Iranian Revolution

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A crowd of Iranians holding a photo of Ayatollah Khomeini.
I admit that I called it wrong really from the beginning and in the direction that it went. The direction that it went -- this rather harsh and brutal and intolerant direction that it went -- certainly surprised me. I didn't expect it. Nor did I expect that we and the Iranians would remain estranged for as long as we have.
~ John Limbert, a survivor of the Iran hostage crisis, talks about the lasting legacy of the Iranian Revolution.

The Iranian Revolution; also known as the Islamic Revolution or the 1979 Revolution) was a series of events involving the overthrow of the 2,500 years of continuous Persian monarchy under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was supported by the United States, and eventual replacement with an Islamic republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution, supported by various leftist and Islamist organizations> and student movements.

Demonstrations against the Shah commenced in October 1977, developing into a campaign of civil resistance that included both secular and religious elements and which intensified in January 1978. Between August and December 1978, strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the country. The Shah left Iran for exile on 16 January 1979, as the last Persian monarch, leaving his duties to a regency council and Shapour Bakhtiar who was an opposition-based prime minister. Ayatollah Khomeini was invited back to Iran by the government and returned to Tehran to a greeting by several million Iranians. The royal reign collapsed shortly after on 11 February when guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting, bringing Khomeini to official power. Iran voted by national referendum to become an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979 and to formulate and approve a new [theocratic-republican constitution whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country in December 1979.

The revolution was unusual for the surprise it created throughout the world: it lacked many of the customary causes of revolution (defeat at war, a financial crisis, peasant rebellion, or disgruntled military), occurred in a nation that was experiencing relative prosperity, produced profound change at great speed, was massively popular, resulted in the exile of many Iranians, and replaced a pro-Western authoritarian monarchy with an anti-Western authoritarian theocracy based on the concept of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (or velayat-e faqih). It was a relatively non-violent revolution, and it helped to redefine the meaning and practice of modern revolutions (although there was violence in its aftermath).