Iran’s rolling revolution

February 11, 1979: Forty years on, Andrew Whitley recalls the fall of the Shah

The World Today Published 8 February 2019 Updated 9 November 2020 2 minute READ

Andrew Whitley

Covered the Iranian Revolution from 1977 to 1980 for the BBC and the Financial Times

As 1978 turned into 1979, few if any witnesses of the drama unfolding over that dark winter had a clear sense of how events would transpire in Iran. Nor could they have anticipated that the Islamic Revolution would have turned 40 this February and remain seemingly impervious to unrelenting pressures to moderate, or even change, its course.

That the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, would be obliged to leave the country had been evident since late 1978. The Tabas earthquake that September, after which the visiting Shah and Empress Farah were greeted by a hostile silence from survivors, and Islamic aid agencies proved more effective than the state, was one seminal moment.

By then it was becoming evident that the Shah’s impending flight would mark the end of the Iranian monarchy. But what would come next?

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