Three-Decade Repercussions of the Islamic Revolution on the Region

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ruhollah Qassemiyan

The world in the 20th century has witnessed broad, controversial, influential and eye-catching changes. World wars, revolutions, conflicts and clashes among societies comprised a considerable part of the developments in the past century. Some of these developments have left little impact despite their importance and some have kept the dynamism of their inner currents and affected a huge extent of structures and procedures in the international system.

The culmination of the Islamic Revolution (1979) alongside the fall of the Soviet Union is among the events which had extraordinary and surprising impact beyond Iran’s borders and on the international system and deeply influenced the inner elements of the latter.

There is no doubt that after the flight from Iran of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and return to the country of Imam Khomeini, the main players in the international arena (including governments, international organizations, multinational organizations and the media) all were forced to believe this great event in the political and strategic structure, as an undeniable fact. In fact the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran had direct and indirect impacts on the international system as well as its inner elements and processes to the extent that Iran’s withdrawal from the Western camp and its major confrontation with the international system left profound effects on the regional balance. Undoubtedly, the main factor behind these effects should be sought in the unique characteristics of this revolution both from theoretical and executive points of view.

Impact of Islamic Revolution on Islamic Governments

In general, the Islamic Revolution left a negative impact on those governments which lacked popular bases and were highly dependent on the West, the United States in particular. In other words, any government which felt more danger over its future as a result of this event in Iran, was affected further by the adverse impact of the Islamic Revolution and the immediate reaction of those governments can be defined on this basis.

It is interesting that any country with a Shia majority or a big Shia minority showed harsher reactions due to their fear from people’s uprising and revolt. For instance, the Baathist regime of Iraq which ruled over a nation who were mainly Shia, confronted the Islamic Revolution with such an implausible hostility and imposed a ruthless war on this newly founded system. The war was the longest in the 20th century and inflicted huge human and material losses on both the Iranian and Iraqi nations.

Nevertheless, concerning the impact of the Islamic Revolution on Islamic governments it can be said that these governments not only did not welcome the Islamic Revolution but adopted a negative attitude vis-à-vis the event. The situation continues despite the lapse of three decades since the victory of the Islamic Revolution with different degrees.

Impact of the Revolution on Islamic World and Muslim Nations

Considering that the Islamic Revolution has been one of the most popular revolutions, naturally it has drawn the attention of nations and influenced them more.

The Islamic Revolution, due to attractiveness of its slogans, goals, methods, contents, background and religious and historical commonalties as well as regional and international situations, has been a significant phenomenon in the Islamic world.

Let’s have a look at some of the repercussions of the Islamic Revolution:

1.    Today, not only the supporters and lovers of the Islamic Revolution but also its enemies and opponents admit that its victory in Iran and the fall of the 2500-year monarchy in 1979 was an important turning point in the history of socio-political developments and in the international arena.

2.    This revolution on the one hand put an end to the despotic and dependent monarchy in Iran and founded a system based on Islamic and ethical values; and on the other hand, it has managed to survive despite all the problems, conspiracies as well as domestic and foreign pressures. It has at the same time strengthened and proved its efficiency in the modern world which is based on secularism.

3.    The Iranian revolution ended centuries-long decadence in the Islamic civilization and society and paved the way for Islamic revival and wakefulness by once again revolving around the Islamic school of thought and ideology. This was to the extent that Islam rivaled out all the imported `isms’ and created kind of enthusiasm to restore Islamic thoughts.  After the revolution, the governments in the Islamic states had the feeling to various degrees that they needed some type of religious and popular legitimacy for survival. Every government had its own reaction to meet this demand. As a result, today the un-Islamic liberation movements have lost credit in the Islamic world and instead principlist Islamic movements have quickly spread and strengthened and have the final say in the contemporary political and social developments in the region.

4.    The transfer of the Shias from the sideline to the center of gravity in the Islamic world; inclination of Islam experts and researchers to learn more about Shiism; tendency of non-Muslims and even Sunni Muslims towards Shia school; creation of a revolutionary spirit and in fact following the model of the Islamic Revolution in countering global arrogance; and emergence of waves of political Islam among the Shias who want part or the whole of the power and government are among other repercussions of the Islamic Revolution among the nations.

Impact of the Islamic Revolution on Persian Gulf States

The Iranian revolution left its impact on the Persian Gulf countries in two areas:

1.    Ideological and intellectual domain
2.    Political and psychological domain

The teachings of the Islamic Revolution have almost not affected the Sunni governments in the Persian Gulf and the ideological and intellectual impact of Islamic revivalism has been more on the Shia communities which have been either in minority or under the domination of Sunni minority.


The achievements and repercussions of the 30-year Islamic Revolution in the Persian Gulf states can be summarized as such:

1.    Deep ideological roots and struggle record of Islamists against despotism and colonialism are among the most important grounds affecting the countries in the Persian Gulf region.

2.    Revival of Islam as a school of life and action; revival of former Islamic movements and establishments; isolation of schools such as socialism and nationalism; revival and elevation of the name of Iran and Shiism and formation of new establishments are among the most important impacts of the Islamic Revolution in the region.

3.    Development of Islamic-student movements; promotion of mosques, Friday and other congregational prayers; attention to book reading particularly religious books; promotion of signs such as Imam Khomeini’s photos, the emblem of the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as Quranic and religious slogans; the strong opposition of the statesmen of this region with the Islamic Revolution and their integration and joint actions against Islamism are among the most important indexes of attention to the Islamic Revolution.

4.    The minimum impact of the Islamic Revolution in this domain has been to play the role of an accelerator for development and escalation of these movements.

5.    Wahhabism, tradition, modernity and fluctuations between governmental and revolutionary states are among the most important obstacles in the way of impact of the Islamic Revolution.

6.    The impact of the Islamic Revolution on the Persian Gulf region has been natural or deliberate through limited cultural measures taken by embassies and other cultural centers, the national and international news coverage, various books and publications, and citizens of Iraq, Bahrain and Kuwait who played a significant role in voicing the Islamic Revolution.


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