By: Akhil Kapur
July 6, 1980 - Sharia law is imposed in Iran
Iran’s modern-day image is based upon the West’s archetypal view of the Middle East: a land of oppression where the Ayatollah describes gender equality as "unacceptable to the Islamic Republic,” journalists are killed and adultery is punishable by death.
This, however, was not always the case.
Before the Iranian revolution of 1979, Iran was a liberal society. It was even often compared to America, Tehran, the capital, was referred to as the Paris of the Middle East. Ironically, it was Iran’s increasing westernization that sparked the 1979 revolution.
Back then, Iran was ruled by the Shah monarchy, which was heavily supported by the U.S and its allies. The Shah funded his lavish lifestyle with Iranian money earned by exporting oil to Great Britain. However, this concentration of wealth led to tremendous political backlash. On the left, revolution was seen as a means of obtaining social justice for the suffering masses. On the right, it was seen as a rebuttal to the ongoing “western invasion” in Iran.
This discontent eventually led to the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini, who became the supreme religious leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979.
On July 6, 1980, the Ayatollah imposed sharia law. Sharia law is a series of principles taken from sacred Islamic texts, the Hadith in particular. While laws about marriage and divorce make up a significant portion of sharia, its take on criminal law has sparked the most controversy. There are five hadd crimes: unlawful sexual intercourse (sex outside of marriage and adultery), false accusation of unlawful sexual intercourse, wine drinking, theft, and highway robbery. Punishments for hadd offenses include flogging, stoning, amputation, exile and execution.
It is important to note that Iran does not strictly follow sharia law as implemented by terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda or ISIS. The Shah Pahlavi dynasty judicial system was based upon civil law. The current sharia system has retained much of this era’s civil procedures.
To be clear, however, many parts of the original judicial system were completely overhauled.
Secular jurists and women judges were removed. Juries were replaced with “revolutionary tribunals.” Many people were executed or given harsh punishments for allegedly committing crimes or acting out politically. There were no appeals, either, and trials often lasted mere minutes in "court.”
In 1982, the regular court system was reinstated. Judges trained in Islamic law presided over the new courts. Revolutionary courts began ruling in matters of "national security," such as drug trafficking and political, "anti-revolutionary" crimes.
The 1979 revolution erased six decades of modernization. It's important to realize that countries such as Iran were not born into violence; instead, they were forced into self destruction. This remains true whether we blame the Western-appointed Shah whose rule fuelled the revolution or the Sharia law implemented by the Ayatollah.