Socialist Worker

Iran timeline

Issue No. 1974

Oil exploitation

1795-1925 Monarchy rules Iran in alliance with Shia Muslim clerics, but both are weakened under a modernisation drive led by European-educated intellectuals.

1903 Oil is discovered. British Petroleum begins to exploit it.

1905-1911 Constitutional revolution limits the monarchy’s power.

1907 Russia and Britain divide Iran into two spheres of influence.

1915-1917 Russia and Britain occupy western and southern Iran during the First World War.

1917 The Russian Revolution leads to the withdrawal of Russian imperialist presence and inspires creation of leftist parties in Iran.

1921-25 Reza Khan, an army officer, rises through the ranks to abolish the Qajar dynasty and become shah.

1930s Reza Khan, now Reza Shah, tilts towards support for Hitler as a counterbalance to British domination.


1939-45 Allied forces occupy Iran in 1941. Reza Shah abdicates and is sent into exile. Britain places his 22 year old son, Mohammad Reza, on the throne.

1941-53 Period of freedom and parliamentary supremacy. Mossadeq’s movement initiates the oil nationalisation drive.

1950-53 The Shah and Mossadeq clash. The US, supported by Britain and the Shah, organises a coup in August 1953.

1957 The CIA assists the Shah in establishing the Savak, a notorious secret police organisation.

1963 Ayatollah Khomeini leads a bloody and unsuccessful revolt against the Shah.

1968-70 Intellectuals try to form a Writers’ Association. The government crushes the movement after two years.


1970 Two guerrilla movements are formed—the Fadaiyan-e Khalq inspired by Marxism, and the Mojahedin-e Khalq inspired by an egalitarian interpretation of Islam.

1977 Ten nights of poetry reading highlight the intellectual opposition to censorship and surveillance.

1978-79 An anti-Shah revolutionary coalition takes shape between religious forces, the nationalists and the left. Khomeini emerges as the revolution’s leader.

1979 The Shah is toppled. Over the next two years the Shia clergy cement their control of the revolution and crush the left.

1980-88 The Iran-Iraq war starts when Saddam Hussein invades Iran with US blessing. The war allows the Islamic state to consolidate its domestic power.

1989 Khomeini dies. Ali Khamenei is elevated to the position of spiritual leader.

1997 Mohammad Khatami, a moderate cleric, is elected president. He moves to expand civil rights. Over the next four years there are clashes between the reformist and conservative wings of the state. Social movements of women, young people and students continue to grow.

2005 Conservative candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wins the presidency as disillusion sets in with the reformists.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Sat 29 Oct 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1974
Share this article



Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.