Fall of the Peacock Throne (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
On January 16, 1979, the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and his Empress, became political exiles. The world’s oldest monarchy, dating back twenty-five hundred years, ended after a violent revolution that left Iran in social and economic chaos and hurled it toward a more anachronistic form of government, a theocracy. What potent forces precipitated such a revolution? William H. Forbis answers this question in a social history of the Iranian people that focuses on everyday life in Iran and the Shah’s lack of attunement. The author draws on Persian history, geography, culture, and politics to explain the fall of the Shah and the rise of his worst enemy, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The first of three parts, “A Persian Story,” details the rise of the fifty-year-old Pahlavi Dynasty which, in its short lifespan, made Iran a modern, wealthy nation and the central, controlling power in the Middle East. As feudalism melted away, particularly from 1963-1978, Iran became a modern, military-industrial complex wealthy from oil revenue with a strong-willed Shah as undisputed leader. Iran, however, also underwent many changes too fast for cultural assimilation and as a result, a strong counterforce was unleashed, moralistic Islam. Fearing a loss of cultural and national identity in an increasingly materialistic, repressive, and Western society, Iranians listened to their mullahs or priests who advocated the Shah’s overthrow and a return to Islamic...
(The entire section is 3153 words.)
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