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The Iranian Revolution at 40: Shifting Grounds, Continuing Resilience

32 3 11
14.03.2019

Iran celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution on February 11, 2019. On that day 40 years ago, the last Pahlavi ruler Shah Mohammad Reza Khan’s reign collapsed and a new Islamic government, led by the firebrand Shi’a religious leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, officially took the charge in Iran. The 40th anniversary assumed extra significance in the face of renewed hostility by the Donald Trump administration to dismantle the revolution once for all and the determination of the Iranian government to march ahead in the spirit of the revolution. Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton unveiled a naked threat to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: “I don’t think you’ll have many more anniversaries left to enjoy”. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rebuked Bolton and told a large public gathering in Tehran: “This nation has managed to establish a system of Islamic Republic and an independent system of government”.

This short piece contends that whatever course or color America’s anti-Iran hostilities take now or in the future, Ayatollah Khomeini’s “Islamic Republic” is here to stay. The way the Islamic Republic of Iran has progressed in the last 40 years, often passing through numerous twists and turns, conforms to its national resilience to hold on to the revolution, project an independent voice in world affairs and expand its influence in regional and global affairs.

The Context and Timeless Rationale of the Revolution

The Iranian Revolution took place at a critical juncture in world history that was characterized by a ceaseless fight between the oppressed and the oppressors. The fight between the oppressed and the oppressors took a new dimension during the post-Second World War anti-colonial movements that largely succeeded in overthrowing the colonial structures by the end of the 1960s and early 1970s. Still, exploitation and domination of the oppressed in the Third World hardly ended. There was only a shift from colonialism to neo-colonialism – a change from direct to indirect forms and modes of exploitation and control. The Iranian Revolution, primarily crafted in religious terms, was a decisive rupture in neocolonial control and exploitation of the non-West by the West. The revolution was a massive popular response to eliminate Western, and more specifically American, domination and control over Iran. Khomeini successfully fired up the Iranians with the slogan: “neither East, nor West, the Islamic Republic” to defeat American meddling in Iran, ascertain Iran’s independence in regional and international politics, and establish redistributive justice and social harmony built on Islamic values and beliefs in the domestic arena.

Khomeini’s slogan of liberation from Western imperialism and Socialist revolutions, as well as the pursuit of domestic social justice, shored up Iranian resistance to America. The success of Iranian resistance, in turn, further inspired anti-Western movements across the Third World for self-determination. The anti-imperialist outcries became more viral and emphatic.

Khomeini’s revolution, at the same time, was markedly different from other historical liberal or leftist revolutions. The French revolution of 1789, for example, was built on European Enlightenment ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity. The Russian and Chinese revolutions were guided and defined by a Marxist secular spirit of liberation from oppressive political and economic systems. In contrast, the Iranian Revolution was an Islamic religious revolution in both content and color. The revolution was developed around the Shi’a ideas of enduring sufferings, martyrdom, and opposition to secular Pahlavi dynastic rule to defend Iran’s Islamic identity, norms, and values. Khomeini, in exile in France during the peak revolutionary period, successfully mobilized the mass of Iranians by appealing to their religious sentiments to oust Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and install a clergy-led government to fully Islamize Iran.

The revolution reinitiated another significant course of development in the Middle East, which did not draw the attention of many people. It made a loud break from the post-First World War secular political trends in the region. The collapse of the Islamic Ottoman Empire by 1923 and the introduction of European concepts of secularism, the nation, and the nation-state greatly recast the Middle........

© E-International