"Independence, Freedom, and the Iranian Nation"
The State of Iran is a country located in the Middle East. Bordering the Iraqi Republic and the Republic of Kurdistan to the west, the Soviet Union to the north, and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and State of Baluchistan to the east. It is a constitutional monarchy nominally headed by the exiled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and an interim regency governed by the NUPA (Iranian Patriotic Officers) after the fall of the Islamic Republic headed by Ayatollah Khomeini in the NEQAB coup on July 10, 1980. Iran covers 1.6 million square kilometers and has a population of around 37 million people. Iran is comprised of 31 federal states with 3 of them being autonomous (Kurdistan, Balochistan, and Khuzestan) and are governed by Lieutenant-Governors.
Iran is at the forefront of the Cold War in the Middle Eastern front - torn between allegiances to the United States and the geopolitical realities of bordering the Soviet Union. The country has seen tumultuous months of political instability and upheavals culminating in successive regime changes during the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the NEQAB coup. Ayatollah Khomeini's legacy of the Islamic Cultural Revolution, mass armed forces and governmental purges, and economic recession still left an impact on the current Iran that has been molded by the interests of Shah-era politicians and Imperial military officers known as the Gang of Four. This current Iran being a hybrid regime with a provisional government aiming to restore order and economic stability after the previous Islamic regime's disastrous policies. All the while fighting against anti-governmental insurgents in the form of the Islamic Quds and the Islamo-Marxists MEK.
Iran is a member of the UN, OIC, ECO, NAM, and OPEC. It is considered a major industrial, military and economic power in the world as it possesses the fourth largest oil reserves, and the nation also has a leading manufacturing industry in the Middle East. Iran is able to exert influence as an energy superpower which could influence the world's economy and geopolitical landscape. For its region, Iran is at least regarded as a partly-free (illiberal) democratic, socially progressive, secular nation in the Middle East with citizens partaking in elections. President Jimmy Carter boldly declared Iran as "an island of stability in the Middle East".
Politics of the Iranian State
Current Head of State: Emperor Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Nominally), Regent Massoud Eskandari (De Facto)
Current Head of Government: Prime Minister Daryush Hosseinzadeh
Iran is de jure a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy ever since the Pahlavi monarchy was re-instated after the fall of the Islamic republic during the NEQAB coup as a compromise between republicans and monarchists within the conspiracy. Its Emperor or rather constitutional monarch, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, of the Pahlavi dynasty only rules as a ceremonial figurehead for the sake of lending legitimacy for the new government. As the government persuaded the Pahlavi family to stay in Egypt for their "safety" while NUPA officers formed the Regency Council to perform the Emperor's duties at his place. Emperor Reza Pahlavi still awaits the day he would return to Iran to reclaim his throne and crown all the while fearful after he was informed that the government fully intends on holding a plebiscite where the people will decide between a democratic republic and a constitutional monarchy.
The Rule of the Generals and Political Tutelage in Iran
Iran is de facto a Turkish-style "hybrid regime" of a political marriage between Majelis politicians, the (Imperial) Iranian Armed Forces, and the state intelligence apparatus known as the SAVAMA. The Head of Government is a Prime Minister whose position had been entirely strengthened after the country adopted a British-style parliamentary system. The current Prime Minister of Iran is a dark horse candidate, Daryush Hosseinzadeh, who is a relatively unknown politician of the broadly progressive-nationalistic National Front. He was chosen by the NUPA and NEQAB conspirators as a compromise candidate that all broad factions opposed to the Khomeinist regime could agree upon. Today, Daryush leads the Popular Front - an alliance of mainstream Iranian political parties (Rastakhiz, National Front, and Freedom Movement of Iran) - in the hopes of restoring Iran to its pre-revolutionary parliamentary politics. As Iran is now entering a new chapter in establishing a multiparty democracy with 1986 being the slated "free and fair" elections. The government is secular and would prefer for it to remain that way. Though it has separate secular and religious courts for the people to choose between when dealing with disputes.
However, for now the entire government is influenced and directed by the Iranian Armed Forces and the intelligence apparatus known as SAVAMA. Both argue that the time isn't appropriate for Iran to fully adopt democracy as half of the population are illiterate and its population primarily composed of apathetic peasants. Inspired by the Chinese concept of political tutelage and the role of the military in Turkish government; the IAF and SAVAMA hold a stranglehold over Iranian government and politics. With officers of the IAF and SAVAMA holding key positions in government such as the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, and "Ministry of National Enlightenment" (the propaganda arm of the NUPA). The NEQAB coup against the Islamic government set a precedent where both the military and state intelligence would overthrow any government who is a threat to Iranian secularity as "Defenders of the White Revolution". IAF interest in government is represented by Timsar Massoud Eskandari who is imperial regent and Director Gholam Khosravi representing SAVAMA - the successor to the notorious SAVAK. With their authorities often overlapping the civilian government.
The Senate of Iran
The Senate Palace of Iran
The Senate was the upper house legislative chamber in Iran (with the National Consultative Assembly being the lower house) from 1949 to 1979 then again since 1980. A bicameral legislature had been established in the 1906 Persian Constitutional Revolution but the Senate was not actually formed until after the Iran Constituent Assembly, 1949, as an expression of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's desire for more political power. The Senate was filled mainly with men who were supportive of the Shah's aims, as intended by the Shah. Half of the sixty seats in the senate were directly appointed by the Shah, fifteen represented Tehran, and the rest were elected from other regions. The Senate was disbanded after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when the new constitution established a unicameral legislature.
After the fall of the Islamic Republic in the NEQAB coup, the Senate and the NCA were re-established while institutions such as the Guardian Council, Assembly of Experts, and the Islamic Revolutionary Council were abolished. The previous 60 seats received an increase to upward of 80. The Senate allowed for multi-party representation in the Majelis when it accepted National Front, Freedom Movement, and even several Tudeh politicians into the Senate to fill the empty positions once occupied by former Shah-era MPs (most of which executed by the Islamic regime). They convene on the Senate House of Iran and the Iranian Constitution of 1980 gave greater powers to the Senate in passing and approving legislations as long as it has majority-support. The government under Daryush aims to create a multiparty democracy in Iran with stated neutrality from the military and intelligence apparatus.
The Gang of Four
General Massoud Eskandari
Lt. Gen. Gholan Khosravi
True power is concentrated on the so-called Gang of Four (also known as the Young Persians) who planned, conspired, and orchestrated the entire NEQAB coup against the Khomeini government as well as governing the post-revolutionary government afterwards. Members of this shadowy Gang of Four clique were National Front politician Daryush Hosseinzadeh, technocrat and diplomat Parviz Zahedi, Imperial Iranian Army general Massoud Eskandari, and SAVAK officer Gholam Khosravi. All unknown faces to the public and were fairly close with the previous imperial establishment. Their origin and the circumstances on where they met were peculiar; all of them met in Tehran International Airport and conspired together in the 1st Tactical Fighter Base at Mehrabad. Different from the Chinese Gang of Four of the same name; the Iranian Gang of Four seeks to restore pre-revolutionary order and reform Iranian society into something new. Their entire mantra had been "Western progress for all Iranians and not for the few". Expressing their populist desires in equalizing development in all regions of Iran and mending the societal divide between conservative rural Iranians and Western middle-upper class urbanites.
Ideological allegiances varies as the Gang of Four alliance was never meant to last beyond the Revolution and they are determined to shape Iran in their own image. Yet they are bounded by their opposition to Khomeini and the mullahs as well as apathy for the Pahlavi monarchy. Daryush Hosseinzadeh is a National Front politician who was a little-known civil servant during the Shahist monarchy and the Islamic republic after playing his cards right. He was chosen precisely for his flexible personality and compromiseable nature. His tenure as PM shows that he is a relatively popular, reformist cut-throat politician. Technocrat and diplomat Parviz Zahedi is the current Foreign Minister of Iran who has proven himself to be an ardent believer of Realpolitik and an opportunist seeking to milk off Washington and Kremlin support. General Massoud Eskandari is a Shah-era military officer who earned his rank through merit as well as connections. He is the Regent for the Shah and he is the symbol of military meddling in civilian affairs. Lastly, Gholam Khosravi was a SAVAK officer who founded the SAVAMA as its Director and has been known for concentrating the SAVAMA's efforts on delegitimatizing the Islamist political opposition through propaganda in order to reaffirm the regime.
The NUPA (Iranian Patriotic Officers)
Iranian NUPA Officers Instrumental in the Nojeh Coup
If the Egyptians and Libyan had Nasserist Free Officer Movements then the Iranians certainly had their own movement in the form of the NUPA or Iranian Patriotic Officers. The NUPA were primarily composed of junior officers within the Imperial Iranian Army, Air Force, Navy, and the Immortals who all desired to move up a rank in an officer corps that was driven by nepotism. As soldiers, they were expected to remain quiet political matters and their loyalty to the Shah varies from disdain, apathy, and support. According to General Eskandari, he could only count on 6 divisions out of 24 that he could count on for its loyalty. However the NUPA are fanatically loyal to Iran and as young officers, they held radical views for the future of Iran in the spirit of the Young Turks. Director Khosravi dubbed the NUPA as the "Association of Reza Shah Idolizers".
During the Islamic Revolution; a bulk of the IIAF junior officer corps were spared from executions while senior commanders were either demoted or executed in the hundreds for suspected disloyalty. Leaving the Iranian military parallelized at the absence of senior leadership as the ranks are filled with Khomeini loyalists and Homafars. The officers' lives were infringed upon as many were interrogated by revolutionary officials and clerics for not attending Friday prayers, eating during fasts, and not having their wives wearing veils. Many were arrested but thanks to Prime Minister Bazargan; he could delay the trials to the point that the NEQAB coup occurred. Many junior officers banded together to form the NUPA in reaction to the growth of the IRGC that began to threaten the military's monopoly on state force and violence. This culminated in the NEQAB coup which overthrew the Khomeini government and forcefully disbanded the IRGC (forcing them underground). Many NUPA officers who participated were given double promotions to Colonels and Major Generals overnight just to fill the empty positions left by Khomeini's officer purge.
The Mazandaran Deep State
The Deep State Supported SUMKA
and Fostered the Growth of Pan-Iranism
Mazandaran is an alleged deep state operating in Iran which is rumored to consists of an assortment of well-established individuals in academia, universities, think-thank groups, the military, intelligence community, and the Majelis. However they are more commonly associated with the Armed Forces clique which surrounds Regent Gen. Massoud Eskandari as well as the SAVAMA under Director Gholan Khosrovi. The neo-Zoroastrian revivalist Azadegan Organization under Admiral Bahram Aryana (who is sort of Iran's Gullen) was rumored to be involved as well. Ideologically, this Mazandaran clique upholds tenets of Pan-Iranism, Iranian nationalism, hardline secularism, and are divided between republicanism or Pahlavi monarchism. They all oppose political Islamism and communism to a great extent. Mazandaran refers to a mythological place in the Shahnameh which was said to be inhabited by demons and that only a God could vanquish it.
Mazandaran is in many respects, similar to its Turkish counterpart - the Ergenekon. However instead of formenting unrest by assassinating individuals; the Mazandaran seeks to maintain the present secular order by silencing former Khomeinist Islamic clerics and forcing the government to enact overbearing secular laws. Such as banning the veil in workplaces, spying on Islamic bazaari trade unions, penalized wearing clerical garbs, among many others. Talks about the allegation of there being a deep state came to be in 1985 during the Gholestan scandal where close relations between the civilian government, military, and organized crime were revealed. Many figures in the Quds Islamist rebels were killed by Iranian criminals with ties to the SAVAMA. The history is blurry on when did Mazandaran came to be but it was said that they started in 1982 (with support from the CIA) when Program Scimitar was launched and when the Persian Insurgency started.
Program Scimitar, Iran's Gladio
A Quds Rebel Sitting Beside His Dead Commander
Assassinated by an Scimitar Operative
Program Scimitar is Iran's version of Operation Gladio which encompassed Western Europe and the program started with Iranian and American co-ordination. Program Scimitar is a military stay-behind operation which dabbles in counter-guerrilla operations, political mobilization, and psychological warfare in the case of a Soviet invasion and an Iranian civil war (both worst case scenarios). The Ministry of Specialized Warfare (MSW) and the Pan-Iranist paramilitary Guruhu Hamle/GH (affiliated with SUMKA) was Scimitar's front organization. The MSW worked closely with Turkish Counter-Guerilla and Israeli Mossad while overseeing the gradual deployment of British, Israeli, and American paratroopers into Iran. The GH was trained by the Iranian military to fight against Islamist Quds and (Islamo)-Marxist MEK as well as OIPFG. Soldiers trained by the MSW and Pan-Iranist death squads were responsible for the countless deaths of "terrorists" while engaging in terrorist activities (car bombing and assassinations) themselves. Civilians were also killed in the cross-fire as "collateral damage".
Iran's Gladio also engaged in false-flag attacks as part of a psy-op where they committed acts of terror bombing and killings in order for them to be blamed on the rebels. Per perception management theory and strategy of tension doctrine; the false-flag attacks and intensification of the insurgency would be served to turn away civilian support away from the rebels and paint the rebels as "bloody terrorists" that had little concern for the welfare of civilian populace. In the case where the individual's safety is in jeopardy, they would turn to a higher entity for security such as the military an government in exchange for their freedoms. Iranian Gladio also interfered in politics when it helped mobilize Iranian nationalists, silencing political Islamists, and clandestinely supported ultranationalist groups such as the Pan-Iranist SUMKA. Program Scimitar is Iran's best-kept secret from the civilian government and the populace. If it were to be revealed then it would spell a massive scandal for the Gang of Four.
The Islamic Revolution
The Iranian Revolution of 1979
The seeds were planted for the future Iranian Revolution as early as 1953 when the government under Mossadegh used his emergency powers to nationalize the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. In response the British as well as the American CIA co-ordinated a plan to overthrow the democratically-elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, in what was known as Operation Ajax. Since then, the Shah gained more power after the coup. Effectively becoming a Western-backed dictator.
Under the Shah, he passed a series of reforms aimed to modernize Iranian society and economy known as the White Revolution. Granting women the right to vote and an equal say in inheritance were already problematic at best for the clergy yet the land reforms which broke up land owned by the Mullahs proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Ruhollah Khomeini became a vocal opponent of the Shah. There was a revival in Islamic Shia thought and men like Ali Shariati, Jalal Al-e-Ahmad, and Morteza Motahhari popularized the Shia Islamic revival and opposed Westernization.
Massacre at Jaleh Square
Illiteracy rates were high and most Iranians lived in poverty due to unequal development by the Shah where much of the wealth is concentrated on Tehran. Only a growing middle-class of Tehran urbanites could enjoy the Western progress that the Shah promised. Not helping was the fact that Pahlavi became more infatuated with European culture (especially French) and his 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire which costed a lot of state budget and rubbed the lower-class Iranians the wrong way.
Corruption, elitism, disregard for traditional Islamic culture, economic recession in '78, and underestimation of the Islamic opposition set the stage for the Islamic Revolution to occur on 1978. Widespread protests erupted after the Cinema Rex torching by SAVAK(?) which killed at least 420 people. Martial Law was declared on September 8th as Khomeini supporters openly demanded for his return and when the soldiers shot at 5,000 protesters during the Black Friday Incident with 88 dead and thousands injured; it only added fuel to the revolutionary fevor and anti-Shah sentiment.
When the Shah requested Iraq extradite Khomeini back to Iran; Khomeini packed his bags and moved to France which was counter-productive. With superior French communication technology; the streets of Iran were flooded with tapes of Khomeini's speeches. Western media like the BBC also became an unwitting tool of Khomeini when they began to give him a voice and portrayed him as the "Iranian Gandhi". After NF politician, Karim Sanjabi, flew to France and established an alliance with Khomeini; this signaled an official alliance between the clergy and secular opposition. Khomeini was clever in putting liberal figures as spokesperson for the revolution and refrained from talking about establishing a theocracy. By November, protesters began to arm themselves with weapon cache and young protesters ransacked any buildings associated with the West. Due to conflicting orders on "not to shoot"; the soldiers just gave up.
Khomeini's Return to Iran
A military government was formed on 6 November and it seemed like Iran was returning to pre-revolution normalcy. While the curfews were enforced; the Shah entered open negotiations with the opposition and dismissed "corrupt" generals and officials. On television, the Shah proclaimed: "I have heard the voice of your revolution...this revolution cannot but be supported by me, the king of Iran". He apologized for mistakes that were committed during his reign, and promised to ensure that corruption would no longer exist. The speech backfired and by December during Muhharam; protests were invigorated again as the Mullahs rallied the youths in protesting against the Shah during the Tasu'a and Ashura demonstration on 10 - 11 December. By early 1979 as all hope were lost and the protesters were now in total control of cities; a tearful Shah departed Iran on 16 January of 1979. Shapour Bakhtiar became Iran's Prime Minister around the same day and by association with the Shah; his government lacked support from the opposition and Khomeini insisted on pressing further. "I shall kick their teeth in and proclaim our own government" Khomeini once said.
Khomeini was invited back to Iran on February 1st by Minister Bakhtiar in the hopes that he would build a Vatican-like state in the city of Qom. Khomeini's return was received with great euphoria and enthusiasm by the Iranian crowd who literally congregated themselves around Khomeini's car that was carrying him. By February 5th, Khomeini rejected Bakhtiar offer and proclaimed a Provisional Government where Mehdi Bazargan was Prime Minister. By February 9th, Khomeini ordered his followers to fight against Bakhtiar's government and the military did not intervene to save him. By then, his government had crumbled and Bakhtiar escaped the country on 11 February. The fall of the palace to revolutionary forces marked the end for the Iranian monarchy.
The NEQAB Coup
Imperial Iranian Army Soldiers About
to be Executed by the New Government
Predictably yet against everybody's expectations; Khomeini proved to be a very authoritarian and power-hungry individual once he rose to power. The newly established authorities were the Revolutionary Council, Revolutionary Guards, Revolutionary Tribunals, Islamic Republican Party, and Revolutionary Committees (komitehs). Komitehs were especially brutal in weeding out opponents of the Islamic regime which included former Shah officials. With men like Sadegh Khalkhali being notorious for carrying out executions of military officers in tribunals.
The Interim Government headed by PM Bazargan only provided a smokescreen for Khomeini's power grab and to lend legitimacy for the new regime. One by one, Khomeini began to eliminate his opponents. In February, the National Democratic Front was banned. In November, the Interim Government was emasculated by the Revolutionary Council. In January of 1980, the MPRP headed by Shariatmadari was banned. In February of the same year, the PMOI were attacked by the Hezbollahi. Thus eliminating all direct threat to Khomeini's power as he implements a Shia Islamic theocracy in the form of vilayat-e-faqih.
F4s Used in the Aerial Bombings
of Key Sites Throughout Tehran
All of Khomeini's opponents went into hiding and the liberal secular opposition that supported Khomeini (thinking that he would only act as a spiritual figure) became disillusioned with Khomeini's betrayal. However, unbeknownst to many; there were a secretive clique of politicians and officers scheming in the 1st Tactical Fighter Base in Mehrabad. Initially, it was a conspiracy between four men in the former Shah government and military (the Gang of Four) later it grew to encompass dissatisfied junior officers (Iranian Patriotic Officers) whom they could trust in attempting their coup to remove Khomeini from power.
However the Mehrabad close proximity to Tehran meant that it would be susceptible to information leak from the Komiteh so they decided that 3rd Tactical Fighter Base Noujeh (Shahrokhi) with a 60km distance from Hamedan as their base of operation. The coup plotters believed the Noujeh base was perfect as the conspirators knew the men and officers there as well as having a fighter fleet. This plot would later be known as the NEQAB Coup (Saving Iran's Great Uprising) or Nojeh (mask) coup.
The conspiracy grew intriguing and elaborate as more outside force began to involve themselves in the coup. Manucher Ghorbanifar was an Iranian gun-runner who pledged funds and arms to the rebels and was the middleman between the conspirators and the United States government. Ghorbanifar told one of the Gang of Four's, Daryus Hosseinzadeh, that the Americans would not support the coup as it would endanger the lives of American hostages in Iran.
NEQAB Soldier Being Greeted With Flowers
Yet an unexpected help arrived in the Iraqis whom under President Abd al-Karim Qasim, offered the conspirators help by diverting attention away from the conspirators by using the Iraqi Air Force to bomb checkpoints along the Iraqi - Iranian border. Yet at a price where the Iraqis demanded the names of the pilots involved in this operation. Major General Eskandari refused but Colonel Khosravi provided the Iraqis the names anyway. Iraq's interest was twofold; to overthrow Khomeini and destabilize the Iranian government even further for the pending Iraqi invasion of Khuzestan.
Twelve targets were chosen to be bombed by twelve F-4Es on 9th July. Khomeini’s house in Jamaran, Mehrabad International Airport Runways, Prime Minister building, IRGC HQ, Vali-Asr military base (belonging to the IRGC), Imam Hussein military base (belonging to the IRGC), Gulf military base, two Islamic Revolution Committees buildings in Tehran, North of Sa’ad-Abad palace and a part of Lavizan military base. Among all targets, Ayatollah Khomeini’s house was the primary and high value target, and because of that three aircraft and three of best F-4 pilots had been dedicated to bomb this house. First airplane armed with four M117 bombs and piloted by Capt. Nemati was planned to bomb the house in first pass; the second airplane was tasked to pound the bombed house via two AGM-65A Maverick ATGMs seconds later, and last airplane was tasked to bomb the target area with four CL.755 Cluster bombs.
An NUPA Spokesperson Addressing the Nation After the Coup
The plan also involved in inciting an insurrection in Kurdistan and Baluchistan where four divisions of Kurdish and Baluch rebels would be raised to wreak havoc in order to thin out the spread of Iranian forces. Hosseinzadeh had the connections to pull this off. In addition, they would use F-4 fighter-bombers in bombing key strategic positions in Tehran. The first would be Khomeini's home, then the Mehrabad International Airport runaway, and then military HQs throughout Tehran. Ground troops in IRGC clothing with red bandanas which spells out "Vatan" (meaning homeland) would be then deployed to quickly capture Tehran, Isfahan, Mashhad, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, Khuzestan and Sistan and Baluchestan. They expected that large riots would disorientate government soldiers and the public would rally to support the rebels after years of growing discontent with the Khomeini regime.
TL;DR, it succeeded in the end. The rebels were initially greeted as liberators and heroes where the public decorated their rifles with roses like in the Carnation Revolution yet Iranian society at large were largely apathetic or were in shock with the sudden turn of events. Now struggling to come to terms with the new government they saw as a return to the Shah-era in spite of the conspirators constant denial of such things. Shah Pahlavi is temporarily instated as a constitutional monarch to lend legitimacy to the new regime but the entire Gang of Four is like "just stay in Egypt" which makes the Shah depressed. Khomeini survives the bombing and gets captured by pro-coup police officers where he is now in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. The Gang of Four takes control of the entire country and begins weeding out Islamists where it triggers another armed insurgency from remnant Sepahs and MEK rebels. It was said that around 80 Sepah soldiers were killed during the gunfight and 300 civilians injured due to gun grazing.
Ruins of Persepolis and Its Relief
Iran has always been known as a land rich of culture and resources (especially oil). Iran had been the center of a number of cultural renaissances and vast empires of the Achaemenids, Seleucid, Parthians, and Sassanid Empires. Iranian culture is one of the oldest in the regions and has influenced cultures like Italy, Macedonia, Greece, Russia, the Arabian Peninsula, and parts of Asia. Islam is practiced by the majority of Iranians and governs their personal, political, economic and legal lives. The Persian calendar is a solar calendar, however, some of the official religious Islamic and Shia holidays are based on a lunar calendar.
Iran has a great art heritage visible in architecture, paintings, calligraphy and poetry. This heritage was translated to several languages and influenced many cultures. Contemporary literature was influenced by classical Persian poetry although it reflects the particularities of modern day Iran. Houshang Moradi-Kermani, is one of the most famous modern Iranian writers and is considered the most translated modern Iranian author.
Iranian films are celebrated and internationally acclaimed. The films have won 300 international awards in the past 10 years. The best known Persian directors are Abbas Kiarostami, Majid Majidi, and Asghar Farhadi. Iran has a long history of fine silk and wool rug weaving, that is why Persian rugs are internationally known as the most beautiful across the world. Iran produces more rugs and carpets than all other countries put together. (Source: Globalization Partners, 2020)
Punk-Rock Flourished in Iran
Even Ones Critical of the Government
Present-day culture in Iran is heavily influenced by the 1980s. MTV, Michael Jackson, Madonna, hip-hop, pop music, hard rock, Commodore gaming, crazy 80s fashion and hairdos, teen flicks, cheesy horror and action movies, as well as many things which defined the 1980s. Of course American culture had a profound impact in Iranian urban youths who could enjoy publicly doing such things that they otherwise couldn't in real-life under Khomeini. Economic growth and more wages as well as consumer goods was also a factor in a growth in cultural capital in Iran. The period from 1986 until 1989 was the peak 80s in Iran and was dubbed the "Neon Years" in this zeitgeist of greater youth participation and cultural experimentations after the devastating Islamic Revolution and Iran - Iraq War that marked the "Burnt Generation". The Iranian counter culture movement in universities was heavily shaped by Islamic modernism and left-wing economics which was more reserved compared to the 70s. Rock and roll was popular in Iran with the band Yellow Dogs being the most popular in Iran. Music was used as a medium to criticize governmental policies.
The regime viewed certain youth sub-cultures such as the "punks" with great suspicion yet did not crack down on it. It was the opposite as the government was all the more happy in allowing 80s culture to flourish in Iran as a way to boost tourism and cultural capital growth. However, state radios regularly aired martial and traditional sitar music which they viewed as more "pure" than foreign music. Of course there were public radios airing pop music to air Googoosh, Forouhar, and Hayadeh who only returned in the 90s and even MTV in Iran (when it played music).
Shia Islam and Festivals
The narrative of martyrdom has been an essential component of Shiʿi culture, which can be traced to the massacre in 680 of the third imam, al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī, along with his close family and followers at the Battle of Karbalāʾ by the troops of the Ummayad caliph, Yazīd, during al-Ḥusayn’s failed attempt to restore his family line to political power. As a minority in the Islamic community, the Shiʿah faced much persecution and, according to Shiʿi doctrine, offered up many martyrs over the centuries because of their belief in the right of the line of ʿAlī to political rule and religious leadership.
The Shah Fire Jumping Before Nowruz
Each year on the anniversary of the massacre, the Shiʿah commemorate the Karbalāʾ tragedy during the holiday of ʿĀshūrāʾ through the taʿziyyah (passion play) and through rituals of self-flagellation with bare hands and, sometimes, with chains and blades. These acts of mourning continue throughout the year in the practice of the rawẕah khānī, a ritual of mourning in which a storyteller, the rawẕah khān, incites the assembled—who are frequently gathered at a special place of mourning called a ḥosayniyyeh—to tears by tales of the death of al-Ḥusayn.
The commemoration of Karbalāʾ has permeated all of Persian culture and finds expression in poetry, music, and the solemn Shiʿi view of the world. No religious ceremony is complete without a reference to Karbalāʾ, and no month passes without at least one day of mourning. None of the efforts of the monarchy, such as the annual festivals of art and the encouragement of musicians and native crafts, succeeded in changing this basic attitude; public displays of laughter and joy remain undesirable, even sinful, in some circles.
Iranians do celebrate several festive occasions. In addition to the two eids (from Arabic ʿīd: “holiday”), Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr—practiced by Sunnis and Shiʿis alike—the most important holidays are Nōrūz, the Persian New Year, and the birthday of the 12th imam, whose second coming the Shiʿah expect in the end of days. The Nōrūz celebration begins on the last Wednesday of the old year, is followed by a weeklong holiday, and continues until the 13th day of the new year, which is a day for picnicking in the countryside. On the 12th imam’s birthday, cities sparkle with lights, and the bazaars are decorated and teem with shoppers.(Source: Britannica, 2020)
An Iranian Tea House in the 70s
Persian cuisine, although strongly influenced by the culinary traditions of the Arab world and the subcontinent, is largely a product of the geography and domestic food products of Iran. Rice is a dietary staple, and meat—mostly lamb—plays a part in virtually every meal. Vegetables are central to the Iranian diet, with onions an ingredient of virtually every dish. Herding has long been a traditional part of the economy, and dairy products—milk, cheese, and particularly yogurt—are common ingredients in Persian dishes. Traditional Persian cuisine tends to favour subtle flavours and relatively simple preparations such as khūresh (stew) and kabobs. Saffron is the most distinctive spice used, but many other flavourings—including lime, mint, turmeric, and rosewater—are common, as are pomegranates and walnuts. Iranian tea houses serving Persian chai tea are particularly popular throughout Iran and their services are impeccable and their hostesses polite according to Western review. (Source: Britannica, 2020)
The Front of the Gholestan Palace
Iran’s ancient culture has a deep architectural tradition. The Elamite, Achaemenian, Hellenistic, and other pre-Islamic dynasties left striking stone testaments to their greatness, such as Choghā Zanbil and Persepolis—both of which were designated UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1979. Three monastic ensembles central to the Armenian Christian faith were collectively recognized as a World Heritage site in 2008; their architecture represents a confluence of Byzantine, Persian, and Armenian cultures. From the Islamic period the architectural achievements of the Seljuq, Il-Khanid, and Ṣafavid dynasties are particularly noteworthy. During that time Iranian cities such as Neyshābūr, Eṣfahān, and Shīrāz came to be among the great cities of the Islamic world, and their many mosques, madrasahs, shrines, and palaces formed an architectural tradition that was distinctly Iranian within the larger Islamic milieu.
Under the Pahlavi monarchy, two architectural trends developed—an imitation of Western styles, which had little relevance to the country’s climate and landscape, and an attempt to revive indigenous designs. The National Council for Iranian Architecture, founded in 1967, discouraged blind imitation of the West and promoted the use of more traditional Iranian styles that were modified to serve modern needs. Perhaps the most striking example of the Pahlavi architectural program is the Shāhyād (Persian: “Shah’s Monument”) tower—renamed the Āzādī (“Freedom”) tower after the 1979 revolution—which was completed in Tehrān in 1971 to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Achaemenian dynasty. (Source: Britannica, 2020)
A Scene from the Shahmaneh
Iranian culture is perhaps best known for its literature, which emerged in its current form in the 9th century. The great masters of the Persian language—Ferdowsī, Neẓāmī, Ḥāfeẓ, Jāmī, and Rūmī—continue to inspire Iranian authors in the modern era, although publication and distribution of many classical works—deemed licentious by conservative clerics—have been difficult. Persian literature was deeply influenced by Western literary and philosophical traditions in the 19th and 20th centuries yet remains a vibrant medium for Iranian culture. Whether in prose or in poetry, it also came to serve as a vehicle of cultural introspection, political dissent, and personal protest for such influential Iranian writers as Sadeq Hedayat, Jalal Al-e Ahmad, and Sadeq-e Chubak and such poets as Ahmad Shamlu and Forough Farrokhzad. The postrevolutionary era witnessed the birth of a new feminist literature by authors such as Shahrnoush Parsipour and Moniru Ravanipur. (Source: Britannica, 2020)
Another piece of interesting literature created during the post-revolutionary chaos of 70s Iran was Persepolis written and published by Marjan Satrapi who was a descendant of the Qajar and had leftist leanings. Published as a series of comics decades later in 2000 then released as a film seven years later in 2007. The story is a heartwarming and suspenseful coming-of-age story about the author herself, Marjan, as she grows up in the political turmoil and uncertainty of 1970s and 1980s Iran. She has witnessed the oppression under the Shah, the collective disillusionment of Iranians after Khomeinist rule, then the chaos of the Iran - Iraq War as well as the authoritarian rule under the Gang of Four after the NEQAB coup. Life in Iran is juxtaposed with her life in Western Europe where her expectations of a good western life was tarnished due to culture shocks. She's a famed author in her native country and most of the Iranian intellegentsia returned to Iran in the 90s during the Democratization Period after a reverse brain drain.
Googoosh, A Very
Famous Iranian Singer
Iran's folk, ceremonial, and popular songs might be considered "vernacular" in the sense that they are known and appreciated by a major part of the society (as opposed to the art music, which caters for the most part to more elite social classes). The variance of the folk music of Iran has often been stressed, in accordance to the cultural diversity of the country's local and ethnic groups. Iranian folk songs are categorized in various themes, including those of historical, social, religious, and nostalgic contexts. There are also folk songs that apply to particular occasions, such as weddings and harvests, as well as lullabies, children's songs, and riddles. They were promoted by the regime over regular pop music which once dominated the airwaves of Iranian radios.
Following the emergence of radio, under the reign of the Qajar dynasty, a form of popular music was formed and began to develop in Iran. Later, the arrival of new western influences, such as the use of the guitar and other western instruments, marked a turning point in Iran's popular music by the 1950s. Iranian pop music is commonly performed by vocalists who are accompanied with elaborate ensembles, often using a combination of both indigenous Iranian and European instruments. Some of Iran's classical pop artists include Andy, Aref, Dariush, Ebi, Faramarz Aslani, Farhad, Fereydun Farrokhzad, Giti Pashaei, Googoosh, Hassan Shamaizadeh, Haydeh, Homeyra, Leila Forouhar, Mahasti, Nooshafarin, Parviz Maghsadi, Ramesh, Shahram Shabpareh, and Varoujan. Most of these singers returned to Iran in the 90s after the political situation in the country stabilized and Democratization efforts began in earnest. (Source: Wikipedia, 2020)
National Statistics of the Iranian Economy (1980):
Economic Growth Rate: 3.6%
GDP PPP: $654.500 billion
GDP Per Capita (PPP): $10,360
GDP PPP Standing: 20th Largest World Economy
Inflation Rates: 20%
Tax Rates: 13.9%
Poverty Line: 40-55%
Gini: 58.2 (Downward Decrease)
Privatization: 60% state-firms privatized
A Flourishing Tehran in the Late 80s
Even before the Revolution, Iran remains one of the largest economies in the Middle East driven by large oil exports to fuel industrialization and modernization efforts. The economy under the Shah was a free market with governmental interventions to drive the economy forward however, it has one of the region's highest economic inequality at the time. Once having the fastest economic growth in the Middle East; the Revolution paralyzed the entire Iranian economy and stunted growth for a while. The country's oil production dropped amidst massive strikes and Khomeini's economic policy of mass nationalization saw 80% of the country's economy falling under government-control with a centrally-planned economy. Producing short-term growth yet at the risk of increasing government deficit and growing inflation. Stringent price controls and a fixed currency rate was instated. Entire oil companies were nationalized while the entire country was sanctioned to hell.
However everything changed when the military took over, for better or worse. The military interim government set out to right the wrong in the post-revolutionary Iranian economy and changed Khomeini's economic policies. The country more or less attempted to enact reforms on the advice of the IMF in order to combat hyperinflation rates reaching to 500% and oil shortages in an petroleum-rich country. At the cost of public support; price controls were loosened, the government adopted a fluctuating currency rate as well as increasing the value of the Iranian Rial. Inflation was then drastically cut to 18% by 1986. Unemployment rates grew while market prices were becoming expensive for a while. Industries like consumer goods manufacture fell under public-ownership. Inspired by the likes of French dirigisme and the American New Deal; the government began directing the free market through state intervention and protectionist trade laws for certain sectors of the economy. Measures of social welfare driven by oil revenues were instated such as socialized healthcare for the elderly and disabled, social security and safety net, free public education until high school, and nothing more than that.
The Paykan, Iran's First Domestically
The economy of Iran is a mixed economy where free and public enterprises are allowed to thrive with governmental support while those that do not perform so well will be propped up by the government. The Iranian government has successfully assured many Western and Oriental investors to keep pouring investments into the country by relaxing trade laws and attempting to stabilize the country's economic situation. There are many construction sites and property in Iran leading to the military government proudly proclaiming "The Iran of today is a construction site". The government also intervene in sectors in the Iranian economy that the free market are unwilling or incapable of managing. While the free market controls light industry, consumer goods, craftsmaking, and much more local and lighter business ventures; the Iranian government has the arms industry, oil companies, and heavy industries under state control. Though widespread corruption has substantially undermined the efforts of the free market.
In the spirit of the New Deal; the government began embarking on a policy of public work programs with the aim of minimizing unemployment rates and the disparate infrastructure of the country. Embarking on a policy of equalized development away from Tehran; hydroelectric dams, oil refineries, steel mills, and factories in regions such as Tabriz, Isfahan, Khuzestan, and much more. In order to avoid a middle-income trap; Iran began steering clear from oil exports in order to minimize dependence on oil by entering into other ventures. The government began developing human capital, investing into the service and scientific sector, and embarking on an industrialization program funded by oil revenues where car manufacturing companies such as Khodro and SAIPA were given governmental support. The country proclaimed its intentions to "reduce an oil dependence of 90% to 65% and the creation of a resilient as well as technologically advanced nation".
Agriculture in Iran
However the Iran of today remains a very rural and backward country where 80% of its citizens live in the countryside where conditions are said to be Middle Age-like. A contrast to the bustling cosmopolitan urban cities; the countryside is quiet and agricultural-driven where traditional methods of subsistence farming still persists as well as backward land-ownership laws where much of the country's agricultural lands are held by the absentee, land-owning clergy. A high unemployment and economic inequality rate is one of the major factors as to why the Revolution happened in the first place. Due to the backward conditions and few economic opportunities in the countryside; many in the countryside move to the city in search of opportunities where they congregate around slums. Iranian society is very mobile in that people can climb through the socio-economic ladder. The government has so far encouraged rural migration to the cities where they would be given vocational training and now paid more attention to the Iranian countryside.
Measures which include; legalizing trade unions albeit under heavy governmental control, agricultural subsidies, buying up land from the land-owning clergy and divide them for landless peasants, medium-scale land-reforms, training farmers to utilize machinery like tractors and new methods of farming, and introducing workers' self-management in a number of Iranian workplaces in order to lessen workers' alienation and win support from rural farmers without alienating the clergy.
National Statistics of Iranian Society (1980):
Demographics: Persian (66%), Azeri (18%), Kurdish (10%), Arab (2%), Balochi (2%) and others (Armenian, Georgian, Circassian, Assyrian, etc.) (2%)
Religion: Shia Islam (99.4%), Christians (0.5%), Jews (0.2%), and Zoroastrians (0.1%)
Birth Rate: 44.4
Death Rate: 16.9
Infant Mortality Rate: 92.2
Total Fertility Rate: 6.54
HDI: 56.2 (Upward Increase)
Largest Age Demographic: 20 - 29
Literacy Rate: 58%
Life Expectancy: 67 years
Iran is a diverse multi ethnic society with varying ethnicity and languages that all contribute to Iran's rich culture. Many years of imperial conquests and immigration have changed the cultural landscape of Iran throughout the years. There's not only Persians. There are Azeris and other Turkic groups, Kurds, Baluchs, Arabs and a few Armenians, Assyrians, Cricassians, and Georgians. It is important to note that, with some minor exceptions, all ethnic groups living in Iran, whatever their background or primary language, identify strongly with the major features of Iranian culture and civilization. This also applies to many non-Iranians living in Afghanistan, Central Asia, northern India, and parts of Iraq and the Persian Gulf region. Farsi is the national language of Iran and is effectively the lingua franca of the country. Shia Twelver Islam is the majority religion of the country with 99.4% of the populace being Shi'ites. Iran has a conflicted national identity as it struggles to reconciliate between its Pre-Islamic, Achaemenid identity with their identity as Shia Muslims. These two have conflicted with each other which manifested in the lavish 2,500 celebration of the Persian Empire by the Shah and the Islamic Revolution spearheaded by Shia clerics.
Kurdish Iranian Villagers
Peculiarly, little to modest ethnic tensions exists in Iran but all of it aren't well-pronounced if subtle. Kurds, Baluchs, Arabs, and Azeris all have a bone to pick with the Iranian government. No matter it's the Shah, Khomeini, or the Gang of Four. Rebel factions such as the KDPI and Komala only desire political autonomy while a minority of Ahwaz and Baluch rebels demand nothing but total independence. To counter-act this, the government began promoting a brand of civic Iranian nationalism that would encompass all ethnic groups in addition to granting Kurdistan some measures of political autonomy to "test the waters" in return for the KDPI's assistance in the Nojeh coup. Then in the south and southwest, there exists nomadic tribal groups which migrate from place to place in spite of the previous Shah's administration sedentary policies. Though these nomads pose little threat; the fact that their migratory natures makes them difficult to control has been a thorn on the government's side. It wasn't until 1989 that the government "gave up" in its sedentary policy.
Iran remains a very rural (backward) society if one were to traverse outside Tehran. In the vast open deserts and mountains, rural and traditional-minded Iranians tend to the land and their lifestock with little interference from the state. Iranians value nature and they are very outgoing people as well as very kind and charitable. This laid-back attitude permeates Iranian society which transcends ethnicity and ideology. Because Iran is largely a desert, however, the ideal open space is a culturally constructed space—a garden. At the same time Iranians will try to bring the outdoors inside whenever possible. The wonderfully intricate carpets that every family strives to own are miniature gardens replete with flower and animal designs. Fresh fruit and flowers are a part of every entertainment, and nature and gardens are central themes in literature and poetry. An Iranian's person home often has two rooms where there are little furniture but carpets for Iranian families to lounge as well as a furnished living room to entertain guests at such a tight space. Traditional buildings from old neighborhoods are prevalent if at danger from current urbanization and economic growth as tasteless Western-style apartments began springing up in the cities
Traditional Iranian Bread Store
Iranian Social Class
Iranian social mobility is very mobile and its stratification peculiar. Where displays of wealth and opulence matter little in the country where clerics in rags are highly revered and modesty is extolled. Clever youths from poor backgrounds may educate themselves, attach themselves to persons of power and authority, and rise quickly in status and wealth. Family connections help here, and hypergamy (marriage into a higher class) for both men and women is very important. Shia clerics are a good example of this as many rose to prominence through informal acknowledgement by their peers and connectability with the masses. The Bazaaris are another peculiar class in Iran. They are merchants who sell goods at "bazaars" in traditional parts of a town or city. They are very religious which puts in alignment with the Shia clergy as they were the backbone of the Islamic Revolution. After the coup, the bazaari merchants have mostly retreated back to their stores and are now politically apathetic after the political emasculation of the Mullahs.
A Teenager of the "Burnt Generation"
A Generation Lost to Revolutions and War
Iranian society is a society which somewhat tolerates political malpractice such as corruption where corruption is prevalent in the Iranian civil service as well as political apathy in a period where the government is attempting to democratize itself. A fact now accepted by a majority of Iranians as the country has weak democratic institutions for now. Before the coup and during the euphoria of the Revolution; Iranians were some of the most politically vocal and mobilized people on the world when their joint struggle overthrew the Shah. Especially the youths who were the most enthusiastic in joining revolutionary groups. When the Shah proved inadequate in addressing the economic recession and inequality, they turned to Mullahs and other revolutionaries for new political directions. However the cut-throat and authoritarian nature of their once-revered spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, in purging his former political allies made a majority of Iranians disillusioned and distrustful of political figures.
The NEQAB coup in 1980 was a shock for Iranians and they struggled in coming to terms with the new political establishment under the Gang of Four. Many accepted it with great antipathy while the most zealous of Khomeinists retreated to the mountains to resists. For Iranian youths whose entire idealism were destroyed by the Mordad Coup, the Iranian Revolution then the Iran-Iraq War; they have no higher authority they could trust. One thing for certain is that Iranians are now aimless and the Gang of Four have to lead them like shepherds. The youths who once pledged allegiance to Khomeini now serve the new state and many Iranians are now reluctant in waging any more political revolutions lest they would bring a man like Khomeini to power again.
An Iranian Feminist Protest for Equal Pay
and the Present Social Divide Between Women
Urban - Rural Class Divide
Contrary to the images you've seen in old Iranian photos during the Shah era; these modern photos which claims to represent an once progressive era of Iran only represents a minority of the country's population of urban, Westernized, upper-middle class Iranians in Tehran. The fact of the matter is, the country remains very traditional if backwards by Western standards with around 80% of the population being rural. Economic inequality and unequal development are the cause for this great social divide between middle-class urbanites and rural countryside peasants. The middle-class urbanites have benefited well from many of the Shah's economic policies while rural peasants continue to live in such squalid Middle-Age conditions due to negligence. With the Shah's land reforms targeting the clergy being the straw that broke the camel's back. The middle-class urbanites could send their kids to international schools while many children of rural peasants are educated in madrasahs where Quranic teaching is considered satisfactory. The new government seeks to bridge this gap by undertaking social welfare policies as well as combating illiteracy.
In terms of women's rights and progress; Iran is far from being a progressive modern nation by European standards and old traditions persist in the country. Women are expected to dress and act modestly while men make way for them and are expected not to be intimate. Under today's material conditions; women have begun to pick up carers and their representation in academia, politics and science have increased to make up the intellgentsia purge that Khomeini had initiated. Literacy rates has risen among women. They are evenly split between those who do not wear the veil as a status of their Western-oriented mindset and those who do as a testament to their religiosity. Many veiled women protested against the government's decision to ban the veil in workspaces. Women's rights in the country is tied to family as family matters the most in Iranian society. There's some sort of peer and familial pressure in how women conduct themselves with arranged marriages and wearing the chador being prevalent. However this informal pressure gave rise to a feminist movement in the country which aims to question much of Iranian society's perception of female-hood and to pressure the current government to enact a gender-equal wage law into effect. In 1981, the government repealed nearly all of repressive laws on women's rights such as permission from husband, female genital mutilation, honor killing, marital rape, favoring women in divorce settlements, and so much more.
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Goodbye old chap,