Category Archives: Iran Overview

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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Iran Presentation

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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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Iran Timeline Post-World War II to 1960

1945 – Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi is in power

1951 – Mohammed Mossadegh becomes Prime Minister

–          Last popular, democratically oriented Government in Iran

–          De facto leader of National Front (Secular Political group)

–          Nationalized Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) in May, 1951

1952 – Covert operations led by British MI6 to remove Mossadegh from power

–          PM Mossadegh becomes aware of operations and resigns from office on July 16

–          Massive demonstrations occur calling for Mossadegh to return to office

–          69 people were killed and over 750 were injured

–          Mossadegh returns to office on July 21; “turning point in Iranian history” (Gasirowski 265)

1953 – CIA-led operations to remove Mossadegh gear up, undermining President Truman’s policy

–          US decision to overthrow the Prime Minister was made on February 3, 1953

–          Codenamed “Operation Ajax”

–          Final approval for ‘Ajax’ was made on June 25

–          Four components to the operation as stated by Gasiorowski (p. 272)

  • Propoganda and political action to be turned against Mossadegh
  • Opposition figures were to create disturbances to dramatize situation in Iranian Majlis (Parliament)
  • The Shah was to be consulted about coup and his support be obtained
  • Support of key active-duty military officers

–          August 17, CIA-hired crowd marched on central Tehran acting as a Tudeh demonstration

  • Designed to provoke fear of Tudeh takeover against the Shah
  • Real Tudeh arrived unaware of the reality of the situation and joined in
  • Violence breaks out and crowd attacks Reza Shah mausoleum and statues of Shahs
  • Police broke up violence and turned against Mossadegh
  • Pro-Zahedi crowds appeared garnering more support against Mossadegh in wake of Tudeh violence

–          August 19, more pro-Zahedi demonstrations occur

–          Provoked by the Tudeh demonstrations and disillusionment with Mossadegh, army and police support the demonstrations and attacked offices of Mossadegh newspapers and political parties

–          Mossadegh refuses to break up crowd with violence

–          Demonstrations grow in numbers

–          Pro-Zahedi, pro-Shah and military forces seize army headquarters and march on Mossadegh’s home

–          After a nine-hour battle leaving around 300 people killed, Mossadegh escapes and cedes power to Zahedi the following day

1953 – 1960

–          Iran was ruled as autocracy

–          Foreign companies are allowed access to oil again, splitting profits fifty-fifty

–          Iran joins the Baghdad Pact in 1955

  • Members included Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and Great Britain
  • Called for mutual cooperation and protection
  • Promises of non-intervention in members’ affairs
  • Members promised economic and military aid from the United States, but never followed through
  • Served to gather support against Soviet influence in the Middle East
  • Pact ended in 1979


Gasiorowski, Mark J. “The 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran.” International Journal of Middle East Studies. 19.3 (1987): 261-286. Web. 24 Sep. 2011. Link to Article.

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Iran Indicators

The World Bank

Income Level: Middle Upper Income

GDP (Current US$): $331,014,973,186 (2009)

GNI per Capita, Atlas Method (Current US$): $4,530 (2009)

Population: 73,864,000 (2010)

Life Expectancy at Birth: 72 years of age (2009)

Literacy Rate, Adult Total (% of people ages 15 and above): 85% (2008)

Unemployment, total (% of labor force): 10.5% (2008)

External Debt Stocks (% of total GNI): 4.1% (2009)

Improved Sanitation Facilities, urban (% of urban population with access): 86% (2000)

Merchandise Trade (% of GDP): 38.8% (2009)

The Human Development Index


Ranks at number 70 out of 169 countries in terms of most advanced in “human development,” which measures income along with other factors such as health, education, gender equality, and security.


Life Expectancy at Birth: 71.9 years of age

Expenditure on Health, Public (% of GDP): 3.0%

Under Five Mortality (Out of 1,000 live births): 32


Adult Literacy Rate (both sexes) (% aged 15 and above): 82.3%

Expenditure on education (% of GDP): 4.8%

Internet Users (per 100 people): 32

Mean Years of Schooling (of adults) (years): 7.2

Expected Years of Schooling (of children) (years): 14


Income Gini Coefficient: 38.3


Maternal Mortality Rate (deaths of women per 100,000 live births): 30

Population with at least Secondary Education (female/male ratio): 0.682

Adolescent Fertility Rate (women ages 15-19) (births per 1,000 women ages 15-19): 18.3

Shares in Parliament, female-male ratio: 0.028

Gender Inequality Index: 0.594

Human Security:

Refugees (thousands): 69.1

Unemployment Rate (% of labor force): 10.5

Homicide Rate (per 100,000): 2.9

Population affected by natural disasters (average per year, per million): 58,770

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Iran – Useful Data

Ethnic groups: Persian 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1% (CIA Factbook)

Population: Iran’s population is about 70 million according to preliminary data from the decennial census conducted in late 2006; of that number, approximately one-third is rural and two-thirds urban (Library of Congress). However, latest World Bank Data from 2009, the estimate is 72,903,921 

Demography: According to a 2008 estimate, 22.3 percent of Iran’s population is 14 years of age or younger, and only 5.4 percent is 65 and older. The median age is 26.4 years. There are 1.03 males for every female. Estimated life expectancy is 70.86 years overall (69.39 years for men, 72.4 years for women). The birthrate is 16.89 per 1,000; the death rate, 5.69 per 1,000; and the infant mortality rate, 36.73 per 1,000 live births. The fertility rate remains at about 1.7 children born per woman, a significant reduction from the estimated rate of 7.0 in 1979 (Library of Congress)

Religion: The constitution declares Shia Islam to be the official religion of Iran. At least 90 percent of Iranians are Shia Muslims, and about 8 percent are Sunni Muslims. Other religions present in Iran are Christianity (mainly Armenians and Assyrians, more than 300,000 followers), the Continue reading

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