Social and Cultural Issues That Lead to the Iranian Revolution

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Social and Cultural Issues that Lead to the Iranian Revolution
In the mid 20th century, the people of Iran were going through many changes. In 1953, a coup was organized and with Britain and America’s help, Muhammad Mossedeq was arrested and taken out of power. With Reza Shah as the main authority in the country, he acts as a puppet to Western influence. Shah reigned through fear and force with the help of the State Information and Security Organization (SAVAK). The Shah fled Iran to the United States because of the followers Ayotollah Khomeini rounded up against him in 1979, giving the Iranian population a fresh look at things. Thus, through all of these drastic changes within society, culture and government power, Iran experienced an Islamic revolution in 1979. This revolution had been a long-time coming given that the last few decades angered the people of Iran to the point where violence was their answer. Because of the political, economical and especially social tensions built up over time, a two day street fight is what ended the 2,500 year old monarchy.

After Mossedeq was overthrown by the military coup sponsored by the CIA in 1953, Muhammad Reza Shah was the sole power-holder. With this, the Shah was very easily influenced by Westerners, mainly the United States. He chose to rule by instilling fear into people and kept them in check through the SAVAK (L 5/9/12). The SAVAK was organized in 1957 and those who were in it were ordered to arrest anyone in opposition to the shah. There were no exceptions in society to whose life was in danger. If there was any resistance by a person, the SAVAK would take care of this. Obviously, the shah was not setting a good tone for himself and was not gaining any followers that he did not previously have. The SAVAK was responsible for a fire that was set to a cinema that was believed to hold people who opposed the Shah in August 1978 (L 5/9/12). Reza Shah intended to hide that he was responsible for the fire by taking a ‘vacation’ while this act was occurring. The people of Iran were not fooled, however and realized the dangers of the shah, which contributes significantly to their revolt in the 1970’s.

Reza Shah, determined to use his power to bring changes about larger society, did just that. He first began with smaller projects and ones that his father had started while he was in power. Reza Shah criticized Westerns about their laziness, low sense of morality, their low payments for oil and the standard that they raise their children (Abrahamian 131). This angered those who he lectured and they immediate bashed his ‘lack of sanity.’ For this, the Iranians are viewed as a population under an unfit ruler, who would eventually be thrown out of power. The shah then organized the White Revolution, in which was a modernization movement in 1963. This movement contained a lot of changes which helped some but did not sit well with others. The centerpiece for this revolution was land reform. Premier Amini had begun this process a year prior and intended to limit landlords to a single village (Abrahamian 131). With the shah’s plan, land reform undercut the notables, while some families found a way around this and became profitable commercial farmers (Abrahamian 132). This included the Pahlavi family as well as some other large landowners. In order for the peasants to gain land, they had to join rural cooperatives given by the ministries of agriculture. The amount of control the government set up during this time is immense. A Europen anthropologist visiting the Boir Ahmadis once noted, “Land is contracted for cash by the government; fruits get sprayed, crops fertilized, animals fed, beehives set up, carpets woven, goods and babies born, populations controlled, women organized, religion taught and diseases controlled – all by the intervention of the government” (Abrahamian 133). Throughout this revolution, the government is able to squeeze themselves into nearly everyone’s daily lives....
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