Master thesis

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o Ikke kun for Iran. Signaler at du ved hvordan man forholder sig til begreber One should not accept simple dichotomies such as modern-traditional, and that certainly also holds true when speaking about the Iranian society today or in the past. On account of this dichotomy class relation­ships are often neglected (Fischer 1980). Fischer points out that there exists differ­ent socio-relig­ious strata, and divides the scene in three: lower, middle, and upper class. Each of these have their distinct understanding of Islam and of the role of religion. Although no accurate estimate of class structure in pre-revolution Iran is avail­able, the published scho­larly works point to the existence of several classes (Moaddel 1991, p.317). In the following I use Kamrava's (1990) typical dis­tinction of five broad economic classes, namely 1) rural peasants and tribal masses, 2) the urban-based working class, 3) the petite bour­geoisie, 4) the bourgeoisie, which was also inclusive of the Bâzâri mer­chants, and 5) an upper class that included tribal chieftains, urban-based landed magnates, wealthy mer­chants and businessmen, factory owners and indus­trialists, and the Crown (Kamrava 1990; p.102).
Rural Inhabitants

Before the Revolution the rural inhabitants made up the majority of the popula­tion (53%, 1976 census). In 1991 it was estimated that 56 percent of the population lived in urban areas, 43 percent in rural areas, and one percent were nomadic (UNICEF; Master Plan of Operations 1993-1997, Tehran, November 1992, p.2). In Iran, as elsewhere, peasants have always been regarded as an "awkward class" (Shanin cit. in Worsley 1984; p.70). Awkward, because despite all their heterogeneity, many of the categories grouped under the umbrella-term 'peasant' do neverthe­less seem to have something in common. In Iran, as elsewhere, development has been/is (especially before the Revol­ution) simply equated with urban industrial life, while underdevelop­ment, culturally, socially as well as economically, has been/is equated with an agricultural existence (Worsley 1984; p.70). Rural inhabitants is however not to be grouped together as one class. Several groups exist in the rural areas which live off non-agricultural activities7.

Peasants did not feel the great changes that were initiated from Tehran, and were as such not involved in nation­al politics (Kamrava 1990; p.103-104). The greatest social transformation which peasants underwent took place under the "White Revolution". This reform programme had central importance in the reconstruc­tion of the Iranian society. First of all, more than half of Iran's population lived in the countryside at the time of this reform, and thus under its consequences. Secondly, the Shâh made this reform a symbol for his caring for the Iranian people, and thirdly it was the state's most important means of transforming the rural economy into a capitalistic one, and thereby also a capitalistic class struc­ture (Halliday 1979; p.99). The White Revolution was a six point "reform" pro­gramme launched on 6 January in 19628. The land reform was without doubt the most important component.

In the land reform limita­tions were placed on landownership of one villa­ge9, the compensa­tion to be paid to landlords was tied to their tax returns, lands were to be transferred to peasants already working those fields, and the holding of land was restricted to people who were members of local co-operatives. The reform increased the Shâh's power in the countryside. It did so partly by reducing the traditional power of the big landlords, and partly by increasing the presence and authority of the state bureaucracy in villages. By encourag­ing landlords to invest their compensation funds in urban development and industry, the Shâh gave them an increasing stake in the capitalist development of Iran. The reform hit not only large landow­ners, but also millions of peasants that previously had survi­ved by complement­ing their produce with seasonal day labouring. Now many of them migrated to the cities from where the future looked brighter, even though they there had to settle in slum-areas (Hiro 1985, pp.42-48, Chri­stensen 1989, pp.10-12, Greaves 1977, pp.83-86, Herz 1964, pp.2-3).

Before the land reform, the peasants suffered from almost complete economic and social dependency on the absentee landlords. The peasants' economic burdens and their reliance on the landlords for their livelihood allowed the landlords to demand and dictate all forms of political action. During and after the reform attempts were made to politicize the peasants (as a result of the governments effort to gain their support against the landlords)10. These attempts were unsuccess­ful, and the only difference between voting before and after the land ­reform was that in the first instance it was dictated by the absentee landlord, in the other it was ordered by the government (Kazemi 1980; p.70). Hence, their attitudes and views about politics were predicated in the absence of any strong sense of political efficacy.
The Working class

The working class was a product of the industrializ­ation of the country's infrastructure, which had resulted in the develop­ment of an interdependent system of a few primary cities in which political life, social acculturation, and economic mobility were concentrated. By-products of this development were shanty-towns in the periphery of urban centres, the growth of newly developed economic classes (e.g. the landless, unem­ployed, and unskilled labourer), and subsequent alterations in social patterns of power relations. While the working class itself was a product of social change, it was alienated from the cultural and normative alterations that had resulted from industrialization and Westernization (Kamrava 1990; p.110-11). Alter­ations that were to become symbols of a corrupt regime11.

The growth of the working class was speeded up, as mentioned, by the 1962 Land Reform, which acted as a catalyst for the rural-urban migration, but it was in the 1970s that this process gained momentum. Many of the unskilled labourers in the cities are in reality just peasants that have been relocated, and they did not become more political active because of this relocation (Cottam 1964; pp.133-150). In discussing the political importance of the migrants, one can say that they brought with them village views and attitudes about politics and its seeming irrelevance to their daily lives. They were facing harsh real­ities when they arrived in the city, such as finding employ­ment, accommodation, adjusting to urban culture, and assimilat­ing into the urban mainstream. Their situation did not improve when the country's economic growth in 1973-75 came to a halt in 1975 and continued its reverse trend all through to the Revol­ution. They were painful­ly aware of their own economically and culturally disadvantage­ous circum­stances, and it was thus the rural immigrants, Kamrava argues, who were readily taken by the revolutio­naries' ethos (ibid; p.106-7). Cottam suggests that the clerical class played an important role in advising and leading the illiterate peasants who were unaware of their own political situation and thus politi­cally inactive. In the same way were the clerics also able to mobilize the labour­ers12 (Cottam 1964; pp.133-150).

As for the validity of these observations for the 1979-Revolution there are some reservations. Loeffler (1988), in a more recent study (his material was collected in 1971 and 1976) shows that peasants do not harbour much confidence in the clerical class as such. This might, however, have changed after they have settled in the cities. Mr. Kazemi does not agree with the belief in migrant radica­lism, either. Rather, he says, is the radical action in the domain of traditional and city-born residents, such as arti­sans, tradesmen, people from the bâzâr, and factory wor­kers13 (Kazemi 1980; p.82).

Professor Ali Banuazizi has given Kazemi a life story of a Tehranian squatter family in 1974, prepared by himself, when he was a member of a team affiliated with the Institute of Social Research at Tehran University. In this lifestory the importance of the hay'at and Emâm Hosain is specifically expressed, both for the squatter family and for the unity of the migrants ("Nothing brings us together more than the love for Emâm Hosain. My personal view is that these hay'ats have a positive aspect in uniting us and keeping us informed about each other's affairs") (ibid; p.126). Since the hay'at is founded around religious themes, one should think that the observations of Cottam concerning clerical leadership to a large degree is still valid, and that Kazemi has overlooked these statements in his material.

The Middle Class

Many characteristic are the same for the middle class and for the intelligentsia. Both are a result of the modernisation policies of Rezâ Shâh, and both experienced an increasing frustration with the political realities, the political powerlessness, in the country in the decades up to the Revolution. I will, however, describe them in two different chapters, seeing as Iranians generally consider the highly educated group separately from the commer­cial elements.

The middle class can be differentiated into segments defined in relation to their economic posi­tion in production relation as well as to the degree that they were affected by social change. Socially there was a traditional and non-tradi­tional middle class, simply meaning that the former adhered to older values and cultural practices, while the latter was oriented towards more recent social trends. Economically there was the salaried middle class (petit bour­geoisie) and the upper middle class (bourgeoisie) comprising merchants, members of the professional intelligentsia, high-ranking bureaucrats and army officers. There were thus horizon­tal economic divisions as well as vertical social differenti­ations (ibid; p.111).

The traditional middle class included small property owners, bâzâr merchants, and most real estate dealers. Their status did not derive from the society's infrastructural changes. The non-traditional middle class was a direct result of social change, and its growth was in direct proportion with the acceleration of social change. Their private and public values were shaped or deeply influenced by the Westernization of the country's infrastructure. Religion was for them a highly private matter, and they did not pay attention to observe the prescribed rituals of religion. Their whole orientation was towards the West (ibid; p.112-13).

With the Shâh's regime organized around a network of patronage relations, "political immaturity" and the lack of ideological commitment came to be a significant characteristic of the dominant classes, including intellectuals and the non-traditional middle class. The culture of the power elite "was essentially one of idleness." They "were ignorant of Persian culture and the living conditions of the traditional strata and the masses of villa­gers, urban poor, and rural migrants" (Ashraf 1994; p.106). Moreover, they were "suffering from a profound malaise, from lack of conviction in what they were doing, from doubts whether the regime deserved to endure" (Herz 1964; p.7).
The Intelligentsiao Det komplekse mangler. Kan gøres bedre. Får fra begyndelsen af århundredet 'tømmermænd'. Brug en anden kilde end Cottam. Skriv mere sofistikeret.

In Iran one refers to the most highly educated groups, including almost the entire professional call, when one speaks about the intelligentsia (Cottam 1964; pp.130-150). As a group they came into existence in the 19th century when the Shâh had sent Iranians students to Europe, invited foreign instruc­tors to Iran, and thereby opened the country to European ideas.

The process of intellectual and cultural alienation reached its climax in the 1960s with the emergence of a new Westernized intelligentsia that boasted about its contempt for and ignorance of religion and traditional Persian culture14. It was to a large extent due to the White Revolution that a segment of this group, many of whom were educated in Western universities, replaced the old-guard political elites (Ashraf 1994; p.105).

It was in this atmosphere that the famous writer Jalâl _l-e Ahmad wrote his influential book "Gharbzadegi" (a term he coined in order to describe this phenomena, literally meaning "West Struckness", but often, more correctly, translated as 'Westoxica­tion') (Jalâl _l-e Ahmad 1341/1962: "Gharb Zadegi"). Also the influential sociologist and Islamic ideologist Dr. Ali Shari'­ati urged Iranians to "return to their own selves." (see also Donohue 1992; p.305). These two intellec­tuals were well acquainted with Western norms of democracy and government, but did not find these norms realized under the Shâh's regime. They furthermore saw in the tradi­tional Iranian culture elements which should not be given up. Their thoughts were very influential as they were nearly universally accepted by all groups, leftist as well as Islamic, which found themselves in opposition to the Shâh's regime.
The Upper Class

The upper class comprised three sub-groups. 1) The non-landed aristocracy based in urban centres (bankers, merchants, army generals, cabinet ministers, financiers, and industrial­ists), 2) tribal chiefs and 3) the Crown. Like the middle class one segment of the upper class benefitted directly from the pro­cesses of social change, and like the non-traditional segment of the middle class they adhered to Western norms and values. The traditional upper class consisted of the landed aristocracy, tribal chiefs and khâns, and the Crown. The Crown stood as the ultimate modern­izing force in the country and had done so since the establish­ment of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925 (Kamrava 1990; p.114-15). In their opinion, everything "tradi­tional" about Iran and the Iranian culture, except the concept and the institution of monarchy, was to be dis­carded as out­dated and obsolete regardless of its merits or substance, and this objective was followed blindly and without any insight into its possible impact on the people. Through its deliberate and intense promotion of social change, Iran's monarchy delegi­timized itself, or rather, it fostered policies the results of which were explicitly contradictory to an authoritarian regime.Kan måske diskuteres. Se note i vejldng3-filen.
Motivations for the Revolution

New or dramatically changed social structures demand new ways of expressing identity and social relations. The overarching structure that Iranians fought against was the Pahlavi regime. The opposition gathered in a movement which for various reasons was Islamic. The religious aspect of any revolution was thus amplified by having the Revolution led by the mullahs. It can be a dramatic experience to participate in a social movement, and in a very short time sentiments of emptiness, loneliness and meaninglessness can be replaced by sentiments of identity with "the cause", which was in this occasion Islamic.

Kamrava concludes that city dwellers, regardless of their background and status, became socially and culturally disil­lusioned as they were for the most part unable or unwilling to conform to the often conflicting values that confronted them, and they thus gradually refused to accept a despotic political system.

There were three causes for the articulation and express­ion of anti-state antagonisms by Iranians, namely economic, political, and socio-culturally originated grievances (ibid; p.117-18). The Revolution accordingly can be said to be characterized by: 1) certain doctrinal trends that have permitted great involvement of the religious leadership in politics, 2) popular and dramaturgical elements of Shi'ism which relate to the social integration of the community, and 3) political expression and social action by individuals and organizations in reaction to structural changes in society, in a context where the respective interpretations of Shi'ism, corporate interests, and the public good have varied widely (Akhavi 1983; p. 219).Stort spørgsmålstegn til dette afsnit. Hvad mener jeg egentlig med det???

The Shâh boasted of having built a mass consumption society, and it is stated that "Iranians consumed without thinking and spent without counting." (Mozaffari 1988; p.113). The economic boom that made this possible came to a halt in the mid-1970s, and nat­urally lead to growing dissatis­faction. What was the use of satellite educa­tional programmes to villages which did not even have electric­ity, and what was the use of electrical suppli­ances when there was only a few hours of electricity every day, even in the capital? (ibid.; p.113-114). Mehdi Mozaf­fari formu­lates nicely (in a Danmarks Radio inter­view 1/2/1995) that Iranians had material abun­dance but demo­cratic scarcity.

These grievances finally came to an outpour with the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Discontinuation of the Nixon-Kissinger Doctrine15, international attention and pressure because of the brutalities of SAVAK, and falling oil prices after 1974, were all factors promoting the violent overthrow of the regime.

It is clear that the revolutionary dynamics set by Shi'i discourse characterised the Revolution. Another characteristic was the unanimity and harmony of the public in demanding the Shâh's expulsion. The regime was brought down by the largest protest demonstrations ever seen in human history (over two million on one occasion in Tehran, millions more in other cities) and probably the most prolonged and successful general strike in world history as well (Moaddel 1993; p.201).

In the first few years after the Revolution many factions were competing for power16, but in the end the Islamic Republican Party seized all power. A popular election was held on the 31 of March 1979 with the question "Shall Iran become an Islamic Republic? Yes or No?", and it was answered in the affirmative by more than ninety-five percents of the voters­17. The IRP then created an Assembly of Experts (August 1979), which was to draft a constitution. This constitution, including the concept of velâyat-e faqih (guardianship or government by an expert in Islamic law), was put on the referendum on the 2nd and 3rd of December 1979, and was accepted by a large majority.

The hostage taking from the American Embassy and the Iraq-Iran War also helped the IRP to consolidate its total power by providing the necessary excuses to hit hard down on all opposition.

A "Cultural Revolution" was launched in April 1980. It was a further expansion of the discursive field of revolutionary Islam toward the islamization of all aspects of social relationships. The goal was to eliminate all forms of cultural resistance to ulama rule. Universities and colleges were closed down for more than three years while curricula were rewritten. The liberals welcomed it, they saw it as a way to make the left totally impotent. The IRP, on the other hand, wanted to eliminate the liberals as well (Moaddel 1993; p.212-213).

Groups of intolerant Khomeini-supporters spread terror, and were to a high degree instrumental in forming the picture in the West of a wild and bloody post-revolutionary Iran. They called themselves "Party of God" (hezbollâh). Slogans such as: Hezb faqat hezbollâh, rahbar faqat Ruhollâh (the only party is hezbollâh, the only leader is Ruhollâh (Khomeini)), testified to their political fanaticism (ibid.; p.213). After May-day 1983 IRP had established itself as the only political party in Iran. All opposition had systematically been eradicated18.

Today the terror of Hezbollâh has been dovetailed considerably19, but there exists no opposition to the ruling regime. Much political discussion is taking place in medias and in parliament, but there are no discussion of the basic framework, which is Shi'a Islam.

Skrevet som i dag. Skriv mere historisk.

Mehdi Mozaffari: Authority in Islam, 1987.

Historicitet skal fremgå tydeligere.

Hvem sætter dagsorden, hvem tolker historien.

Forskelle mellem Shia og Sunni ritualer ikke stor, men tillagt betydning er forskellig.


After the establishment of an Islamic Republic in Iran, the importance of the religion in the society has sudden­ly been highlighted. Religion does play a large role in forming the identity of Iranians, in one way or other. Therefore I feel it is imperative to make some points concern­ing Shi'a Islam.

Doktrinære forskelle kommer efter Kerbalâ.

Religionen har ikke været standardiseret. - autoritet.


As opposed to orthodox, or Sunni Muslims, Shi'a Muslims attach great import­ance to Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, and his de­scend­ants. Today Iran is the only country where Shi'ism is the official religion. Shi'ism, though not in origin a Persian movement, was given a Persian colouring by the myth that Hosain, the younger son of Ali, had married a daughter of the last Sâssanid king, Yazdegerd III. When Hosain was slain by the troops of the Umayyad caliph Yazid (reigned 680-683), the movement acquired a martyr figure. The importance granted this aspect of Shi'ite belief is indicative of the historical strength of Iranian particularism. In addition, the very adherence to a sect that was not dominant in Islam prob­ably reinforced the Iranians' feeling of independence (Cottam 1964; p.134).

A fundamental political and legal difference between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims is the Shi'i doctrine of the imamate vs. the Sunni caliphate. In Sunni Islam the caliph is the selected/elected successor of the Prophet. He succeeded to political and mili­tary leadership of the community but had only limited religious status. For the Shi'a, in con­trast, leader­ship is vested in the Emâm (leader) who must be a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad and Ali, the first Emâm. Moreover, he is the divinely inspired religio-political leader and serves both as the community's political leader and the final auth­oritative interpreter of God's Will, Islamic law (Esposito 1987, p.11). It must be emphasised that the doctrinaire differ­ences between Shi'a and Sunni are developed after Hosain's death at Kerbalâ, and that they never stood as clearly dogma­tized religions before that.

It is often claimed that the adoption, at first at the popular level, of the Ethna Ashari ("Twelver") form of Shi'a Islam was of special import­ance in the preservation of Persian identity. It was under the Safavid dynasty in 1501 that Shi'a Islam was made the state religion in Iran. Before 1501 the religious situation in Iran was one of multiple Islamic groups, Shi'ites dominant here and there, the four Sunni schools dominant in most places, with cities fractionalized between these several groups and loyalties shifting from time to time (Fisch­er 1980; p.28). Shâh Isma'il Safavi, the first Safavid ruler, upon seizing power, proclaimed Shi'ism to be the state religion. For the Safavid dynasty Shi'ism came to mean that they could counter the Sunni Ottoman empire to the West and that they could unify their own state internally. It is said that Shâh Isma'il did not know much about the orthodox Shi'a tradi­tion he was raising to dominance, and that he therefore invited Shi'a ulama from what is today Lebanon and Southern Iraq. Theological colleges were endowed for these ulamas, and some were given posts within the state organisation. At the same time Sunnis, Sufis, and non-Muslims were persecuted (ibid; p.29).

Not everybody agrees on the connection between Iran and Shi'ism. Vaziri thus argues that the con­nection between Iran and Shi'ism is an anachronism produced by the Consti­tu­tional Revolution (1905-06). Many religious conflicts attest to this and to a weak state-power. Pogroms of the Armeni­ans, the Sufis, the Sunnis, Jews and Zoroastrians, who are all living on Iranian territory is an in­dication of this. These conflicts posed a strain to create and maintain a common national cons­ciousness. Another strain was the diversity of ethnic-lingual groupings as well as the heterogeneity of tribal cultural ties. This connec­tion in a national context was first obser­ved by the European travellers and later by scholars. Vaziri argues that we should be ex­tremely cautious in accepting the connection. Shi'as had better relations with their fellow Iraqi Shi'as than with their non-Shi'a neighbours at home (Vaziri 1993; pp.171-172).

To this three objections arise, as far as I can see. Firstly it might be said that the historical connection has been established in the course of nearly 500 years. Secondly it should be mentioned that Armenians, Zoroastrians and other minorities feel that this their minority identity takes preced­ence over their identity as Iranians. Thirdly it must be concluded that the vast majority of Iranians are Muslims (98.8%). 91% of the population are Shia Muslims, 7.8% are Sunni Muslims (Soufi 1991, p.25).
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