The Iranian Revolution is also known as the Islamic Revolution that overthrew the Pahlavi dynasty, a Persian monarchy that ruled for more than 2,500 years under the leadership of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. The Iranian Revolution was led by Grand Ayatollah Khomeini who succeeded in creating the Islamic Republic of Iran. Khomeini led the Islamic fundamentalists as well as their supporters to dismantle the secular monarchy of Shah and established the new government in Iran (Brumberg 1). The Iranian Revolution took place due to different causes that define the various events that occurred before, during and after the revolution. Various theories relate to the Iranian Revolution and can be applied to explain the events that took place during the period. Leadership values and cultural/political/economic globalization also applied to this revolution. The research paper examines why the Iranians overthrew the Pahlavi dynasty, a monarchy that was already established to form the Republic of Iran.
Causes of the Revolution and the Events that Occurred in the Revolution to Date
The Islamic Revolution occurred due to the Iranians dissatisfaction with the unpopular government and the poor treatment of the lower classes. In that case, the Iranians took the action to overthrow the Pahlavi dynasty and form a new government the Republic of Iran based on the following reasons.
The Anger of Iranians Towards Shah
The White Revolution started in 1963 by Shah resulted in giving women more freedom and increasing secular education instead of promoting religious education. Islamic Laws were replaced with Western ones that forbade women from wearing the traditional Islamic clothing. There was no more separating of sexes and veiling of women using the hijab (Wikimedia Foundation 1; Mackey 184). Under the White Revolution, religious leaders in Iran were deprived of their role and feared losing their power as well as moral authority. The Iranians viewed the White Revolution as Western Imperialism that did not follow the Shia Islamic teachings (Brumberg 1). These events continued through the 1970s when the Iranian population continued to be angered by the White Revolution practices under the leadership of Shah. An event that angered the Shia Muslims in 1971 is the celebration of the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire led by Shah. The Iranians saw the event as a rebuke to the many people in Iran who knew that modern Iran was found in the 7th century (Brumberg 1).
Among other sectors, the bazaaris or the traditional middle class in Iran were angry with the leadership of Shar. The autocratic rule and corruption practiced by the royal family were frustrating the Iranians due to not supporting democracy and unequal distribution of income in the country. The bazaaris received little benefit from the development schemes of the White Revolution or the country's economic growth from oil in the 1970s. Brumberg (1) states that most of the oil earnings in Iran were going to bigger organizations and mostly to those connected to the family of Shah and with international ties. These were the reasons for the bazaaris and the fundamentalism Muslims disapproving of the developing relations with the West (Brumberg 1).
In response to these issues, Ruhollah Khomeini rose as a leader of the Iranians and transformed the Shia Islam into a mass ideology that was supported by many groups. Ruhollah Khomeini was a fearless man who valued justice under all circumstances. In 1963, Khomeini openly attached the White Revolution of Shah and condemned the many injustices that Shah was carrying out by exploiting the Iranian people (Brumberg 1). Khomeini was against the Shia leaders' views that overthrowing the Shah dynasty was not the work of the Shia Muslims to develop an Islamic State. Instead, Khomeini saw that overthrowing the Shah would quicken the return of the 12th imam (Brumberg 1). This revolutionary ideology was what helped Khomeini to influence masses to participate in the revolutionary process. The Khomeini's students, ex-students, and bazaaris who were the traditional business leaders with crucial links to the 'ulema', religious leaders in Iran also supported Khomeini's effort to transform the Shia Islam. (Wikimedia Foundation 1). Through these links, a network of opposition against the Shah Dynasty that was powerful and efficient developed in Iran (Taheri 196).
The year 1978 saw the opponents of Shah to encounter with the security troops. On September 8, 1978, 20,000 demonstrators in Tehran were fired by soldiers leaving hundreds of people killed while thousands were wounded (Brumberg 1). Another encounter of the Shah opponents was on November 1978, two months after the Tehran firing when young people demonstrated on the streets of Tehran. They burned anything that belonged to or associated with the White Revolution including banks, shops and liquor stores among other symbols that associated with the Western corruption.
December the same year was a month of epic heroism as tensions escalated after Muharram came in Iran and the martyrdom of Husayn (Brumberg 1). Iranians led by Khomeini struggled against the tyrants. On December 10th and 11th, a rebelling group of soldiers attacked the Imperial Guard of Shah officers and collapsed the Shah regime making Shah fleeing to Egypt in 1979 and dies years later (Brumberg 1).
Khomeini Strategic Changes
After the Shah fled to Egypt, Khomeini, the new leader started making strategic changes by filling the key positions in the government with his closes clerical allies. Khomeini's' control of the government saw the replacement of the prime minister of Shah by a new one known as Mehdi Bazargan. The Islamic Republic of Iran was established in late March 1979 under the leadership of Khomeini and support of the Iranian voters for the new government. Iranians also began working in the U.S. embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and held hostage of the Shah workers who was released in January 1981. Khomeini eliminated the revolutionary opponents through attacks of liberals and leftists as well as repressing the clerics. Anything that was not Islamic was taken away from the media, schools and cultural institutions.
Khomeini and the clerics wanted stricter religious policies instituted in Iran. The clerics ensured Iranians followed to the Islamic code and constitution. The conservative clerics controlled much of the land and some of the industries. As a result of these changes, many of the Iranians who were less religious found themselves living under a politically and culturally repressive regime. They began calling for reforms to nationalize some of the industries and makes changes on how land was distributed (Brumberg 1). The following year, 1980 on September, Iran was invaded by Iraq in the grounds that Iran was propagating on the secular regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Other nations supported Iraq in containing Iran on its mission to spread the revolution and stop the secular regime.
Theories of Revolution as Related the Iranian Revolution
The five factors including mass frustration, unifying motivation, elite dissidence, permissive world context and state crisis are useful in explaining the characterization of the theoretical perspective of the Iranian Revolution (DeFronzo 20). The five factors are important to the success of a revolutionary movement. Revolutionary theories apply to the Iranian Revolution by their ability to account for the occurrence of the five factors. Based on the five factors, there was a mass frustration during the Iranian Revolution emerging from the autocratic rule of Shah, western imperialism and social injustices to the Iranian people. Elite dissidence is a factor present in the Iranian Revolution by how people rebelled against the centralization of power to Shah and how he used it during his leadership. The unifying factor in the Iranian Revolution is that the demonstrators who sought change through strikes and civil resistance. State crisis occurred in Iran during the Iranian Revolution of 1979 in the form of an energy crisis, hostage of Shah Embassy Staff, and the start of the Iran-Iraq War. Permissive world context is evident in the Iranian Revolution when the other nations including the U.S. and other Arab governments opposed Iran's revolutionary actions and suppressed the regime.
Based on the five factors that must be explained in a theory of revolution, two theories that apply to the Iranian Revolution include the frustration-aggression theory and the Scocpol and Trimberger structural theory. The frustration-aggression theory of revolution states that mass frustration is the major reason for mobilization for revolution. It argues that there is the need for the society to maintain social order by competing with other nations economically and military. Revolution is as a result of conflicts between or among nations at various development levels economically and technologically (DeFronzo 21). The Iranian Revolution applies to this theory that denotes mass frustration as a primary cause of revolution. The Iranian people were frustrated with the Shah Dynasty because of the poor leadership that was against the Islamic teachings. The masses were against the U.S. who supported the Shah Dynasty. There was a conflict between the two nations that led to a state crisis and hostage of staff of the U.S. Embassy in Shah.
The Skocpol and Trimberger structural theory also apply to the Iranian Revolution. It states that the main objective conditions for the occurrence of revolution are the economic and military pressure from the advanced nations (DeFronzo 23). Agrarian and inferior technologically countries are overpowered by these pressures and unable to resist the foreign aggression that may limit their ability to deal with external threats. The elite population undermines the government inability to deal with these external threats. The population becomes impoverished and the economic effects cause mass discontent. The revolutionary movements support the weakening of the pre-revolutionary regimes and establish a new governmental system that can use the present resources to deal with external threats from developed nations.
Based on the Skocpol and Trimberger structural theory, Shah as the lead of the Shah Dynasty failed to resist the pressure from the U.S. and embraced the White Revolution. The population in Iran demonstrates the elite dissidence as they did not support the way Shah was using his power to allow the U.S. in influencing the economic and social situation in Iran. The bazaaris in Iran were discontent with the little economic benefits that they were receiving from the developments of the White Revolution. That is why the bazaaris joined the masses in demonstrating against the Shah's leadership that allowed American federalism in Iran. The Iranian Revolutionary weakened the Shah Dynasty through the leadership of Khomeini. Through the support from a network of loyal disciples and the bazaaris who had links to religious leaders, Khomeini was able to lead Iranians is establishing a new government, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The two theories of revolution applied to the Iranian Revolution demonstrate the five factors of mass frustration, unifying motivation, elite dissidence, state crisis, and permissive world context. They all recognize that mass frustration is a critical component of revolutionary movements. The Skocpol and Trimberger structural theory proposes that when a country does not meet the expectations of the masses social and economic, the legitimacy of the government and its coercive capability is weakened. The effect is heightening the possibility of revolution. This is the exact case that caused the Iranian Revolution of 1979 whereby the Shah Dynasty failed to meet the social and economic needs of the Irania...
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