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The Iranian Islamic Revolution was a nationalist and populist revolution that replaced the ancient monarchy. The main causes of the revolution were protests on Shah’s overthrow and why his successor came from an Islamic republic. The revolution was partly a conservative war against the westernizing efforts of Shah, whom the western countries backed, and partly a non-conservative reaction to the increasing levels of social injustice. Citizens of Iran perceived the Shah as a puppet to a non-Muslim state, in this case the United States of America, whose social norms and culture were worse than that of Iran. In fact, most viewed Shah’s regime as brutal and full of oppression, corruption suffering from numerous structural deficiencies in the management system.
Causes of the Revolution
The Iranian revolution was mainly because of the shortcomings in the governance of the Shah regime that we highlight below.
Shah had a close relation with westernization and was quick to identify himself with the western powers, which were non-Muslim in the religious background. In the year 1953, Shah had installed the US military and a team of CIA agents as back up in his government. He also had a team of US diplomats and military officers as his close advisors, a move that made a majority of Iranians view him as a man without principles, who acted like a puppet to the American government, in that he could do anything that the American government could advise him to do.
Shah also highly disregarded the Islamic tradition when in the year 1976 he cancelled the Islamic calendar and adopted the imperial calendar, which recognized the birth of Cyprus as the first day, overruling the flight of Prophet Muhammad from the city of Mecca to Medina. Because of that action, the year changed overnight from 1355 to 2535.
Another cause of the revolution in Iran between 1978 and 1979 is the high degree of corruption, extravagance and elitism in most of Shah’s policies of management of the powerful royal court.
Shah also failed to manipulate and win supporting the leadership, to defeat his opponent by that time, Khomeini.
In addition, there were authoritarian tendencies that were a violation of the constitution of Iran, which included the repression of dissent by securities services. There were subsequent weaknesses as the revolution gained momentum. According to Alexis de Tocquelle, people often put up with an oppressive rule for long without protesting, until a time comes when they say enough is enough. At such an instance, people often rise against that system of governance.
Another cause of the Iranian revolution was the failure of the Shah to achieve or realize his overambitious 1974 economic program, whose financier was the oil revenues windfall. There was a small but sharp period in the economy where the economy experienced contractions in 1977 and 1978 after a realistic level of economic growth.
The level of price fluctuations, persistent inflation and severe black market operations is some of the factors that angered the masses in initiating the revolution against Shah.
Shah also started antagonizing former Iranian political leaders who were not supporting him in crucial political decisions, more so merchants of the bazaars. He did this by creating a single party in order to monopolize the entire political atmosphere of Iran. He put in place unnecessary levies and penalties on members of the monopoly party pursuing aggressive alterations in the political, economic, religious and social affairs of citizens.
One of the components of the Iranian revolution was the need to enhance people’s power and relieve them from the unnecessary mistreatment of the state, to an acceptable condition.
In addition, the revolution had another component of reviving the Islamic identity of the nation of Iran, which Shah had almost managed to eradicate by embracing the western culture and the American style of governance.
The entire Iranian revolution exercise was an essential requirement in the retrieval of the Muslim culture and the revival of the economy of Iran. It is quite clear that if Shah could have continued in his reign as the leader of Iran, Iran’s economy could be one of the worst by now.