A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, February 1, 2010

More on the Ten Days of Fajr

I thought I'd add a bit to what I said in my previous post about the period February 1-11 in 1979 and in Iranian practice since. Known as the "ten days of Fajr" (dawn) in Revolutionary parlance, they were marked by a rapid transformation of the situation and the utter collapse of what remained of the Pahlavi regime.

You can find a timeline here. The Shah left the country January 16. He had previously appointed Shapour Bakhtiar as a reformist Prime Minister. Bakhtiar sought to keep a reformist but non-Islamist government in power, but had little choice but to agree to allow Khomeini to return from exile.

The arrival of Khomeini on February 1 was the catalyst for one of the Middle East's true revolutions — as opposed to classic military coups that are officially proclaimed "revolutions" — and things moved swiftly.

On February 4, Khomeini named his own Prime Minister: Mehdi Bazargan. A former aide to Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, Bazargan was a liberal reformer. From the fourth, there were two rival PMs, Bazargan and Bakhtiar.

On the ninth of February, fighting broke out between the Imperial Guard and Air Force units loyal to Khomeini. On the 10th, there were further clashes and Bakhtiar proclaimed martial law; Khomeini ordered his followers to ignore it. On the next day, the military declared its neturality and the last semblances of the Bakhtiar regime collapsed. February 11 is celebrated as Victory Day, the pinnacle of the ten days of Fajr. The long progression of revolutionary turmoil began, with several non-clerical figures replacing each other in office until, after the beginning of the hostage crisis later that year, the Constitution of the modern Islamic Republic was put in place.

I need hardly point out that the symbolism of the 1979 events are very much in the minds of the regime and of the opposition, since opposition leaders such as Mir-Hossein Moussavi were very much a part of all this. In a way the two sides today are each trying to claim the legacy of the Revolution. It could be a tense ten days, especially now that Ahmadinejad has promised that Iran "will deliver a harsh blow to the Global Arrogance" on February 11. That seems to be revolutionary rhetoric, but a regime on the defensive at home might make a miscalculation internationally.

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