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.
Iranian Revolution
Part of Attempts at Constitutionalization in Iran
Mass demonstration.jpg
Protesters in Tehran 1979
Date 7 January 1978 – 11 February 1979
Location Iran
Causes
Goals Overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty
Methods
Result
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures

Ruhollah Khomeini

Casualties
532 [1]-60,000 killed in demonstrations during 1978–79 [2] [3]
  1. ^ Imperial Iranian Army revoked their allegiance to the throne and declared neutrality on 11 February 1979.

The Iranian Revolution (also known as the Islamic Revolution or the 1979 Revolution; [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]) refers to events involving the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was supported by the United States [10] and its eventual replacement with an Islamic republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution, supported by various leftist and Islamist organizations [11] and Iranian student movements.

Demonstrations against the Shah commenced in October 1977, developing into a campaign of civil resistance that included both secular and religious elements [12] [13] [14] and which intensified in January 1978. [15] 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, leaving his duties to a regency council and an opposition-based prime minister. Ayatollah Khomeini was invited back to Iran by the government, [16] [17] and returned to Tehran to a greeting by several million Iranians. [18] The royal reign collapsed shortly after on February 11 when guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting, bringing Khomeini to official power. [19] [20] Iran voted by national referendum to become an Islamic Republic on April 1, 1979, [21] and to approve a new theocratic-republican constitution [12] [13] [22] [23] whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country, in December 1979.

The revolution was unusual for the surprise it created throughout the world: [24] it lacked many of the customary causes of revolution (defeat at war, a financial crisis, peasant rebellion, or disgruntled military), [25] occurred in a nation that was enjoying relative prosperity, [16] [23] produced profound change at great speed, [26] was massively popular, resulted in the exile of many Iranians, [27] and replaced a pro-Western monarchy [16] with an anti-Western authoritarian theocracy [16] [22] [23] [28] [29] based on the concept of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (or velayat-e faqih). It was a relatively non-violent revolution, and helped to redefine the meaning and practice of modern revolutions (although there was violence in its aftermath). [30]

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". [31]

Background

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, [32] a liberal backlash to social injustice, [33] 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, [34] and other shortcomings of the previous regime.

The Shah's regime became increasingly oppressive, brutal, [35] [36] corrupt, and extravagant. [35] [37] It also suffered from basic functional failures that brought economic bottlenecks, shortages, and inflation. [38] The Shah was perceived by many as beholden to – if not a puppet of – a non-Muslim Western power (the United States) [39] [40] 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. [41] When President Carter enacted a human-rights policy which said countries guilty of human-rights violations would be deprived of American arms or aid, this helped give some Iranians the courage to post open letters and petitions in the hope that the repression by the government might subside. [42]

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. [43] 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 [44] [45] [46] – and by the secularist, opponents of the government – who thought the Khomeinists could be sidelined. [47]