Iranian Revolution of 1979
In the early 20th century, after the constitutional revolution in Iran, insecurity, and chaos led to the rise of General Reza Khan in a coup d’état in February 1921. In 1925 he was designated as a monarch by the national assembly and known as Reza Shah, founder of the Pahlavi dynasty. Though there were widespread social, economic, and political reforms in his reign, however, a number of these reforms led to public discontent which provided the circumstances for the Iranian revolution. Reza Shah was known to be backed by western powers like the United States and hence there was the replacement of Islamic laws with Western ones in Iran. Moreover, no widespread anti-government attempts were organized by clergy during the rule of Reza Shah.
Democratic Prime Minister: Mohammad Mosaddegh
The prime minister of that time Mohammad Mosaddegh was the first democratically elected prime minister. He was strictly against western laws in Iran and Anglo – Persian Oil companies that were founded in 1901. It was a British oil company installed in Iran and all the profit attained by the oil in Iran was enjoyed by the British at that time. While most Iranians lived in poverty, the wealth generated from Iranian oil was enjoyed by Britain. In 1951 Iranian Prime minister Muhammad Musaddegh pledged to throw the company out of Iran, reclaim the petroleum reserves and free Iran from foreign powers. With the fear of Nationalist prime minister, the border with the Soviet Union and rising communism in China, Britain felt the need to remove the democratic government in Iran that was not completely aligned with Western interests. In 1941 Reza Shah was deposed, and his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was installed by an invasion of British troops.
The regime of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi maintained a close relationship with the U.S. government, as both regimes shared opposition to the expansion of the Soviet Union. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s government was also known for its autocracy, its focus was on modernization and westernization, and disregard all religious and democratic measures in Iran.
Exile of Ayatollah Khomeini
Ayatollah Khomeini first came to political prominence in 1963 when he led the opposition to the Shah and his White Revolution. Khomeini was arrested in 1963 as he heavily criticized shah’s government. Though he was released after 8 months, however, he continued his criticism and agitation against westernization and cooperation with Israel. In November 1964 Khomeini was re-arrested and sent into exile where he remained for 15 years, until the revolution
Causes of Iranian Revolution 1979
Even though the pre-revolution era of Iran was full of reforms, industrialization, and prosperity, however, many of the reforms were not accepted by Iranian people. It is believed that it was one of the most cause less revolution as there was no defeat at war, a financial crisis or disgruntled military. The main causes of the Iranian revolution were not sudden rather they were developing through years of monarchy.
Westernization and Modernization of Iran
The Islamic laws of Iran were replaced with Western ones and the forbidding of traditional Islamic clothing, separation of the sexes and veiling of women’s faces with the niqab. Police forcibly removed Chadors off women who resisted his ban on the public hijab. In 1935, dozens were killed and hundreds injured in the Goharshad Mosque rebellion.
Anglo- Iranian Oil Company
The Anglo-Persian Oil Company was a British oil company that enjoyed a monopoly on the sale and production of Iranian oil. It was the most profitable British business in the world. Most Iranians lived in poverty while the wealth generated from Iranian oil helped to maintain Britain at the top of the world.
Secularization reforms of Reza Pahlavi
In 1976 and 1977, secularization reforms by Shah Pahlavi isolated Iranians from all social classes and led to the demonstrations against the Shah erupted across the nation. Communist parties were also supporting the rise of the poor against the rich.
Article on Ayatollah Khomeini
On 8 January 1978, a scurrilous anonymous article was published in the newspaper Ettelaat. The article attacked Khomeini’s character in deeply unflattering terms and sparked a series of demonstrations through Iran–The regime was not ready. The article, which attacked Khomeini and described his character in deeply unflattering terms, sparked a series of demonstrations –The regime was not ready for such kind of encounters.
Return of Ayatollah Khomeini
Khomeini was considered to be the leader of the poor class and clergymen of society. He was strictly against the westernization of Iran and secularization policies. He was exiled to Iraq on the basis of his criticism for the government. However, he always remained in the hearts of the clergy. On 16 January 1979, amidst extreme protest throughout the country, tearful Shah and his family left Iran for exile in Egypt. Bakhtiar was appointed as the prime minister and he invited Khomeini back to Iran.
Failures of Shah’s regime
The Shah’s regime was seen as an oppressive, brutal, corrupt, and extravagant regime by some of the society’s classes at that time. It also suffered from some basic functional failures that brought economic bottlenecks, shortages, and inflation. Shah was also considered to be the puppet of western powers introducing their culture in Iran.
Impacts of the Iranian Revolution
The referendum of March 1979
On March 31, a referendum was held over to replace the monarchy with an “Islamic republic”. Khomeini called for a massive turnout and 98.2% voted in the favor of ‘Islamic Republic’.
US- Iran relations
After the Iranian revolution, Iran experienced difficult relations with some Western countries, especially the United States. United States put constant US unilateral sanctions on Iran.
Inspiration for Muslim World
Iranian revolution became a source of inspiration for the Muslim world. It inspired enthusiasm and opposition to western imperialism and influence in the Islamic world.
Rise of Islamic Insurgents
Iran Relations with other Arab countries
Iranian revolution and overthrow of monarchies and their replacement with Islamic republics in Iran was an alarming situation for other Sunni run Arab countries like Saudi Arab, Kuwait, and other Persian Gulf states. They had much Shia living in these countries and run by monarchs. After the revolution, these Arab countries had bitter relations with Iran leading to many proxy wars.
Iran- Iraq war
Taking advantage of Iranian revolutionary chaos, Iraq and Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. Iraq was supported by many western countries and Arab countries. However, Iran reciprocated well leading to a truce offered by Iraq. That was rejected by Iran on the condition of replacement of the regime in Iraq by the Islamic republic. However, the war ended with no Islamic revolution in Iraq