Timeline: The Iranian revolution and the rise of the Islamic Republic

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Iran’s 1979 revolution overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a Western-allied secular monarch, and paved the way to the formation of an Islamic Republic headed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a Shia cleric.

Here are the major events and dates of the revolution and its aftermath:



January 9 - Thousands protest in the city of Qom. Security forces attack, killing at least five people.

February 18 - Protests are held in a number of cities to commemorate the fortieth day after the death of the Qom protesters. Some protesters are killed in Tabriz.

June 7 - The Shah replaces the head of the SAVAK secret police trying to appease protesters.

August 19 - Hundreds are killed in an arson fire at the Cinema Rex in Abadan in southern Iran. Protesters and officials exchange blame, sparking another round of violence.

September 8 - Martial law is imposed and security forces fire at protesters in Jaleh Square in Tehran, killing at least 100 people. The day becomes known as “Black Friday.”

October 3 - Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein deports influential senior opposition cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini from Najaf in Iraq. Khomeini settles in the Neauphle-le-Chateau suburb of Paris.

November 6 - The Shah broadcasts the message “I heard the voice of your revolution,” after days of protests.

December 10-11 - Millions protest across Iran calling for the ousting of the Shah.

December 29 - The Shah appoints a long-time opposition leader, Shapour Bakhtiar, as prime minister.


January 4 - Bakhtiar officially becomes prime minister.

January 12 - Khomeini forms a Revolutionary Council to oversee the Shah’s exit and transition to a new government.

January 16 - The Shah and his wife, Empress Farah Pahlavi, leave Tehran and fly to Egypt.

January 22 - The Shah arrives in Morocco with his entourage. He spends three weeks in a palace in Marrakesh before going to the Bahamas.

February 1 - Khomeini returns to Iran and is greeted by millions in Tehran.

February 11 - Iran’s general staff declares the neutrality of the armed forces and orders troops back to their barracks, ensuring the Islamic Revolution succeeds. Bakhtiar flees Tehran.

February 14 - The US embassy in Tehran is attacked and overrun but the crowds eventually leave the embassy grounds.

February 16 - Iran’s revolutionary authorities start executions of leading supporters of the Shah and kill four top generals on the rooftop of a school housing Khomeini.

March 5 - Iran resumes oil exports.

March 30 - A referendum is held and approximately 99 percent of voters support the formation of an Islamic Republic.

August 3 - Iranians elect members of the Assembly of Experts for Constitution to write a new constitution for the Islamic Republic.

October 22 - The Shah arrives in the United States for medical treatment of lymphatic cancer, a disease he has battled for several years.

November 4 - Iranian students storm the US embassy in Tehran and take 52 Americans hostage, demanding the extradition of the Shah in return for their release.

December 15 - The Shah leaves the United States and travels to Panama.


January 25 - Abolhasan Bani-Sadr is elected the first president of the Islamic Republic.

March 23 - The Shah leaves Panama and goes to Egypt where he is granted asylum by President Anwar al-Sadat. He receives urgent medical treatment.

July 27 - The Shah dies in Cairo from lymphoma, aged 60. Sadat gives him a state funeral and he is buried in the al-Rifa’i Mosque in Cairo.

With wires.

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