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Brief history of Persia

By Masood Hosseini
January 29, 2001
The Iranian

* Persia, conventional European designation of the country now known as Iran. This name was in general use in the West until 1935, although the Iranians themselves had long called their country Iran.

* The Iranian plateau was settled about 1500 BC by Aryan tribes, the most important of which were the Medes, who occupied the northwestern portion, and the Persians, who emigrated from Parsua.

* The first prominent leader of the Persians was the warrior chief Achaemenes, who lived about 681 BC. The Persians were dominated by the Medes until the accession to the Persian throne in 550 BC of Cyrus the Great.

* He overthrew the Median rulers, conquered the kingdom of Lydia in about 546 BC and that of Babylonia in 539 BC.

* His son and successor, Cambyses II, extended the Persian realm even further by conquering the Egyptians in 525 BC.

* Darius I, who ascended the throne in 522 BC, pushed the Persian borders as far eastward as the Indus River, had a canal constructed from the Nile to the Red Sea.

* Darius I's forces were defeated by the Greeks at the historic Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.

* Alexander the Great added the Persian Empire to his own Mediterranean realm by defeating the troops of Darius III in a series of battles between 334 and 331 BC.

* Persia remained a subordinate unit within this great realm, which, after the overthrow of the Seleucids in the 2nd century BC, became the Parthian Empire.

* In AD 224 Ardashir I, a Persian vassal-king, rebelled against the Parthians, defeated them in the Battle of Hormuz, and founded a new Persian dynasty, that of the Sassanids.

* Near the end of the 5th century a new enemy, the barbaric Ephthalites, or White Huns, attacked Persia; they defeated the Persian king Firuz II in 483 and for some years thereafter exacted heavy tribute.

* Khosrau II in 602 began a long war against the Byzantine Empire and by 619 had conquered almost all southwestern Asia Minor and Egypt.

* Byzantine emperor Heraclius, between 622 and 627 drove the Persians back within their original borders.

* Arab Muslim armies began their conquest of the Persian Sassanian Empire in AD 636 and during the next five years conquered all of Iran.

* They finally put an end to the Sassanid dynasty in 651.

* The Ismailis, a Shiite sect, maintained a small but effectively independent state in the Rudbar region of the Elburz Mountains from the 11th through the 13th century.

* Kharazm Shahians were dominant kingdom until the Mongol invasions in the 13th century. The Mongols destroyed major cities such as Ardabil, Hamadan, Maragheh, Neyshabur, and Qazvin, Ray and Tus.

* Between 1381 and 1405 invasions by Turkic conqueror Tamerlane destroyed more of Iran's cities.

* The Safavids, headed a militant Sufi order founded in the northwest by Shaikh Safi of Ardabil in the early 14th century. His descendant, Ismail I, conquered first Tabriz and then the rest of Iran.In 1501 he proclaimed himself shah. This was the first time since the 7th century that all of Iran was unified as an independent state.

* In 1509 Ismail gained control of Iraqi territory, but it fell into Ottoman hands when Ottoman ruler Süleyman I conquered Baghdad in 1534.

* Abbas moved the Safavid capital from Tabriz to Esfahan.

* Shah Sultan Hosain, who ruled from 1694 to 1722, tried to convert forcibly his Afghan subjects in eastern Iran from Sunni to Shia Islam. In response, an Afghan army under Mir Mahmud rebelled, marching across eastern Iran and capturing the Safavid capital of Esfahan and executed the shah in 1722. thus ending Safavid rule of Iran.

* In 1794 Agha Mohammad Khan defeated numerous rivals and brought all of Iran under his rule, establishing the Qajar dynasty.

* Agha Mohammad's nephew and successor, Fath Ali Shah, ruled from 1797 to 1834. Under Fath Ali Shah, Iran went to war against Russia, Under the terms of the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, Iran recognized Russia's annexation of Georgia and ceded to Russia most of the north Caucasus region.

* A second war with Russia in the 1820s ended even more disastrously for Iran, which in 1828 was forced to sign the Treaty of Turkmanchai acknowledging Russian sovereignty over the entire area north of the Aras River (territory comprising present-day Armenia and Azerbaijan).

* During the reign of Mohammad Shah, from 1834 to 1848, Russia began expanding its political influence into Iran.

* Foreign interference and territorial encroachment increased under the rule of Nasir al-Din Shah (1848-1896) and his son, Muzaffar al-Din Shah (1896-1906).

* By 1906, following a year of demonstrations and strikes, Muzaffar al-Din Shah was forced to agree to the creation of an elected parliament (the Majlis) and a constitution that limited royal power, established a parliamentary system of government, and outlined the powers of the legislature.

* In 1908 the shah attempted a coup against the elected government, firing canons at the Majlis building and dissolving the assembly. His young son Ahmad Shah, vowing to respect the constitution, was installed under a regent.

* In 1901 a British subject had been granted an exclusive 60-year concession to explore Iran for oil. and exports began in 1911.

* In 1910 Russia assisted Mohammad Ali Shah in an invasion of Iran and an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government.

* During World War I (1914-1918), Britain and Russia, who were allies, launched attacks from Iran against the Ottoman Empire.

* Reza Khan used his troops in 1921 to support a coup against the government. In 1925 a specially convened assembly deposed Ahmad Shah, the last ruler of the Qajar dynasty, and named Reza Khan, who earlier had adopted the surname Pahlavi, as the new shah.

* In August 1941 Britain and the USSR invaded Iran. They permitted Reza Shah's son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, to succeed to the throne after he promised to reign as a constitutional monarch.

* In January 1942 the two occupying powers signed an agreement with Iran to respect Iran's independence and to withdraw their troops from the country within six months of the war's end.

* A U.S.-sponsored agreement at the 1943 Tehran Conference reaffirmed this commitment.

* In the mid-1940s Mohammad Mosaddegh, an Iranian statesman and a member of the Majlis, emerged as the leader of the oil nationalization movement. In an effort to forestall nationalization, the shah appointed military officer Ali Razmara as prime minister in 1950.

* Razmara was assassinated in 1951 after only a few months in office. The Majlis passed a bill nationalizing the AIOC, then took the unprecedented step of appointing Mosaddegh prime minister over the shah's objections.

* In response to these events, Britain enforced a blockade on oil exports from Iran.

* In early 1953, US decided to use its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to help overthrow Mosaddegh. The coup, carried out in August 1953, failed initially, and the shah was forced to flee the country. After several days of street fighting in Tehran, however, army officers loyal to the shah gained the upper hand. Mosaddegh was arrested, and the shah returned in triumph.

* In 1953 under the new agreement, the concession formerly held by the AIOC passed to a consortium of British, Dutch, French, and U.S. oil companies.

* In the early 1960s the shah's government drafted legislation granting diplomatic status to U.S. military personnel stationed in Iran.

* Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was arrested in 1962 after publicly speaking out against the bill, and his arrest instantly elevated him to the status of national hero. The shah exiled him to Turkey in 1964.

* The spark that ignited the revolution was a pro-Khomeini demonstration in Qum in January 1978.

* On February 11, 1979, the royalist government was overthrown, and in a referendum on April 1 Iranians voted overwhelmingly to establish an Islamic republic.

* In February 1979 Khomeini asked Mehdi Bazargan to form a provisional government.

* After the shah was allowed entry into the United States in October 1979, a group of Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 66 Americans hostage.

* In January 1980 voters elected Abolhassan Bani-Sadr as the first president of the republic. in June 1981 the Majlis dismissed Bani-Sadr. Mohammad Ali Rajai subsequently was elected president.

* In September 1980, in the midst of the hostage crisis, Iraq launched a surprise invasion of Iran. During the war, Iran gave refuge to more than 200,000 Iraqi nationals who fled from their own government and absorbed more than a million Afghan refugees who fled following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

* In June 1981 the Mojahedin Khalgh, which had clashed frequently with the Islamic Republic Party throughout 1980, launched an armed uprising against the IRP-dominated government.

* Elections in October 1981 brought Seyed Ali Khamenei to power as president.

* Amazon Honor SystemAfter The death of Khomeini in 1989, the Assembly of Experts chose Khamenei, who would complete his second term as president that year, to succeed Khomeini as valiye faqih or Supreme Leader.

* Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani won the 1989 presidential election and was reelected in 1993.

* Following Mohammad Khatami's election as president in 1997, the United States began reassessing its policy toward Iran.

* In February 2000 Iranian voters favored proreform candidates in elections to the Majlis.

* In 1989 Khomeini issued a fatwa that absolved of sin anyone who killed British novelist Salman Rushdie. In 1998 Iran's foreign minister signed an agreement promising that the Iranian government would not implement the fatwa.

* In 1993 the United States adopted a policy to prevent Iran from gaining too much regional power. In 1995 the United States banned all U.S. trade with and investment in Iran, and in 1996 it drafted a law placing sanctions on non-U.S. companies that invest in Iran.

* Khatami was reelected president in 2001.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Masood Hosseini


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