Triumph and Despair in Search of Iran’s Islamic Republic

Triumph PS

Triumph and Despair tells the dramatic story of post-revolutionary Iran’s first four decades, from its establishment in 1979 until today.

The revolutionary coalition that overthrew the monarchy was at once democratic, populist and Islamic. The Islamists, and the Khomeinists in particular, were able to capitalise effectively on prevailing conditions on the ground; to frame the new republic’s constitution, capture nascent institutions, and consolidate their power by eliminating opponents through a reign of terror. Once the war with Iraq was over and after the death of the new order’s charismatic founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic was consolidated: first by tweaking its institutional arrangements, and then by fostering economic development and post-war reconstruction. A reformist interlude then followed, reversed unceremoniously by a return of populism and a broader authoritarian retrenchment.

Today Iran remains at odds with itself, its economy too deeply political to yield meaningful developmental results, its foreign relations too conflicted to allow it a productive place in the community of nations. As Iran’s nationalities and its women and youth carve out spaces for themselves in the broader narrative, competing identities–religious, national and otherwise–abound. After forty years, the Islamic Republic remains a country in search of itself.

Mehran Kamrava