The Iranian Revolution of 1979 happened in response to the Shah's ruthless autocratic rule of the country. The forceful establishment of a single-party system, government censorship, and the torture of political prisoners led to widespread dissatisfaction in Iran. Furthermore, Iran's recent modernization had ironically increased levels of unemployment. Growth in oil production created economic growth, but there were still not enough jobs to provide for the growing educated population. In addition, the mechanization of the agricultural sector led large numbers of out-of-work farmers who flocked to the cities.
All this economic inequality, corruption, and political repression left the general populace feeling helpless and angry at those in power. However, the events that sparked the revolution were more religious in nature. The first protest began in response to a newspaper article published on January 7, 1978 that criticized Khomeini, an important Shia cleric in exile. It accused him of being an agent of the British and referred to him as a "mad Indian poet" and a communist sympathizer.
This article led seminary students in the city of Qom to gather in the streets, where they engaged in a violent confrontation with the police. The deadly police response to this protest angered the general populace, and more anti-government demonstrations occurred throughout Iran. Each time that protesters gathered to condemn the repressive treatment of demonstrators, the police responded and more protesters were beaten, arrested, and killed. This resulted in even more demonstrations. Protests became so intense and widespread that the Shah was eventually forced to flee Iran on January 16, 1979.