An Iranian woman lawmaker walks during a parliament session in the capital Tehran on February 4, 2019.

An Iranian woman lawmaker walks during a parliament session in the capital Tehran on February 4, 2019.

This week marks 40 years since the Iranian Revolution — a movement that changed the course of history.

After about 2,500 years of monarchy in Iran, a revolt shifted the government to an Islamic Republic.

This Crash Course video explains how it all went down.

President Donald Trump is a frequent critic of Iran. In May of 2018, he withdrew the United States from President Barack Obama’s signature nuclear deal called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

He recently suggested a plan to keep U.S. troops in Iraq to “watch” Iran (a plan that did not go over well with Iraqi leadership).

So what are the enduring effects of the Iranian revolution?

Mehrzad Borojerdi, a professor of political science at Syracuse University, told al-Jazeera:

The emergence of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the moral boost provided to Shia forces in Iraq, the regional cold war against Saudi Arabia and Israel, lending an Islamic flavour to the anti-imperialist, anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, and inadvertently widening the Sunni-Shia cleavage, are for me the most important by-products of the Iranian revolution.

And The Associated Press spoke to several of the original revolutionaries about how they look back on that time.

Here’s one example.

Walking along bustling Enghelab, or Revolution Street that once was named after the shah’s father, Reza Shah, 79-year-old retired university professor Ali Soltani recalled the day that protesters pulled down a statue of Reza Shah at Enghelab Square.

Soltani, who has written books on Persian literature and Islamic teachings, called poverty the biggest challenge the country faces today. While life under the shah had at least three social classes — the rich, the middle class and the poor — Iran today is simply separated between the haves and the have-nots, he said.

“We were really hoping that problems would be solved, but they were not. … Newspapers and authorities themselves are now admitting to large-scale embezzlements that are taking place in the country,” he said. “Today, you see that a part of the people do not even have some bread to eat. What can they do?”.

We’re talking to experts on the region about the legacy of the Iranian Revolution, as well as one person who was held during the Iran hostage crisis.


  • Robin Wright Analyst and fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center; author of "Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World"; contributing writer to The New Yorker; @wrightr
  • Jamal Abdi President, National Iranian American Council
  • Behnam Ben Taleblu Research fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
  • John Limbert Professor, United States Naval Academy; former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State to Iran

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