Iran has 83 million people. It is bordered by Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan and is the fourth largest country in Asia. The Achaemenid Empire (an ancient Iranian empire) at its peak in 480 BCE ruled over 50 million people, which was 44% of the world’s population, the highest such figure for any empire in history. In 334 BCE, Alexander the Great invaded the Achaemenid Empire, defeating the last Achaemenid emperor. The Arab invasion of Iran in 640 CE made a break with the past and resulted in the assimilation of peoples who shaped and vitalised Muslim culture. The blossoming literature, philosophy, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, and art of Iran became major elements in the formation of a new age for the Iranian civilization, during a period known as the Islamic Golden Age. The Islamic Golden Age reached its peak by the 10th and 11th centuries, during which Iran was the main theatre of scientific activities. From 1219 to 1221, Iran suffered a devastating invasion by the Mongol Empire army of Genghis Khan. Up to three-fourths of the population of the Iranian Plateau, possibly 10 to 15 million people, were killed. In the 15th century, the native Safavids established a unified Iranian state and converted to Shia Islam. Under Nader Shah, in the 18th century, Iran became a major world power. Around 1.5 million people – 20 to 25% of the population of Iran – died because of the Great Famine of 1870-1872 (caused by climatic catastrophes worsened by poor administration and the human factors). In the late 18th century, foreign powers, including Russia and Britain, took control of parts of Iran. In 1921, an Iranian (Persian) army officer named Reza Khan took control and sought to end outside influence. His son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, became shah in 1941. Efforts to nationalise Iran’s fossil fuel supply from Western companies led to an Anglo-American coup in 1953, which resulted in greater autocratic rule under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and growing Western political influence. In 1979, many Iranians who felt Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was corrupt forced him to flee, ending the reign of the shahs in Iran. Since then, religious leaders have ruled the country. The Iranian government today is widely considered to be authoritarian and has attracted widespread criticism for its significant constraints and abuses against human rights and civil liberties.

  1. In about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected Iran from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1905 – Constitutional Revolution. Persians demanded a constitution that included a parliament called the Majlis.
  3. 1907 – Introduction of constitution which limits the absolutist powers of rulers.
  4. 1908 – Persia became the first Middle Eastern country to discover oil. This discovery led to the formation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and fuelled the Iranian economy for years to come.
  5. 1919 – Anglo-Persian Agreement made Iran an official protectorate of the British Empire. Officials hoped that British presence would improve a war damaged economy.
  6. 1921 – A military officer in Persia’s Cossack Brigade, Reza Khan marches on Tehran with 3,000 men and seizes power. He immediately launches an ambitious campaign to modernize the country. Among other plans, he hopes to develop a national public education system, build a national railroad system, and improve health care.
  7. 1923 – Reza Khan becomes Prime Minister.
  8. 1925 – Ahmad Shah, the Qajar dynasty’s final shah or ruler, is deposed, and an assembly votes in Reza Khan (who had adopted the last name Pahlavi) as Persia’s new shah.
  9. 1926 – Reza Khan Pahlavi is crowned the new Shah.
  10. 1935 – Persia is officially renamed Iran. It is part of Reza Khan’s dictatorial reform.
  11. 1939 (to 1941) – Nazi Germany becomes Iran’s largest trading partner. Tension increases with Allies.
  12. 1941 – Although Reza Khan declares Iran a neutral power during World War Two, Iran’s British-controlled oil interests are largely maintained by German engineers and technicians, and Khan refuses to expel German citizens despite a request by Britain. Russia and Britain invade Iran to cut off petroleum trade to Germany. In September 1941, following Soviet and British occupation of western Iran, Reza Khan is forced out of power. His son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, succeeds him on the throne.
  13. 1949 – An attempt on the Shah’s life, attributed to the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party, results in an expansion of the Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s constitutional powers.
  14. 1951 – Nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq attempts to nationalize the British-owned oil industry. The Shah opposes Mohammed Mossadeq and removes him from power, but he regains power and the Shah leaves Iran. Britain imposes an embargo and a blockade, halting oil exports and hitting the economy.
  15. 1953 – The Shah returns to Iran when General Fazlollah Zahedi – with backing from the Central Intelligence Agency of USA – overthrows Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq Mossadeq in a coup d’etat.
  16. 1963 – The Shah launches the ‘White Revolution’ programme of land reform and social and economic modernisation. During the late 1960s he becomes increasingly dependent on the SAVAK secret police in controlling opposition movements.
  17. 1978 – The Shah’s policies alienate the clergy, and his authoritarian rule leads to riots, strikes and mass demonstrations. Martial law is imposed.
  18. 1979 – As the political situation deteriorates, the Shah and his family are forced into exile.
  19. 1979 – Islamic clerical opposition leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns from 14 years of exile in Iraq and France.
  20. 1979 – The Islamic Republic of Iran is proclaimed following a referendum. 98% voted to replace the authoritarian monarchy with a theocratic republic.
  21. 1979 – Islamic militants take 52 Americans hostage inside the USA embassy in Tehran. Ayatollah Khomeini applauds their actions. They demand the extradition of the Shah, in USA at the time for medical treatment, to face trial in Iran.
  22. 1980 – Abolhassan Bani-Sadr is elected the first president of the Islamic Republic. His government begins work on a major nationalisation programme.
  23. 1980 – The exiled Shah dies of cancer in Egypt.
  24. 1980 – Iraq invades Iran after years of disagreements over territory. Start of Iran-Iraq war, which lasts for eight years.
  25. 1981 – Following negotiations mediated by Algeria, the American hostages are released after 444 days of captivity.
  26. 1981 – President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr is dismissed and later flees to France.
  27. 1985 – After USA and Soviet Union halted arms supplies, USA covertly seeks to sell arms to Iran in exchange for the release of seven American hostages being held by Iranian-backed militants in Lebanon, prompting the Iran-Contra scandal.
  28. 1988 – An American navy ship, the USS Vincennes, shoots down an Iranian civilian plane (Iran Air Airbus), killing all 290 passengers and the crew. USA later apologizes and agrees to financial compensation for the victims’ families, saying the civilian plane was mistaken for an attacking military jet.
  29. 1988 – Iran accepts a ceasefire agreement with Iraq following negotiations in Geneva under the aegis of the United Nations.
  30. 1989 – Ayatollah Khomeini issues a religious edict (fatwa) ordering Muslims to kill British author, Salman Rushdie, for his novel, ‘The Satanic Verses’, considered blasphemous to Islam. A $3 million bounty was placed on his head.
  31. 1989 – Ayatollah Khomeini dies. President Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is appointed as new supreme leader. Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani is sworn in as the new president.
  32. 1989 – USA releases 567 million dollars of frozen Iranian assets.
  33. 1990 – A major earthquake strikes Iran, killing approximately 40,000 people.
  34. 1990 – Iran remains neutral following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
  35. 1990 – Iran and Iraq resume diplomatic ties.
  36. 1995 – USA imposes oil and trade sanctions over Iran’s alleged sponsorship of terrorism, quest for nuclear arms, and hostility to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
  37. 1997 – Mohammad Khatami wins the presidential election with 70% of the vote, beating the conservative ruling elite.
  38. 1998 – Iran deploys thousands of troops on its border with Afghanistan after the Taliban admits killing eight Iranian diplomats and a journalist in Mazar-e Sharif.
  39. 1999 – Pro-democracy students at Tehran University demonstrate following the closure of the reformist newspaper Salam. Clashes with security forces lead to six days of rioting and the arrest of more than 1,000 students.
  40. 2000 – Majlis elections. Liberals and supporters of Mohammad Khatami wrest control of parliament from conservatives.
  41. 2000 – The judiciary, following the adoption of a new press law, bans the publication of 16 reformist newspapers.
  42. 2001 – President Mohammad Khatami is re-elected.
  43. 2002 – USA President George Bush describes Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an “axis of evil”, warning of the proliferation of long-range missiles being developed in these countries. The speech is met with anger in Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi responds by calling President Bush’s comments “arrogant” and saying Iran sees them as “interference in its internal affairs.
  44. 2002 – Russian technicians begin construction of Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr despite strong objections from USA.
  45. 2003 – Thousands attend student-led protests in Tehran against clerical establishment.
  46. 2003 – Shirin Ebadi becomes Iran’s first Nobel Peace Prize winner. The lawyer and human rights campaigner became Iran’s first female judge in 1975 but was forced to resign after the 1979 revolution.
  47. 2003 – Iran says it is suspending its uranium enrichment programme and will allow tougher UN inspections of its nuclear facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) UN nuclear watchdog concludes there is no evidence of a weapons programme.
  48. 2003 – 40,000 people are killed in an earthquake in south-east Iran. The city of Bam is devastated.
  49. 2004 – Conservatives regain control of parliament in elections. Thousands of reformist candidates were disqualified by the hard-line Council of Guardians before the polls.
  50. 2004 – Iran is rebuked by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for failing to fully cooperate with an inquiry into its nuclear activities.
  51. 2005 – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Tehran’s ultra-conservative mayor, wins a run-off vote in presidential elections, defeating cleric and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
  52. 2005 – Tehran says it has resumed uranium conversion at its Isfahan plant and insists the programme is for peaceful purposes. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) finds Iran in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  53. 2006 – Iran resumes uranium enrichment at Natanz.
  54. 2006 – UN Security Council deadline for Iran to halt its work on nuclear fuel passes. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Tehran has failed to suspend the programme.
  55. 2007 – Diplomatic stand-off with Britain after Iran detains 15 British sailors and marines patrolling the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway separating Iran and Iraq.
  56. 2007 – USA announces sweeping new sanctions against Iran, the toughest since it first imposed sanctions almost 30 years ago.
  57. 2008 – UN Security Council unanimously passes a new resolution reaffirming demands that Iran stop enriching uranium, but it imposes no new sanctions. The text was agreed after Russia said it would not support further sanctions.
  58. 2009 – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is declared to have won a resounding victory in the 12 June presidential election. The rival candidates challenge the result, alleging vote-rigging. Their supporters take to the streets, and at least 30 people are killed and more than 1,000 arrested in the wave of protests that follow.
  59. 2009 – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sworn in for second term as president, presents a cabinet (the first since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979) to include women. Several senior opposition figures are accused of conspiring with foreign powers to organise unrest and are put on trial. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says there is no proof that opposition leaders blamed for the post-election unrest were agents of foreign powers.
  60. 2009 – Iran admits that it is building a uranium enrichment plant near Qom, but insists it is for peaceful purposes. The country test-fires a series of medium-and longer-range missiles that put Israel and USA bases in the Gulf within potential striking range.
  61.  2010 – UN Security Council imposes fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, including tighter financial curbs and an expanded arms embargo.
  62. 2010 – Stuxnet – a computer worm which affects industrial systems – is reportedly detected in staff computers at the Natanz nuclear plant. Iran accuses Israel and USA of infecting its system.
  63. 2011 – Iran announces that the Bushehr nuclear power station has been connected to the national grid.
  64. 2012 – European Union boycott of Iranian oil exports comes into effect.
  65. 2012 – International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) quarterly report says Iran doubles production capacity at Fordo nuclear site and “significantly hampered” IAEA’s ability to inspect the Parchin military site.
  66. 2012 – Iran’s rial currency falls to a new record low against the US dollar, losing 80% of its value since 2011 because of international sanctions. Riot police attack about 100 currency traders outside the Central Bank.
  67. 2013 – Reformist-backed cleric Hassan Rouhani wins presidential election.
  68. 2014 – The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Iran has neutralised half of its higher-enriched uranium stockpile under a deal agreed earlier in the year.
  69. 2014 – President Hassan Rouhani says Iran is ready to assist the Iraqi government in its battle against extremist Sunni insurgents, amid reports that Iranian Revolutionary Guards are in Iraq providing military training and advice.
  70. 2015 – After years of negotiations, world powers reach a deal with Iran on limiting Iranian nuclear activity in return for lifting of international economic sanctions. The deal gives UN nuclear inspectors extensive but not automatic access to Iranian sites.
  71. 2016 – Serious rift in relations after Saudi Arabia executes leading Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Crowd sets Saudi embassy alight. International economic sanctions on Iran lifted after UN says it is satisfied with Iran’s progress on fulfilling nuclear agreement. President Hassan Rouhani embarks on the first European state visit of an Iranian president for 16 years
  72. 2017 – Hassan Rouhani wins re-election as president.
  73. 2017 – Several people are killed in co-ordinated attacks on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini. Islamic State group claims responsibility.
  74. 2017 – Mass protests in several cities over economic grievances, which are acknowledged by President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  75. 2018 – President Donald Trump announces USA withdrawal from the 2015 international deal on Iran’s nuclear programme. Iran in turn warns that it will begin increasing its uranium enrichment capacity if the deal collapses because of the USA move.
  76. 2018 – Gunmen open fire on a military parade in Ahvaz in Khuzestan Province, which has a large Arab population. An Arab nationalist organisation and the Islamic State jihadist group both claim responsibility for the attack, in which 25 people were killed.
  77. 2019 – Tensions rise as USA accuses Iran of attacking oil tankers in the Gulf, which Tehran denies.
  78. 2019 – Fuel price hike prompts mass protests nationwide. Over 100 people are reported dead in security crackdown.
  79. 2020 – Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, responsible for Iran’s military support for the Syrian government, is killed in a USA air strike at Baghdad Airport, prompting Iranian threats of retaliation.
  80. 2020 – Hardliners score big wins in parliamentary elections, amid record low turnout of 42.6%. Thousands of moderate would-be candidates were barred from running for not meeting strict election criteria.
  81. 2020 (to 2022) – COVID-19 pandemic caused more than 140,000 deaths in Iran.
  82. 2022 – Iran has 83 million people.

© Comasters October 2022.

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