The End of a Dynasty

January 16, 1979 – The Shah of Iran, in response to insurmountable opposition, flees his homeland never to return. The Shah, Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, came to power in 1941 after his father was forced to abdicate when Soviet and British forces invaded Iran to secure the oilfields of his pro-fascist father. He went on to become The Strongman of the Middle East, a western-leaning leader in a predominately Muslim area. In 1963, he lead the White Revolution intended to modernize the country through social and economic reforms. These secular measures antagonized the Shiite religious leaders, including Ayatollah Khomeini, and would ultimately be his undoing. In 1967, the King of Kings crowned himself in an elaborate ceremony and then proceeded to crown his third wife, Farah, Empress. In 1971, Iran celebrated 2500 years of the Persian Empire, tracing its roots to Cyrus the Great, with a spectacular 4 day celebration. But opposition to the Shah’s reforms continued to grow. Much to the surprise of many, by 1978, 1 in 10 Iranians demonstrated in the streets in what many consider the largest demonstration of modern times. In December of that year, somewhere between 6 and 9 million demonstrated throughout the country and the handwriting was on the wall. By January 16, 1979 the only option was to flee the country in a desperate attempt to neutralize the situation that would ultimately become known as the Iranian Revolution and would give birth to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Shah and his family first went to Egypt where he was warmly received by President Sadat. He would spend the next year moving from country to country while his health continued to deteriorate. He finally returned to Egypt in 1980 where he died on July 27 and is buried there. Today, his son, Crown Prince Reze, continues to lead the opposition and encourages Iranians to participate in civil disobedience and overthrow the Islamic government.

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Filed under 1970s, Carter, International

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