Iranian Revolution Essay

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Iranian Revolution

The Islamic Revolution started circa 1977 and lasted until 1979. The absolute monarchist Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi led an era of authoritarian regime which allowed violence and oppression of the people. The White Revolution, in the 1960’s, caused many of the people in Iran to rise up against the regime. The aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, headed by Ayatollah Khomeini, included the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region and a theocratic government similar to the previous authoritarian regime. The nationalism movement occurred deep within the population of Iran and involved the citizens of the country itself. Many of the different ethnic groups present in the nation included the Persians, Kurds, Gilakis, Mazdandaranis, Lurs, and Baluchis. The main language of the country is Farsi, but other languages spoken include Arabic, and some Turkic languages.

The state widely embraces and follows the Shi’ite Islamic religion, which created the presence of nationalism and religious unity in the state. This later led to revolution and opposition against the Shah, who did not exemplify the traditional values of the religion. The nation has many biomes that consist of the Zagros Mountains region, many basins called the Central Plateau, and large uninhabited deserts such as the Dasht-e Kavir and the Dasht-e-lut. The many varieties of land affected politics and economy of Iran because of the organization required to successfully utilize the land and also the advanced technology needed to maneuver around the plethora of basins that got in the way of communication between cities and the political centers. Also the basins affected the development of highways. The long term causes of the Islamic Revolution date back to the time when the first Shah came into power in the mid-1920s.

The young leader came to power during very trying times. Problems consisted of economic instability, foreign intervention by Britain, and occupation of Northern Iran by the Soviet Union. The Soviets, in a building race with Western allies for power and control, attempted to create a sphere of influence within Iran. Noticing the West’s interest in the country’s rich oil resources, the Soviet’s quickly began developing influence in an attempt to dissuade relations with the West. One way the Soviet’s attempted to do this was by empowering a political party known as the Tudeh party. The Soviet Union used the Tudeh party to try and promote certain interests in Iran. However, the Iranian people quickly turned against the Tudeh’s. The reason this occurred was because the “Tudeh Party had been discredited because of its ‘uncontrolled destructiveness and Stalinist attitude’”(Iranian Studies and Iranian Revolution).

The Soviet Union and Tudeh party played a major part of the revolution, given that it brought about more political differences amongst groups of people in the country. With revitalized parliamentarianism, the Shah appointed a man named Mohammad Mossadeq as prime minister to nationalize the oil companies. By doing so, Mossadeq took Iranian oil out of British hands, and ended British exploitation of government weakness in Iran. In 1951, the National Iranian Oil Company was formed by the Prime Minister, leading to some aversion on behalf of Western leaders. In 1953, Mossadeq was removed from power in Operation Ajax. Foreign intervention soon after that proved to be a key factor in the decline of democracy in Iran. This era of conflict over who controlled oil reserves in Iran was a blow to Iran’s economy coming out of the 1950’s, and led to economic reforms initiated and discuss between the Shah and U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

To explain further, a short term cause of the revolution was the White Revolution and the negative effects it had on the clergy. The White Revolution was a program that the Shah used to improve literacy in rural areas, reform land, nationalize forests, and the sale of state-owned business to private sectors. There is evidence of the Shah’s favoritism toward westernization and an example of this would be the many social/political rights given to women during the 1960’s. Many women were even admitted into parliament as a direct result of the new White Revolution that was being implemented within Iran. During this short era before the revolution began, women began to see opportunities emerge as part of the work force and also to initiate legal divorce with their husbands.

Due to the many liberties granted to women during the program of the White revolution, there was a lot of distaste amongst the ‘Mullahs’, who were top members of the clergy in Iran. The mullahs are Shi’ite religious figures who lead in the name of Islam. The mullahs in Tehran marked the beginning of Islamic Fundamentalism within Iran. This new radical Islam was based around the incorrect interpretations of the Quran by the religious leadership of Iran. The mullah’s interpretation included unequal rights amongst women and men, unlawful oppression, abuses of human rights, and many more factors that would present themselves in the future. These clergy became one of the primary pushes of revolution in opposition of the Shah’s monarchy. On the front of opposition to the freedoms granted to women was Ayatollah Khomeini who led students in opposition to the Shah and the White Revolution on June 5th, 1963 in the religious city of Qum. Utilizing his absolute military power over the people, the Shah ordered his SAVAK (secret police) the execute many of the protesting students.

During this era, the Shah quickly became a puppet to the United States in the 1960’s as the Kennedy administration pushed for economic reforms that would transform and divert Iran’s investment focus from military to advancing the economy. The U.S. imperialism on Iran was a main global theme present in this point of Iran’s history. The reason for this is that it reformed the economy positively in the sense that the oil reserves had more export to other countries. However, the Iranian people were not able to benefit with the usage of the oil because of the $3.5 billion dollar loan contingent from the United States. Open resistance began during the Moderate phase of the revolution which occurred during 1977. As the exiled opposition leader Khomeini began advising the people to resist the Shah’s regime in any way possible, such as boycotts, and tax refusals, the country internally became crippled from all the struggles the workers suffered as a result of government policies.

The phase worsened as stated in an article on Nonviolent Conflict, “The crisis deepened when oil workers struck at the end of October and demanded the release of political prisoners, costing the government $60 million a day. An ensuing general strike on November 6 paralyzed the country. Even as some workers returned to their jobs, disruption of fuel oil supplies and freight transit, combined with shortages of raw materials resulting from a customs strike, largely kept economic life in the country at a standstill” (Zunes). During this phase, many protests were occurring, but were kept on a more civil level with not many terrorizing attacks by the police on the citizens. The rapid industrial growth in the economy led to unrest regarding uneven distribution of wealth, as state in an article on NYU, “The accelerated rate of development exacerbated unequal distribution of wealth and led to a variety of social problems in Iran” (Balaghi).

As the economy became more and more industrialized and more dependent on exports to the U.S., there were more protests within the time period of 1977-1979 of the people resisting all the U.S. involvement in their economy. There was also upset over the wealth that was being taken from the Iranian people and given to all the elite companies the shah had given power to. In the next phase, there were multiple mass killings of young active students while protesting. The radical phase of the revolution occurred mainly from 1978-1979 and happened within the middle class and Khomeini’s followers. The people of Iran, during this time, sought greater political freedoms and more representation in government. Because the Shah had lost popularity among religious people, who know followed Khomeini, and intellectuals, there wasn’t much left for him but the SAVAK. With the use of that army, the Shah kept control of much of his country.

The Workers however not only protested low wages due to vast amounts of trade ties to the U.S., but also to rid the country of the SAVAK. Popular opposition and hatred of the Shah caused him to leave the country. Khomeini came out of exile and took his place as another monarch of a reformed theocratic Iran, with radical Islamic fundamentals. The Islamic Republic was established. Although the much hated Shah was thrown out of power, the radical ideals of Khomeini looked more promising than before. However, as the freedoms of women virtually disappeared, there were implementations of extreme new rules that women had to follow every day in order to be able to leave their houses every day. Basically, the Iranian people had bargained for more than they could handle because the new regime was just as authoritarian as the previous.

Relations with the U.S. also changed as Khomeini began inspiring hatred toward the country that helped industrialize Iran in the 1960’s. The U.S. began known as “the Great Satan” to the Iranian people, which causes tensions that lasted until today. The Islamic Revolution caused the racism/discrimination towards many minority groups in Iran such as: Iran’s government tends to execute more Sunni Muslims, Bahais, Non-Muslims. There are extremely high poverty levels in Iran due to many economic sanctions upon the government by the Western allies. More recently, there is International tension due to the current nuclear issue that the Iranian regime refuses to open up about. Islamic Republic has become the leading state sponsor of terrorism and continues its atrocious human rights abuses even to this day.

Bibliography
Balaghi, Shiva. “Brief History.” Brief History. Nyu, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. Cohen, Roger. “The New York Times Upfront | The News Magazine for High School.” The New York Times Upfront | The News Magazine for High School. Scholastic, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. Hurd, Elizabeth Shakman. “The International Politics Of Secularism: U.S. Foreign Policy And The Islamic Republic Of Iran.” Conference Papers — International Studies Association (2004): 1-38. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Mar. 2013. Jalaeipour, Hamidreza. “Iran’s Islamic Revolution: Achievements And Failures.”Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies 15.3 (2006): 207-215. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Mar. 2013. Rakel, Eva Patricia. “Iranian Foreign Policy Since The Iranian Islamic Revolution: 1979-2006.” Perspectives On Global Development & Technology6.1-3 (2007): 159-187. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Mar. 2013. Rieffer-Flanagan, Barb. “The Evolution Of Foreign Policy In Iran Since The Revolution.” Conference Papers — Midwestern Political Science Association(2009): 1. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Mar. 2013. Zunes, Stephen. “Movements and Campaigns.” Movements and Campaigns. Nonviolent Conflicts, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

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