• Unit 9: Revolution and Religion: The Islamic Republic of Iran

    The Islamic Revolution in Iran from 1978–79 shares many similarities with the 20th century revolutions we have studied, but in this revolution religion played a central role. In the late 1970s, a broad coalition of religious leaders, students, workers, and middle-class Iranians challenged the political power of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran's secular, autocratic leader. In 1978, they organized a series of strikes and demonstrations that forced the Shah to flee the country.

    After his departure, Iran's theocratic leaders appointed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as the new supreme religious leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Khomeini consolidated power by arresting and persecuting members of the secular political groups that had initially supported the revolution. As with the Shah, Khomeini did not tolerate any political or social dissent. He used state institutions to eliminate dissent and imposed a fundamentalist, socio-religious political system on the nation.

    In this unit, we study the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and compare the Iranian experience with earlier revolutions in the United States, France, Mexico, and Russia.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.