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February 11 2014 marks 35 years since the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was driven from power after months of protests and replaced by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The Iranian Revolution began in the streets as a movement uniting Communists, Liberals and Shiite Muslims. But it was the latter who would ultimately gain control, establishing an Islamic republic with Khomeini as Supreme Leader where religion takes precedence over all.
Copyright: AFP

America ‘The Great Satan’

From the outset, the new republic engaged in an ideological and political battle against ‘The Great Satan’ America and its ally Israel. In November 1979, a few days after the exiled Shah had been allowed into the US for medical treatment, diplomatic tensions escalated with the Iran hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran. There have been no direct diplomatic relations between the two countries since, though they edged towards closer ties in September 2013 when Presidents Hassan Rohani and Barack Obama spoke in a telephone call.
Copyright: AFP

One million martyrs

The birth of the Islamic Republic worried both the West, which suffered from an energy crisis triggered by falling oil production in the wake of the revolution, and other Arab countries, who were suspicious of the new regime and feared the spread of a Shiite revolution throughout the Muslim world. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, supported by the Sunni monarchies of the Gulf, went on the attack. The Iran-Iraq war, which lasted from 1980 to 1988, would go on to claim hundreds of thousands of lives.
Copyright: AFP

Islamification and repression

Iran’s clerical regime abhorred Western influences on the population and sought to “Islamise” the country. It has been accused of violent repressing its opponents and criticised for its human rights record, particularly in regards to women and freedom of expression. The international community has also accused Iran of arming and funding terrorist and anti-Western groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
Copyright: AFP

Khamenei takes over

In 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of the Iranian Revolution, died and was replaced by former president Ali Khamenei as Supreme Leader. Acting as both the country’s highest political and religious authority, Khamenei still holds the post to this day, despite lacking the same aura as his predecessor.
Copyright: AFP

Ahmadinejad antagonises the West

Confrontation between Iran and the West reached a climax between 2005 and 2013 during the presidency of the ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A former officer in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Ahmadinejad established a reputation for his firm stance on Iran’s nuclear programme and for his diatribes against Israel, which he once said should be “wiped off the map”. Israel, meanwhile, threatened to take military action against Iran unless it gave up its nuclear ambitions.
Copyright: AFP

The nuclear crisis

In 2002, the existence of a clandestine nuclear programme being run by Tehran was discovered. The regime claimed the research was for strictly civilian purposes, but the West feared Iran planned to eventually develop nuclear weapons. To force Tehran to abandon its nuclear programme, the West imposed a number of drastic economic and political sanctions on Iran. With the country in economic crisis, an interim agreement was signed in Geneva in late 2013 that saw the lifting of some of these sanctions in exchange for Iran freezing its nuclear programme.
Copyright: AFP

The Green Revolution

Amid accusations of fraud, Ahmadinejad was controversially reelected in 2009, triggering protests on a scale not seen since the 1979 revolution. What became known as the ‘Green Revolution’ was violently repressed by the authorities while its leaders, reformists Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, were placed under house arrest.
Copyright: AFP

Relations thaw

The election of Hassan Rohani in 2013 brought with it a thawing in relations between Iran and the West. His promise to resolve the disagreement over Iran’s nuclear programme through negotiations helped bring about the landmark agreement reached in Geneva last year.
Copyright: AFP

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In pictures:
35 years of Iran’s Islamic Republic