Iranian Revolution


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 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 occurred.
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 between the classes.
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 people.
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 (Cottam 13).
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 people.
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 revolution
in Iran.
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
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 Khomeini intensified.
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 almost a parallel government.
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 taken.
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 began.
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
radicals had taken over.
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 nation.
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
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
strict laws and harsh penalties.
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 each other
(Orwin 42).
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 Revolution" p. 835).
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 the Iranian people.
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 opponents (Igram A-10).
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
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 reconstruction (Desmond 32).
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.
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
Current History. Jan. 1985: 5-8, 32.
"The Iranian Revolution." People and Nations. Austin: Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, Inc. 1993.


Quotes: Search by Author