The Constitutional Revolution of 1906 launched Iran as a pioneer in a broad-based movement to establish democratic rule in the non-Western world. In a book that provides essential context for understanding modern Iran, Fakhreddin Azimi traces a century of struggle for the establishment of representative government.
The promise of constitutional rule was cut short in the 1920s with the rise of the Pahlavi dynasty. Reza Shah, whose despotic rule Azimi deftly captures, maintained the façade of a constitutional monarch but greeted any challenge with an iron fist: “I will eliminate you,” he routinely barked at his officials. In 1941, fearful of losing control of the oil-rich region, the Allies forced Reza Shah to abdicate but allowed Mohammad Reza to succeed his father. Though promising to abide by the constitution, the new Shah missed no opportunity to undermine it.
The Anglo-American–backed coup of 1953, which ousted reformist premier Mohammed Mosaddeq, dealt a blow to the constitutionalists. The Shah’s repressive policies and subservience to the United States radicalized both secular and religious opponents, leading to the revolution of 1979. Azimi argues that we have fundamentally misunderstood this event by characterizing it as an “Islamic” revolution when it was in reality the expression of a long-repressed desire for popular sovereignty. This explains why the clerical rulers have failed to counter the growing public conviction that the Islamic Republic, too, is impervious to political reform—and why the democratic impulse that began with the Constitutional Revolution continues to be a potent and resilient force.
|Publisher:||Harvard University Press|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
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About the Author
Fakhreddin Azimi is Professor of History at the University of Connecticut.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I just finished reading Azimi's book cover-to-cover! I was forcibly struck by the forthrightness and its daredevil audacity in both style and substance. Seldom have I seen such a vast sum of hard facts packed in concise easy-to-follow parcels.
The book carries you effortlessly through a century of upheavals as if on a magic carpet. Yet, it is an undeniable documentary in condemnation of the "Great Men of Power," foreign and domestic, tragically in denial and betrayal of the very principles they purportedly espouse--freedom, democracy, free enterprise and all! Above all though it's the harbinger of the simple truth that these noble aspirations and struggles, although kept in check for some time, may not perish.
Nothing seems to have escaped Azimi's reticle in his account and analysis of the contemporary Iranian politics. You'll experience several "aha's" on each page and by the time you're finished reading the book you'll find yourself nodding "amen!" If none happens though, I assure you by the time you're done you'll have vastly improved your vocabulary! Azimi has an arsenal of bullet-sharp words at his disposal and he keeps them well-oiled and shiny. When he uses them he hits the bull's eye with a marksman's precision saving the reader pages of explanations. Without this knack the book could have amounted to thousands of pages.
Azimi's book is a precious gift to Iranians and those interested in the Iranian recent history. I know my mind could not possibly go back to its original dimensions after having read it. I expect The Quest for Democracy in Iran to soon be translated into major languages. It is a text for those at the helm.