Master thesis

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The pre-Qajar part of this chronology is compiled basi­cally from Hillmann (1990; pp.7-13). He has a very detailed chronolo­gy, especially including literary events.


1000+ bc.

600 bc.









212 AD.
























1963, June



Oct. 1980-

Oct. 1988




Aug. 1990

Oct. 1990

Oct. 1992

Sep. 1993


Medes and Persians enter the Iranian region.

Persian vassal state to the Medean empire. Con­cept of "Kings of Kings" (shâhanshâh). Zoroaster (between 1000 and 600) and Zoroastrianism.

Reign of Cyrus 'The Great' begins the Achaemen­id Empire

Reign of Cambyses.

Reign of Darius. Construction at Persepolis begins. Invasion of Greece, battle of Marathon. Reign of Xerxes

Alexander the Great destroys Persepolis and ends the Achemenid empire.

Alexander dies, and Iran is divided among Greek generals.

Seleucid dynasty

Arcasid Dynasty and Parthian state. Zoroastrianism as a state religion.

Inhabitants of Pârs rebel against the Par­thians.
Sâsânid empire
Mohammad and his followers leave Mecca for Medina.

Moslem Arab occupation of the Iranian region.

Hossein (3rd Shia Emâm) is martyred at Kerbalâ.
'Abbâsid Caliphate.

Autonomous regional dynasties in Iran: Saffâ­rids, Tâherids, Sâmânids and Ziyârids.

Disappearance of the twelfth and last Shi'i Emâm.
Mongols (Jenghis Khân) invade Iran. Mowlânâ (Rumi) (1207 - 127­3­), the premier Sufi poet.

Hulegu Khân captures Baghdad and ends the Cali­phate. Il-Khânid dynasty rules Iran.

Tamerlane invades the Persian Plateau. Hâfez (c.1214-c.1290), the premier lyric poet in Ira­nian history.
SAFAVID dynasty, 12. Shi'ism becomes state re­ligion
Shâh Abbas I
Afghans invade Iran (Mahmoud)
Reign of Nâder Shâh (Il-Khâni)

Nâder Shâh is killed.

Reign of Karim Khân Zand.

War between the Zand and Qajar facti­ons.

QAJAR-DYNAST Aghâ Mohammad Khân Qa­jars is crowned Shâhan­shâh in the new capital Tehran.

Iran's first newspaper.

A Western-style secondary school opens in Teh­ran.
Tobacco concession and Talbot monopoly. Suc­cessful boycott of the concession. The conces­sion given to the British gave them monopoly on the growing, selling and export of tobacco. The mullas showed their strength. The mojtahed Shi­râzi gave a fatwa making illegal the use of tobacco.

The widespread use of concession as a means of getting cash, together with incompetence, cor­ruption, political press and economic control from foreign powers, and contact with new ideas via education in Europe led to the creation of a movement for a constitution.

The Constitutional Revolution.
Reign of Mohammad Ali Shâh. He closed the maj­les in 1908.

Anglo-Persian Oil Company produces oil.

Turkey invades Iran, as do England and Russia later.

Anglo-Persian Treaty. A convention which nearly made Iran a British protectorate.

Rezâ Khân executes a coup d'état. The Shi'i the­ologian Hâ'eri moves to Qom and stimulates its emergence as a centre for Shi's lear­ning.

Rezâ Khân enthrones himself and takes the name Rezâ Shâh Pahlavi

Construction of trans-Iranian railroad begins.

Foreign states are directed henceforth to refer to the country as 'Irân'.

Allied occupation of Iran and abdication of Rezâ Pahlavi in favour of his son, Mohammad Rezâ Pahlavi. The reason for the abdication was Anglo-Russian pressure to expel Germans. The Tudeh-party is founded.

Premiership of Mohammad Mosaddeq (1880-1967) begins. Oil nationalization law.

USA-organized coup d'état precipitates Mosad­deq's fall.

Al-e Ahmad publishes Gharbzadegi (Westomania).

The White Revolution is promulgated. The White Revolution was not just a land-reform, but also un-Islamic curtailment of religious property-rights, enfranchement for women, and the sell­ing of oil to Israel

Revolts against the regime led by Ulama. Kho­meini is expelled to Irâq.

Oil prices rise dramatically.

The social reformer Dr. Ali Shari'ati dies in England.


Shâh flees Iran, and Khomeini returns in tri­umph ot establish Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iraq-Iran war.

Sâ'edi escapes from Iran.

UNESCO and Iran celebrate "The Year of Hâfez".

Khomeini dies in Tehran.

Relations to Iraq are improved.

Diplomatic relations are reestablished.

Start of my internship in Tehran.

Return to Allerød.

The transliteration of Persian into English in this paper is a simplified system, chosen partly to keep maximum clarity of pronunciation without any diacriticals. Consonants are as pronounced and generally follow the system adopted by the International Journal of Middle East Studies, but without any diacriticals. Short vowels are represented by a, e, and o; long vowels by â, i, and u. Diphthongs by ai, ei or au. Ain and hamzeh are indicated by an apostrophe; but this is not always followed, as in the case of proper names which have become common to readers (Ali rather than 'Ali, Iran rather than Irân, Tehran rather than Tehrân, etc.). All voiced s-sounds are written "z", unvoiced s-sounds are written "s". Qâf is written q (rather than gh which is instead written for ghein ['ein nukteh dâr]). Arabic definite articles in names and personal titles are written al- or ol-, except for assimilated endings which then are written as pro­nounced (od-Dauleh, os-Saltaneh, etc.). Words which have essentially entered into English usage, such as ulama and mullah, are not italicized.

1  Statistics and most dates in this chapter are taken from Soufi 1991, pp.96-100.

2  (b.1742-d.1797) Founder and first ruler of the Qâjâr dynasty of Iran which reunified Iran in 1796 and survived until 1925.

3  Now pipe-lines for natural gas are being laid. Many residential areas are already using natural gas rather than kerosene. The result is that the air quality has improved considerably (it must have been inordinately bad, because it is still extremely poor).

4  There is much discussion concerning the term "Emâm" when it is used about Ayatollah Khomeini. It is not my impression that anybody takes it literally, as many oppo­nents claim, which would imply that the 12th Emâm has returned from occultation in order to bring about the perfect society. Rather it is used as a sign of respect, or in the form of nâyeb-e Emâm (The Emâm's Representative) (See also Hamid Algar (1980) for an elaboration of this point).

5  The Mostaza'fin was a key concept in Khomeini's view of society. After 1970 he depicted society as sharply divided into two warring classes (tabaqât). We thus have:

1-the oppressed vs. oppressors (mostaza'fin vs. mostakbe­rin),

2-the poor vs. the rich (foqarâ vs. servatmandân),

3-the op­pressed nation vs. Satan's government (mellat-e mosta­zaf vs. hokumat-e shaytân),

4-slum dwellers vs. palace dwellers (zâgheh-neshinhâ vs. kâkh-neshinhâ),

lower class vs. upper class (tabaqeh-ye pâin vs. tabaqeh-ye bâlâ) and

5-the needy class vs. the aristo­cratic class (tabaqeh-ye mostam­dân vs. tabaqeh-ye a'yân).

Abrahamian notes a trans­formation of the meaning of the term mosta­za'fin. It went from the Qorânic sense of the "hum­ble" and passive "meek" believers, especially orphans, widows and the mentally impaired to a notion of the angry poor, the "exploi­ted" people, and the down­trodden masses. After the revolution the term was gradu­ally broadened to bring in the propertied middle class, which actively supported the new order (Abrahami­an 1993; pp.26-27). A similar trans­formation can be traced for the concept of martyr­dom (shahid).

6  Incidently, after a long period where it would be unwise for the rich to show off their wealth, it now seems accepted to display one's wealth (cf. footnote no.25).

7  Of these can be mentioned: absentee land­lords, large-scale renters from above, often absentee, village offici­als, head-men (kad-khodâ), landlord's agents, field watchers, non-cultivating small owners, non-cultivating leasers of productive equipment, usually cattle, sometimes water, non-cultivating heads of work-teams, providing at least one instru­ment of production, etc. (Kamrava 1990; p.103).

8  The other points were: 1) nationa­liza­tion of fo­rests, 2) sale of state-owned industries to produce money for agricul­tural improvements, 3) worker partici­pa­tion in profit-sharing in industry, 4) revision of electoral laws (giving suffra­ge to women), 5) the formation of a literacy corps to tackle the depressing problems of educa­tion, and finally 6) the land reform.

9  It was not uncommon for large landowners to own whole villages. Susha Guppy's book "A Blindfold Horse: Memories of a Persian Childhood", Boston, Beacon, 1988, gives some excellent descriptions, albeit somewhat biased, since her father was such a landlord.

10  Peasants who received land were organized in various cooperative and organizational arrangements. Furthermore there was established various corps such as the Houses of Justice, Literacy and Health Corps, as well as other, similar agencies which were geared to make the peasants conscious supporters of the regime (Kazemi 1980; p.70).

11  Sousan Azadi's book "Out of Iran" gives, uninten­tion­ally, a good picture of the life and life-style of the upper-class. The absence of social awareness is very striking (S.Azadi: "Flugten fra Iran", Ekstra Bladets Forlag, 1987 (1992)).

12  Cottam additionally speaks about groups that was purchased to dif­ferent demon­strations, namely the châqu keshân (knife drawers). Thus it has been observed that workers have demon­strated for the commu­nists, for the royalists, and for the Mossadeqist National Front on suc­cessive days. Cottam does not, however, believe that all Iranian mobs have been purchased, and he adds that both the communists and the Mossadeq forces had genuine and widespread support from people who volunteered to enter the streets and do battle with their opposition. Thus it is most often the royal­ists and the rightist politicians who purchase the châqu keshân mobs (Cottam 1964; pp.133-150). People against the present regime often claims that the huge crowds demonstrating in favour of Khomeini likewise have "been bought". However, I have never seen this claim verified, and Willem M. Floor also concludes that "lutis were overshadowed by the genuine oppositional sentiments of the great number of people who participated in the demonstrations [against the Shah], and who were willing to risk their lives by doing so" (Floor 1981; p.95).

13  Kazemi advances several explanations for the migrant poor's noninvolvement in political protests which can be summarized thus: 1) Important socioeconomic preconditions for participation in politics are absent. 2) Like most groups that challenge a given political regime, they are guided by certain rational calculations of chances for success. 3) They tend to have limited aspirations. 4) They do not, as is normally assumed among scholars, have the sense of anomie, social isolation, and uprootedness, while they maintain an extensive network of communication with friends and relatives, and 5) the frustration-aggression theory of radicalism is not plausible, while there is no certainty that a frustrated migrants express their anger in political forms. Rather it can be expressed in an infinity variety of ways, often turned inward (wife-beating, alcohol, quarrel with neighbours, etc.) (Kazemi 1980; pp.82-84).

14  This trend was clear as far back as the 1920s when the theatre piece "Ja'far Khân az Farang _madeh" (Ja'far Khân has returned from abroad) by Hassan Moqaddam was premiered in Tehran's Grand Hotel's salon in 1922/23 (Christensen 1970; p.30). The one-act comedy is ridiculing a young man who has returned from France. He has completely forgotten his language, filling it with French words, and exhibiting French habits at the same time as he shows disrespect for the Iranian traditions (the story is printed in ibid; pp.78-113. It is also translated to Danish by Arthur Christensen: "To Komedier fra Kadjarernes Tid", Copenhagen, 1938).

15  The Nixon-Kissinger Doctrine was aimed at develo­ping regional middle powers under US auspices. Brazil, Ind­onesia, Zaire, and Iran were chosen for this purpose. Due to the Shâh's preoccupation with the 'Soviet threat', and with the omnipresence of commu­nist-inspired intrigue and conspiracy against his reign, he was more than eager to serve as the United States' 'middle power' in the region. Iran thus became the largest single recipient of US military hardware, loans, and other forms of assistance. Thus the Shâh in 1973 proudly declared that "We can get anything non-atomic that the U.S. has." (Kamrava 1990, pp.30-31).

16  The most important of these groups were:

1-The Ulamâ followers of Ayatollah Khomeini, who were organized in the Islamic Republican Party (IRP),

2-the Liberals, who predominantly were remnants of the National Front of the early 1950s, but also people like Bani-Sadr, Sâdeq Qotbzadeh, and Ayatollah Mohammad Kâzem Shari'atmadari were considered liberals because of the similarities of their political and economic views with the provisional government. Tied to Ayatollah Shari'at­madari was the newly formed party of the Moslem People of Iran (Hezb-e Khalq-e Mosalmân-e Irân).

3-Mojaheddin, the "Islamic-Marxists" who believe that true Islam can only be practised in a class-less society.

4-The Left, namely Tudeh (the pro-Soviet communist party), Feda'iyan Majority, and Feda'iyan Minority. All three parties cooperated to a large extent with the powerful IRP which they regarded as a true revolutionary party.

For a more detailed description of the various groups and their role in the revolution and in post-revolutionary Iran, see for example Moaddel 1993; pp.200-223.

17  According to the official figure, 98.2 percent of the public endorsed the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Moaddel believes that the figure is overestimated because many people in the rural and tribal areas did not vote, but concludes that the support for the idea of and Islamic Republic nevertheless was quite extensive (Moaddel 1993; p.208).

18  On this date the television paraded veteran Tudeh leaders, confessing to a host of major crimes, such as for example advocating "an alien ideology" (Abrahamian 1993; pp.88-89). The Tudeh party was the last opposition party which cooperated with the IRP, but now their turn had come to become eliminated. Today the Tudeh party is severely criticised for this attempt at cooperation with the IRP.

19  Rafsanjani, the President, said in a Friday Sermon (I believe it was in 1987-88) that Ali was pleased with clean and sober people (Hezbollâhs are stereotyped as being smelly and unshaven). Also in the mosque which my landlord was frequenting did the mullah stress the rightness of personal hygiene.

20  Fischer argues that fundamentalism is a traditionalising rather than a traditional rhetoric. It is an ideology created out of, and focused upon, real contemporary issues, not anachronistic fantasies. This is concluded from observations sug­gesting a volatile mix of cosmopolitanism and parochialism in the revolutionary generation. Members of this generation have studied abroad, but are very aware of their own culture, they are only after Western technology, not Western culture. Secondly this fits with other studies of Islamic fundamentalist activities in the universities, where the fundamentalist students tend to be among the brightest. This resonate with the nature of the leadership of the Iranian Revolution. The Iranian leadership seems relati­vely well-educated and many have a university education (MA. or Ph.D.). Analysis of speeches and statements of Ayatollah Montazeri stresses its petit-bourgeois character: The hope that everyone should be directly involved in the production process, that the returns on labour should come directly to the individ­ual pro­ducer, that production be small-scale and self-reliant. There is thus an ambivalent transitional symbolism of the Revolu­tion, playing alternatively on pre-capitalist nostal­gia or on post-capitalist progress (Fischer 1987; pp.121-122).

21  I believe that the use of the term 'nationalism' in connection to Iran is somewhat problematic. First and foremost because the focus is on recognizable phenomena, that is, phenomena resembling, or taken directly from, European nation­al­ism. As a consequence, Western orientated intellectuals appear as the driving political power in these movements. Secondly the idea of nationalism as such is diffuse, and it has been used about many different social, political and cultural phenomena. Simplified it can be said that nationalism in Europe arose as the result of the emergence of the petit-bourgeoisie as a social and economical independent class, whereas in Iran, and in the Middle East in general, nationalism ascended as a protest movement against autocratic governments and imperia­listic exploitation. Even though there in the Middle East are traces of European philosophy and political thinking, it should not be forgotten that the historical background for the emer­gence of nationalism is all together different from that of Europe.

22  There are 25 provinces, ostâns, today. Some of them are fairly ethnic homogeneous such as for example Lorestân which is inhabited by Lors, Khuzestân, which is inhabited by Arabs, Kordestân, which is inhabited by Kords, etc.

23  The Iranian primary school is divided into dabestân, which is the first five years, and in Râhnamâ'i (guidance), which is the next three years. Dabirestân is the equivalent of the American High School, and lasts for four year.

24  A further discussion of ethnicity in Iran is not appropriate, but it should be mentioned in fairness, that ethnic groups are free to speak their language and exercise their reli­gion to a larger extent than in many neighbouring coun­tries.

In the summer of 1993 a large exhibition (Irângardi, "Around Iran") was estab­lished at the Permanent Exhibi­tion Ground in Tehran where all provinces where to show the particu­lar­ities of the ethnic groups living in those provinces. They would thus demonstrate their handi­crafts, clothes, dances, music, etc. This year (1995) is the fifth annual exhibition taking place on 9-18 Mordâd (July,August), and the aim is to "promote internal tourism and to further knowl­edge about the country's natural, histori­cal, and cultural attractions as well as about the original civilisat­ion of Iran" (Ettelâ'ât no.268, Tuesday, June 13, 1995, p.1).

25  A good example of this is from the household I lived in. The father was a cook in the army, and in his spare time he would cook for parties such as for example weddings or Moharram. His two teen-age boys were always assisting him, and from time to time I assisted as well, helping preparing and serving food and doing the dishes. One of the parties we were working for was an engage­ment party in the Northern part of Tehran. The women were wearing décolle­tage or tight jeans, and alcoholic beverage was served freely. The young girls and boys were dancing to western pop-music. I had expected it to be somewhat a shock for the boys to come from a religious household, with daily prayers, weekly Qorân-recita­tions, being sex-segregated when having guests (besides the nearest family, and I had expected the father to comment on this life-style in a somewhat harsh manner. "The problem of mea­ning", as Weber formulated it (Geertz 1993; p.172), was really experien­ced here: Why do the good suffer, and the bad pro­sper. However, to my surprise the boys did enjoy the atmosp­here, and the al­coholic be­verages, tremen­dously, and to my even greater surpri­se the father simply worked quietly with a smile on his lips (unaware of his boys' alcohol consumption). Yet I could hardly imagine two more polari­zed scenes.
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