Who was Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
The Pahlavi dynasty
At the beginning of the 20th century, Persia was dominated by the great European powers England and Russia. The constitutional monarchy, which in 1905 had replaced the Kajar dynasty, which had ruled absolutist up to that point, remained weak. Reza Chan, a colonel in the Cossack brigade, made himself war minister and prime minister two years later through the coup d'état of 1921. With the reorganization of the armed forces and the introduction of general conscription, the military became his power base.
In 1925 Reza Chan was crowned Shah and chose Pahlavi as the name for his dynasty (Reza Schah Pahlavi). His goal was to transform Iran from an agrarian country into a society based on the western model. In a short time he implemented a variety of reforms, including the development of industry, the secularization of the legal and educational system, and the establishment of the nomads. The forced westernization was a profound turning point in the lives of ordinary people. Women were banned from wearing a veil in 1936. The clergy, which had been influential up until then, should limit themselves to purely religious topics and activities. From 1935 the country was no longer called Persia, but Iran - "Land of the Aryans" - named after the ancestors who originally settled it.
In terms of foreign policy, Iran was ruled for a long time by the two great powers Great Britain and Russia, who firstly wanted to enrich themselves economically through the exploitation of oil and secondly wanted to expand their political sphere of influence in the Middle East. In 1907 they had divided Iran into three zones according to their spheres of interest. The northern zone was Russian, the southern British ruled. In between there was a neutral buffer zone.
Shah Reza Pahlavi failed in an attempt to break the dominance of Great Britain and the Soviet Union and to maintain the country's neutrality during the Second World War. In 1941 the two great powers invade Iran. They forced Reza Chan to abdicate and made his son Mohammed Reza ruler of Iran.
Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi
The new Shah, who had the support of the Western powers, especially the USA and Great Britain, came into conflict with the country's freely elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, in the early 1950s. The Iranian Prime Minister led a national liberal coalition to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian oil company, which was under British rule. This attempt ended with the boycott of Iran by almost all well-known oil companies. Iran could no longer produce oil and ran into financial hardship.
During this crisis, the Shah fled abroad, but returned to Iran in 1953 after Mosaddegh was deposed by the Iranian military with the support of the United States. The dependence on the West continued to grow.
During the Cold War, the US was concerned with integrating Iran into the western hemisphere as an outpost against communism. Based on the country's oil wealth and petrodollars, the Shah enlarged and modernized his armed forces with the help of the USA and promoted the industrialization of the country.
Domestically, the Shah focused on gender equality, introduced women's suffrage and a more liberal divorce law. The westernization of the country was increasingly at the expense of the clergy. Public religiosity in the country was pushed back, which snubbed more and more devout Iranians and the clergy.
Mohammed Reza Pahlavi moved further and further away from his own Iranian population and the conditions in the country. Together with a court he lived in a luxury world that took on fairytale features. Only a few Iranians benefited from the country's oil wealth and economic boom. The Shah had also prevented any democratic participation and expression of opinion in Iran, so that even the western-minded Iranians opposed him. Religious opposition remained the only form of resistance possible in Iran. The overthrow of the Shah was inevitable.
On January 16, 1979, the Shah had to flee the country. The monarch, once highly respected abroad, initially found no land to give him and his family refuge. Egypt finally agreed to accept the Pahlavis.
On February 1, 1979, Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini returned to Iran from his exile in Paris. He was greeted enthusiastically by the crowds at Tehran's airport. As a religious authority (Ayatollah), he led the Islamic revolution that fundamentally changed Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini was the son of small landowners. He had studied and taught in the Qom spiritual center. He was forced into exile under the rule of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
As early as the 1960s, he called for the Shah to be deposed. By returning to Islam, which was a powerful weapon in the fight against the Shah, and by demanding social justice, he was able to unite the masses behind him.
Within ten years, Ayatollah Khomeini built a repressive system in Iran. A return to Islam also meant that the situation of women in particular deteriorated extremely. Sharia, the Islamic law, was introduced. The wearing of the black full-body veil (chador) became a duty, the woman was legally discriminated against the man.
Ayatollah Khomeini succeeded in eliminating the left and liberal opposition that rejected the rule of the clergy. Many members of the opposition were shot dead in the 1980s. Iran was isolated in terms of foreign policy. In the Arab world in particular, Iran had many enemies: The reasons for this were - and still are - diverse. Often it was a question of old neighborhood conflicts; The support of extremist Islamic groups and the corresponding religious differences between the various Islamic schools also caused conflicts. Iran also claimed supremacy in the Gulf region and announced that it "wanted to export" the revolution.
The first Gulf War
One of the decisive events under Ayatollah Khomeini's rule was the First Gulf War. Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980. The attackers were concerned with dominance in the Persian Gulf and ultimately with the occupation of the Iranian oil fields in the south of the country. Iraq was supported with arms deliveries from the west. Nevertheless, Iran was soon able to push back the Iraqi troops, but the regime refused an offer of peace. The fighting continued brutally.
After eight years, the first Gulf War ended with an armistice. There was no winner. The outcome of the war was terrifying: a total of one million deaths were to be lamented on both sides. Internally, state repression against its own people increased during the war. Freedom of expression was severely restricted. Science and culture were bleeding to death. Many Iranians, especially intellectuals, emigrated.
Iran according to Ayatollah Khomeini
In 1989 the great spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, died. After various internal power struggles, Ali Khamenei followed in the footsteps of his predecessor as the new religious leader (Ayatollah).
Several, more moderate presidents (Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Chatami and Hassan Rouhani), only in between the radical conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repeatedly gave cause for hope that the power of the mullahs could be suppressed. But any reforms failed because of the conservatives and the power of the mullahs. Since then, there have been repeated protest movements, which to this day have only been able to achieve a slight relaxation of the strict fundamentalist regime. Real power in Iran remains in the hands of the highest religious leader.
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