I Fought the Shah and the Ayatollah Khomeini Won
The Veil by Marjane Satrapi is a graphic novel that depicts the life of ten-year-old Marjane during the Iranian Revolution. Satrapi tells her story as a child growing up during the time of the many radical changes and the effects of the new laws made by the new regime. The history of the Iranian revolution is long, and goes back to before the author was born. During the Cold War, the United States of America became alarmed by Russia’s expansion and influence into the middle east. So the U.S. put their efforts into influencing Western democratic ideals into the nation of Iran. With the aid of the CIA, conservative Iranians looked to put the Shah Reza Pahlavi into power. However, his severe and authoritative strategies triggered protests. In the years that followed, Iran faced revolution as religious leaders gained popularity. As the Shah lost stability, discoveries were made about his close ties with America.
In 1951, the Mohammed Mosaddeq was named Premier of Iran. Mosaddeq’s nationalist platform made the United States very nervous. (History.com) The Premier publicly stated his displeasure with Britain’s ownership of Iran’s oil fields. America soon became suspicious of possible communist influence from the Soviet Union. The United States government decided to intervene by indirectly toppling the Premier. With help from Britain’s Intelligence Agency, the CIA worked with conservative Iranian leaders to thrust Shah Reza Pahlavi on the Iranian public. (History.com) With the threat of Communist expansion into the middle east, the CIA used their influence to plan a Coup against Mosaddeq. On August 19, 1953, (Brinkley) protests financed by the American government officially put the Shah into power. He became the absolute ruler of Iran in very little time. After the Shah’s rise to power, the Iranian government then responded to America’s help by giving 40 percent of Iran’s oil fields to U.S. corporations. (History.com) America’s close ties with the Shah would ultimately backfire as Iran’s leader gained massive amounts of opposition in the coming years. Throughout Shah’s rule on Iran, he often was scrutinized for his modernization efforts.
During the Shah’s rule, Iranians saw many transformations into Westernization. This is sort of due to America’s government and military help. Many citizens in Iran were displeased with his shift away from Islam in his government shakeup. He also took an authoritarian stance towards his leadership position. The Shah was infamous in his use of the secret police. Known as SAVAK, Iran’s police force was intended to quiet any opposition directed at the Shah. SAVAK was feared for its brutal tactics and its almost unrestricted power. While the Shah was in control, power was passed around between his family and friends. The Iranian middle class has pointed out that his rule only helped the rich. Even though Iran experienced economic growth during his reign, many thought that the divide between the poor and rich was only made wider. (BBC News)
As Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ruled Iran, his questionable approach to the government garnered opposition. On the edge of civil war, the country met with conflicting views. One being a push in the direction of Westernization and the other being a more old-style, religious stance. Islamic clergy members pointed out that applying modernization methods would hinder Iran’s fundamentalist society. (Brinkley) Though, most of Shah’s opposition came from the leader’s repressive efforts to calm Iran, many accused the ruler of misusing the secret police. SAVAK’s ruthless actions towards resistance drew fear instead of respect from his people. This ultimately led to two years of street protests. On September 8, 1978, the Shah’s military killed hundreds of protesters and injured thousands. Soon after, riots broke out in major cities. The protesters focused on destroying Western symbols. On December 11, 1978 a group of rebels killed the Shah’s security officers. With no one to protect him, the Shah fled Iran on January 16, 1979. The power of the opposition became too much for America and the Supreme Army Council to handle. The United States’ venture into Iran proved to be a waste of money and life. Even with the initial success of overthrowing Mosaddeq, America was humiliated as their choice of leader blew up in their face.
As the Shah was forced out of government, a new leader by the name of Ayatollah Khomeini came into power. He had originally been exiled to Iraq and France for his resistance to the Shah. In exile, he spread his message through a cassette tape that would be smuggled into Iran. Once in the country, the tapes would be duplicated. The copies eventually spread across the country as support for Khomeini grew. On February 1st, 1979, (BBC News) Ayatollah returned to Iran in the arms of his supporters. Yet, his return caused social instability as the remaining Shah police and commanding officers clashed with Ayatollah’s followers. Soon after, many of Shah’s outspoken supporters were executed. On April 1st, the new leader made Iran an Islamic republic in a landslide victory. Along with a new constitution, Ayatollah stressed the significance of Valy-e-Faqih. He was anti-American and anti-Westernization. (Brinkley) His power focused more so on his Islamic religious values. Valy-e-Faqih which means “Guardianship of the Jurist”, is an ideology from the Shia Islam. It provides justification for Islamic Clergy members to hold power in Iran.
While Marjane being only ten years old during the revolution and probably unable to understand exactly what was going on in her country, she still saw the things that she believed that were not right, like the family’s maid not being able to eat at the table, her grandmother’s knees always hurting. Marjane is not able to comprehend the social restrictions that the new government has imposed, however she is able to see there is something wrong and she believes that if she becomes a prophet she can fix all of everyone’s unhappiness.