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Iranian revolution: 1979

The Iranian revolution in 1979, was the key event for the radical change of the country Iran was governed bya shah, and after this revolution it would became a republic.
The Iranian revolution took almost 2 years long. It was in 1953 when Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq was expelled from the power when he was trying to nationalize the oil resources in a deal managed by British and American countries (Ajax Operation).

With the support of the U.S. and the UK, the shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi dominated the Iranian political scene. Promoted by him, the modernization of the country’s industry started. In order to avoid quarrels and revolts, the shah eliminated all the opposition to his regime with the help of the SAVAK* intelligence agency. These plans of socioeconomic modernization, that popularly were called as the “White Revolution”, relied on oil revenues, military help and on U.S. logistics. In this way, the country started some important reforms like: a land reform, employee participation in company profits, women’s suffrage, and the attempt to create a form of Islam that take benefits of these reforms and in the regime.

iranian revolution

Nevertheless, the reforms did not have the effects that the goverment expected. A large proportion of the population was becoming poorer and poorer every day, and at the same time others enriching by the ruling oligarchy. Everything was getting complicated because of the tight political control and the repression increased, parallel to increasing discontent. Discontent is used by the Shiite clergy, that were against some “westernizing” aspects of the regime. The shiite clergy became the main opponent of the monarchy, despite the existence of secular opposition organizations such as the Tudeh Party (communist), the National Front, social and urban character, and the extreme left. The clergy is well organized with a hierarchy similar to the Catholic clergy and has the support of much of the country’s population.

When the 70’s were almost finished spreads the desire for regime change. Mass demonstrations and repressions were increasing .The shah then promises the revision of the political reforms, but the discontent is so big that it did not work.
At the same time, a man was leading in some way this discontent: it was Jomeini. He was exiled in neighboring Iraq since 1964, and the political tensions in Iran make the Baghdad regime to get out of it. Then he was installed in France, where the Western media make him a spokesman for the Iranian opposition.

The authority of the Shah was so big that the society had no opportunity to have any revolt. As we have said before, this is because of SAVAK, a police group that was responsible for overseeing all activities of the civilian population. To their activity are attributed the disappearances and tortures during the reign of the Shah. Some people, like  Ryszard Kapuscinski, a well-known journalist, were witnesses of the methods that the SAVAK used in order to maintain the order in the streets of Iran. The Savak worked like a “thoughts police” controlling every thought against the regime. That is why most of arrested people were intellectuals of the country.  The shah’s dictatorship and its oppression became unsustainable, as well as the social and economic problems in Iran. For that reason the shah brought down later on.

According to Kapuscinski*, the revolution started in Qom, a town 150 km at the south of Tehran. Ayatollah Jomeini (the ‘French’ spokesman named before) was native of that town, and he had been critical of Reza Shah’s management.  This man especially defended Islamic values an d the thoughts of the country. He disapprove the ‘invasion’ and intrusion of the western powers.

An article published in Etelat newspaper attacked Jomeini. He was described as a “foreign” because of his Indian lineages. The connotation that ‘foreign’ brought to their minds was indignant, so in Qom, there was a big protest for the support of Ayatollah. To have demonstrations was forbidden in shah’s regime, so the police tried to break up the protest. The protesters did not want to leave and stayed there, which led officials to take other measures. They take the square and opened fire on the crowd. As we can imagine, the result was dramatic. Hundreds of dead.

This is undoubtedly one of the key events for the iranian revolution. It  brought national consternation, and the protests over Iran were more and more common, causing the same consequences: more deaths.

Even though the police and the military tried to crush the demonstrations with violence, they could not stop them. The atmosphere became too tense and the Shah could not stand it, so he resigned and fled.

On January 16, 1979 the Shah was exiled to Egypt, and Jomeini returns on February 1. Under his leadership, the Islamists take care of the revolution and suppress other groups. In March 31, there is a referendum on the proclamation of the islamic republic.

(*)SAVAK= was the National Intelligence and Security Organization. It was the secret police, domestic security and intelligence service established by Iran´s Mohammed Rezah Sha with the help of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. (the CIA) from 1957 to 1979.

(*) Ryszard Kapuscinski was a Polish journalist and writer. He wrote a book called ‘El Shah’ about the period of the Sha Mohamed Reza Palhevi of Irán.


* Iran Chamber society. History of Irán: islamic revolution 1979.   Thursday, May 10, 2012 http://www.iranchamber.com/history/islamic_revolution/islamic_revolution.php

* The new york Times Upfront. 1979: Iran’s Islamic Revolution. By Roger Cohen. http://teacher.scholastic.com/scholasticnews/indepth/upfront/features/index.asp?article=f091806_TP_Iran

Categories: History, Humanities
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