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The Islamic Republic

The Islamic Republic of Iran, formed in its current state during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, is a nation which has long been at the center of the world’s conflicts and complexities. At times a member of the international community enjoying favor for its provision of access to its wealth of natural resources, Iran has, since the time of its violent revolution operated under the auspices of a theocratic government which has routinely been condemned for widespread violations of human rights, women’s rights and international views on civil liberties. Human Rights:

The concept of human rights is, in and of itself representative of a positive propensity across civilized history by which individuals and groups have sought either fair and equal recognition for themselves or for a group in a position of disadvantage. Constitutional movements, national struggles for independence and civil liberty movements in relation to specifically oppressed groups have historically vied for the improvement of human rights. However, these is a historical irony in the construction of the dialogue on Human Rights which renders it inherently contradictory.

Just as the moral underpinnings of religious doctrine, constitutional authorship and the philosophically ponderings of the European Enlightenment were literally composed by men, so too must we therefore understand the various evolutionary steps in the collective recognition of human rights according to their male authorship. While this will not remove from legitimacy the progressive defense of human rights which has passed, especially in western civilization, into general law and convention, it does frame a discussion relating to women’s rights naturally in light of the patriarchy even in representation of said progress.

It is with the pretense in mind, the we examine the premise and events of the Iranian Islamic revolution, in its origins, its occurrence and its current form. In all of these, we will see the pretense for an Iran that is sharply juxtaposed by Western standards in its abuse of women’s rights and its slowness to adopt positive progressive reform relating to human rights and especially to women’s civil liberties. Accordingly, the observation that women’s rights in Iran are sharply divergent from expectations and global standards today will relate to the determination of the culture and government to accord to theocratic structural ideology.

With this in mind, “to the extent that Islam, defined and interpreted by traditionalist ‘Muslim’ men, is allowed to determine the context and contour of the debate on women’s human rights, women will be on the losing side of the debate because the conclusion is already contained in the premise and reflected in the process. Arguably, this is the heart of the moral tragedy of Muslim societies in our time. ” (Afkhami, 2) Particularly, the discussion here below will note, the case of Iran is tragic given the inherent intellectual and academic richness of its cultural history.

The Revolution would show itself to be a time of retraction in many regards concerning rights, education and profession. The Islamic Revolution Before, During and Since: To understand the revolution, it must first be understood that Iran’s recent history is a narrative of modern colonialism. For many decades, the United States enjoyed normalized relation with Iran. The Persian state was ruled by the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Though the nation had achieved some degree of prosperity under his leadership and through the cultivation of meaningful diplomatic relationships with nations such as the U.

S. , the Shah’s domestic tactics are reported to have been extremely repressive of both the democratic political process and the rights to freedom of expression and demonstration. Perceptions of the Shah’s inequitable rule were stoked by Muslim clerics, who managed to swell both intellectual public resentment into a full-fledged coup. Iran’s government had become indefensible against the mounting opposition of its dominant ethnic population. At the approach of 1979, at least 90% of Iran’s population was of the Shi’a Islamic heritage.

Another 8% were approximately 8% Sunni Muslim and the remaining mix was constituted of “Bahais, Armenian and Assyrian Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. ” (Khorrami, 1) With the Shah representing the Sunni minority, and with it a dominance based on cultural elitism rather than proper demographic reflection, an Islamic Revolution claimed Iran from its leadership by force. The Ayatollah Khomeini, the Shi’a population’s spiritual and political leader theretofore exiled in Paris, returned to his country on February 1st.

(Khorrami, 1) The Shah went into hiding and the Ayatollah ordered hundreds of his supporters executed. On April 1st of 1979, “Ayatollah Khomeini declared an Islamic republic with a new Constitution reflecting his ideals of Islamic government. ” This act gave birth to the nation which is presently known as Iran. Inbuilt to this new nation were the policies of denouncement of the West and its corrupt invasion of Islamic holy land, especially as such was carried out by America’s unwavering support of Israel. In demonstration of its hostility toward the U. S.

and its pursuit of interests in Iran, a group of radical Islamic students with sanctioning of the Khomeini government, stormed the U. S. embassy and took its personnel hostage. This touched off an international crisis for the United States and signaled the beginning of the modern age of terrorism. But as we reflect on the event that is often considered a notable starting point for the direct confrontations between the U. S. and the Muslim world, there is clearly evidence that the revolution in Iran would be in the making for more than a century under the authority of variously embattled monarchical leaders.

1979 would simply represent the proper aligning of factors in Iran, making it the center of a continually reverberating Islamic fervor in the ambitions of governmental office and military authority throughout the Middle East. (Halliday, 2) According to the research conducted here on the subject, Iran is a nation which possessed the historical underpinnings upon which its still-perpetuating revolution would be predicated. Namely, the centrality of Shi’a Islamist ideology in the shape which this revolution would take would be a key imperative for resistance to all non-theocratic or counter-populist movements in Iran’s history.

According to Shaul Bakhash, “many historians have noted the prominence of the ulama in major movements of political protest since the nineteenth century, including the tobacco protest movement of 1890-1891, the constitutional revolution of 1905-1911, the oil nationalization crisis of 1951-1953, the uprising ignited by the arrest of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in June 1963, and the Islamic Revolution of 1979. ” (p. 1) From this fact, we might derive the resolution that populism and Shi’a Islamic identity are of a common thread in Iran.

Still, it would be more than simply the religious and tribal identities here that would make Iran the coming center of the Muslim world. This is especially true consider the various progressive policies, relating to women and otherwise, which persisted under the Shah. Accordingly, this oft-contested government “promised distribution of state lands; women’s suffrage; provincial assemblies as stipulated in the constitution” and a host of other factors which directly implicate social progress in the progress of Iranian women. (Abrahamian, 1982; 233)

In spite of this, a wide range of factors would contribute to the point of inflection in 1979. Though centuries of Islamic resistance to foreign imposition of the vestiges of its monarchical system had persisted in Iran, it would not be until the key coalescence of conditions transpiring in the late 1970s that the movement for a genuine undermining of the royal crown could be considered a feasibility. Amongst these interceding factors, “economic downturn, widening political opportunity, and organizational mobilization of the opposition” would be central in promoting the cause of the Ayatollah.

(Kurzman, 287) The combination of a general rising tide of discontent with the apparent corruption and antagonism to traditionally tribal or religious values perpetrated by the Shah would be fundamental in promoting the interests of this disenfranchised majority’s self-appointed leadership. In the story of the revolution, Kurzman argues, there is a clear progression of resistance efforts to the tyranny of the Shah throughout the 1970s, but that it is not until the popular discontent was tangible enough that this resistance could enjoy meaningful support.

It would of course be a foregone conclusion that with the popular support of a Shi’a population constituting a majority of Iran, that this conversion of the public against the Shah would leave precious little time for the continuation of his rule. (Ayubi, 218) The aggressive tactics which were known to be employed through the Shah’s security forces are indicative of the treatment which Islamic protest would be shown by the government’s poorly trained personnel.

There also existed a widespread division amongst these as to the level of support to be accorded either to Pahlavi or Khomeini. The result was a set of intense confrontations between these divergent groups resulting in the violent suppression of Muslim political dissent and the increasing radicalization of the Muslim population in Iran. In 1978, one such violent clash would highlight the transition of the revolutionary conflict from rebellion to outright revolt. Continuous street protesting was producing the correct impression that the Shah’s ruler-ship had become extremely tenuous.

In response, the Shah would take up increasingly repressive and counter-democratic tactics in his approach to asserting his fading leadership. Thus, during a confrontation with Islamic protestors during that year which had reached a fever pitch, “soldiers were ordered to shoot. They did, and according to the opposition, more than 600 people were killed in Zhaleh Square alone. This day (September 8) became known as the Black Friday and that square’s name was changed to the Square of Martyrs. ”

This would of course become a lightning rod to what was not an implacable sense amongst the members of the public that the Shah’s government could and should be forcibly removed from office. From that juncture forward, the period of his leadership would be quite visibly close to an end. Within only a matter of two months, Khomeini would return to his home country and require the exile of Pahlavi as a condition of the revolution’s success. To this end, it was viewed that the Iranian revolutionaries had disbanded the economic alliance between the Shah and the United States.

Though the U. S. was able to negotiate the release of its hostages over two years of tense dialogue and only after making some unwanted concessions to Iran, the breakdown which had occurred in Iran was a dark harbinger of worse things to come in America’s relationship with the region. The downward spiral in relations that had begun with the Islamic revolution in 1979 had eventually initiated a fundamental breakdown in relations between the two states that is still relevant today.

More than that, the revolution would make one of the region’s most powerful, culturally influential and oil-rich nations a clear enemy of its secularist neighbor, Iraq. Ruled by Hussein, with whom border disturbance erupted almost immediately after the ratification of an Islamic Republic in Iran, Iraq was a military dictatorship with a variance of pivotal differences from Iran, not the least of which was that each would serve as an avenue for the realization of Cold War ambitions for the U.

S. and the Soviet Union respectively. This is to distinguish that on a regional level, the transition to a theocratic government in Iran would be instrumental in determining alliances on a splintered world stage. To this end, “border clashes between Iran and Iraq which had begun around the end of 1979 began to turn into a full-size war,” with either side funded and armed with vehemence by the two oil-hungry superpowers of the Cold War conflict.

From 1980 to 1988, the entire region would be destabilize economically, ethnically and politically by an ongoing proxy war conducted by the major world powers through two entities made natural enemies by Iran’s ascension to a regionally threatening notion of Islamic Republicanism. (ICS, 1) For the entire region, and for such secular dictators as a Hussein, this would produce a credible threat of the expansion of theocracy in a region primed for this sort of rolling revolution. To date, the Iranian transformation is a touchstone to those with ambitions toward turning the entire region to the laws and courts of Sharia.

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