The impact of the Iranian revolution cannot be underrated as it has not only influenced Iran and the Middle East as a whole but also had a great impact on the Western world and its leaders. Although the revolution itself happened in the year 1979, the events that happened several years earlier were of utter importance as well.
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The regime of Muhammad Reza Shah became more powerful in 1975 and tried to gain more control over the political groups that stayed more or less independent of the government. The religious establishment in Iran was also attacked; the Shah also replaced the Islamic calendar, which could not go unnoticed by the public. The real problem of the government was its inefficient economic management. While the Shah’s family enjoyed the luxury that was illegally financed by the national wealth, representatives of the urban middle classes were hit by inflation and feared for their economic livelihood.
The Shah’s dependence on the West was also discouraged by many members of society. Slowly, the opposition began to form: it consisted of Westernized urban professionals, students from secular universities and theological seminaries, and bazaar merchants. Their views based on the ideologies and beliefs of prominent oppositionists, such as Mehdi Bazargan and Ali Shariati. Another wing of protesters existed whose views were influenced by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
According to him, an Islamic state, controlled by the ulama, should have been created instead of a monarchy. His activism was based on religion, and he believed that the government ruled by the laws of Islam as possible. His ideas gained more support as the revolution approached. One of his key statements addressed the Shah’s subordinate position to the West; he did not approve the Westernized, secular Iran that the government had created.
In 1978, the revolution took its shape. What began as a movement, ended as a revolution after the Shah had decided to pressure the protesters with brutal force. The protests continued, but during the next two participants were killed. On February 18, 1978, another set of demonstrations took place. Although they were peaceful, 100 protesters were killed in Tabriz where the government sent army forces to break up the demonstrations. Other demonstrations that followed brought more deaths. In summer 1978, the government had implemented a new economic policy that led to unemployment among urban workers who eventually joined the protests. Street demonstrations were banned; however, on September 8 of the same year, other protests in Tehran took place. This time, hundreds of people died.
Anti-regime protests continued during the ritual mourning of Imam Husayn. On this day, 700 hundred protesters were killed. Nevertheless, the protests continued and soon two million people took part in them on December 2. On February 1, Khomeini returned to Iran where the crowd of protesters met him with joy. Shapour Bakhtiar suggested his candidature, but Khomeini declared that it would be illegal. Hence, Shapour Bakhtiar was denounced by the Freedom Movement.
The Shah had left the country on January 16, 1979. Later it was stated that Shah had terminal cancer; eventually, he died in 1980. Although the revolution was successful, the economy and the country needed to be rebuilt. There was no consensus between the political parties, and a new prime minister was needed to restore Iran.