11 February 1979

11 February 2011

Protesters in Tehran, 1979

On this day in 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran to a greeting by several million Iranians after the Shah of Iran left for exile in mid-January 1979.

Via Wikipedia:

The revolution was populist, nationalist and later Shi’a Islamic. It was in part a conservative backlash against the Westernizing and secularizing efforts of the Western-backed Shah, and a liberal backlash to social injustice and other shortcomings of the ancien régime. The Shah was perceived by many as beholden to — if not a puppet of — a non-Muslim Western power (the United States) whose culture was impacting that of Iran.

The Shah’s regime was seen as oppressive, brutal, corrupt, and extravagant; it also suffered from basic functional failures — an over-ambitious economic program that brought economic bottlenecks, shortages and inflation. Security forces were unable to deal with protest and demonstrations; Iran was an overly centralized royal power structure. The extraordinarily large size of the anti-shah movement meant that there “were literally too many protesters to arrest”, and that the security forces were overwhelmed.

That the revolution replaced monarchy and Shah Pahlavi with Islamism and Khomeini, rather than another leader and ideology, is credited in part to the spread of the Shia version of the Islamic revival that opposed Westernization, saw Ayatollah Khomeini as following in the footsteps of the beloved Shi’a Imam Husayn ibn Ali, and the Shah in those of Husayn’s foe, the hated tyrant Yazid I. Also thought responsible was the underestimation of Khomeini’s Islamist movement by both the Shah’s regime — who considered them a minor threat compared to the Marxists and Islamic socialists — and by the secularist opponents of the regime — who thought the Khomeinists could be sidelined…

Here is the timeline of the Iranian Islamic revolution. Of note for our American readers:

  • October 22: Cancer-ridden ex-Shah allowed to enter United States for medical treatment. Khomeini speaks out angrily at this “evidence of American plotting.” Revolutionary denunciation of the Great Satan (America) intensifies.
  • November 1: Prime Minister Bazargan photoed shaking hands with U.S. official Zbigniew Brzezinski at a meeting in Algeria. Radical leftist and theocratic media in Iran alerts the “nation of the return of American influence.”
  • November 4 (13th of Aban): Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran which resulted in Iran hostage crisis.
  • November 6 (13th of Aban): Mehdi Bazargan, prime minister of The Interim Government of Iran, resigns, “unable to muster” support for “eviction of the students.” Khomeini immediately accepts his resignation along with all the other members of his cabinet.

“Fifty-two US citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981, after a group of Islamic students and militants took over the Embassy of the United States in support of the Iranian Revolution.

“Sixty-six Americans were taken captive when Iranian militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, including three who were at the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Six more Americans escaped and of the 66 who were taken hostage, 13 were released on Nov. 19 and 20, 1979; one was released on July 11, 1980, and the remaining 52 were released on Jan. 20, 1981.” —Wikipedia

Students accused of being pro-Western were executed by the new Iranian theocracy

(click on the image to enlarge)

January 20, 1981 was the day on which Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States.

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