The Iranian Revolution

The Iranian Revolution Iran is a country located in the Middle East. The main source of income for the country is oil, the one object that had greatly influenced its history. Iran’s present government is run as an Islamic Republic. A president, cabinet, judicial branch, and Majilesor or legislative branch, makes up the governmental positions. A revolution that overthrew the monarch, which was set in 1930, lasted over 15 years.

Crane Brinton’s book, An Anatomy of a Revolution, explains set of four steps a country experiences when a revolution occurs. Symptoms, rising fever, crisis, and convalescence are the steps that occur. The Iranian Revolution followed the four steps in Crane Brinton’s theory, symptoms, rising fever, crisis, and convalescence occurred. Numerous symptoms led to the crumbling downfall of Reza Shah Pahlavi, ruler of Iran until 1978. One of these symptoms is rising expectations which can be seen during the 1960’s and 70’s.

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The rich Shah cleared the way for the land reform law, enacted in 1962. The land minority had to give up its land to the government, and among those stripped of land, were the Shi’ah Muslims. Iran’s power structure was radically changed in a program termed the “White Revolution”. On January 26, 1963, the White Revolution was endorsed by the nation. By 1971, when land distribution ended, about 2,500,000 families of the farm population benefited from the reforms.

From 1960-72 the percentage of owner occupied farmland in Iran rose from 26 to 78 percent. Per capita income rose from $176 in 1960 to $2,500 in 1978. From 1970-77 the gross national product was reported to increase to an annual rate of 7.8% (“Iran” 896). As a result of this thriving economy, the income gap rapidly widened. Exclusive homes, extravagant restaurants, and night clubs and streets loaded with expensive automobiles served as daily reminders of a growing income spread.

This created a perfect environment for many conflicts to arise between the classes. Iran’s elite class consisted of wealthy land owners, intelligencia, military leaders, politicians, and diplomats. The Elite continued to support the monarchy and the Shah. The peasants were victim of unfulfilled political expectations, surveillance by the secret police, and the severe social and economic problems that resulted from modernization. The middle class favored socialism over capitalism, because capitalism in their view supported the elite, and does not benefit the lower classes. The middle class was the most changeable element in the group, because they enjoyed some of the privileges of the elite, which they would like to protect.

At the same time, they believed that they had been cheated by the elite out of their share of the industrialization wealth (Orwin 43). About this time, the middle class, which included students, technocrats, and modernist professionals, became discontent with the economy. The key event should have further stabilized the royal dictatorship, but the increase in oil prices and oil income beginning in 1974 caused extreme inflation. This was due to the investment strategy followed by the Shah, which led to a spectacular 42% growth rate in 1974. (Cottam 14). And because of the Shah’s support structure which enabled the new rich to benefit from inflation, the government effort to deal with inflation was aimless.

Poor Iranians and Iranians with a fixed income suffered major losses in real income. Better ezdards of living were no longer visible. Thus, the majority of the Iranian people developed a revolutionary predisposition. As the middle class became discontent in Iran throughout the 1970’s, the desertion of intellectuals could be found in great excess. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini represented much of the discontent of the religious sector of Iran.

For speaking out against the Shah’s autocratic rule, Khomeini was exiled to Turkey in 1963. In 1965, Khomeini moved to Iraq where he became the central spokesperson for expatriate opposition to the Shah. On October 6, 1978, Khomeini was expelled from Iraq and moved to Paris, where he was accessible to a larger body of opposition forces. He was also accessible to the Western Press. Khomeini preached that he would displace the Shah and expel the foreigners.

He also said he would enforce religious and traditional values, and redirect Iran’s wealth away from large industrialization schemes and toward reforms needed by the common people. Throughout the 1970’s, Khomeini gained tremendous popularity with the masses, and he became the symbol of the opposition towards the Shah. As Khomeini gained popularity, many religious groups grew in numbers and in status. In the early 1950’s, the technocrats had showed core support for Mohammad Mossedeq and Iran’s national movement. They saw Mossadeq’s overthrow as the removal of the symbolic leader of the Iranian nation by an American directed coup d’etat. Many of his followers formed groups in opposition to the Shah.

Leaders of the Freedom Front, one of the groups that grew out of the Mossadeq movement, were a group composed of intellectuals who tended to be centrist in philosophy, more religious, anti-Marxist, and militant (Cottam 13). They recognized Khomeini’s large and potentially enormous following, and associated themselves with him. The rise of religious opposition groups and Khomeini proved to be a great test for the Shah. As time progressed the weakness of the Shah became apparent. Waves of opposition began building after 1975, due to the formation of the Rastakhiz , the legal political party in Iran, and the banning of opposition political parties. It also became clear that the increased oil revenues following oil price increases, were spent on arms and industrialization.

In mid-1977 the religious leaders began demonstrating against the modernization brought on by the Shah. In November, several people were killed when police broke up demonstrations. As time went on, protests became more radical. To try and quiet dissent, the Shah became more of a dictator. As a result, those who had been moderate in demands for reform became more radical.

In the fall of 1978, strikes against the oil industry, the post office, government factories, and banks demolished the economy. This pattern continued throughout most of 1978 (Orwin 45). As these protests became more frequent there were more and more people killed. This reflects the Shah’s loss of power over his government and his people. In late 1978, the Shah came to the conclusion that he would and could not rule a country in which he had to ezd in the flowing blood of his people.

In short, he understood that he could not militarily occupy his own country. The Shah’s early mistakes had been devastating as the years went on. His forceful actions did not work and it’s no wonder that his grip weakened and his mid wavered. These events all led to the march against the government of the Shah, in which eight million Iranians protested on December 10, 1978 (Bill 25). One-fifth of the Iranian government was willing to join in a massive and nonviolent manifestation of opposition even though most of them knew that thousands of their countrymen had been shot in previous demonstrations. The banners and slogans made clear the religious and political essence of the revolutionary movement.

This massive demonstration was the turning point from symptoms to rising fever. It clearly reflected the weakness of the Shah, and the inevitability of revolution in Iran. After a year of public demonstrations against him, the Shah of Iran left Tehran on January 16, 1979, for an “extended vacation” (Orwin 46). He left the country in the hands of a regency council and Prime Minister Shahpur Bakhtiar, who was a former member of the National Front. The opposition leader, Khomeini, was to become the new ruler, and he returned to Iran on February 1, 1979.

Khomeini occupied preeminent positions among Iran’s most respected religious scholars, the Mujahedin-e Khalq. Although Khomeini wanted a stable government that could cope with the problems of reconstruction, he wanted to eradicate the evil roots of the old system, which he describes as satanic. He denounced the materialism of the recent past and called for a climate in which social justice would prevail. On April 1, 1979, after a landslide victory in a national referendum, Khomeini declared an Islamic republic. This republic consisted of a new constitution reflecting Khomeini’s ideals of Islamic government. He was named Iran’s political and religious leader for life.

Khomeini tapped the deep-seated conservatism of the Muslim fundamentalists by making moderate changes in the law. Women were required to wear the veil, Western music and alcohol were banned, and the punishments described by Islamic law were reinstated. Political vengeance was taken, executing hundreds of people who had worked with the Shah’s regime (“Iran” 897). The large moderate center composed of the professional and bourgeois middle class had proved to be ineffective in their leadership abilities. Moderate Bakhtiar, the last prime minister under Pahlavi rule, was very unpopular, and he was unable to compromise with his former National Front colleagues or with Khomeini.

He was then forced to flee to France. On April 1, 1979, his replacement, Mehdi Bazergan was appointed by Khomeini (Cottam 15). This 73-year-old engineer was a leader of the Freedom Front, and president of the committee of human rights. The middle and upper middle classes looked to Bazergan to provide stability so the economy would recover and the government services could be restored. Bazergan appointed a cabinet, mainly, from the ranks of the Freedom Front, the National Front, and the religious bureaucracy.

Bazergan’s position was weak, however, and he steadily lost ground to the due to the attacks from the far right and left. As their base of support narrowed, their dependence on Khomeini intensified. During this time, Iran’s relation with the US went downhill. It reached a stage of outright confrontation, when, on November 4, 1979, 500 extremist students seized the US embassy in Tehran. They took hostage 66 citizens at the embassy and the foreign ministry (“The Iranian Revolution” 835).

The takeover seemingly sanctioned by Khomeini, continued for the next 444 days, and American-Iranian relations sunk to an all-time low. This led to trade conflicts with the United States and its allies, causing economic problems. During the rising fever stage there is a presence of a dual government. During Bazergan’s rule, it became difficult to administer justice with a court system that had been particularly lenient to the royal will. To deal with these problems on a temporary basis.

Khomeini set up a system of revolutionary committees presided over by a revolutionary council. Religious leaders clearly predominated in the revolutionary council- committee-courts system, which came to be almost a parallel government. In November, 1979, Bazergan resigned, and in his place Khomeini appointed Abol Hassan Bani Sadr. Bani Sadr was an idealist, a bookworm, and most personally ambitious of all the liberal revolutionaries. Like the other moderates, he was a representative of the professional middle class, who had little skill or patience to build political organizations.

Bani Sadr’s efforts were fruitless in dealing with the hostage releases. After being elected Iran’s first president in January 1980, he and his followers, out of self defense and desperation, formed an alliance with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (“Iran” 897). He also attempted to work hard to establish close relations with the military leaders. He ineffectively tried to appeal to the Iranian people, who had little in common with a Paris trained intellectual. One can see that during this stage of rising fever, …


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