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Jan. 29, 2004 No. 39

UNC author of "The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran" available to comment on 25th anniversary of the Iranian revolution

February 11 marks the 25th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, one of the epochal occurrences of our time. A look back at the remarkable and unexpected events of 1979 leading to the replacement of the shah's monarchy with an Islamic republic may provide insights into the uncertainty and volatility of today's world.

Dr. Charles Kurzman, associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of "The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran" (forthcoming in April by Harvard University Press) is available to comment on lessons learned by the dramatic events associated with the 1979 revolution.

In his book, Kurzman, an expert on the Middle East and Islam, emphasizes the unpredictability of revolution. He notes that the CIA, academic experts and even the Iranian revolutionaries themselves did not expect the shah's regime to fall so quickly, not because they were misguided, but rather because revolutions and other social movements are inherently chaotic.

Using recently published documents from Iran, as well as interviews with participants in the revolution and other eyewitness sources, Kurzman focuses on the uncertainty, the rumors and the danger that Iranians felt in 1977-79.

"By looking closely at the confusion, the fear, and the fearlessness that Iranians experienced during the revolution, I believe we can better understand how the monarchy fell," Kurzman says. "But these experiences also show that it's impossible to predict when and where revolutions will occur. That's an important lesson and a reminder that we can never fully predict the fate of today's regimes."

Relevant 1979 dates associated with the revolution:

Feb. 1:  Khomeini returns from exile to a mass welcome.
Feb. 4:  Khomeini appoints a provisional government resulting in two governments in Iran simultaneously.
Feb. 9:  A mutiny erupts in an Air Force base in Tehran; loyalist forces have difficulty putting it down.
Feb. 10:  Civil war rages in Tehran; hundreds of thousands of civilians join the mutineers and fight in the streets.
Feb. 11:  The military declares its "neutrality" and the shah's regime falls, ending thousands of years of monarchy in Iran.
 

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Press Contacts:  Dr. Charles Kurzman, (919) 962-1241 (office), (919) 967-4263 (home), email kurzman@unc.edu; Dee Reid, College of Arts and Sciences, (919) 843-6339.