The same shah whom Washington was now trying to shun had been lifted to power in a 1953 coup engineered by the CIA and the British, displacing the elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, who had had the temerity to nationalise the Iranian oil industry. om 1941 to 1979, Iran was ruled by King Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah.
However, even before the Islamic Revolution, the Shah’s grip on power was unsteady.
Like Ataturk, Reza Shah attempted to make religious observation subservient to the state. Part of Iran’s method of achieving this was through the banning of veils in public.
In 1953, the Shah had to flee Iran after a Western-backed coup to overthrow Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh failed. A second coup succeeded in overthrowing Mosaddegh, who wanted to nationalize the Iranian oil industry to Britain’s chagrin, and the Shah returned to the country.
Like Ataturk in Turkey, Reza Shah undertook a series of reforms aimed at turning Iran into a modern westernized nation.
These reforms included the structuring of Iran around a central Persian identity, the often brutal suppression of tribes and their laws in exchange for strong a central government, and the expansion of woman’s rights.
Like Ataturk, Reza Shah attempted to make religious observation subservient to the state.
Part of Iran’s method of achieving this was through the banning of veils in public.
Although Reza Shah’s intentions were to turn Iran into a modern westernized state, his bans on religious garments alienated and frustrated religious conservatives and traditionalists.
Nevit Dilmen/Wikimedia Commons
Women and men mixed freely, and educational opportunities were greatly extended. Western clothing and norms also became ingrained into large segments of the Iranian population.
Leading the charge for westernization was the Iranian royal family. Pictured below is Empress Soraya.
Under the royal family’s invitations, Iran became a popular destination for celebrities and heads of state. Here, an Italian actress and her husband visit a sports competition as guests of Iranian Princess Ashraf.
The Iranian royal family reciprocated and widely toured the world’s capitals. Here, the Shah and his wife met with Winston Churchill in London.
Toward the end of the Shah’s reign, the royal family attempted to rally the country around an increasingly historic nationalism based on the preceding Persian empires.
In 1967, the Shah took the old Persian title “Shahanshah,” or King of Kings, at a coronation ceremony in Tehran.
Celebrations funded by the government were also launched throughout the country to honor the Persian roots of Iran. Here, gymnasts take part in an October 16, 1975, celebration honoring the founding of the Persian Empire.
AP Photo/Harry Koundakjian
Despite Iran’s views of the past, the government continued to value education and child development.
Tehran funded study abroad in Europe for Iranians, and schools and clinics were built throughout the Iranian countryside to care for poorer children as part of the Shah’s “White Revolution.”
High oil prices and relative stability in the Middle East contributed to a growing business class in major Iranian cities.
Here, Iranians swim in an octagonal swimming pool at the guesthouse of the Iranian National Oil Company.
AP Photo/Horst Faas
By 1975, Reza Shah abolished Iran’s multiparty system and concentrated ever-greater amounts of power in his own hands under the government-permitted Rastakhiz (Resurrection) party.
By January 16, 1979, Reza Shah fled Iran during the Iranian Revolution. The revolution started off as a popular movement fueled by outrage against government extravagance, corruption, brutality, and the suppression of individual rights, before being taken over by Ayatollah Khomeini.