Download History and Development of Iranian Political Culture

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Geography of Iran
• Iran is located in the
Middle East
• Large regions of Iran
are unusable or
– Population
centered in the
– Forced early
Iranians to look
outward (expansion
& conquest)
• Oil has become a
very important
natural resource in
the development of
Iran is roughly the size of Alaska…but cannot be seen
from anyone’s house
Uniqueness of Iran
(1) Persian vs. Arab
- Iranians are ethnically Persian not Arab.
- Although heavily influenced by Arabs who brought
Islam to Iran, still to today the Persian roots of Iran
separate it from the rest of the Arab world.
Arab League Member Nations
in Green
Iran is in orange – not a
member of the Arab League
Uniqueness of Iran
(2) Islam - Shiite vs. Sunni
Islam was brought to Iran in the 7th century C.E.
Iranians (90%) are Shiite (followers of Shia Islam)
Only about 10% of Muslims are Shia Muslims
Shiites believe that Muhammad’s descendants
known as “Imams” have special spiritual and political
Most Shiites live in Iran & Iraq and make up a majority of the
population of those countries
Uniqueness of Iran
(3) Theocracy vs. Secularization
- Theocracy – a government ruled strictly by religion
- Secularization – the belief that religion and
government should be separated.
- Iranian history shows an ebb and flow between
theocratic and secular rule.
- The only AP GAP country that is currently ruled as a
Development of Iranian
Political Culture
Ancient Persia (550 B.C.E. – 330 B.C.E.)
Greek & Islamic Era (330 B.C.E. – 1501 C.E.)
Safavids (1501 C.E. – 1722 C.E.)
Qajars (1794 C.E. – 1925 C.E.)
Pahlavis (1925 C.E. – 1979 C.E.)
Iranian Revolution (1979 C.E.)
Islamic Republic of Iran (1979 C.E. – Present)
Political History of Iran
(1) Persian Empire (550 B.C. – 330 B.C.)
- First large empire in world history
- The Persians fought against the Greeks and were
defeated by Alexander the Great (West vs. East)
Cyrus the Great (559-530 B.C.)
1st Persian Emperor
Political History of Iran
(2) Greek & Islamic Era
(330 B.C.E. – 1501 C.E.)
- Alexander the Great brought the
Hellenistic Civilization to the
former Persian Empire
- In the middle of the 7th century
Arab Muslims conquerored Iran
and brought Islam (Shia) with
Nike of Samothrace
Political History of Iran
(3) Safavids (1501 C.E. – 1722 C.E.)
- 1st Iranian ruled government
since the Persian Empire
- Shah (monarchy) headed
- Safavids claimed to be
descendants of the 12th
Imam (Shia)
- Practiced religious toleration
of Sunnis & “People of the
Book” (i.e. Jews & Christians)
Safavids Dynasty ended in 1722 when
they were invaded by Afghan
I – founder of the
Safavid Dynasty
Political History of Iran
(4) Qajars (1794 C.E. – 1925 C.E.)
- Qajars a Turkish people gain control over
- Capital city of Tehran
- Retain Shia Islam as official religion
- Couldn’t claim to be decedents of Imams,
so Shiite clerics became main interpreters
of Islam
- Widening the separation of religion and
- Eventually Iranians became unhappy with
government debt, lavish court costs, and
foreign (western) influence.
- Constitutional Revolution (1905-1909)
Iranians demanded greater influence in
government & a ‘cleansing of leadership’
Ahmad Shah Qajar
Political History of Iran
Constitution of 1906
 Direct Elections
 Monarchy with a separation of powers
 Laws made by a powerful elected
 Popular sovereignty
 Bill of Rights
o Shia continued to be the official religion
o Only Shiites could hold cabinet
o Guardian Council – Shiite clerics who
could veto any legislation.
Political History of Iran
(5) Pahlavis (1925 C.E. – 1979 C.E.)
- WWI further weakened the
- 1921 Reza Khan led a coup
d'état and proclaimed
himself shah
Reza Khan –
commander of the
Cossack Brigade; Shah of
Iran (1925-1941)
Political History of Iran
Unpopular Pahlavi Shahs
1. Totalitarian, not just Authoritarian Rule
- Controlled the banks, media, more sectors of the
economy, etc.
- Democratic thoughts were not forgotten – Pahlavi
Shahs were challenged by communist & nationalist
political movements.
Political History of Iran
Unpopular Pahlavi Shahs
2. Ties to the West
- Pahlavi leaders were very close with
Western nations
- Ex.) In 1951 Pahalvi Shah fled Iran due to
popular support of a rival
nationalist/communist movement, however
the US & UK helped to re-install the Pahalvi
Shah back to power.
- Many Iranians saw Pahlavis as pawns to the
- Rentier State – states which derive
all/substantial portion of their national
revenue from the ‘rent’ of natural
resources to external clients.
- i.e. Oil to the West , 97% of Iranian exports
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Emperor of Iran
Political History of Iran
Unpopular Pahlavi Shahs
3. Iran became too Secularized
- White Revolution – further
secularized Iran; pro-Western
- Seen as a counter to
Communist/Red influences
- Ex.) Extended voting rights to
women, allowed women to work
outside the home, restricted
Above: Iranian
women in
Islamic burkas
Right: Pahlavi
shah appears
very ‘Western’
Political History of Iran
Division Within Iran
Pahlavi Side
Traditional/Shia Ways
- Supports modernization - Ayatollah Khomeini
- Secularization
charismatic vocal critic of the
- Closer ties to the West
Political History of Iran
Division Within Iran
Traditional/Shia Ways
- Ayatollah Khomeini
- Preached Islamic fundamentalism
- Resented elite & the United States
- Supported Jurist Guardianship – senior
Shia clergy having authority over the
entire Shia community
Political History of Iran
(6) Iranian Revolution (1979)
- “The Spark”
- Revolution of Rising Expectations – a political theory that
says revolutions are most likely to occur when people are
doing better than they once were, but then some type of set
back occurs
- Ex.) Late 1970s oil prices drop by 10%, while Iranian
consumer prices increase by 20%
Political History of Iran
Revolution of Rising Expectations Theory
Political History of Iran
(7) Islamic Republic of Iran
(1979 C.E. – Present)
- On February 11, 1979 the shah flees Iran
- April 1979 a national referendum votes out the shah
and establishes the Islamic Republic
- Cultural Revolution – aimed to purify the country of
the shah’s regime, secular values, & western influence.