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E. V.A.1.a. Overthrowing the Shah: 1977-1979

After the Second World War Iranian moves towards electoral democracy were thwarted when the US and British intelligence services collaborated in 1953 to overthrow the elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadeq, who had nationalized the Anglo-Iranian oil company in 1951. The Shah had tried unsuccessfully to oust Mossadeq and had to flee the country, and the CIA was able to mobilize his supporters. The Shah returned to assert the dominance of the dynasty (founded in 1921 when his father had seized the throne). His regime was subsequently severely criticized for human rights violations.

The Shah’s authoritarian regime was overthrown in 1977-79 by impressive, predominantly nonviolent mass protests which showed that people power can prevail over regime brutality. Millions went on strike and filled the streets, and the resistance continued despite the shooting of thousands of unarmed protesters. This brutality led at the end of 1978 to a split in the armed forces, with the army deciding to stay in its barracks. A very wide range of groups with differing ideological perspectives took part in the mass strikes and demonstrations. But a key symbolic and organizing role was played by the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini, whose supporters were in due course able to seize power.

Abrahamian, Ervand, Iran Between Two Revolutions, Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, 1982, pp. 561

For the protests leading to the overthrow of the Shah, see pp. 496-537. See also Abrahamian, Ervand , Mass Protests in the Iranian Revolution, 1977-79 In Roberts; Garton Ash, Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present (A. 1.b. Strategic Theory, Dynamics, Methods and Movements)Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 162-178 .

Albert, David H., Tell the American People: Perspectives on the Iranian Revolution, Philadelphia PA, Movement for a New Society, 1980, pp. 212

Albert also comments briefly on the Iranian Revolution to illustrate the dynamics of power relationships (pp. 29-36) in his booklet: Albert, David H., People Power: Applying Nonviolence Theory Philadelphia PA, New Society Publishers, , 1985, pp. 64 .

Bashirey, Hossein, The State and Revolution in Iran 1962-1982, London, Croom Helm, 1984, pp. 203

Chapters 5-7 focus on the demonstrations.

Foran, John, The Iranian Revolution of 1977-79: A Challenge for Social Theory, In Foran, John , A Century of Revolutions: Social Movements in Iran Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, , 1994,

chapter 7.

Kapuscinski, Ryszard, Shah of Shahs, [1985], London, Penguin Books, 2006, pp. 152

Celebrated analysis by distinguished Polish journalist of later years of Shah’s regime and meditation on power, the role of fear and the nature of revolution.

Kurzman, Charles, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, 1977-1979, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press, 2004, pp. 304

Contends that the revolution was truly unpredictable by critiquing five sets of retrospective ‘explanations’. Includes essay on available source material.

Ritter, Daniel P., On the Role of Strategy in Nonviolent Revolutionary Social Change: the Case of Iran, 1977-1979, EUI MWP; 2011/07, Florence, European University Institute, Max Weber Programme, 2011, pp. 19

Are revolutions made or do they come? This question is at the heart of revolution theory and has received plentiful attention from scholars. In this paper I suggest that adherence to this traditional dichotomy may not be the most useful to approach the study of revolutions. Therefore, I argue that theorists of revolutions are well advised to examine the role of the strategic decisions made by revolutionaries in their struggles against the state. Drawing empirically on the nonviolent revolution of Iran in 1977-79, I show that the strategic decisions made by the opposition movement not only allowed them to capitalize on a political opportunity, but that their strategic choices in fact helped bring that opportunity about in the first place.

Stempel, John D., Inside the Iranian Revolution, Bloomington IN, Indiana University Press, 1981, pp. 324

US diplomat describes and assesses the evolution of protest.