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UNIT 23: People Shape the World

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VIDEO SEGMENT: Ayatollah Khomeini (Revolution and Resistance in Iran)

Some individuals use traditional rather than new ideas to create revolutionary change. This segment explores one such figure, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, who used traditional Islamic ideas to oppose the secular, Westernized regime of Reza Khan and his son, Reza Shah.

Khomeini was born into a religious family, and as a young man in the 1920s he became a teacher and authority on Islamic law. Khomeini came to believe that only God could make law, and that society should be based solely around these laws. In the 1950s and 60s, the United States and Britain allied themselves with Reza Shah in order to secure their interests in the Persian Gulf. The Shah's brutal policies towards Shiite Muslims, however, encouraged many Iranians to turn against both the Shah and the West, and to look instead for guidance and support from Shiite religious leaders within Iran.

Khomeini rose to prominence in this context, as he assumed a critical leadership role in denouncing the policies of the Shah and in urging people to remain true to Islam. Even when he was exiled in the 1960s, Khomeini continued to gain support in Iran among the millions of people who saw the Shah's government as illegitimate. In 1979, the Shah's continued policies of repression and Khomeini's continued popularity resulted in mass demonstrations that led to the Shah's abdication. Khomeini stepped into his place, and he set about ruling Iran according to the principles of Islamic law. His anti-imperialist, fundamentalist ideas were critical in shaping the course of Iran's history in the late twentieth century.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Anonymous, INAUGURAL SPEECH OF SHAH REZA PAHLAVI (1950). Courtesy of AP/ Wide World Photos.

Saris, AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI FOLLOWERS (1979). Courtesy of AP/ Wide World Photos.


Anonymous, AYOTOLLAH RUHOLLAH KHOMEINI PRAYING (1982). Image donated by Corbis - Bettmann.

Anonymous, AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI EMBRACES A CHILD AS IRANIANS CELEBRATE HIS RETURN TO IRAN AFTER A 15-YEAR EXILE (1979). Image donated by Corbis-Bettmann.



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