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Page last updated at 15:14 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 16:14 UK
Iran Archives: The Islamic Dream

Panorama has reported from Iran over the past 50 years, from her days as an ally of the West under the Shah to the more troubled relationship we share today.

Watch abridged moments from some of those films here.

Panorama reported from the centre of the holy revolution as it turned Iran into an Islamic republic with Ayatollah Khomeini at the helm.

Hostilities towards the Shah had continued to mount during the second half of the decade as he persisted in the violent repression of opposition movements.

In the midst of the protests, the Shah introduced economic austerity packages resulting in recession and a rise in unemployment. This helped to boost the demonstrators' ranks as they took to the streets.

The protests turned bloody in what was to become known as Black Friday. On 8 September 1978 dozens of protestors were killed in violent clashes with soldiers.

Martial law was declared, but the protests continued throughout December and through Muhurram, one of the most important events in the Shia calendar, as anger grew over the use of military force.

The protests had widespread popular support and the protestors themselves were a broad coalition of communists, middle-class intelligentsia, students and supporters of Khomeini.

In January 1979, the Shah, under intense pressure, left Iran for an "extended holiday" with his family. He was never to return, dying a year later from cancer in Egypt.

On the 1 February 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran after 14 years in forced exile in Paris.

Modern theocracy

Almost immediately Khomeini had called on public workers to topple the government and appointed a "provisional government" to challenge prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar's authority.

After several days fighting anti-government forces and dissident soldiers, the military declared its neutrality, leading to the prime minister's resignation.

Khomeini called a national referendum in March on the question "do you favour an Islamic Republic?".

Having outmanoeuvred and repressed his political rivals, Khomeini's referendum received a resounding yes.

Khomeini took on the role of Supreme Leader which gave him almost complete power. The political system was overhauled and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps created as a counterweight to the regular military.

Iran was declared an Islamic Republic on 1 April 1979, the modern world's first theocracy.



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