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Iran Revolution

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Iran is a country located in the Middle East. The main source

of income for the country is oil, the one object that had greatly

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influenced its history. Iran’s present government is run as an Islamic

Republic. A president, cabinet, judicial branch, and Majilesor or

legislative branch, makes up the governmental positions. A revolution

that overthrew the monarch, which was set in 1930, lasted over 15

years. Crane Brinton’s book, An Anatomy of a Revolution, explains set

of four steps a country experiences when a revolution occurs.

Symptoms, rising fever, crisis, and convalescence are the steps that

occur. The Iranian Revolution followed the four steps in Crane

Brinton’s theory, symptoms, rising fever, crisis, and convalescence

Numerous symptoms led to the crumbling downfall of Reza Shah

Pahlavi, ruler of Iran until 1978. One of these symptoms is rising

expectations which can be seen during the 1960’s and 70’s. The rich

Shah cleared the way for the land reform law, enacted in 1962. The

land minority had to give up its land to the government, and among

those stripped of land, were the Shi’ah Muslims.

Iran’s power

structure was radically changed in a program termed the “White

Revolution”. On January 26, 1963, the White Revolution was endorsed by

the nation. By 1971, when land distribution ended, about 2,500,000

families of the farm population benefited from the reforms. From

1960-72 the percentage of owner occupied farmland in Iran rose from

26 to 78 percent. Per capita income rose from $176 in 1960 to $2,500

in 1978. From 1970-77 the gross national product was reported to

increase to an annual rate of 7.8% (“Iran” 896). As a result of this

thriving economy, the income gap rapidly widened. Exclusive homes,

extravagant restaurants, and night clubs and streets loaded with

expensive automobiles served as daily reminders of a growing income

spread. This created a perfect environment for many conflicts to arise

Iran’s elite class consisted of wealthy land owners,

intelligencia, military leaders, politicians, and diplomats. The Elite

continued to support the monarchy and the Shah. The peasants were

victim of unfulfilled political expectations, surveillance by the

secret police, and the severe social and economic problems that

resulted from modernization. The middle class favored socialism over

capitalism, because capitalism in their view supported the elite, and

does not benefit the lower classes. The middle class was the most

changeable element in the group, because they enjoyed some of the

privileges of the elite, which they would like to protect. At the same

time, they believed that they had been cheated by the elite out of

their share of the industrialization wealth (Orwin 43).

About this time, the middle class, which included students,

technocrats, and modernist professionals, became discontent with

the economy. The key event should have further stabilized the royal

dictatorship, but the increase in oil prices and oil income beginning

in 1974 caused extreme inflation. This was due to the investment

strategy followed by the Shah, which led to a spectacular 42% growth

rate in 1974. (Cottam 14). And because of the Shah’s support structure

which enabled the new rich to benefit from inflation, the government

effort to deal with inflation was aimless. Poor Iranians and Iranians

with a fixed income suffered major losses in real income. Better

standards of living were no longer visible. Thus, the majority of the

Iranian people developed a revolutionary predisposition.

As the middle class became discontent in Iran throughout the

1970’s, the desertion of intellectuals could be found in great excess.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini represented much of the discontent of the

religious sector of Iran. For speaking out against the Shah’s

autocratic rule, Khomeini was exiled to Turkey in 1963. In 1965,

Khomeini moved to Iraq where he became the central spokesperson for

expatriate opposition to the Shah. On October 6, 1978, Khomeini was

expelled from Iraq and moved to Paris, where he was accessible to a

larger body of opposition forces. He was also accessible to the

Western Press. Khomeini preached that he would displace the Shah and

expel the foreigners. He also said he would enforce religious and

traditional values, and redirect Iran’s wealth away from large

industrialization schemes and toward reforms needed by the common

Throughout the 1970’s, Khomeini gained tremendous popularity

with the masses, and he became the symbol of the opposition towards

the Shah. As Khomeini gained popularity, many religious groups grew in

numbers and in status. In the early 1950’s, the technocrats had

showed core support for Mohammad Mossedeq and Iran’s national

movement. They saw Mossadeq’s overthrow as the removal of the symbolic

leader of the Iranian nation by an American directed coup d’etat. Many

of his followers formed groups in opposition to the Shah. Leaders of

the Freedom Front, one of the groups that grew out of the Mossadeq

movement, were a group composed of intellectuals who tended to be

centrist in philosophy, more religious, anti-Marxist, and militant

They recognized Khomeini’s large and potentially enormous

following, and associated themselves with him. The rise of religious

opposition groups and Khomeini proved to be a great test for the Shah.

As time progressed the weakness of the Shah became apparent. Waves of

opposition began building after 1975, due to the formation of the

Rastakhiz , the legal political party in Iran, and the banning of

opposition political parties. It also became clear that the increased

oil revenues following oil price increases, were spent on arms and

industrialization. In mid-1977 the religious leaders began

demonstrating against the modernization brought on by the Shah. In

November, several people were killed when police broke up

demonstrations. As time went on, protests became more radical. To try

and quiet dissent, the Shah became more of a dictator. As a result,

those who had been moderate in demands for reform became more radical.

In the fall of 1978, strikes against the oil industry, the post

office, government factories, and banks demolished the economy. This

pattern continued throughout most of 1978 (Orwin 45). As these

protests became more frequent there were more and more people killed.

This reflects the Shah’s loss of power over his government and his

In late 1978, the Shah came to the conclusion that he would

and could not rule a country in which he had to stand in the flowing

blood of his people. In short, he understood that he could not

militarily occupy his own country. The Shah’s early mistakes had

been devastating as the years went on. His forceful actions did not

work and it’s no wonder that his grip weakened and his mid wavered.

These events all led to the march against the government of the Shah,

in which eight million Iranians protested on December 10, 1978 (Bill

25). One-fifth of the Iranian government was willing to join in a

massive and nonviolent manifestation of opposition even though most of

them knew that thousands of their countrymen had been shot in previous

demonstrations. The banners and slogans made clear the religious and

political essence of the revolutionary movement. This massive

demonstration was the turning point from symptoms to rising fever. It

clearly reflected the weakness of the Shah, and the inevitability of

After a year of public demonstrations against him, the Shah of

Iran left Tehran on January 16, 1979, for an “extended vacation”

(Orwin 46). He left the country in the hands of a regency council and

Prime Minister Shahpur Bakhtiar, who was a former member of the

National Front. The opposition leader, Khomeini, was to become the new

ruler, and he returned to Iran on February 1, 1979. Khomeini occupied

preeminent positions among Iran’s most respected religious scholars,

the Mujahedin-e Khalq.. Although Khomeini wanted a stable government

that could cope with the problems of reconstruction, he wanted to

eradicate the evil roots of the old system, which he describes as

satanic. He denounced the materialism of the recent past and called

for a climate in which social justice would prevail.

On April 1, 1979, after a landslide victory in a national

referendum, Khomeini declared an Islamic republic. This republic

consisted of a new constitution reflecting Khomeini’s ideals of

Islamic government. He was named Iran’s political and religious

leader for life. Khomeini tapped the deep-seated conservatism of the

Muslim fundamentalists by making moderate changes in the law. Women

were required to wear the veil, Western music and alcohol were banned,

and the punishments described by Islamic law were reinstated.

Political vengeance was taken, executing hundreds of people who had

worked with the Shah’s regime (“Iran” 897).

The large moderate center composed of the professional and

bourgeois middle class had proved to be ineffective in their

leadership abilities. Moderate Bakhtiar, the last prime minister under

Pahlavi rule, was very unpopular, and he was unable to compromise with

his former National Front colleagues or with Khomeini. He was then

forced to flee to France. On April 1, 1979, his replacement, Mehdi

Bazergan was appointed by Khomeini (Cottam 15). This 73-year-old

engineer was a leader of the Freedom Front, and president of the

committee of human rights. The middle and upper middle classes looked

to Bazergan to provide stability so the economy would recover and the

government services could be restored. Bazergan appointed a cabinet,

mainly, from the ranks of the Freedom Front, the National Front, and

the religious bureaucracy. Bazergan’s position was weak, however, and

he steadily lost ground to the due to the attacks from the far right

and left. As their base of support narrowed, their dependence on

During this time, Iran’s relation with the US went downhill.

It reached a stage of outright confrontation, when, on November 4,

1979, 500 extremist students seized the US embassy in Tehran. They

took hostage 66 citizens at the embassy and the foreign ministry (“The

Iranian Revolution” 835). The takeover seemingly sanctioned by

Khomeini, continued for the next 444 days, and American-Iranian

relations sunk to an all-time low. This led to trade conflicts with

the United States and its allies, causing economic problems.

During the rising fever stage there is a presence of a dual

government. During Bazergan’s rule, it became difficult to administer

justice with a court system that had been particularly lenient to the

royal will. To deal with these problems on a temporary basis. Khomeini

set up a system of revolutionary committees presided over by a

revolutionary council. Religious leaders clearly predominated in the

revolutionary council- committee-courts system, which came to be

In November, 1979, Bazergan resigned, and in his place

Khomeini appointed Abol Hassan Bani Sadr. Bani Sadr was an idealist, a

bookworm, and most personally ambitious of all the liberal

revolutionaries. Like the other moderates, he was a representative of

the professional middle class, who had little skill or patience to

build political organizations. Bani Sadr’s efforts were fruitless in

dealing with the hostage releases. After being elected Iran’s first

president in January 1980, he and his followers, out of self defense

and desperation, formed an alliance with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (“Iran”

897). He also attempted to work hard to establish close relations with

the military leaders. He ineffectively tried to appeal to the Iranian

people, who had little in common with a Paris trained intellectual.

One can see that during this stage of rising fever, moderate control

is losing power. The people of Iran became upset with the little

change that was taking place, and wanted more extreme measures

In mid-1981, leaders of the Islamic Republican Party (IRP)

convinced Khomeini that Bani Sadr was plotting against them, and

suggested evidence indicating that he was a threat to the revolution.

This led to his dismissal on June 20, of position of

commander-in-chief of the armed forces. His presidency lasted 17

months. He was arrested and dismissed as president on June 22. Forced

into hiding, he fled Iran on July 29, 1981, and was granted political

asylum in Paris. On July 24, extremist Muhammad Ali Rajai with

substantial IRP backing, won the electoral victory over the moderates.

Thus, the period of rising fever ended, and the period of crisis

In 1981, Khomeini took complete control over Iran and took

many extremist measures. He made sure the government completely

controlled the media, as well as newspapers, television broadcasts,

and radio programs. He had strict control of everything, including the

treasury and flow of money to religious leaders. Those who disagreed

with him faced severe economic retribution. The crisis had begun and

Under Khomeini’s rule (1981-1989) came a great period of reign

of terror. For example, after a speech the Ayatollah made, right wing

revolutionary guards fired into a rally of approximately one hundred

thousand Muslim leftists outside the U.S. Embassy in Teheran. Five

people were killed and more than 300 were wounded. Supporters held

food riots in Tunisia, and others held six car bombings in Kuwait. The

Islamic Jihad held suicide bombings that killed two hundred-forty one

U.S. Servicemen, and fifty-eight French troops in Beirut. These acts

were not looked at as being bad acts of terrorism, but rather as acts

of patriotic heroes. The reign of terror, the next step in the crisis,

brought extremists into complete control.

The people of Iran in the early 1980’s, had just about enough

of all these laws and regulations, and were outraged at their standard

of living. People were finally starting to revolt against the way that

they have been treated. This period according to Crane Brinton, is

known as the civil war. Civil war started in Iran with the conflict

with the Kurds. These people were pushed out of their homes, religious

temples, and places of business, because of the overpowering radicals.

An entire religious group was almost completely annihilated because of

the savage behavior of the radicals. It was later found that the

Kurdish problem was merely a pretext on Iran’s part to engage in

meetings and collaborations with two influential middle eastern

states, Turkey and Syria. People suffered so that government could

gain allies. The poor treatment of the Kurds led to confusion in the

Because of all of the chaos in the country, due to different

public demonstrations and mass rioting, government groups were

forming. The IRP, one of these groups, was in support of a

nationalistic movement. Opposed to it was the Hojatieh, and a third

party, which represented the Mullahs and the high ayatollahs. This

third group thought Khomeini was reckless, so there was great

hostility towards the IRP. These groups formed different factions

among the people of Iran, and led to a divided nation.

In the early 1980’s, patriotic fever was bordering on

hysteria, and the nationalism was incredible. This patriotic fever

fits in to the next part of the revolution, the republic of virtue.

Iran’s people had a great sense of nationalism inside of them. People

held many parades and marches to express their nationalism. During

this time, women were forced to wear veils in public, modern

divorce laws were repealed, and harsh courts were set up, which set

The colliding views of the Iranian groups, as well as the

republic of virtue, made it hard for Iran to deal with other

countries. During this period, Iran’s relationship with Iraq became

troubled. The war began with a fight for land and oil and as a result

of the personalities of the two leaders. Both Hussein, the leader of

Iraq, and Khomeini are headstrong. In addition, they disliked

All of the circumstances that resulted from the war may have

contributed in some measure to the outbreak and continuation of the

conflict between Iran and Iraq (Iran-Iraq War 77-78). The situation

worsened in September of 1980 when Iraq launched an attack on Iran to

take control of the waterway that divided the two countries (“Iranian

During the war, industry suffered. Chemical, steel, and iron

plants in the war zone were heavily shelled. There have been

shortages in electricity, fuel, and spare parts. The available pool of

workers has diminished as thousands of men marched off to the front

lines to fight. This caused great economic problems throughout the

mid-1980’s. Iraq attempted to devastate oil economy even further.

Tankers and ships 50 miles off the oil terminal were struck. Iran

would be deprived of a major source of income (Orwin 41).

By 1984 it was reported that there were one million refuges in

the Iranian province of Khuzestan. Some 300,000 Iranian soldiers and

250,000 Iraqi troops had been killed, or wounded. Among the injured

were Iranian soldiers who sustained burns, blisters, and lung damage

from Iraqi chemical weapons (Orwin 47). The war lasted about 8 years

and Iran suffered casualties, not only in people, but in economy and

leadership as well. Because of the war with Iraq, and the purges going

on in Iran, the economy was severely depressed. Besides the enormous

human cost, economic losses from the war exceed $200 billion.

Agricultural growth has declined as a result of war, also (Orwin 34).

During the crisis and during the war with Iraq, industry is

plagued by poor labor management, a lack of competent technical

and managerial personnel, and shortages of raw material and spare

parts. Agricultural suffers from shortage of capital, raw materials,

and equipment, and as a result, food production has declined. Also,

out of an estimated work force of 12 million, unemployment is up to

3-4 million (Orwin 16). Iran’s economy was desperate. In connection

with the devastating economy with the war, there was economic

suffering through purges, the next step in crisis. Extensive purges

were carried out in the army, in the school and university systems,

and in some of the departments of government although the Ministries

of Justice and Commerce proved significantly more resistant because of

the entrenched power of conservative elements there). Additionally,

new institutions were created, like the Revolutionary Guards –

including the creation of a ministry for them – and the counsel of

Guardians, along with a string of other judicial bodies (Akhavi 53).

Purges eliminated many qualified personnel, and lowered the morale of

Finally, after about 9 years of crisis and fighting among

different groups, there was a breakthrough in the revolution, with the

return of conservatives. The Ayatollah Khomeini died in May of 1989,

and a new leader by the name of Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani was elected and

came to power two months later. This would start the convalescence

stage of Crane Brinton’s revolution. Rafsanjani has not actually

called for a reversal of strict Islamic injunctions, but in oblique

ways he is signaling that he favors a more relaxed approach,

especially in the enforcement of the hijab (Ramazani 7).

Under Rafsanjani, the return of the church has been allowed to

occur, which is another step in the theory of a revolution. On August

2, 1991, Iran resumed diplomatic relations with Iraq and had also

resolved the issue over the pilgrimage of Iranian Muslims to Mecca,

which has been suspended for three years. Inside Iran, the most

significant development in the last few months took place in October,

when several Iranian leaders teamed up in a maneuver to marginalize

Twelve years after Khomeini came to power, Iran’s Islamic

revolution has finally softened around the edges. The signs of fitful

change are everywhere. On Tehran’s streets women still observe hijab

(the veil), the Islamic injunction that women keep themselves covered

except for their faces and hands. But some have exchanged their

shapeless black chedors for slightly fitted raincoats in colors like

green and purple. Women’s fingernails are starting to sport glosses,

too (Ramazani 32). Obviously, the republic of virtue has been

eliminated, which is the next part in the convalescence.

After Khomeini’s death, many radical groups were weakened.

This led to the elimination of radicals. President Rafsanjani, with

the support of Khomeini, swiftly eliminated four of his most hard-line

adversaries from the political scene by challenging their right to

re-election. With Rafsanjani in control, Iranians took a new look at

crisis. His pragmatic policies were firmly established, replacing

militancy and isolation. Rafsanjani campaigned to decrease the

influence of important opponents, therefore improving ties with the

western world. As well as attracting foreign trade. The radicals were

finally eliminated, and Iran could return to the way it was.

Economic problems after a revolution are good. Iran had been

in debt from the time the revolution started, and an economic recovery

was needed. There was an increase in oil revenue in 1990, since ties

with non-oil bearing countries had been replaced. There was also and

increase in oil price, as well as other raw materials. Iran did have

ten billion dollars froze in American banks, which still partly remain

there today. The country’s economic problems were starting to be

resolved. The return of status quo, is the final step in the

convalescence stage. Iran has returned to the status quo. They have

many ties, including ties with North Korea, Libya, Syria, and Europe.

Trade and friendliness has increased with Russia, as well. Russia

currently want to build nuclear reactors in Iran. Commerce opened with

Japan, Pakistan, Turkey, and even some allies of Iraq. Rafsanjani

wants to end Iran’s pariah status in the world community and gain

desperately needed aid. He thinks they are in a period of

The Iranian Revolution is over, and the country is back on its

feet. Rafasanjani was an incredible help to the economy and the

government, and remains in power today. Iran has a great number of

allies, which improves its ties with the west. Iran’s oil industry is

booming, and the country’s economy remains stable. Americans are again

allowed to be seen on the streets of Tehran, and the foreign debt has

reduced. The U.S. still has their problems with Iran (the money in the

banks), but these problems are still in the process of being resolved.

Iran is progressing steadily, and has recovered from the revolution.

The Iranian Revolution follows Crane Brinton’s theory on a revolution

because the revolution included symptoms, rising fever, crisis,

and convalescence, just as the theory states.

Works Cited

Akhavi, Shahrough. “Institutionalizing New Order in Iran.” Current
History. Feb. 1987: 53-56, 83.

Bill, James A. “The Shah, The Ayatollah, and the U.S.” The Economist.
June 1987: 24-26.

Cottam, Richard W. “Revolutionary Iran.” Current History. Jan. 1980:
12-16, 35.

Ibram, Youssef. “Standoff in the Gulf: Testing the Waters in Tehran.”
The New York Times.

“Iran.” The New Encyclopedia Britanica. Vol. 21 1992: 860-861,
896-897.

Orwin, George. Iran Iraq: Nations at War. New York: Shirmer Books,
1990.

Ramazani, R.K. “Iran’s Islamic Revolution and the Persian Gulf.”
Current History. Jan. 1985: 5-8, 32.

“The Iranian Revolution.” People and Nations. Austin: Holt, Rinehart
and Winston, Inc. 1993.

Cite this Iran Revolution

Iran Revolution. (2018, Aug 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/iran-revolution-essay/

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