouncing the Shah's government and asking for a full liberalization. Although 2,000 were invited, a crowd of nearly 10,000 attempted to enter the center. Several were arrested by police, and one was allegedly killed during a scuffle.

Ali Shariati's death in the United Kingdom shortly after led to another public demonstration of nearly 10,000. The opposition immediately blamed the Shah for "murdering" him (although it was later ruled he died naturally of a heart attack).

In late 1977, the still relatively unknown Ayatollah Khomeini's son Mostapha died in a car accident in Iraq. Khomeini declared him to be a "martyr". At the Ark Mosque in Tehran, a large meeting of several thousand was convened to mourn Mostapha's death, which turned into a political rally. This became the first exposure to Khomeini for many Iranians.

Beginning of Protests

The Shah was increasingly angered by Khomeini's actions, who was gaining popularity due to his "no-compromise" attitude towards his government. As a result, he decided to order the publication of a slanderous article (under a pseudonym) in the Ettelaat newspaper, in which Khomeini was denounced as a "British agent" and a "mad Indian poet" who would hand Iran over to imperialist powers. The article was published on January 7, 1978.

The very same day, hardline religious students who supported Khomeini in the city of Qom (home to the religious schools and an important seat of Shia Islam) began to protest. They marched down the streets of the city, voicing their anger at the insult to Khomeini. By January 9, despite the initial orderliness of the protests, some of the students rampaged throughout the city, setting fire to anything they saw as being "un-Islamic", such as girl's schools, movie theaters, restaurants, etc. The police intervened and came under attack, with the mobs daring them to fire. They finally did, and the death toll was 2 policemen and 6 protesters. Khomeini declared that 70 people had been "martyred".

The Ayatollah Shariatmadari issued a protest to the Shah, declaring that his government treated the clergy and Islam in a horrible manner. Shortly after, government commandos attacked Shariatmadari's house. One of his students there was shot dead. Shariatmadari abandoned his quietist stance and joined the opposition to the Shah. However, in private Shariatmadari was also afraid of Khomeini's visions for Iran. As a result, he continued to communicate with the Shah, in order to prevent Khomeini from taking over, but also to push the Shah to democratize the country. Khomeini continued to communicate with the mosque network via cassete tapes.

According to the Shi'ite customs, memorial services (called Arba'een) are held 40 days after a person's death. After the Qom protests, the revolutionaries used the tactic of organizing protest marches every 40 days to "mourn" the dead. When protesters were killed, another march would occur 40 days later to "mourn" the dead from the previous ones. In mosques across the nation, calls were made to honour the dead students. Thus on February 18, protests began in various different cities throughout the country to "mourn" the dead, protest the Shah and support Khomeini. The protesters were primarily from the middle class, both liberals and pious Muslims. In most cities the protests were peaceful, but in the city of Tabriz, a full scale riot broke out. The riots lasted for two days, with the crowds setting on fire anything considered un-Islamic, and even attacked and burned state buildings, banks, and a Rastakhiz party hall. Nevertheless, the crowds attacked in a organized manner, refusing to engage in looting, and burning "symbolic" targets. Police were unable to cope with the riots, and were nearly driven out of the city, with mobs practically taking over. The army was deployed to quell the protests and restore order, resulting in 13 deaths (with Khomeini claiming "hundreds" were martyred). 40 days later another mourning cycle of protests began for the dead in Tabriz, this time in virtually every major Iranian city including Tehran, and 5 were killed in the city of Yazd during a three day riot there. Due to the consistent over-reporting of casualties, the events generated mass anger and hysteria, and helped fuel the protests even further.

The Shah was taken completely by surprise by the scale of the protests (he could not believe that the people that he believed he worked for so dilligently were angry at him). While SAVAK was well equipped to deal with armed insurgencies and individual opponents, the government had no plans on dealing with a major uprising, nor had any trained anti-riot police.

Not wanting to cause mass bloodshed, he struck a conciliatory tone towards the protesters (also partially due to the pressure of Carter), and attempted to address the protesters concerns. He ordered his forces not to open fire on protesters unless their own lives were threatened (which was virtually impossible because of the Carter administration's refusal to sell the Shah's government non-lethal riot control weapons for "humanitarian reasons", including tear gas and rubber bullets). When Parviz Sabeti, a senior SAVAK official gave the Shah a list of 2,000 people to arrest in order to quell the protests, the Shah only arrested a small handful of them (which still did quell the protests for a short time). Arrested protesters were tried in civilian rather than military courts and rapidly released. He also ordered the SAVAK officials in the city of Tabriz to be fired for "gross negligence and incompetence". As a result, protests were able to continue virtually unmolested by the government forces.

The Shah clumsily attempted to gain support from the moderate clergy, including Shariatmadari (apologizing to him to the raid on his house), and even got the blessing of the Ayatollah Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei in Iraq, however the moderate clergy's fear of Khomeini's movement resulted in very little headway with the Shah.


On 10 May, another 40 day mourning protest began for those killed in Yazd. While nobody died due to the restraint of the police, confused protesters believed that car accident victims at a morgue were dead protesters, and declared them to be "martyrs" and planned another mourning period. The protests had remained at a steady state for four months – about ten thousand participants in each major city (with the exception of Isfahan where protests were larger and Tehran where they were smaller), protesting every 40 days. This amounted to an “almost fully mobilized ‘mosque network,’” of both pious liberal and pious Muslim middle classes, but a small minority of the more than 15 million adults in Iran.

In an attempt to reduce the loss of life and to de-radicalize Khomeini's movement, Shariatmadari called for the June 17 mourning protests to be carried out as a sit-in strike. In a concession to the moderate opposition, the Shah fired the head of SAVAK General Nematollah Nassiri, replacing him with the moderate General Nasser Moghaddam, who began to reign in SAVAK's powers. The Shah tasked Prime Minister Jamshid Amuzegar to began carrying out reforms as well, including ending price control measures. The Shah also announced that he would allow for completely free elections by the next June, and that Iran would become a "full democracy", and allowed for the immediate implementation of freedom of speech, expression, and the press. Censorship was terminated. For the time being, the protests seemed to be over, although tensions remained in the air. The people's listening to Shariatmadari instead of Khomeini led Amuzegar to declare that "the crisis is over". A CIA analysis concluded that Iran "is not in a revolutionary or even a pre-revolutionary situation."

During this time, three prominent opposition leaders from the secular National Front: Karim Sanjabi, Shahpour Bakhtiar, and Dariush Forouhar (two of whom would be assasinated by the Islamic Republic in the future) wrote an open letter to the Shah demanding that he reign according to the constitution of Iran, and denouncing his "abuses of power".

Shah and the United States

Facing a revolution, the Shah appealed to the United States for support. Because of Iran's history and strategic location, the issue was important to the United States. Iran shared a long border with America's Cold War rival, the Soviet Union, and was the largest, most powerful country in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. The Shah had long been pro-American, but the Pahlavi monarchy had also recently garnered unfavorable publicity in the West for its human rights record. 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, had concluded that the country "is not in a revolutionary or even a pre-revolutionary situation."

The Shah of Iran (left) meeting with members of the U.S. government: Alfred Atherton, William Sullivan, Cyrus Vance, Jimmy Carter, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1977

According to historian Nikki Keddie, the administration of then President Carter followed "no clear policy" on Iran. 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." On November 4, 1978, Brzezinski called the Shah to tell him that the United States would "back him to the hilt." But at the same time, certain high-level officials in the State Department and the White House staff believed the revolution was unstoppable but largely went unheard until Ambassador Sullivan issued the "Thinking the Unthinkable" telegram, which formally discussed policy options if the Shah were to fail to quell the fervor. After visiting the Shah in the autumn of 1978, Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael Blumenthal complained of the Shah's emotional collapse, reporting, "You've got a zombie out there." Brzezinski and Energy Secretary James Schlesinger were adamant in their assurances that the Shah would receive military support.

Sociologist Charles Kurzman argues that rather than being indecisive, or sympathetic to the revolution, the Carter administration was consistently supportive of the Shah and urged the Iranian military to stage a "last-resort coup d'etat" even after the government's cause was hopeless.

Many Iranians believe the lack of intervention and the sympathetic remarks about the revolution by high-level American officials indicate the U.S. "was responsible for Khomeini's victory." Another position asserts that the Shah's overthrow was the result of a "sinister plot to topple a nationalist, progressive, and independent-minded monarch."

Cinema Rex Fire

On 19 August, in the city of Abadan, four arsonists barred the door of the Cinema Rex movie theater and using chemical agents set it ablaze. In what was the largest terrorist attack in history prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, 422 people inside the theater were burned to death. Movie theaters had been a common target of Islamist demonstrators, and over 50 had been burned down already in "symbolic acts of destruction".

The Ayatollah Khomeini immediately blamed the Shah and SAVAK for setting the fire in an attempt to frame the opposition. Due to the pervasive revolutionary atmosphere and hysteria and ordered mass protests, the public also blamed the Shah for starting the fire, despite the government's protests that they had nothing to do with it. The declining protest movement immediately expanded in size, and tens of thousands of people of people from all walks of life took to the streets shouting "Burn the Shah!" and "The Shah is the guilty one!". Anger over the fire reinvigorated the revolutionary movement, and created a massive anti-Shah sentiment anong even previously apolitical people. The Cinema Rex fire effectively unified the opposition, which took to the streets in massive protests. While nobody died, martial law was declared in the city of Isfahan (the first time martial law was enacted in Iran since 1963).

After the revolution, it was disclosed that it was actually Islamist militants that started the fire. After the Islamic Republic government wrongfully executed a police officer for the act, the lone surviving arsonist, angered that somebody else was receiving credit for his act, admitted to starting the fire. After breaking up by force a large sit-in protest by family members of the victims and forcing the resignation of the presiding judges in an attempt to hamper the investigation, the new government finally executed Hossein Talakhzadeh for "setting the fire on the Shah's orders" (despite his insistence he did as an ultimate sacrifice it for the revolutionary cause). In 2001, an Iranian newspaper was shut down after it implied that Khomeini himself ordered the attack.

Appointment of Jafar Sharif-Emami as prime minister

The protests had “kick ... into high gear,” and the number of demonstrators mushroomed to hundreds of thousands. While the Cinema Rex Fire was one major reason, another equally important one was the government's economic policy. In an attempt to dampen inflation the Amuzegar government cut spending, but the cutbacks led to a sharp rise in layoffs – particularly among young, unskilled, male workers living in the working class districts. By summer 1978, these workers, often from traditional rural backgrounds, joined the street protests in massive numbers. While the protests had been previously confined to both the religious and secular middle classes, the entry of the working class (one of the Shah's former power bases) helped increase the severity of the crisis and effectively cause it to sprial out of control for the monarch.

Due to his failure to stop the revolutionary protests, Prime Minister Amuzegar offered his resignation. The Shah, ignoring advocates of crushing the protests by force, began another attempt to appease the opposition. He invited the traditional Iranian politicians back to the forefront of the government. The traditional senior politicians, who were relatively independent of the Shah, had been a part of the government for years and were enjoyed a well repuation, but the Shah had effectively pushed them aside by the mid 1960's in favor of more pliable younger technocrats.

The Shah decided to appoint Jafar Sharif-Emami to the post of prime minister, himself a veteran prime minister. Emami was chosen due to his family ties to the clergy, passing over more qualified individuals. However, Sharif-Emami himself had a reputation of corruption during his previous premiership, was the Grand Master of the Masonic Lodges in Tehran, and even was nicknamed "Mr. Ten Percent" (for his reputation of taking ten percent of government funds/commissions for himself).

Under the Shah's guidance, Sharif-Emami effectively began a policy of "appeasing the opposition's demands before they even made them". The government abolished the hated Rastakhiz Party, legalized all political parties and released hundreds of political prisoners, increased freedom of expression, curtailed SAVAK's powers, closed down casinos and nightclubs, and abolished the imperial calendar. The government also began to prosecute corrupt government and royal family members. Arrested protesters continued to be tried in civilian courts and quickly released. The Shah had effectively conceded to all of the protesters demands.

However, the concessions of the Shah to his opponents resulted in the emboldening of Khomeini and the opposition. Rapidly, the calls for revolution were increasing. Khomeini made his hardline position increasingly public, which was stopping at nothing other than the complete overthrow of the Shah. Rapidly, this was becoming the protesters main demand.

Declaration of Martial Law and Black FridayVictims of Black Friday

The Shah's continued concessions to the opposition instead emboldened Khomeini. He called on the Iranian people to carry out mass protests beginning on September 4, which was Eid-e-Fitr (the holiday celebrating the end of the month of Ramadan). 100,000 protesters took to the streets to carry out a public Salat-ul-Eid (Eid prayers) and afterward chanting anti-Shah and pro-Khomeini slogans. By September 7, nearly 500,000 protesters were on the streets, shouting "Death to the Shah" and "Khomeini is our Leader", but otherwise protesting peacefully.

Rattled by the rapidly increasing protests, on midnight of September 8 (17 Shahrivar in Iran's calendar), the Shah adopted for the first time a hard line approach to the demonstrations. He declared martial law in Tehran and ll other major cities throughout the country. Protests were banned, and the army was deployed to patrol the streets, effectively taking over the police duties. In a complete reversal of his conciliatory approach, arrest warrants were issued for prominent opposition leaders, public gatherings were banned, a night-time curfew was established, and the army was authorized to use deadly force to break up public gatherings if crowds failed to disperse. Tehran's martial law commander was General Gholam-Ali Oveissi, who had helped suppress the 1963 riots and was known for his severity.

The Shah believed that the show of force would be enough to deter the protesters from actually taking to the streets, and news bulletins informing the public that martial law had been declared were to be broadcast every thirty minutes. However, it was a serious miscalucation on part of the monarch. By the time the bulletins were read, most of the marchers had already taken to the streets, and it was unlikely that they would have been deterred anyway. Large crowds took to the streets to peaceful protests as they had for the past several days.

The main crowd that was marching reached Jaleh Square in central Tehran, when they discovered that armed troops and tanks were blocking their path. The army warned the crowds by megaphones to disperse, which the crowd failed to do. What happened next is disputed, but shortly after the soldiers opened fire into the crowd with live ammunition, killing 64 people. In other parts of the capital, protesters set up barricades and threw molotov cocktails at troops, and were allegedly fired on by helicopters, bringing the day's death toll to 89. The day would become known as Black Friday.

The relatively high death toll sent major shock waves throughout the country (including to the Shah himself), and effectively destroyed any attempt at reconciliation between the Shah and the opposition (despite the government's claim that snipers had provoked the army into fire). Khomeini immediately declared that "4,000 innocent protesters were massacred by Zionists", and gave him a pretext to reject any further compromise with the government. The deaths (both real and grossly exaggerated) and the Cinema Rex fire generated a massive wave of anti-Shah sentiment in Iran, and coupled with Khomeini's hardline approach effectively doomed any hope of reconciliation. While the Shah would attempt to work with moderate elements of the opposition, but they lacked the popularity of Khomeini and he was unable to make headway. The demand of the protesters now mirrored Khomeini's demand, overthrowing the Shah and establishing an Islamic Republic (although few understood what that meant yet).

The Shah himself was horrified by the events of Black Friday, and effectively reverted back to his old position of conceding to the protesters. While martial law and the curfew remained in effect in order to retain a semblance of order in the country, he largely revoked the authority of the military to use force. As a result, the Shah in effect granted the protesters a free reign and restrained the military from responding.

Widespread Strikes and Continued Protests

By late summer 1978 the movement to overthrow had become "'viable' in the minds of many Iranians," boosting support that much more. A general strike in October resulted in the paralysis of the economy, with vital industries being shut down, "sealing the Shah's fate". By autumn popular support for the revolution was so powerful that those who still opposed it became reluctant to speak out, According to one source "victory may be dated to mid-November 1978." A military government headed by General Gholam Reza Azhari replaced conciliatory prime minister Sharif Emami.

Anti-Shah demonstrators, marching near a shopping street in Tehran, Dec. 27, 1978.Ayatollah Khomeini at Neauphle-le Chateau surrounded by journalists

In an attempt to weaken Ayatollah Khomeini's ability to communicate with his supporters, the Shah urged Iraq to deport Khomeini. The Iraqi government cooperated and on October 3, Khomeini left Iraq for Kuwait, but was refused entry. Three days later he left for Paris and took up residence in the suburb of Neauphle-le-Château. Though farther from Iran, telephone connections with the home country and access to the international press were far better than in Iraq.

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.

A week later on December 10 and 11, a "total of six to nine million" anti-shah demonstrators marched throughout Iran. According to one historian, "even discounting for exaggeration, these figures may represent the largest protest event in history."

Mass demonstration in Tehran

It is almost unheard of for a revolution to involve as much as 1 percent of a country's population. The French Revolution of 1789, the Russian Revolution of 1917, perhaps the Romanian Revolution of 1989 – these may have passed the 1 percent mark. Yet in Iran, more than 10% of the country marched in anti-shah demonstrations on December 10 and 11, 1978.

By late 1978 the Shah was in search of a prime minister and offered the job to a series of liberal oppositionists. While "several months earlier they would have considered the appointment a dream come true," they now "considered it futile". Finally, in the last days of 1978, Dr. Shapour Bakhtiar, a long time opposition leader, accepted the post and was promptly expelled from the oppositional movement."

Victory of the revolution and fall of the monarchy Shah leaves

By mid-December the Shah's position had deteriorated to the point where he "wanted only to be allowed to stay in Iran." He was turned down by the opposition. In late December, "he agreed to leave the country temporarily; still he was turned down." On January 16, 1979 the Shah and the empress left Iran. Scenes of spontaneous joy followed and "within hours almost every sign of the Pahlavi dynasty" was destroyed.

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". After stalling for a few days Bakhtiar allowed Ayatollah Khomeini to return to Iran, asking him to create a Vatican-like state in Qom and calling 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 in a chartered Air France Boeing 747. The welcoming crowd of several million Iranians was so large he was forced to take a helicopter after the car he was being transported in from the airport was overwhelmed by an enthusiastic welcoming crowd. Khomeini was now not only the undisputed leader of the revolution, 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.' Crowds were now known to chant "Islam, Islam, Khomeini, We Will Follow You," and even "Khomeini for King."

On the day of his arrival Khomeini made clear his fierce rejection of Bakhtiar's government in a speech promising 'I shall kick their teeth in.'

Iranian prime minister Mehdi Bazargan was an advocate of democracy and civil rights. He also opposed the cultural revolution and US embassy takeover.

Khomeini appointed his own competing interim prime minister Mehdi Bazargan on February 4, 'with the support of the nation' and commanded Iranians to obey Bazargan as a religious duty.

hrough the guardianship that I have from the holy lawgiver , 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.

As Khomeini's movement gained momentum, soldiers began to defect to his side. On February 9 about 10 pm a fight broke out between loyal Immortal Guards and the pro-Khomeini rebel Homafaran element of the Iranian Air Force, with Khomeini declaring jihad on loyal soldiers who did not surrender. 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 pm February 11 when the Supreme Military Council declared itself "neutral in the current political disputes… in order to prevent further disorder and bloodshed." Revolutionaries took over government buildings, TV and radio stations, and palaces of the Pahlavi dynasty.

This period, from February 1 to 11, is celebrated every year in Iran as the "Decade of Fajr." February 11 is "Islamic Revolution's Victory Day", a national holiday with state sponsored demonstrations in every city.

Casualties Further information: Casualties of the Iranian Revolution

Some 2,781 protesters and revolutionaries were killed in 1978–79 during the Revolution. Khomeini sought support by announcing a much larger number; he said that "60,000 men, women and children were martyred by the Shah's regime." According to at least one source (historian Ervand Abrahamian), the number executed by revolutionary courts as the revolution was consolidated (8000 opponents between June 1981 and June 1985) exceeded those killed by the royalist government trying to stop the revolution.

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From early 1979 to either 1982 or 1983 Iran was in a "revolutionary crisis mode". The economy and the apparatus of government had collapsed, military and security forces were in disarray. Yet, by 1982 Khomeini and his supporters had crushed the rival factions, defeated local rebellions and consolidated power. Events that made up both the crisis and its resolution were the Iran Hostage Crisis, the invasion of Iran by Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and the presidency of Abolhassan Banisadr.

Conflicts among revolutionariesKhomeini told questioners things like "the religious dignitaries do not want to rule."

Some observers believe "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," that except for his core supporters, the members of the coalition thought Khomeini intended to be more a spiritual guide than a ruler – Khomeini being in his mid-70s, having never held public office, been out of Iran for more than a decade, and having told questioners things like "the religious dignitaries do not want to rule."

Another view is Khomeini had "overwhelming ideological, political and organizational hegemony," and non-theocratic groups never seriously challenged Khomeini's movement in popular support. Supporters of the new rule themselves have claimed that Iranians who opposed Khomeini were "fifth columnists" led by foreign countries attempting to overthrow the Iranian government.

Khomeini and his loyalists in the revolutionary organizations implemented Khomeini's velayat-e faqih design for an Islamic Republic led by himself as Supreme Leader by exploiting temporary allies such as Mehdi Bazargan's Provisional Government of Iran, whom they later eliminated from Iran's political stage one by one.

Organizations of the revolution Main article: Organizations of the Iranian RevolutionThe Shah and his wife left the country on 16 January 1979

The most important bodies of the revolution were the Revolutionary Council, the Revolutionary Guards, Revolutionary Tribunals, Islamic Republican Party, and Revolutionary Committees (komitehs).

While the moderate Bazargan and his government (temporarily) reassured the middle class, it became apparent they did not have power over the "Khomeinist" revolutionary bodies, particularly the Revolutionary Council (the "real power" in the revolutionary state), and later the Islamic Republican Party. Inevitably, the overlapping authority of the Revolutionary Council (which had the power to pass laws) and Bazargan's government was a source of conflict, despite the fact that both had been approved by and/or put in place by Khomeini.

This conflict lasted only a few months however. The provisional government fell shortly after American Embassy officials were taken hostage on 4 November 1979. Bazargan's 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."

The Revolutionary Guard, or Pasdaran-e Enqelab, was established by Khomeini on May 5, 1979 as a counterweight both to the armed groups of the left, and to the Shah's military. The guard eventually grew into "a full-scale" military force, becoming "the strongest institution of the revolution."

Serving under the Pasdaran were/are the Baseej-e Mostaz'afin, ("Oppressed Mobilization") volunteers in everything from earthquake emergency management to attacking opposition demonstrators and newspaper offices. The Islamic Republican Party then fought to establish a theocratic government by velayat-e faqih.

Thousands of komiteh or Revolutionary Committees served as "the eyes and ears" of the new rule and are credited by critics with "many arbitrary arrests, executions and confiscations of property".

Also enforcing the will of the regime were the Hezbollahi (the Party of God), "strong-arm thugs" who attacked demonstrators and offices of newspapers critical of Khomeini.

Two major political groups that formed after the fall of the shah that clashed with and were eventually suppressed by pro-Khomeini groups, were the moderate religious Muslim People's Republican Party (MPRP) which was associated with Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari, and the secular leftist National Democratic Front (NDF).

1979 uprisings Further information: 1979 Khuzestan uprising and 1979 Kurdish rebellion in Iran

Following the events of the revolution, Marxist guerrillas and federalist parties revolted in some regions comprising Khuzistan, Kurdistan and Gonbad-e Qabus, which resulted in fighting between them and revolutionary forces. These revolts began in April 1979 and lasted between several months to over a year, depending on the region.

Establishment of Islamic republic government Referendum of 12 Farvardin

On March 30 and 31 (Farvardin 10, 11) a referendum was held over whether to replace the monarchy with an "Islamic Republic" – a term not defined on the ballot. Khomeini called for a massive turnout and only the National Democratic Front, Fadayan, and several Kurdish parties opposed the vote. It was announced that 98.2% had voted in favor.

Writing of the constitution Main article: Assembly of Experts for Constitution

In June 1979 the Freedom Movement released its draft constitution for the Islamic Republic that it had been working on since Khomeini was in exile. It included a Guardian Council to veto un-Islamic legislation, but had no guardian jurist ruler. Leftists found the draft too conservative and in need of major changes but Khomeini declared it `correct`. To approve the new constitution and prevent leftist alterations, a relatively small seventy-three-member Assembly of Experts for Constitution was elected that summer. Critics complained that "vote-rigging, violence against undesirable candidates and the dissemination of false information" was used to "produce an assembly overwhelmingly dominated by clergy loyal to Khomeini."

Khomeini (and the assembly) now rejected the constitution – its correctness notwithstanding – and Khomeini declared that the new government should be based "100% on Islam."

In addition to the president, the new constitution included a more powerful post of guardian jurist ruler intended for Khomeini, with control of the military and security services, and power to appoint several top government and judicial officials. It increased the power and number of clerics on the Council of Guardians and gave it control over elections as well as laws passed by the legislature.

The new constitution was also reportedly approved overwhelmingly by referendum, but with more opposition and smaller turnout.

Hostage Crisis Main article: Iran hostage crisis

Helping to pass the constitution, suppress moderates and otherwise radicalize the revolution was the holding of 52 American diplomats hostage for four hundred forty-four days. In late October 1979, the exiled and dying Shah was admitted into the United States for cancer treatment. In Iran there was an immediate outcry and both Khomeini and leftist groups demanding the Shah's return to Iran for trial and execution. On November 4, 1979 youthful Islamists, calling themselves Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, invaded the embassy compound and seized its staff. Revolutionaries were reminded of how 26 years earlier the Shah had fled abroad while the Embassy-based American CIA and British intelligence organized a coup d'état to overthrow his nationalist opponent.

The holding of hostages was very popular and continued for months even after the death of the Shah. As Khomeini explained to his future President Banisadr,

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 ...

With great publicity the students released documents from the American embassy or "nest of spies," showing moderate Iranian leaders had met with U.S. officials (similar evidence of high-ranking Islamists having done so did not see the light of day). Among the casualties of the hostage crisis was Prime Minister Bazargan and his government who resigned in November unable to enforce the government's order to release the hostages.

The prestige of Khomeini and the hostage taking was further enhanced with the failure of a hostage rescue attempt, widely credited to divine intervention.

It ended with the signing of the Algiers Accords in Algeria on January 19, 1981. The hostages were formally released into United States custody the following day, just minutes after the new American president Ronald Reagan was sworn in. The hostages had been held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran for 444 days.

Suppression of opposition

In early March Khomeini announced, "do not use this term, ‘democratic.’ That is the Western style," giving pro-democracy liberals (and later leftists) a taste of disappointments to come.

In succession the National Democratic Front was banned in August 1979, the provisional government was disempowered in November, the Muslim People's Republican Party banned in January 1980, the People's Mujahedin of Iran guerrillas came under attack in February 1980, a purge of universities was begun in March 1980, and leftist Islamist Abolhassan Banisadr was impeached in June 1981.

After the revolution, human rights groups estimated the number of casualties suffered by protesters and prisoners of the new system to be several thousand. The first to be executed were members of the old system – senior generals, followed by over 200 senior civilian officials, 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, were held by revolutionary judges such as Sadegh Khalkhali, the Sharia judge. By January 1980 "at least 582 persons had been executed." Among those executed was Amir Abbas Hoveida, former Prime Minister of Iran.

Between January 1980 and June 1981, when Bani-Sadr was impeached, at least 900 executions took place, for everything from drug and sexual offenses to `corruption on earth,` from plotting counter-revolution and spying for Israel to membership in opposition groups. In the 12 months following that Amnesty International documented 2,946 executions, with several thousand more killed in the next two years according to the anti-regime guerillas People's Mujahedin of Iran.

Newspaper closings

In mid August, shortly after the election of the constitution-writing assembly, several dozen newspapers and magazines opposing Khomeini's idea of theocratic rule by jurists were shut down. When protests were organized by the National Democratic Front (NDF), Khomeini angrily denounced them saying, "we thought we were dealing with human beings. It is evident we are not."

... After each revolution several thousand of these corrupt elements are executed in public and burnt and the story is over. They are not allowed to publish newspapers.

Hundreds were injured by "rocks, clubs, chains and iron bars" when Hezbollahi attacked the protesters, and shortly after, a warrant was issued for the arrest of the NDF's leader.

Muslim People's Republican PartyKazem Shariatmadari

In December the moderate Islamic party Muslim People's Republican Party (MPRP), and its spiritual leader Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari had become a rallying point for Iranians who wanted democracy not theocracy. Riots broke out in Shariatmadari's Azeri home region with members of the MPRP and Shariatmadari's followers seizing the Tabriz television station, and using it to "broadcast demands and grievances." The regime reacted quickly, sending Revolutionary Guards to retake the TV station, mediators to defuse complaints and activists to stage a massive pro-Khomeini counter-demonstration. The party was suppressed and in 1982 Shari'atmadari was "demoted" from the rank of Grand Ayatollah and many of his clerical followers purged.

Islamist left

In January 1980 Abolhassan Banisadr was elected president of Iran. Though an adviser to Khomeini, he was a leftist who clashed with another ally of Khomeini, the theocratic Islamic Republic Party (IRP) – the controlling power in the new parliament.

Banisadr in 1958

At the same time, erstwhile revolutionary allies of Khomeini – the Islamist modernist guerrilla group People's Mujahedin of Iran (or MEK) – were being suppressed by Khomeini's revolutionary organizations. Khomeini attacked the MEK as monafeqin (hypocrites) and kafer (unbelievers). Hezbollahi people attacked meeting places, bookstores, newsstands of Mujahideen and other leftists driving them underground. Universities were closed to purge them of opponents of theocratic rule as a part of the "Cultural Revolution", and 20,000 teachers and nearly 8,000 military officers deemed too westernized were dismissed.

By mid-1981 matters came to a head. An attempt by Khomeini to forge a reconciliation between Banisadr and IRP leaders had failed and now it was Banisadr who was the rallying point "for all doubters and dissidents" of the theocracy, including the MEK.

When leaders of the National Front called for a demonstration in June 1981 in favor of Banisadr, Khomeini threatened its leaders with the death penalty for apostasy "if they did not repent." Leaders of the Freedom Movement of Iran were compelled to make and publicly broadcast apologies for supporting the Front's appeal. Those attending the rally were menaced by Hezbollahi and Revolutionary Guards and intimidated into silence.

The MEK retaliated with a campaign of terror against the IRP. On the June 28, 1981, a bombing of the office of the IRP 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 Republic's judicial system. The regime responded with thousands of arrests and hundreds of executions. Despite these and other assassinations the hoped-for mass uprising and armed struggle against the Khomeiniists was crushed.

The MEK bombings were not the only violent opposition to the Khomeinist rule. In May 1979, the Furqan Group (Guruh-i Furqan) assassinated an important lieutenant of Khomeini, Morteza Motahhari.

Impact Further information: History of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Views differ on the impact of the revolution. For some it was "the most significant, hopeful and profound event in the entirety of contemporary Islamic history," while other Iranians believe that the revolution was a time when "for a few years we all lost our minds", and which "promised us heaven, but... created a hell on earth."


Internationally, the initial impact of the revolution was immense. In the non-Muslim world it changed the image of Islam, generating much interest in Islam – both sympathetic and hostile – and even speculation that the revolution might change "the world balance of power more than any political event since Hitler's conquest of Europe."

The Islamic Republic positioned itself as a revolutionary beacon under the slogan "neither East nor West" (i.e. 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-Muslim causes in the Third World – e.g. the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, IRA in Ireland and anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa – even to the point of favoring non-Muslim revolutionaries over Islamic causes such as the neighboring Afghan Mujahideen.

Persian Gulf and the Iran–Iraq War Main article: Iran–Iraq War

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, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other Persian Gulf States – most of whom were monarchies and all of whom had sizable Shi'a populations. It was with one of these countries that the Iran–Iraq War, which killed hundreds of thousands and dominated life in the Islamic Republic for the next eight years, was fought. Although Iraq invaded Iran, most of the war was fought after Iran had regained most of its land back and after the Iraqi government had offered 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," but ultimately the war ended with no Islamic revolution in Iraq.

In September 1980 the Arab Nationalist and Sunni Muslim-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein of neighboring Iraq invaded Iran in an attempt to take advantage of revolutionary chaos and destroy the revolution in its infancy. Iran was "galvanized" and Iranians rallied behind their new government helping to stop and then reversing the Iraqi advance. By early 1982 Iran regained almost all the territory lost to the invasion.

Like the hostage crisis, the war served in part as an opportunity for the regime to strengthen revolutionary ardour and revolutionary groups. such as the Revolutionary Guard and committees at the expense of its remaining allies-turned-opponents, such as the MEK. While enormously costly and destructive, the war "rejuvenate the drive for national unity and Islamic revolution" and "inhibited fractious debate and dispute" in Iran.

Western/U.S.-Iranian relations Main articles: Iran–United Kingdom relations and Iran–United States relations
This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (June 2013)
Other countries

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 (1979), Egypt (1981), Syria (1982), and Lebanon (1983).

Although ultimately only the Lebanese Islamists succeeded, other activities have had more long-term impact. The Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 fatwa calling for the killing of Indian-born British citizen Salman Rushdie had international impact. The Islamic revolutionary government itself is credited with helping establish Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

On the other side of the ledger, at least one observer argues that despite great effort and expense the only countries outside Iran the revolution had a "measure of lasting influence" on are Lebanon and Iraq. Others claim the devastating Iran–Iraq War "mortally wounded ... the ideal of spreading the Islamic revolution," or that the Islamic Republic's pursuit of an ideological rather than a "nationalist, pragmatic" foreign policy has weakened Iran's "place as a great regional power".


Internally, the revolution has brought a broadening of education and health care for the poor, and particularly governmental promotion of Islam, and the elimination of secularism and American influence in government. Fewer changes have occurred in terms of political freedom, governmental honesty and efficiency, economic equality and self-sufficiency, or even popular religious devotion. Opinion polls and observers report widespread dissatisfaction, including a "rift" between the revolutionary generation and younger Iranians who find it "impossible to understand what their parents were so passionate about."

Human development

Literacy has continued to increase under the Islamic Republic which uses Islamic principles. By 2002, illiteracy rates dropped by more than half. Maternal and infant mortality rates have also been cut significantly. Population growth was first encouraged, but discouraged after 1988. 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.

Politics and government Main article: Politics of Iran

Iran has elected governmental bodies at the national, provincial, and local levels. 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 in the Shah's government. Iran's Sunni minority (about 8%) has seen some unrest. While Iran's small non-Muslim minorities do not have equal rights, five of the 290 parliamentary seats are allocated to their communities.

The members of the Bahá'í Faith have been declared heretical and subversive. While persecution occurred before the Revolution since then more than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed or presumed killed, and many more have been imprisoned, deprived of jobs, pensions, businesses, and educational opportunities. Bahá'í holy places have been confiscated, vandalized, or destroyed. More recently, Bahá'ís in Iran have been deprived of education and work. Several thousand young Bahá'ís between the ages of 17 and 24 have been expelled from universities.

Whether the Islamic Republic has brought more or less severe political repression is disputed. Grumbling once done about the tyranny and corruption of the Shah and his court is now directed against "the Mullahs." Fear of SAVAK has been replaced by fear of Revolutionary Guards, and other religious revolutionary enforcers. Violations of human rights by the theocratic regime is said to be worse than during the monarchy, and in any case extremely grave. Reports of torture, imprisonment of dissidents, and the murder of prominent critics have been made by human rights groups. Censorship is handled by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic 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. All forms of popular music are banned. Men and women are not allowed to dance or swim with each other. "

Women See also: Women's rights in Iran and Women's rights movement in Iran

Women – especially those from traditional backgrounds – participated on a large scale in demonstrations leading up to the revolution. Since the revolution university enrollment and the number of women in the civil service and higher education has risen and several women have been elected to the Iranian parliament.

Economy See also: Economy of Iran

Iran's economy has increased rapidly since the revolution. GDP has increased from $114 billion in 1980 to $858 billion in 2010. Changes in GDP per capita has also improved significantly, from $2974 in 1980 to $11,396 in 2010. In 2010, less than 10% of Iranian GDP was dependant on oil and gas, comparing to above 90% in Pahlavi period.


See All 6 items matching Iranian Revolution in Media Gallery

A protester holds up sign that reads Pahlavi Street in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution that toppled the last Iranian monarchy in Feb, 1979. The majority of Iranians have been supporting the Islamic Republic despite shot-comings and ups and downs.
Prptesters burn a portrait of the Shah as a sign of protest against his regime. Tehran, December 1978', from the series 'IranDiary' by Abbas Attar, a veteran photojournalist who has been covering world events since the 1970s.
Left to right: Iranian political figures Abolhassan Banisadr, Mehdi Bazargan and Ruhollah Khomeini in early 1979. Bazargan was the interim Prime Minister after the Iranian Revolution. Banisadr became the first elected President of the Islamic Republic.
Demonstrations during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Protesters hold up posters of Imam Khomeini, Dr. Mosaddegh and Takhti. The upcoming conservative regime however suppressed different views and Mosaddegh and his ideas were maltreated.
A memorable shot from the Iranian Revolution of 1979 by Bahman Jalali. Revolutionary fighters carry a wounded person during clashes with the imperial guards of the Pahlavi regome. Jalali was a renown photographer who also documented the Iran-Iraq War.
People from all walks of life march during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. At the time, wearing Islamic hijab was not compulsory, however extremists took power & concept of Enforced Hijab surfaced, as a result; continous use of force against women.

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