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Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, became Shah (ruler) of Iran in September 1941. The nation was internal divided and the New Shah was opposed by groups which took advantage of his inexperience and Iran’s occupation of foreign powers. Opposition groups were formed among religious associates, the Army officer corps, and Marxist groups. The Ulama, Islamic religious scholars, strongly opposed the changes Pahlavi’s father has made. While they displeased Pahlavi’s father’s westernized thinking the Army officer’s corps and Marxists vied for power.
In the early 1950’s, Muhammad Mossaddegh became Prime Minister. Mossaddegh opposed the monarchy and the foreign powers in Iran. Through his time as a Prime Minister he limited the Shah’s power, which was frightening to the conservatives and those who supported the monarchy. He was replaced by a new Prime Minster, who was loyal to the monarchy. The Shah was restored to power. He didn’t want to lose his power again, so he took steps to retain that power. He enforced a security force known as the National Intelligence and Security Organization, the SAVAK. The SAVAK repressed Iranians, shut out political debate, and ensured that gatherings did not contain political opposition sentiment towards the monarchy.
In the early 1960’s riots raised. Ruhollah Khomeini, an Ayatollah, a strong supporter of the strict Islam, displeased the Shah’s efforts for secularization and spoke out harshly against them. After Khomeini led angry protests, he was arrested and shortly after sent into exile. The Shah was frightened by the ability of the Ayatollah to rally the public.
To weaken those classes that supported the traditional system, he introduced what he called the “White (bloodless) Revolution”. The Shah wanted to westernize his nation, but maintain as a monarch. Several components were embraced by the white revolution such as land reform, construction of an expanded road, rail, and air network, the extinction of diseases, the encouragement and support of industrial growth, enfranchisement of women, nationalization of forests and pastures, formation of literacy and health corps for rural isolated areas, and institution of profit sharing schemes for workers in industry.
The component that caused most tension was: Women. Women didn’t gain any political rights, but certain freedoms and encouragement. They now were allowed into public schools and universities. They could prevent their husbands from taking a second wife, and work in mixed companies. They were also encouraged to dress westernized.
The religious conservatives who sought to keep women subjugated, were infuriated over the freedoms women have gained. For them the improvements were profane and belonged condemned. The liberalization laws concerning women were against Islamic values. Overall the changes made, diminished the power of the clergy and its traditions. The people felt unheard and inflections, knowing that all the Shah has in mind is trying to remain his power.
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