Talking Politics: A Village Widow in Iran

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Book Chapter

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In 1978, Iran was wavering on the brink of change. An agricultural and trading nation, Iran was modernizing. Using oil revenues, the monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, had built up the military, governmental bureaucracy, and educational and health systems. Although standards of living were rising, the regime failed to liberalize the political system. People who spoke out against the government faced severe punishment. In 1978, resentment was growing and Shi'a Muslim leaders and organizations began coordinating revolutionary activities. Under the umbrella of Shi'a Muslim symbolism, rituals, and institutions, diverse groups successfully cooperated to overthrow the Pahlavi government. Ayatollah Khomeini, the central resistance spokesman, returned from exile in France, and the Pahlavi regime fell on February 11, 1979. As revolutionary forces had operated under the aegis of Shi' a- Muslim clerics, these religious figures enjoyed a superior position in the ensuing political climate. Although Iranians voted for an Islamic Republic form of government, many who had supported the revolution did not support clerics' monopolization of power and their imposition of their own values on the lives of all Iranians, including severe restrictions on clothing and spheres of action for women.

Chapter of

Personal Encounters: A Reader in Cultural Anthropology


Linda S. Walbridge
April K. Sievert

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