The Islamic Revolution of Iran and Manifestation of Islamic Values
The Islamic Revolution of Iran and Manifestation of Islamic Values
The Shah (king) of Iran was in power since 1941, but throughout his reign he faced continued opposition from religious figures and from the urban middle classes. However, the Shah enforced a strict regime, imprisoning hundreds of political activists and enforcing censorship laws. Living conditions for most of the population was bad and poor. Strong opposition arose in many sections of society during the Shah's reign, specially the religious figures who were the known oppositions in Iran.
Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (RA) was a leader of the opposition and claimed that the Shah's reign was a tyranny. Following the arrest of Imam Khomeini, and his subsequent exile from Iran in 1964, uprisings led by the cleric's followers increased. Shah frequently chose to answer the uprisings with violence, arresting and killing demonstrators.
During 1963-1967, the Iranian economy grew considerably due to a rise in the value of oil and steel exports. Inflation accelerated at the same time, however, while the economic boom did not improve the lifestyles of middle-class Iranians (much of this wealth was siphoned off by the Shah and his allies into private reserves). The leaders in the Shah's regime, and those who acted as intermediaries with western companies, became extremely wealthy, indulging in conspicuous consumption that angered both those who were not sharing the wealth and the Islamic leaders who questioned its morality. The government also began to spend vast amounts of public money in purchasing modern weapon systems, primarily from the United States.
Faced with growing opposition from the religious leaders, who were joined by small business leaders in 1975, the Shah launched a new effort to assert his control over Iranian society. This effort attempted to minimize the role of Islam in the life of the kingdom, lauding instead the achievements of pre-Islamic Persian civilization. Thus, in 1976, the solar Islamic calendar was abolished from public usage and was replaced with a calendar dating from the rule of Cyrus the Great. Muslim publications were also heavily censored.
The poorest section of the Iranian population tended to be the most religious and the least westernized. The poor were largely rural or slums outside the large cities, especially the capital Tehran. They wanted the basic Islamic lifestyle to return, in opposition to the Shah's efforts for modernism, which they believed to be westernization. They viewed the Shah's reforms as self-serving and his promise of providing "progress" to be false based on the increased gap between rich and poor. In addition many felt that much of the great wealth created by the oil industry was creating an increasing gap between the rich vs. the poor.
As the Iranian middle classes became more urbanized and educated, many came to see the regime as being part of the problem. In addition, in the years following his restoration in 1953, the Shah's position became increasingly perilous. This was due in large measure to his close ties to the United States and Great Britain, the role of the United States and Great Britain in his 1953 restoration, unpopular reforms enacted during the White Revolution, internal corruption, and the despotic nature of his regime especially its intelligence service known as SAVAK.
In January of 1978 the official press ran a factious story about Imam Khomeini. Angry students and religious leaders protested against the allegations in the city of Qom. The army was sent in dispersing the demonstrations and killing several students.
According to the Shiite customs, forty days after a person's death memorial services are held. In mosques across the nation, calls were made to honor the dead students. Thus on February 18 groups in a number of cities marched to honor the fallen and to protest against the rule of the Shah. This time violence erupted in Tabriz and over a hundred demonstrators were killed. The cycle repeated itself and on March 29 a new round of protests began across the nation.
By September the nation was rapidly destabilizing with major protests becoming a regular occurrence. The Shah introduced martial law and banned all demonstrations. On Friday, September 8 a massive protest broke out in Tehran, and in what became known as Black Friday the regime used the full force of its weaponry to crush the protests. Tanks, helicopter gunships, and machine guns killed hundreds.
Black Friday succeeded in alienating much of the rest of the Iranian people, as well as the Shah's allies abroad. A general strike in October resulted in the collapse of the economy, with most industries being shut down.
The protests of 1978 culminated in December during the holy month of Muharram, the most important Shiite holiday. Hundreds of demonstrators were killed each day, yet each day the protests grew. On December millions of people filled the streets of Tehran to protest against the Shah.
The army began to disintegrate as conscripts refused to fire on demonstrators and began to switch sides. Some soldiers turned on superior officers, killing them, and took over military bases.
The Shah agreed to introduce a constitution and appoint the moderate Shapour Bakhtiar as Prime Minister, but it was too late for compromise. The majority of the population was loyal to Imam Khomeini, and when he called for a complete end to the monarchy; the Shah was forced to flee the country on January 16, 1979. There was great jubilation in Iran at the ousting of the Shah. Imam Khomeini returned to Iran on February 1, 1979, invited by the anti-Shah revolution already in progress. The clerics led by Imam Khomeini formed the Islamic Republic party.
A new constitution was made that created a powerful post of Supreme Leader for Imam Khomeini, which would control the military and security services and could veto candidates running for office. A president was to be elected every four year by the people (through the Council of Guardians).
That same month saw anger at the United States, which continued to support the Shah and was blamed for encouraging counter-revolutionary activities. That feeling peaked as youthful supporters of Imam Khomeini occupied the American embassy. The students responsible would blame it on the United States for accepting the Shah in to the country for cancer treatments, but the message was clear; they could defy the U.S.
The leaders of Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States were also distressed by the Iranian revolution and feared similar events in their own nations. Thus, in 1980, Iraq, with financial support from the other nations and the backing of the United States, invaded Iran in an attempt to destroy the revolution in its infancy. This began the eight-year Iran-Iraq War that brought a huge cost in lives and resources.
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