CBC Digital Archives

Iran in turmoil as Shah departs

In 1979 a cataclysmic revolution shook Iran, creating the world's first Islamic republic and altering the balance of power in the Middle East. With the widely despised Shah of Iran forced into exile, spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini returned to oversee the country's transformation. But peace was still elusive as student protesters overwhelmed the United States embassy in Tehran, taking hostages and launching a diplomatic crisis. CBC Digital Archives presents a series of clips about revolutionary Iran.

After more than a year of escalating protests, the Islamic revolution in Iran reaches a prime goal in January 1979: the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. But the Shah's exit brings no end to street demonstrations and gas shortages in the capital of Tehran. The new civilian government, headed by Shapour Bakhtiar, has little credibility with anyone in Iran, especially Ayatollah Khomeini, an exiled cleric who fiercely opposes the Shah. This in-depth report from CBC-TV's Newsmagazine examines the possible outcomes for Iran without the Shah.
• Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was the last monarch in the Iranian royal family to rule Iran (which was known as Persia until 1935). His father, Reza Shah Pahlavi, was deposed by Allied forces during the Second World War, and the younger Pahlavi took his place in 1941. • In 1953 the Shah left Iran temporarily after ongoing conflict with prime minister Mohammed Mosaddeq, who had taken steps to nationalize Iran's oil industry. But Mosaddeq was ousted in a coup backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and the Shah returned.

• By the 1970s Iranians all along the political spectrum, from hardline Islamic clerics to the usually apolitical merchant class to left-wing students, were chafing under the Shah's increasingly heavy-handed rule. The Islamists viewed him as overly close with the decadent United States, and those on the left were enraged by his clampdown on freedom of expression and the use of torture by SAVAK, the Iranian secret police. 

Medium: Television
Program: Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: Jan. 15, 1979
Guest(s): Abbas Amirie, Shapour Bakhtiar, Raji Samghabadi
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Don McNeill
Duration: 26:28

Last updated: February 10, 2012

Page consulted on March 25, 2014

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