22 Images of the Iranian Revolution


The Iranian Revolution, or the Islamic Revolution, of 1979 was the series of events leading to overthrowing Shah Mohammed Pahlavi and installing an Islamic Republic led by the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini.

In 1963, Ayatollah Khomeini was arrested and exiled for his opposition of the White Revolution. The White Revolution involved a series of reforms imposed by Shah Pahlavi consisting of land reform; sales of some state-owned factories to finance the land reform; the enfranchisement of women; nationalization of forests and pastures; formation of a literacy corps; and institution of profit sharing schemes for workers in industry. This revolution was supposed to be a major step in westernization. Corruption caused a major failure of the trickle-down economic strategy implemented and the working class was left alienated and resentful.

Demonstrations against the Shah began in October, 1977, as peaceful resistance protests and labor strikes which stunted the country. The Shah, on January 16, 1979, in exile, left Iran, and passed his duties to a regency council and prime minister. When the Shah left, the Ayatollah was invited to return to Tehran. He was greeted by crowds of millions of supporters.

On February 11, guerillas and rebel troops overpowered the Shah’s army. Ayatollah Khomeini was officially given power. On April 1, 1979, Iran voted in a national referendum to approve a theocratic-republican constitution. Khomeini became Supreme Leader in December, 1979.

The Iranian Revolution was quite unusual for several reasons.  At the time, Iran was relatively economically prosperous. The revolution rapidly produced immense change, and was heavily supported. It replaced a pro-Western monarchy with an authoritarian theocracy.

Iranian advertising before the Islamic revolution, 1970s. Pinterest
Iranian students, pre-revolution. Pinterest
The Great Rally of Peoplle, Ashura day, 1978. Wikipedia
Troops loyal to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi arrive to control a crowd of demonstrators outside a burning government building at the height of Islamic revolutionary fervour in Tehran, 4th November 1978. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
Pro-Khomeini forces man a bunker in front of Iran’s parliament building, expecting an attack from the Shah’s elite troops. The Guardian
Women demonstrators, carrying posters of Ayatollah Khomeini, gather around a statue of the ruling Mohammad Reza Pahlavi at 24 Esfand square, now known as Revolution Square, 11th December 1978. People held almost daily demonstrations in Tehran at the height of the Iranian Revolution, which eventually led to the overthrow of the Shah by Khomeini, who led the revolution from exile in Paris. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
A square at Tehran University on January 13, 1979, students chant and hold up images of Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini and the former prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh, who had been deposed in a 1953. National Geographic
On January 31, 1979, the day before the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini is to return from a 14-year exile in Paris, pro-Khomeini demonstrators–such as this man with a child’s blood on his hands–gather in a Tehran park. National Geographic
Ayatollah Khomeini, who spent 15 years in exile, retuned to Iran to take control of the Islamic Revolution (1979). histclo
An estimated 20,000 people turned out for an opposing demonstration, showing support for the government of Bakhtiar. Here, a soldier waves the Iranian flag in Tehran on Feb. 9, 1979. NPR