The Iranian Revolution 1978-1979

[ 1978 - 1979 ]

The Islamic republic... Revolution of 1978-79... The sense that in both the agricultural and industrial spheres too much had been attempted too rapidly and that mistakes had been made and expectations disappointed was manifested in demonstrations against the government in 1978; many people were killed, and martial law was imposed in the major cities in September. This ended the relaxation of government controls, begun in 1977, that had encouraged protests and that had led to the emergence of religious activists allied with extremist "Dedicated Fighter" groups, the Mujahedin; these groups were opposed to the influx of foreigners, particularly Americans, and to a westernization they saw as threatening to those traditional values subsumed under the cloak of Shi'ite Islam.

During his exile, Khomeini coordinated an upsurge of opposition--first from Iraq and then from France, after 1978--demanding the Shah's abdication. On January 16, 1979, in what was officially described as a "vacation," the Shah fled Iran.

The Regency and Supreme Army Councils established for the Shah's absence proved unable to function, and Prime Minister Shahpur Bakhtiar was unable to effect compromise with his former National Front colleagues or with Khomeini. Crowds in excess of 1,000,000 demonstrated in Tehran, proving the wide appeal of Khomeini, who arrived in Iran amid wild rejoicing on February 1, 1979. Ten days later Bakhtiar went into hiding, eventually to find exile in Paris.

The republic ... On April 1, after a landslide victory in a national referendum (in which only one choice was offered and the balloting was not secret), Khomeini declared an Islamic republic, subsequently invested with a new constitution reflecting his ideals of Islamic government. Fundamentalist measures followed, and revolutionary committees patrolled the streets enforcing Islamic codes of behaviour and dress. Efforts were made to suppress Western influence, and many of the Western-educated elite fled the country.

Anti-American sentiment was strong, and the Shah's admission to the United States for medical treatment touched off a huge demonstration in Tehran demanding his extradition. On November 4, 1979, supporters of the revolution took control of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, seized 66 U.S. citizens there and at the foreign ministry, and, with the exception of 14 who were granted early release and despite the death of the Shah on July 27, 1980, held them hostage until January 20, 1981. Also in November 1979, the republic's first prime minister, Mehdi Bazargan, resigned. The republic's first president, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, opposed the holding of the U.S. embassy. He was impeached by the Majles and forced to flee to France, together with opposition leader Massoud Rajavi of the outlawed Mujahedin-e Khalq (Fighters for the People) faction, with whom he formed the National Council of Resistance for the overthrow of the Khomeini regime. The Mujahedin stepped up a campaign of sporadic and highly demoralizing bombing throughout the country that killed many clerics and government leaders, including the bombing on June 28, 1981, of the headquarters of the ruling Islamic Republican Party, in which 73 people were killed. Bani-Sadr's successor, former prime minister Mohammad Ali Rajai, and his prime minister were killed in another bombing on August 30. Hojatolislam Sayyed Ali Khamenei was elected to succeed him in October and was reelected in 1985. The early years of the revolutionary government were marked by the virtual elimination of political opposition and the consolidation and regularization of revolutionary organizations. Unrelenting executions on sometimes trivial allegations, rumours of torture, persecution of Baha'is, arbitrary arrests, bad prison conditions, and the denial of basic rights tarnished the reputation of the republic's leaders...

The cease-fire redirected attention to long-standing factional conflicts within the government between "conservatives," "pragmatists," and "leftists" over economic, social, and foreign policy objectives. These conflicts were underscored in November 1986 when, denunciations of the "Great Satan" aside, it was revealed that, with Khomeini's consent, Iran had accepted arms shipments from the United States in exchange for Iranian assistance in the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Shi'ite extremists. The factionalism only served to further increase disillusionment among the Iranian population, whose decimated numbers suffered high unemployment, inflation, and shortages brought on primarily by the war.

Ayatollah Khomeini died of a heart attack on June 3, 1989. The transition of power was surprisingly smooth, orderly, and quick. The Assembly of Experts met in emergency session on June 4 and elected President Khamenei the new faqih, or spiritual leader, simultaneously promoting him to the status of ayatollah. Presidential elections and a referendum on constitutional amendments were moved up to July 28, and Hojatolislam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaker of the Majles since 1980, was elected with 95 percent of the vote; he ran virtually unopposed.

Upon the approval by the Majles of all of his ministerial nominations (representing a healthy balance of the factions), Rafsanjani began the process of rebuilding the war-torn economy. Considered a "pragmatist," or "moderate," Rafsanjani favoured a policy of economic liberalization, privatization of industry, and a rapprochement with the West that would encourage much-needed foreign investment. A move toward the latter was facilitated with the resumption of diplomatic ties between Iran and the United Kingdom on September 27, 1990, despite the fatwa (religious edict) issued by Khomeini 18 months earlier calling for the death of the British author Salman Rushdie, whose novel The Satanic Verses (1988) was considered blasphemous to Islam.

<table class='table table-bordered col-lg-12 col-md-12 col-sm-12 col-xs-12 margin20 row-30' border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><tbody><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">State</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Entry</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Exit</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Combat Forces</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Population</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Losses</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Iran</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1979</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1987</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">305000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">43000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">70000</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Rebels</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1979</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1987</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">50000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">10000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">20000</font></td></tr></tbody></table>

Related Conflicts

No Releted Conflicts