February 11, 1979: The day the Shah fell

On the eve of the 31st anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, it’s important to take a step back and get some historical context. The following is a BBC news report from Feb. 11, 1979:

Victory for Khomeini as Army Steps Aside

Supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini appear to be in control of the Iranian capital, Tehran, tonight. Only 10 days since Khomeini’s triumphant return to Iran from exile in Paris, the army has returned to barracks and given up the fight to defend the old regime. Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar, brought in by the Shah only last month in an effort to win back popular support, has resigned and disappeared. Iran radio is reporting rumours he has committed suicide after his home in North Tehran was attacked and burned down.

Civilian demonstators have again been on the streets today, seizing control of police and fire stations, forcing the officers to flee and arming themselves with the weapons they found inside. Khomeini set the country on a collision course five days ago when he established a provisional government under Mehdi Bazargan and called on people to demonstrate their support for an Islamic regime. Ten people died in a battle for one police station today. In total the death toll is now put at 200 with 700 injured.

Demonstrators have taken control of the airport and radio and television station, where staff who had been on strike in support of the Ayatollah returned immediately and began broadcasting news about the takeover of the country. Elsewhere protesters have set fire to barricades across the streets, even in the heart of the main shopping and business districts of the city. Abandoned tanks have been left behind after soldiers previously loyal to the Shah have switched allegiances. Foreign embassies have been raided for their weapons.

The only remaining resistance came from soldiers of the elite Imperial Guard, who were defending their headquarters in the north of the city at Lavizan and at two royal palaces. An announcement on television said the three bases had been surrounded by revolutionary forces and negotiations were under way for their surrender. Although there was no official announcement from Dr Bakhtiar of his resignation, the news has been repeatedly broadcast by the media.

There had been rumours of a possible military coup. But a meeting of senior generals this afternoon acknowledged this would split the army and cause serious bloodshed. They put out a statement at 1400 local time ordering troops to return to their garrisons in order to prevent further bloodshed and anarchy.

Regardless of what happens during tomorrow’s anniversary, understanding the historical significance of the birth of the Iran’s Islamic Republic is essential to understanding how Iran operates today.

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  • steve says:

    Brings back memories…my father was a US Army Chaplain stationed in Tehran when this happened. My mother and sister were evacuated….he stayed behind and left later. He said there were some harrowing moments trying to get out. He spoke highly of the Iranian people he met while over there….said they were kind and welcoming. Then the Ayotollah changed everything…and chased away the good-natured Iranians. Now we have an entirely different culture. Read Joel Rosenburg’s The Epicenter to see how the current events in the Middle East are prophesized in the Bible. None of what is happening should be a surprise. Pray for God’s amazing grace….we need it now more than ever!

  • Mr T says:

    They wanted it and they got it. 31 years later they don’t want it but now find that they can not change it without putting their lives on the line.
    On the other hand, do they really want to change it now or are the people for change just a vocal minority? I hear conflicting reports but you can never trust the information coming from a controlled state media.
    Is the US for the government who doesn’t want to change or for the people who do want to change? I know what it used to be. Now I am not sure.

  • Max says:

    Don’t forget who was responsible for bringing in Khomeine to replace the Shah of Iran: our old pal Jimma Cahta and his pals in the Trilateral Commission (like Zbignew Brezenski), of which he is a founding member and of which most of his administration was composed.
    Their policy was to “contain” the Soviet Union by ringing it with Islamic terror states, like Iran, so they helped push the Shah out the door and replaced him with the mad mullah as part of their anti-Soviet policy.
    Thank you very much, Jimma!

  • Ammo Guy says:

    This article reminds me of a photo that has haunted me for years – it was taken in a morgue after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and shows the bodies of a number of Iranian generals who decided not to resist the return of the ayatollah apparently for the good of their country. I guess they thought somehow that they would be rewarded for their decision not to set off a bloody civil war…their reward was a firing squad. Better to make a stand and go down fighting than be led off meekly to stand against a wall.


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