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1979: Shah of Iran flees into exile

AUDIO : Iran celebrates the fall of the Shah

The Shah of Iran has fled the country following months of increasingly violent protests against his regime.

Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi and his wife, Empress Farah, left Tehran and flew to Aswan in Egypt.

The couple's three youngest children were flown to the United States yesterday.

Official reports say the Shah has left for a "vacation" and medical treatment. In fact, he was asked to leave by the man he appointed prime minister earlier this month.

Over the past few months, there have been an increasing number of violent clashes between security forces and anti-Shah demonstrators.

Opposition to the Shah has become united behind the Muslim traditionalist movement led by Iran's main spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, from exile in France.

Celebrations

There have been calls for the Ayatollah's return - and news of the Shah's departure was greeted with mass celebrations across Iran.

British and United States' ex-patriates living in Iran - regarded as symbols of westernization - have been the frequent target of attacks. Thousands have left the country.

Martial law was declared in many cities on 8 September. But later that month, industrial action by thousands of Iranian workers culminated in a mass strike by employees in the oil industry.

The strike sparked riots and rallies across the country in support of the Ayatollah.

Western governments, like the US, UK and West Germany, have continued to express support for the Shah.

The Shah appointed a new military government in early November. But it failed to stem the rising tide of support for the Ayatollah.

Earlier this month he appointed a new prime minister, Dr Shapur Bahktiar. When, on 13 January, the Ayatollah declared a revolutionary Islamic council to replace what he called the "illegal government" of Iran, Dr Bahktiar persuaded the Shah it was time to leave.

In Context
The Shah never returned to Iran. He died in exile in Egypt in 1980.

Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran on 1 February after 14 years' exile.

He threw out Dr Bahktiar's government on 11 February and, after a referendum, declared an Islamic Republic on 1 April.

Khomeini guided his country's revolutionary social, legal, and political development until his death in 1989.

He presided over the country during the Iran/Iraq war, only reluctantly agreeing a ceasefire. He also issued a fatwa against author Salman Rushdie.

Two decades later, liberals ushered in a period of transformation with their election victory in 2000 over the conservative elite.

But reformist president Mohammad Khatami was at odds with hardliners, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and failed to make good on his promises.

He was replaced by the ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2005.

President Bush declared Iran part of an "axis of evil" in 2002. Washington accused Tehran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons,although Iran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.

Tehran resumed its uranium conversion process in 2005, provoking a diplomatic showdown with the international community.


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