Category Archives: History

Iran History Timeline

Here’s another comprehensive and helpful timeline of Iranian history, found here from BBC World. For the purpose of this blog this post starts with the Islamic Revolution, but the page provides an excellent overview of Iran’s history reaching back to ancient times.

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History of Pahlavi Dynasty

This article from Iran Chamber found here is a quick and easy history of the Palhavi Dynasty.

When Mohammed Reza Pahlavi took the throne as Shah in 1941, he dedicated himself to continuing the fast paced trajectory of modernization that his father, Shah Reza Kahn, had begun in 1925. Reza Khan had spearheaded a modernization campaign with large scale road such as developing large-scale industries, implementing major infrastructure projects, building a cross-country railroad system, establishing a national public education system, reforming the judiciary, and improving health care. Although these reforms brought great benefits to the Iranian people such as public education and health care, the speed and ferocity of industrialization and urbanization in the country alienated and displaced many groups within the class structure. The socio-economic reforms such as the extension of women’s rights and the ban on wearing clerical garb and the hajib also angered the religious elite who felt that they may lose control over their traditional leadership role within the community. The Shah’s dictatorial style of rule left little room for open opposition, and those who disagreed with his policies and his regime were quickly arrested and taken away before opposition could fester in his country…

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Student Movements in Post-Revolutionary Iran

This article by Mehrdad Mashayekhi, found on JSTOR here, discusses the student movements that erupted in Iran in 1997, 17 years after the Islamic Revolution. As the Islamic Revolution brought about extreme change in Iranian politics and society, it seems peculiar that no other opposition movements erupted as the new regime stabilized. After all, secularists were a large part of the movement and the conservative policies adopted by the religious regimes obviously did not appeal to the entirety of opposition forces that participated. Aside from the veil protests and Ayandegan (free press) protests immediately after the revolution in 1979, however, there were no social uprisings in Iran until 1997. Mashayekhi explains that this was due to an imposed “Cultural Revolution” in 1980 where all campuses were shut down for three years and severe repression of public dissent took place. This “Cultural Revolution” supposedly encouraged the “Islamification” of Iranian society as purges eliminated any opposition to the Islamic regime, no activism was allowed to take place, and the Iranian people had no choice but to accept the policies of the current regime. It wasn’t until 1997 that the first opportunity for citizens to express themselves presented itself again.

Mashayekhi breaks down why 1997 was the opportune time for dissidence to rear its head in Islamic society. Most importantly, he sights University campuses as the site of revolutionary sentiment. As many students in the Islamic Republic of Iran were unemployed, they congregated in Universities and discussed their frustrations with the current regime and the possible outcomes of their futures. These students participated greatly in the 1997 election of president Khatami, who was very liberal in his policies. His rise to office along with the death of Supreme Leader Ayotollah Khomeini brought a new reformist/legalistic political culture that was more adaptable to every day Iranian life. Thus, student movements had the opportunity to erupt in campuses across the country, where students were able to speak out for the first time since 1979. The question now is why did that dissidence come to end? Mashayekhi explains that, as with many social movement, those participating became too divided, organization links crumbled, and the political level of student political discussions was not advanced enough to sweep an entire nation into revolutionary fever again. This is evident in the fact that few wide spread social movements formed in Iran until the Green Revolution during the supposedly rigged elections in 2009.

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Iran in Revolution: Opposition Forces

This article, found on JSTOR here, was written by Ervand Abrahamian  in 1979 as the Revolution in Iran was unfolding. It takes a look at the people on the ground and discusses who the “opposition forces” that spearheaded the revolution really were. Abrahamanian states that the revolution was directly caused by the failure of the Shah to influence or appease class formations in Iran. He identifies five groups as particularly responsible for rallying their discontent and spreading revolutionary fever throughout the country:

  • Religious Conservatives
  • Religious Radicals
  • Religious Reactionaries
  • Secular Reformers
  • Secular Radicals

These groups were all fighting for the removal of Shah and the installation of a new government, yet they all obviously have different ideas of what the post-revolution government should be. So if so many secularists, communists, and students were participating in the revolution, why did it end with an Islamic Republic? According to Abrahamian, religious groups were most successful in mobilizing the masses, especially when it came to the bazaar population, shanty-town poor, and industrial proletariat who all together made up a very large portion of the movement. As for the large amount of secular participants, the Shah’s regime crushed almost all of the grass-roots organizations belonging to secular opposition and had many of them arrested by the SAVAK. However, he left bazaar guilds, clergy, seminaries and local mosques to function where much of the revolutionary moment began to fester without harassment from the Shah’s regime. Public opposition to the state began to primarily converge in mosque which then led to a religious revivalist movement sweeping the country, especially among the lower middle class and shanty-town poor. Lower clergy and Shari’ati supporters also encouraged higher wages for the poor during a time when they were suffering under the Shah’s economic reforms, which would simultaneously bankrupt the state and lead to the installation of a new government. These broad gestures appealed greatly to the masses whether they were religious or not, and many disregarded the conservative religious undertones while caught up in the revolutionary fever. As for the Marxists and communist Tudeh party, their mass appeal was hurt by the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China’s support for the Shah. With the SAVAK having arrested and killed many secular opposition forces, and their appeal to the masses dwindling, religious conservatism took center stage and the 1979 Iran Revolution birthed an Islamic Republic.

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Women and the Islamic Revolution

There are a variety of perspective on women’s role in revolutionary Iran, but most agree that they played a large part in revolting against the Shah and bringing down the Pahlavi government.  In Dr. Ansia Khaz Ali’s Conflict Forums report Iranian Women after the Islamic Revolution (found here) she characterizes women’s participation as rebellion against the Shah’s oppressive sexualization of women, which she views as a violation of women’s rights.

Starting with Shah Reza Khan’s ban on the hijab in 1935 and his order for authorities to forcibly remove chadors from women wearing them in the streets, Ali documents the history of modernization in Iran as the government forcing Western concepts of sexual objectification on women. Aside from the physical assault that resulted from the order, Ali sites the ban on the hijab as oppressive to women because many chose to stay indoors rather than go outside unveiled and were therefore basically under house arrest until 1941 when the Shah’s son Reza Pahlavi took the throne. Pahlavi lifted the ban on the hijab and made it optional for women to wear, stating that women would “give them up gradually” as modernization of Iranian society continued. Ali contends that the Shah was successful in his endeavor to westernize women by carrying out extensive propaganda campaigns that sexualized women in advertizements and films and made it difficult for women who still wore the hijab to obtain higher education. According to Ali, the Shah was concentrating on the “visual aspect” of the unveiling of women which “did not consider their human identity or their particular needs and circumstances.” Thus, when signs of the revolution first started to show in the 1960s, women started wearing the hijab in public as an active sign of resistance to westernized sexual oppression.

Ali lends a very interesting perspective on the role of women in Islamic Iran that is rarely found in Western discourse. To her, the hijab allows women to be equal with men in society because the sexual objectification that is connected with women in the West is erased by the veil. Thus, in this perspective, sexualization of women and the female form is oppressive because it makes women distinct from men  and distinguishes them as objects of their attention rather than as equals. She continues to explain in her paper that after the revolution, women were free to go out into society and the work place free of discrimination and sexual exploitation which is key to their enjoyment to human rights. This logic is very interesting when considering the opposite view that women are oppressed by hijab because it forces women to conceal themselves and distinguishes them from men. In essence, it almost seems as if both are arguing the same thing: that it is a violation of women’s rights to purposefully distinguish women as different from men either by enforcing the hijab or banning it. Ali, of course, if far from the only scholar who has written on this subject however, and it is evident from the mass veil protests after the revolution that not all women agreed that enforcing hijab as law was essential to upholding their human rights. I will expand on this concept further with the views of different authors who touch upon the role of women in the Islamic Revolution.

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Iran Timeline from 1960 to 1979


  • The Shah waged “the White Revolution” which was aimed at redistribution of large estates to tenant farmers.
  • Dr. Ali Amini was appointed as Prime Minister and Hassan Arsanjani as Minister of Agriculture.
  • Although landlords were unhappy with the redistribution of their land holdings, they accepted that some measures of land reform was inevitable.
  • The ulama, some of whom also landowners, bitterly opposed the reforms. An unknown cleric, Ruhollah Khomeini condemned the reforms as unconstitutional and un-Islamic.
  • The Shah labeled the feudal and clerical opposition against the reforms as “black reaction.”


  • Arsanjani forced landlords more in order to make the reforms more achievable.
  • Discontent of the feudals increased, and it caused a clash between the Shah and Amini.


  • Student protests on the Tehran University was dispersed violently. The Shah accused them of allying themselves with “black reaction.”
  • Yet, Amini lost his progressive reformist image, cut the military budget, and hoped for US aid to cover the budget deficit.
  • Amini was forced to resign after he confronted himself with the Shah and the military and after failed to get the US aid.
  • Jalal Ale Ahmad published his book “Occidentosis: A Plague from the West.”


  • The Shah launched “the White Revolution” by himself, composed of 6 principles:
  1. land reform
  2. nationalization of the forests
  3. profit-sharing for industrial workers
  4. sale of state factories
  5. votes for women
  6. foundation of Literacy Corps
  • Ayatollah Khomeini was arrested after his speech against the White Revolution.


  • Hasan Ali Mansur was appointed as Prime Minister. His party, The New Iran Party was regarded as a US creation.
  • The US State Department was seeking diplomatic immunity from prosecution for all American personnel, diplomatic or otherwise.
  • The US wanted this agreement informally ratified by Iranian Foreign Ministry, but Mansur sent the matter to the Majlis.
  • 60 out of 130 deputees opposed the government, Khomeni condemned the ratification and was exiled by the Shah.


  • Mansur was assassinated by a member of Fedayan-i Islam. The Shah appointed Amir Abbas Hoveida as Prime Minister.
  • People’s Mujahedin, an Islamic Marxist organization, was founded by leftist students.
  • Oil revenues maximized and Iranian economy grew apace.


  • Censorship on books. Many mosques and libraries were raided by the police.
  • The Shah signed an economic agreement with the USSR: Iran to supply nat’l gas to Russia, Russia to give industrial aid to Iran.
  • Bijan Jazani began to reorganize People’s Fadayan, a Marxist-Leninist organization, after released from prison.


  • A new law passed favoring women. According to the law;
  1. women have the right to apply for divorce without husband’s permission
  2. a man had to secure his wife’s consent before taking a second wife
  3. legal matters involving families are transferred from religious to secular courts
  • The USSR agreed to supply light armaments in return for more nat’l gas.
  • Khomeini sent an open letter to Hoveida mentioning “the bankrupcy of the bazaar and its respected merchants.”


  • The Shah announced that Britain would no longer hold permanent military forces “East of Suez.”


  • Bijan Jazani was captured by SAVAK, sentenced life in prison by the military court, sentence reduced to 15 years in prison.
  • Iran cut diplomatic ties with Lebanon for helping Iranian dissidents abroad.


  • Urban guerilla activities increased: Siakal Uprising led by People’s Fedayan, attack on Shah’s nephew.


  • Iranian troops were sent to suppress the Dhofar rebellion in Oman.

(further data will be added)


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Timeline of Events Leading up to the Iranian Revolution

Taken from PBS here


According to the Federation of American Scientists,The United States ‘ and Israeli intelligence officers work with Iran to set up SAVAK, an Iranian intelligence organization later blamed for the torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners and violent suppression of dissent.


The shah implements “The White Revolution,” an aggressive campaign of social and economic Westernization that is met with intense popular opposition. Popular nationalist Ayatollah Khomeini is arrested in one of many crackdowns on the shah’s opponents. By the late 1960s the shah relies regularly on SAVAK to quell dissidence.


In one of a series of reforms that alienate his people, the shah replaces the Islamic calendar with an “imperial” calendar, beginning with the founding of the Persian Empire. Many of the shah’s growing number of critics see this as anti-Islamic.


Iranians resort to rioting, mass demonstrations and strikes to protest the shah’s authoritarian rule. In response, he enforces martial law.

January 16
Ayatollah KhomeiniThe shah flees Iran amid intensifying unrest.

February 1
Islamic nationalist Ayatollah Khomeini returns from France, where he was exiled for his opposition to the shah’s regime. He encourages the brewing revolution.

April 1
Under Ayatollah Khomeini’s guidance, Iran declares itself a theocratic republic guided by Islamic principles, and a referendum is held to name it the Islamic Republic of Iran.

November 4
Islamic students storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking hostage 52 American employees and demand that the shah return from receiving medical treatment in the United States to face trial in Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini applauds their actions. The hostage situation ignites a crisis between the United States and Iran.

Iran and the United States sever diplomatic ties over the hostage crisis, and the U.S. Embassy becomes a training ground for the Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Iranian soldiers during the Iran-Iraq WarThe shah dies in exile in Egypt

Source: PBS

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