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Unformatted text preview: The Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution
IAH 207: “Dangerous Art” November 2, 2011 Brief History of Iran to the 20th c.
Brief History of Iran to the 20 7th c. B.C.E – Medians of Western Iran credited with founding first nation and empire of Iran, Zoroastrianism had been established as the primary religion 648330 B.C.E – Achaemenid Empire (Cyrus the Great unifies Medians and Persians, establishes himself as “King of Kings” from which we get the term “Shah”). Under Cyrus and Darius, Persian Empire becomes the largest up to that point in history. Influence of Zoroastrianism declines somewhat under the empire and esp. after Alexander’s conquest. 331 B.C.E. – Alexander the Great conquers Persian Empire, defeating Darius III 224651 C.E. – Sassanid Empire – last great empire before adoption of Islam, persistent territorial clashes with Roman Empire but cultural influence of Sassanid extended throughout Rome as well as the Muslim world c. 637651 C.E. – Muslim invasion of Iran by Ummayad Arabs –
conquerors established an Ummayad Caliphate, later imposed Arabic as Brief History of Iran to the 20th c.
Brief History of Iran to the 20 By end of 11th c. nearly 100 percent of Iranian population is Muslim. 750 – Abbasids overthrow Ummayads, move capital from Damascus to Baghdad – Persian as well as Arab rulers and therefore support 9th10th c – Shuubbiyyah movement by nonArab subjects– used Islamic notions of equality between races and nations to promote Persian language, culture and identity. 819999 Samanid dynasty, one of several dynasties that arose after Abbasid power waned, led an important revival of Persian culture as well. c. 9771010 – Composition of Shahname (“Book of Kings” – national epic of Iran written in Persian) 15021736 – Safavid Empire – Shi’a Islam becomes the official religion (had been primarily Sunni – split between two sects primarily over the succession of Mohammed) – often considered the first modern Iranian nationstate 1906 – Iran becomes a constitutional monarchy after a Constitutional Iran in the 20th c.
Iran in the 20 1908 – discovery of oil in Khuzestan Province by British – Britain and Russia established spheres of influence in Iran 1921 – a military coup against Qajar monarchy brings Reza Khan to power – in 1925 he becomes Reza Shah Pahlavi, establishing the Pahlavi dynasty. Clashes with devout Muslims, encouraging “modernization” by having women for example forego the hijab, most people to dress in Westernstyle clothes, and permit mixing of sexes in social situations. 1941 – his son Muhammad Reza Shah assumes power after his father is forced to abdicate 1953 – Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq leads a military coup against the Shah that puts him into brief exile. 1953 – shortly thereafter, another coup, organized by the CIA and the British MI6, removed Mossadeq from power and reestablished the Shah. This coup and the continued backing by U.S. interests would lead to popular Iranian resentment against the U.S. Muhammad Reza Shah
Muhammad Reza Shah Muhammad Reza Shah (“the shah”) builds the Iranian state through the military (most important), bureaucracy and court patronage, which is funded by oil revenues (Abrahamian 123) Places family members in key military positions to prevent another coup (125) In 1957 establishes an intelligence agency SAVAK with the help of the FBI and the Israeli Mossad – “SAVAK had the power to keep an eye on all Iranians – including highranking officers – censor the media, screen applicants for government jobs, even university appointments, and use all means available, including torture and summary executions, to deal with political dissidents” (126) New bureaucracy by 1975 approx. 1.5 million state employees – reaches out to villages as well (126) In terms of media, state supported a National Iranian Radio and Television Organization as well as a National Film Company (127) White Revolution
White Revolution In 1963 the shah launches a “White Revolution” to preempt a “Red Revolution” by socialists (131) Land reform was a key component – limited power of local landlords (important supporters of shahs in the past) and to give sharecroppers tenancy rights on excess land – undercut power of local notables (131
2) A minor industrial revolution by bolstering private sector through trade protection and lowinterest loan programs (133) Educational reform: threefold increase in number of schools, literacy rates increased from 26 to 42 percent. Women’s issues (134) Women gained right to vote, run for elected office, serve in judiciary 1967 Family Protection Law – restricted men’s power to get divorces, have multiple wives, obtain child custody; raised marriageable age of women to 15; discouraged use of veil in public Extend educational and medical facilities (incl birth control info) Reform for Women
Reform for Women
Later, under the Resurgence Party, the shah pushed reform for women further, including (15253): Creating a ministry for women’s affairs Raising marriageable age for women from 15 to 18, for men from 18 to 20 Expanding birth control clinics and permitting abortion in first twelve weeks Push courts to enforce the 1967 Family Protection Law This law and the subsequent legislation was in direct conflict with shari’a on many issues such as: men need valid reason in family courts for divorce and could not enter polygamous marriage w/o consent from previous wives wives had right to petition for divorce and could work outside home w/o permission of husbands Social and Political Tensions
Social and Political Tensions Ironically, White Revolution increased size of two groups, intelligentsia and urban working poor, who were the greatest critics of the shah (139) Independent farmers and landless laborers in rural areas became important proponents of an Islamic revolution (13940) Oil boom increased separation between rich and poor (Shah believed in a “trickledown” approach) (140) Despite social reforms, infant mortality rates and illiteracy rates remained high – many highachievers left in a “brain drain.” Social tensions gave rise to political radicalism, especially that of Ali Shariati and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini To prevent dissent, the Shah established a oneparty state under the Resurgence Party (149) Resurgence Party created conflict with the traditional middle class, especially the bazaars and clerical establishment (151) Abrahamian 15354 on the ultimate failure of the oneparty Ali Shariati
Ali Shariati An academic (social scientist) translated Sartre’s What is Literature?) (144) Espoused idea that true Shi’ism entails “revolution against all forms of oppression, especially against feudalism, capitalism and
imperialism” (144) Believed Muhammad not just a founder of a new religion but also a political leader sent to move society toward a classless utopia Intelligentsia should look toward restoring the “true essence of revolutionary Islam” (144) First to transform “jehad” (crusade) into the concept of “liberation struggle,” “mojehad” (crusader) into “revolutionary fighter,” “shahed” (martyr) into revolutionary hero and “mostazafen” (the meek) into “oppressed masses” (145) “Not surprisingly, many credited Shariati with transforming Islam from a din (religion) and mazhab (faith) into a political idologi (ideology) known in the West interchangeably as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini Espoused a form of “clerical populism” (146) Velayate Faqeh (The Jurist’s Guardianship) – published work of his ideas: “According to his new interpretation, the senior mojtaheds [Muslim jurists] specializing in feqh (law) had the ultimate authority to rule the state” (146) “God had sent the Prophets and the Imams to guide the community; that these Prophets and Imams had left behind the shari’a to keep the community on the right path; and that in the absence of the Twelfth Imam, his deputies in the world, the senior mojtaheds, became guardians of the shari’a. The traditional ulama had used the term velayate faqeh (jurist’s guardianship) to mean the mojtaheds’ jurisdiction over religious foundations and those in dire need of guidance – namely minors, widows, and the mentally incapacitated. Khomeini, however, expanded the term to encompass the whole population” (146) Believed Muslims had a sacred duty to oppose all monarchies (147) Revolutionary Slogans (148)
Revolutionary Slogans (148) Islam belongs to the oppressed (mostafazen) not to the oppressors (mostakbaren) Islam represents the slumdwellers (zaghehneshin), not the palacedwellers (kakhneshin) Islam is not the opiate of the masses The oppressed (mostafazen) of the world unite We are for Islam, not for capitalism and feudalism Islam will eliminate class differences Islam originates from the masses, not from the rich In Islam there will be no landless peasant The duty of the clergy is to liberate the poor from the clutches of the rich Steps Toward Revolution
Steps Toward Revolution “Fifty Years of Treason” by AbulHassan BaniSadr, future president of Islam Republic – major complaints against shah’s regime: Abrahamian 157 International groups such as Amnesty International and then U.S. president Jimmy Carter raised issue of human rights violations in Iran – shah permitted concessions which gave an opening to more outspoken critics in Iran (157) Poetry reading events by dissident writers in 1977 led to protest clashes with police and a wave of subsequent protests in the next months (158) In January 1978 a staterun paper published an editorial criticizing Khomeini and the clergy as feudalists, imperialists and communists, and that Khomeini had led a dissolute life as a youth (158). Seminar students protested the following few days marching on the police station – authorities claimed 2 died while opposition claimed 70 dead and 500 wounded (158) The Revolution
The Revolution Seminarians drew up petitions demanding “apologies for the editorial, release of political prisoners, the return of Khomeini [who had been exiled], reopening of his Fayzieh seminary; the cessation of physical attacks on university students in Tehran; freedom of expression, especially for the press; independence for the judiciary; the breaking of ties with imperial powers; support for agriculture; and the immediate dissolution of the Resurgence Party” (158) A series of violent clashes ensued over the next months in 1978; after one on Sept. 8 that came to be called “Black Friday,” the entire country went on strike in protest. The shah left the country in January and on February 1, 1979 Khomeini returned from exile. “Two days of street fighting [starting on Feb. 11] had completed the destruction of the 53yearold dynasty and the 2,500yearold monarchy. Of the three pillars the Pahlavis had built to bolster their state, the military had been immobilized, the bureaucracy had joined the revolution, and court patronage had become a huge embarrassment. The voice of the people had proved mightier than the Pahlavi The Islamic Constitution of 1979
The Islamic Constitution of 1979 Soon after the revolution, a clash over establishing the new law for the Islamic Republic arose, primarily between Khomeini and Mehdi Bazargan, the official prime minister. Bazargan wanted “a republic that would be Islamic in name but democratic in content” (162). Khomeini, on the other hand, wanted to establish his vision of velayate faqeh, state control by a clerical government or the first theocracy in Iran (1623) The Constitution, drafted by an “Assembly of Experts,” ended up being a hybrid of these two but with Khomeini’s side more heavily weighted. Khomeini became “Supreme Leader” for life, which gave him “constitutional powers unimagined by shahs” (see Abrahamian 1645) General electorate (including women) could choose president (“highest official authority after the Supreme Leader”) , Majles (members of parliament), provincial and local councils through secret The Islamic Constitution of 1979
The Islamic Constitution of 1979 “all citizens irrespective of race, ethnicity, creed, and gender were guaranteed basic human and civil liberties: the rights of press freedom, expression, worship, organization, petition, and demonstration; equal treatment before the law; the right of appeal; and the freedom from arbitrary arrest, torture, police surveillance, and even wiretapping. The accused enjoyed habeas corpus and had to be brought before civilian courts within twentyfour hours. The law ‘deemed them innocent until proven guilty beyond any doubt in a proper court of law” (16667) The Constitution “promised citizens pensions, unemployment benefits, disability pay, decent housing, medical care, and free secondary as well as primary education. It promised to encourage home ownership; eliminate poverty, unemployment, vice, usury, hoarding, private monopolies, and inequality – including between men and women…” (167) However, “All laws and regulations must conform to the principles of Islam,” and a Guardian Council would be able to veto any legislation that did not do so (167) Khomeini’s Triumph
Khomeini’s Triumph Bazargan protested the changes which gave such powers to the Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council, complaining that “the proposed constitution violated popular sovereignty, lacked needed consensus, endangered the nation with akhundism (clericalism), elevated the ulama into a ‘ruling class,’ and undermined religion since future generations would blame all shortcomings on Islam” (168) Bazargan may have been able to get popular support for his views, but then the hostage crisis ensued. Pres. Carter had permitted the shah into the U.S. for cancer treatment, which prompted 400 university students (who claimed that the CIA was using the embassy to stage another coup) to take over the U.S. Embassy, holding hostages there for 444 days. Not clear if Khomeini knew what they were planning. (168) Bazargan resigned once he realized that Khomeini would not order the release of the hostages and therefore was no longer a force of resistance against Khomeini: “The hostagetakers hailed their embassy takeover as the Second Islamic Revolution” (168) The Islamic Republic
The Islamic Republic Many believed the Islamic Republic, as a theocracy, would not last very long, but it has persisted. Some reasons: Quick takeover of the state bureaucracy, which had become well
established under the Pahlavis, and continued to expand it so that the state became a dominant presence within the country (169) This expansion was funded by a steady flow of oil revenue (169) The expansion was also supported by the eight year IranIraq War (198088) The Republic established a good relationship with the bazaars and promoted respect of private ownership – has been called a “bourgeois” republic (17880) Assisted rural and working class peoples through land distribution, price protection, subsidies literacy campaigns (literacy rate doubled), infrastructure improvements, health care and education provision (from 60 to 90 percent in school) – life expectancy rose from 56 to 70 by end of century (180) Use of repressive violence against counterrevolutionaries (see 181 Limitations of Rights (177)
Limitations of Rights (177) A ministry of Islamic guidance launched a “Cultural Revolution” against the “cultural imperialism” of the West: Undoing of Family Protection Law Marriage age for women to 13, men could divorce wives without court permission Women purged from judiciary, secular teachers from the educational system Enforced a strict “Islamic code of public appearance” – women must wear scarves, men discouraged from wearing ties Censored newspapers, books, movies, and radio; rewrote textbooks used in school Banned use of European personal names Removed all references to monarchs in public places Fatwa against Salman Rushdie (182) After Khomeini
After Khomeini “On his deathbed, Khomeini appointed a twentyfiveman Constitutional Reform Council which named [Ali] Khamenei as the next Supreme Leader and drew up amendments to the original constitution” (182) Hojjat alIslam Rafsanjani shortly after became president, and the two began a “Thermidor,” a retreat from more radical elements in a revolution, after the death of Khomenei (18384) Moved toward liberalizing the economy while avoiding the term “liberal” Trimmed the bureaucracy and most importantly reduced the defense budget Opened up free trade zones and imported needed goods, revitalized the stock market Promoted birth control to curb population growth Rafsanjani fell out of favor with Khamanei when he sought to promote Chinese models of economic development 1997 Reform (18590)
1997 Reform (18590) Despite the liberalization, the U.S. continued to see Iran as a threat and passed the Iran Sanctions Act, which created economic problems: The ensuing economic crisis led toreform in 1997 with the rise of Hojjat alIslam Sayyed Muhammed Khatemi, who had a liberal reputation – e.g., loosened censorship as minister of culture. Promoted an “open society with individual liberties, free expression, women’s rights, political pluralism, and, most important of all, rule of law” (186) Support came primarily from modern middle class, college students, women and urban workers. Opened up foreign relations and spoke of his admiration for the West (fond of Western philosophers in particular) – Britain reopened diplomatic relations and Clinton loosened the embargo Liberals in the Majiles passed numerous reform bills to eliminate torture and improve rights of prisoners and the accused Proponents of women’s rights, going against several tenets of Conservative Backlash (19194)
Conservative Backlash (19194) However, conservatives in Iran pushed back against these reforms and saw a key turning point for their movement in 2002: The Guardian Council vetoed most of the reform bills as being against the tenets of shari’a and the constitution. The judiciary closed down more than sixty publications in what would come to be called the “great newspaper massacre.” The most important impetus for the conservative movement came from George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” speech, which put Iran in the axis despite the improving relations between the two countries. Iran had been working together with the U. S. State Dept. in Afghanistan to get rid of the Taliban, so it came as a shock to both Iranians and State Dept. officials. Bush’s speech emboldened Iranian conservatives to point to reform as another form of “cultural imperialism” from the West Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the current president, won in 2005 in a landslide for the conservatives Iran Today
Iran Today Ahmadinejad promoted populist ideals, especially for the rural populace, rather than middle class, Tehranian ideals of liberalization (1934) Helped that he came from humble beginnings (his father was a blacksmith) (194) The current political situation shows that class as much as traditional values of Islam plays an important role in Iran today. In the 2009 election, which kept Ahmadinejad in power, there were many claims of election fraud and waves of protestors (the socalled “Green Movement”) took to the street after the results were announced. These protests were quickly quashed, but more waves of protest have emerged in the wake of the “Arab Spring’s” revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. A key difference, however, was that these were rebellions against particular dictators whereas Iran is ostensibly a democracy already, Sources Sources
Abrahamian, Ervand. A History of Modern Iran. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. ...
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This note was uploaded on 01/13/2012 for the course IAH 207 taught by Professor Johns during the Fall '08 term at Michigan State University.
- Fall '08