World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


IRANIAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT -II- Social and Political Change in Iran (166) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 5-7 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description:

Chair: Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi (Syracuse University, USA)

Paper presenter: Mari Nukii (Research Assistant, Waseda University, Japan), “Protest Events in the Tehran Bazaar during the Oil Nationalization Movement in Iran”
In the spring of 1951, the Iranian government nationalized the oil industry, which was controlled by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). This was the culmination of a strong popular movement that supported the National Front (NF) and its leader Mohammad Mosaddeq (1880-1967). Mosaddeq gained in popularity among the public, especially the merchants and merchants and guilds in the bazaar (bazaaris), appealing for the nationalization of the oil industry to establish the democratic system and the independence of Iran from foreign influence. This is an important historical event because it encouraged the Iranian public to participate in national politics and significantly influenced nationalist movements in the Third World, as well as the statuses of Great Britain and the United States in the Middle East. One of the distinctive features of modern Iranian history is the significance of the role of the bazaaris. They have played an active role in major historical protest events since the late 19th century, such as the Tobacco Protest Movement, the Constitutional Revolution, the Oil Nationalization Movement, and the Iranian Revolution. In this study, the political role of the Tehran bazaaris during the Mosaddeq Government (April 1951-August 1953) will be the focus. There are two views on the role of the bazaaris in the oil nationalization movement: the religious explanation and the economic explanation. The former asserts that traditional ties between the bazaaris and the clergy, maintained through religion and marriage, have driven Iranian nationalist movements forward since the end of 19th century. On the other hand, the economic explanation asserts that the bazaaris joined the movement more out of their own interests than because of any religious factor. The aim of this study is to better understand the role of the Tehran bazaaris in the oil nationalization movement in terms of social movement theories. The method protest event analysis was used to collect and analyze data in this study. The unit of analysis is a protest event organized or joined by the Tehran bazaaris to express criticism or support for the government or others and to articulate a societal or political demand. A systematic analysis of the protest events and claims made by the Tehran bazaaris will examine both the religious explanation and the economic explanation.

Paper presenter: Mahmood Ketabi (Professor, Islamic Azad University, Shahreza Branch, Shahreza, Isfahan, Iran), “Rentier State, The Fall of Pahlavi Rejime and the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979”
There has been huge amounts of academic and journalistic contributions on the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979, explaining from a wide range of perspectives- this astonishing and path breaking event which put an end to one of the apparently strongest and most successful monarchical regimes of the Middle East toward the end of the Twentieth Century. This paper aims at explaining the Islamic Iranian Revolution from the point of view of a rentier state. Compared to some Arabic and African oil states, Iran does not seem to be a typical rentier state. However, taken the fact into consideration , that- during the last four decades -, oil revenues have accounted for over 40 percent of the Iranian governments’ revenues, it is the contention of this paper that the rentier state has been one of the main obstacles in the way of democracy at least during the last decade of Pahlavi Iran. Explaining the socio-economic and political aspects of a rentier state, the author discusses how- following the motto ‘no taxation- no representation’- , the autocratic shah regime was consolidated on the basis of huge oil revenues especially after the oil boom during the period 1973-1975. Based on statistics, it is contended that the oil recession and the decrease of oil prices, from 1975 onwards, paved the way for the 1978/1979 revolution, the fall of the Shah and the demise of the monarchy. It seems that, following the recession and oil price decrease, the imposition, by the Shah, of huge amounts of taxes on a wide range of classes and stratifications ‘comprising approximately 2 million taxpayers in 1977’ was at-least one of the main reasons for the 1978/79 uprising.

Paper presenter: Siavush Randjbar-Daemi (Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK), “The Evolution of the Presidency in Iran - 1979 -2009”
This paper shall charter the evolution of the institution of the presidency in the Islamic Republic of Iran, from the initial debates that led to the inclusion of the role of the president ‘an entirely novel feature of Iranian political history’ into the draft and final texts of the Constitution of 1979 to the present day acrimonious struggle which has engulfed the political elite of the Islamic Republic in the aftermath of the June 12 elections. It will be grounded on a institutional analysis of the development of the state in post-revolutionary Iran, the latter being analyzed through the prism of the relationship between the presidents and their surrounding political environment. Far from being a ceremonial role in the shadow of the much-powerful clerical oversight institutions, such as the Supreme Leader, the presidency in Iran has often featured as the vehicle for the entry in the political arena of novel ideals and interpretations of Ayatollah Khomeini’s vague pronouncements over the form and function of the Islamic state. The study shall focus on the constitutional debates of 1979 and 1989 and the entirely different presidential figures which emerged from those heady debates. It shall also cast a glance at the presidencies of Abolhassan Bani-Sadr and Seyyed Ali Khamenei before focusing on the last three presidents of Iran. In turn, the visions and ideals of Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the motives that led them to pursue the approval of the notoriously fickle Iranian electorate are examined in depth. Additionally, the formation and ideological standpoints of the various factions which aided and sustained the three presidents’ rise to power shall be examined, before a concluding comparative analysis of their three presidencies. This study is conducted according to a political history framework and is a component of the Author’s PhD research on the presidency in contemporary Iran. It is based on a vast array of primary source material in Persian, including Iranian media published inside the country between 1979 and 2009, government publications and personal correspondence with former cabinet members. Some of the material used has rarely or never been used in Western academic literature before.

Paper presenter: Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi (M.A. Student, Syracuse University, USA), "Iranian social revolution: the 'green movement' in a rentier state"
The events related to the presidential elections in June 2009, with the unfolding of the so called ''green movement'' and the general unrest characterizing the country's domestic situation since then, have produced the general belief that a ''social revolution'' is taking place in Iran. This revolution, intended as the transformation of state and class structures, seems happening in the Islamic Republic notwithstanding its strong rentier nature. Since the oil boom in the 70s, Iran is heavily dependent on oil revenues, which provide about 80% of the total country's revenues being it the second largest producer in the OPEC, and which engenders a rentier economy. The necessary consequence is that, despite the proposal of the government's 10-year plan to privatize 80 percent of state-owned assets under Article 44 of Iran's Constitution, the private sector is still weak and about 80% of industries are under state control. Due to these structural limitations, no transformation of class structures can materially take place in Iran as a direct consequence of economic transformation. However, in the aftermath of the recent controversial presidential elections we have witnessed the raise of a previously unseen and unheard voice of the country, that has generally been identified with the Iranian young middle class. Through the circulation worldwide of images related to the protests taking place in the Islamic Republic we have become aware of the consistency and strength of this particular class of individuals, pouring into streets of Tehran and participating in the "green movement". It is not the result of any economic transformation nor of the modification of the class structure. It is the result of the combined effect of the technological revolution and of the Iranian "baby boom" that is leading to the growth of political awareness of the 70% of the Iranian population under 30 years and therefore to the social revolution. The same technological spread and youth boom can be found also in other countries of the region, hence it is particularly interesting to analyze this new class of individuals, to question the reasons that lead to its formation and the ensuing possible influence, in short and long terms, on the Iranian domestic scenario.