pixielady (kuwdora) wrote in ontd_political,

History of Iran: key figures, events and elections, 1900-2005

I posted a link to this in my own journal in the Iran Live Discussion thread but it was brought to my attention that not everyone will be able to view the entry. Also! There might be people in comm who missed the link and would be interested in the history.

If you've missed anything in the last few days, you need to read this Timeline and History of Protests in Iran by omgangiepants. This is a very detailed reconstruction of what's been going on since the election.

My post is more history, pre and post revolution so you can see how long Iran has been struggling for freedom from tyranny.

**Post last updated: June 16th, 2009, 10:41pm EST.--- sorry for typos and mis-spelled names and not perfectly proofread bullet points. I wrote this in an extreme hurry and will probably add more to it in the next few days if my brain doesn't melt out of my ears.

****Now with an external webpage !


-66,429,284 (July 2009 est.)
-27 years old median age

Religious affiliation
-Shia Muslim 89%
-Sunni Muslim - 9%
-Other - 2% (Jews, Zoroastrians, Christians, Baha'i)
---> As of 2004 there are estimated to be 25,000 Persian Jews living in Iran.

-total population: 77%
-male: 83.5%
-female: 70.4% (2002 est.)

-GDP: $842 billion (2008 est.)
-GDP per capita: $12,800 (2008 est.)
-GDP growth rate: 6.5% (2008 est.)
-Oil major revenue source, but the state sucks at dealing with it
-Majority of industries are state-run. Foreign investment plummeted after the '79 revolution 'cause the clerics kicked out all the Western companies.
-private sector includes: automobile, textile, metal manufacturing, small farms
-Exports most oil to China and Japan

Before the revolution oil production was high because the Shah brought in foreign workers to build and work all the refineries. After the revolution, no one had the know-how to work the machines and the clerics didn't want to allow the Republic to have any sort of dealings with the West.

This page from Global Security has a nice, informative page detailing the history of oil in Iran dating back to the British to about 2002 and describes it better than I do, but I'll be going over several key points with Iran's relationship to oil and the West a little later.

Labor Sector
-agriculture: 25% (droughts from 1998-2000 cut production in half)
-industry: 31%
-services: 45% (June 2007)
--> services: amazing health care services after the revolution, tourism, banking, oddly enough education,

Unemployment Rate:
-12.5% according to the Iranian government (2008 est.)

Public Debt:
25% of GDP (2008 est.)

Inflation Rate:

Source: CIA World Factbook: Iran


Cyrus the Great

Early history
  • First Iranian state established by Cyrus the Great, 550BC of the Achaemenian Empire.
  • Greeks then Parthians came in, ruled for awhile followed by Sassanians and the Arabs. The Arabs obviously brought Islam with them--they were actually ones seeking a safe place to practice their form of Islam-- Shi'a (partisans of Ali).
  • Iran is ruled by several more Arab dynasties in addition to Iranian, Turkic ones until Genghis Khan and his Mongol army came and ruled the land for two centuries.
  • In 1501 the Iranian Safavids were able to solidify power and create a central Iranian state where Shia became the official religion. The Shah (King) was the monarch and followed the tenets of Shar'ia law.

    Shah Mozzafar al-Din of the Qajar Dynasty

    Qajar Dynasty (1795-1921)
  • The Qajars lost substantial land to Russia during this time. Iran was often stuck between the power plays of Britain and Russia.
  • The Shahs started signing away Iran's oil to the British in the mid-1800's that pretty much gave the British every right to drill wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted and keep everything as long as the monarchy got a decent cut.
  • It's in the early 1900's that Shah Mozzafar al-Din signed the D'Arcy concession in which any oil found Iran, the country only got 16% net profit of all oil findings. There was widespread opposition and This eventually led to the Constitutional Revolution in 1905-1907, a nationalist backlash against the monarchy which established a parliament and their first constitution.
  • 1921: Reza Khan, an officer in the army provided tactical support and strategy for the ensuing coup against the government. Reza was actually aided by the British who were concerned with the Bolshevik influence in the region. He was then appointed minister of defense and Prime Minister as a result of his work. After the coup and the removal of the Qajars, he became the shah of Iran and took on the name Pahlavi.
  • Reza Pahlavi quickly modernized the economy. This included on imposing secularism from the top down, extending cultural ties beyond the borders.

    Reza Khan and his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

    WWII ‘41-45
  • Shah Reza's cultural ties didn't extend too well with the Allied Powers and the Soviet Union who both invaded Iran and made Reza abdicate his throne to his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
  • Mohammad Mosaddeq was a minister in parliament who began banging the drums of nationalization of Iran's oil fields. This was a popular sentiment amongst many Iranians and it's no wonder that he became the first democratically elected Prime Minister.
  • Mosaddeq nationalized Anglo-Persian Oil. This upset the British.

    1951 Time cover of Dr. Mosaddeq.

    Operation Ajax
  • In 1953 the CIA, with British help, helped royalists and other supporters of the Shah to help overthrow Mossendeq because the Shah was willing to work with Western interests. The spectre of Operation Ajax, a short Guardian article by Dan De Lucie that distills it into a page and a half article.
  • Boatload more information from the National Security Archives: Mohammad Mosaddeq and
    the 1953 Coup in Iran
    as well as here, too (thanks ew_younerd for the links!)

    Post WII: The White Revolution
  • The Shah’s white revolution (1950-1970’s) was basically a series of modernizing reforms he instigated to get Iran out of the dark ages. Women were given the right ot vote, required many young women to go to school. The new reforms even required some universities to open their doors to women. There were reforms that benefited farmers, urban development, conservation programs, so on and so forth.
  • The reforms were far from egalitarian. It was called White because it was supposed to be bloodless but it ended up making Iran a much more classicist society than ever before. The Shah continuously snubbed religion and religious institutions (he banned the wearing of the veil for women) which alienated the rural and conservative Iranians. See the Hoover Institute for more information and posters.
  • SAVAK was the Shah's personal army/intelligence agency/paranoia police. Super bad news. Secret enough to be on par with Burma's secret police. SAVAK was "formed under the guidance of United States and Israeli intelligence officers" (Global Security) and were sent out to deal with anyone who even looked like they were thinking about opposing the Shah. More from Global Security:

    Over the years, SAVAK became a law unto itself, having legal authority to arrest and detain suspected persons indefinitely. SAVAK operated its own prisons in Tehran (the Komiteh and Evin facilities) and, many suspected, throughout the country as well. SAVAK's torture methods included electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting brokon glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails. Many of these activities were carried out without any institutional checks.

    At the peak its influence under the Shah SAVAK had at least 13 full-time case officers running a network of informers and infiltration covering 30,000 Iranian students on United States college campuses. The head of the SAVAK agents in the United States operated under the cover of an attache at the Iranian Mission to the United Nations, with the FBI, CIA, and State Department fully aware of these activities.

    Iranian Revolution (1979-1979)
  • Marxists, socialists, Leninists, nationalists, all -ists imaginable, joined forces with middle/working class Iranians and religious leaders in order to bring down the Shah. They wanted to bring about new economic, social and political reforms. Equality. The clerics in particular wanted to sever all ties to the West, particularly the United States.
  • November 4th, 1979, Islamic militants took over the American Embassy in Tehran, taking 70 hostages and lasted 444 days. The Iranians didn't take too kindly to President Carter inviting the Shah to come over for tea and biscuits and talk about human rights. More on the Iranian Hostage Crisis from PBS.
  • Read more: 20 Years after the Hostages: Declassified Documents on Iran and the United States. (thanks to ew_younerd for the links!)


    Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Ayatollah Khomeini was the pivotal leader before and during the revolution. He spent some time exiled in Europe, sending taped recordings back to Iran, encouraging people to think about redistribution of wealth, going back to their roots. Once the revolution was successful, it was only natural that Khomeini was given the title Supreme Leader. People voted on the new Iranian Constitution via referendum and passed with 90% of the vote. Things were hunky dory for a few years until the middle class and leftists started to realize that the clerical revolutionaries had no intention of sharing power with them. People started disappearing, by death and exile. Women were forced into their veils, back into the homes. The ban on polygamy was removed.

    Iran Political and Economic Climate in the 1980s:
    The rise of Rafsanjani and Mousavi

    Iran Contra Affair (1985/86):
  • HUUUGE political scandal in which the United States was found to be selling arms to Iran despite an arms embargo and used the money to fund rebel forces in Nicaragua. Some familiar names from this scandal you might know: John Bolton, Richard Cheney, Robert Gates, Oliver North. More from the National Security Archives: The Iran-Contra Affair 20 Years On. (thanks ew_younerd for the links!)

    Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988):

  • Saddam Hussein invaded Iran under the guise of disputing territory, but it was mostly because he wanted to capitalize upon the chaos. He was also motivated by his extreme dislike for Khomeini and Shi'a Islam.
  • Over half a million were killed in this war with at least that many injured.
  • Each action continued to escalate to the point where Khomeini was sending Iranians on suicide missions and Saddam began using chemical weapons. Both sides shamelessly attacked civilian cities and other civilian targets.
  • Once each side began attacking oil tankers, the world started to pay a little more attention to the war.
  • A brief timeline from BBC News:
    September 1980 Iraqi forces invade Iran
    June 1982 Iran counterattacks, rejects ceasefire offer
    May 1984 Iran attacks Gulf shipping, escalating Tanker War
    1985 Bombing of civilian centres in War of the Cities
    July 1987 UN resolution 598 calls for ceasefire
    July 1988 US carrier shoots down Iranian civilian airliner, claiming it thought it was a fighter
    August 1988 Ceasefire agreed

  • See Global Security's article on the Iran-Iraq war for more detail.
  • Iran Chamber has an extensive photo gallery of the Iran-Iraq War.
  • Do you remember the oil graphic from above? Oil production was halved after the revolution. Fighting an 8 year war against Iraq didn't help their treasury, especially when the new constitution enumerated many rights which include social security, unemployment benefits, childcare assistance and free education through primary school while trying to make higher education free for more individuals (Articles 29 and 30 of the IRI constitution.)

    Islamic Reformist means Moderate in Western Parlance - Mousavi's Early Days
  • Enter Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Prime Minister of Iran from 1980-1988. The position of Prime Minister was removed after his two terms by The Iranian Constitutional Referendum. The amendments also no longer required the Supreme Leader to be elected by the people.
  • Mousavi, trained as an architect, he was the editor-in-chief of the Islamic Republic's party newspaper and was also a Minister of Foreign Affairs. As Prime Minister in the 80s, he served alongside President Ali Khameini (to be named Supreme Leader after Khomeini's death in '89).
  • Mousavi approached the tumultuous economy during the 80s with a firm hand, using many state controls to try and keep the country afloat. He introduced bond/vouchers in the country in order to stave off the effects of a recession.
  • In 1988 The Economist labeled Mousavi a "“firm radical." It might be because he defended the taking of American hostages. “It was the beginning of the second stage of our revolution,” following the overthrow of the shah, he said. “It was after this that we rediscovered our true Islamic identity. After this, we felt the sense that we could look Western policy in the eye and analyze it the way they had been evaluating us for many years" quotes Pierre Tristam on About.com. Or maybe they labeled Mousavi a radical because of his possible support to Hezbollah or his links to the Iran-Contra Affair. Read more about Mousavi's past on About.com profile of Mir Hossein Mousavi.
  • Five days after the election news sources like the Wall Street Journal, CNN are debating whether or not Mousavi is the Iranian "change they can believe in."

  • 1989: Supreme Leader Khomeini dies and Ali Khameini is appointed the new Ayatollah by the Assembly of Experts.

    Ayatollah Khomeini to Ayatollah Khameni

    The 1990s to the present: From conservatives to moderates,
    to pragmatists and reformists and back again

    Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (President 1989-1997)
  • Born from humble beginnings, he was an astute follower of Islam, became close friends with Khomeini and was even thrown in prison by the Shah.
  • He served as the speaker of the Parliament during the 1980s and seen as an influential force pushing towards the ceasefire agreement that ended the Iran-Iraq war.
  • Rafsanjani wanted to open up relations to the West and make Iran a regional power once again and attempted to introduce free-market policies to stimulate the economy.
  • The first parliamentary elections after Khomeini's death were held in 1992. The two factions were the “moderate” pragmatic group (Rouhanyat) who supported the President's policies towards opening the country diplomatically and economically and the anti-Western clerical radicals (Rouhanyon). The screening process had filtered out far more radical candidates than moderate ones and the moderates ended up with 3/4ths of the seats in parliament, essentially a win over Islamic militants. More detail on the 1992 elections Furthermore, 9 women were elected to parliament, more details on that to come.
  • I found this via DailyKos, but apparently Forbes had an article in 2003 called Millionaire Mullahs which talks about how Rafsanjani went from rags-to-riches via pistachio farming.
  • Rafsanjani is the first President to successfully complete his presidential term. His predecessors were assassinated and impeached. After his tenure as president, he became a member of the Expediency Council, the branch that basically was a referee and handled the legislative problems that arose between the parliament and Guardian Council. He also advised Supreme Leader Khameini, was elected to the Assembly of Experts and became a member of the Supreme National Security Council.
  • For more, see the profile on Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from BBC News and Global Security.

    1996 Parliament Elections & Fa'ezeh Hashemi

  • Elections in the parliament are held in 1996. Over 300 women were vetted and approved by the Guardian Council and allowed to run, including Fa'ezah Hashemi, daughter of former President Rafasanjani.
    Fa'ezeh brought excitement and glamor to the 1996 elections. She broke the unwritten dress code for women politicians by wearing--underneath the obligatory (for public figures) chador--jeans and a patterned scarf tied so that her chin was exposed. She promoted women's sports and advocated women's rights, identifying herself squarely as a "modernist" in the long-running battle between modernity and tradition. This made her the darling of the "reformists" (as they became known after Khatami's victory in May 1997) and the target of attacks by their opponents, the "conservatives." (Mir Hosseni, Middle East Report, 218-219)

  • Fa'ezeh had the second highest vote in Tehran.
  • New parliament had the most seated women but had hte worst record on women's rights. Bills included that doctors could only treat patients of the same sex, another attempted to keep the press from writing feature stories about women (Mir Hosseni, Middle East Report, 219)
  • No political parties were at the forefront this election, but the moderate and radical Islamic factions were vying for power. Iran was still dealing with the debt from the Iran-Iraq war and the low oil prices were not helping either. The conservative faction was pushing for more social justice and subsidies to help the Iranian people while the moderate candidates wanted to pass legislation that would focus on economic development and reconstruction.
  • The conservative and moderate factions gain a near equal amount of seats. 10 women are seated.
  • Read more on the 1996 parliamentary election.

    Mohammad Khatami (President 1997-2005)

  • Khatami earned a degree in Western Philosophy at Isfahan University, left Tehran University while earning a degree in Educational Sciences and completed Islamic Studies in the holy city of Qom under the tutelage of Khomeini.
  • He was an active revolutionary, appointed to Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance--essentially the Top Censor of Iran. It was no secret that he didn't like censorship after a decade of his liberal censorship policies, hard-line clerics forced him to resign.
  • As a mid-level cleric, he earned the support and appreciation of many women, students and intellectuals in Iran, earning an astounding 70% of the vote in the 1997 elections.
  • He is best known for expanding women's rights and loosening the restrictions of the media during his presidency, but he was very much an incrementalist, especially because in 1996 there was a conservative wave that captured reformist seats in parliament. Many thought that after two terms, Khatami wasn't strong enough to push the hard-liners back and hold his own and the enthusiasm that helped elect him soon dissipated amongst his longtime supporters. Even so, he was still re-elected in 2001 with 70% of the vote.
  • For more, see the Mohammad Khatami profile on BBC News, About.com, Al Jazeera.

    Reformists Strike Back: 2000 Parliament Elections
  • In 1999, the parliament changed the voting age, raising it from 16 to 17 years.
  • 513 women are pursuing seats.
  • A coalition of 18 different parties, all supporting President Khatami earn so much support that polling hours were extended in Shiraz.
  • 75% voter turn out, the highest since the formation of the Republic. The reformists win the majority of seats in the parliament despite hard-line clerics shutting down reformist newspapers and magazines.
  • More from BBC News, PBS, and detail on the parliamentary results.

    2005 Presidential Election - Rafsanjani vs Ahmadinejad
  • While there were a number of reformist and conservative candidates, the race was between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then Mayor of Tehran and former president Rafsanjani.
  • The first election was too close to tell, neither Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad gaining 50% of the vote, but in the run-off election between the two Ahmadinejad and his populist rhetoric came out victorious because of his populist rhetoric.

    2005-present: Sanctions against Iran
    "Any sanction that doesn't include oil will not have any serious effect." --Abbas Milani, co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at Stanford University's Hoover Institution

  • Sanctions against Iran are as long as the history of the country. The sanctions under Ahmadinejad were brought about when he lifted the ban on uranium enrichment which incited the anger of the United States and the international community.
  • This led to a host of new sanctions imposed by the United States and United Nations and included freezing assets, banning the sales of arms and aircraft to Iran, limiting the financial institutions business opportunities among a whole host of other items that affected many other industries and have effectively crippled Iran's economy. Unemployment remains above 10%, the country hasn't diversified it's market and relies too much upon oil. Most people work for the state and get their income from the state and Ahmadinejad wasn't able to fulfill a lot of his campaign promises to bring the oil wealth back down to the people.
  • Read more about How Sanctions Affect Iran's Economy at the Council of Foreign Relations.
  • Council on Foreign Relations Overview/Fact Sheet on the sanctions on Iran (PDF)
  • Global Policy Forum has more.


    How Iran is Ruled (BBC News) -- Interactive Guide.

    The only thing yet to cover that I want to cover are the university protests of 1999 and 2004, but
    seeing as I've been working on this all day, I need to take a break. I will edit this post when I have new information. Feel free to link to, repost, leave questions or links in the comments.

  • Tags: elections, history, iran
    • Post a new comment


      Comments allowed for members only

      Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

      default userpic

      Your reply will be screened

      Your IP address will be recorded