The Islamic Republic’s control of the population in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis
The Shah’s replacement by the Islamic Republic in 1979 was a difficult time for all the Iranians especially Marjane’s parents. This new regime rejected all the “Western values” and focused instead on Islamic fundamentalism. Many Iranians were shocked, they had expected a democracy, not a theocracy. The “non religious” middle class in particular did not appreciate Islam being imposed upon them in their daily lives. The Islamic Republic had to ensure control over these individuals. This essay will demonstrate how the Islamic Republic used violence and deception to control post-revolution Iran and conquered the party’s opposition.
The Islamic Republic used violence against those who opposed the government, including mass arrests, assassinations and executions (Cleveland, 2004). The most influential people who had power to oppose the Islamic Republic became targets. As Marjane says on page 67, “All the former revolutionaries became the sworn enemies of the republic”. Marjane’s own uncle Anoosh was executed by the regime for being a “Russian spy” (Satrapi, page 70), but it was actually because of his past. Marjane says that, “Those who opposed the regime were systematically repressed and executed together” (Satrapi, page 117). Many people against the new regime joined The National Front, which was an opposition party again the Islamic Republic. It actually lost its “craving” for opposition though, when Khomeini declared that “The National Front is condemned” and leaders of the opposition groups were forced to make public apologies on TV (Brumberg, 2001). A protest on the 15 June 1981, was “cowed into virtual silence” by the threat of violence by Khomeini’s soldiers. (Bakhash, 1990)
Marjane experiences violence the first time, when her mother and her go to a protest against women being forced to wear the hijabs against their will. They both had to run away from the protest when the mob suddenly attacks, threatening “the scarf or a beating!” (Satrapi, page 76). Marjane also has an encounter with the Women’s branch of the guardians of the revolution, who she says “could detain me for hours, or for days. I could be whipped”. She explains that “their job was to put us back on the straight and narrow by explaining the duties of Muslim women”. They would stop women who were not veiled properly, or who wore inappropriate clothes, such as jeans or trainers. Khomeini’s violence against the critics of his regime was effective at cowing his opposition.
The Islamic Republic also used lies and misleading information to control the Iranian population. Marjane’s father for example prefers getting news from the BBC, on his radio, than from the TV. He says that, “You can’t always believe what they say [on the TV]” (Marjane, page 83).Throughout the book, Marjane recalls seeing on TV that the government were temporarily closing and shutting down universities. The government tries stating the reason that “everything needs to be revised to ensure our children are not led astray from the truth path of Islam”. The presenter on the TV agrees, saying “Of course, of course!”
The TV offers no representation for the views of people like Marjane’s parents, who don’t want to see universities close down. Iran’s universities were shut down for 2 years in total, to “Islamize” them. For example, textbooks were modified to put Islam at the forefront (Cleveland, 2004). Schools had also employed many sneaky techniques to get children on their side. On page 144, Marjane recalls when a teacher lied about statistics to make the new regime look better than the old one. The teacher says, “We no longer have political prisoners” but Marjane responds to that by stating that “We’ve gone from 3000 prisoners under the Shah to 300,000 under your regime.” The schools are also used to recruit children for the line of defence in the war against Iraq. Different views were given to boys of fighting age, and “they told the boys that if they went to war and were lucky enough to die, this key would get them into heaven” (Satrapi, page 99). Chants and songs were are also used to stir a bunch of different emotions of patriotism in the children. Marjane’s cousin says, “They put them in a trance with all their songs [….] they hypnotize them” (page 101). Propaganda music is a typical technique used in non-democratic countries to instill feelings of loyalty in the population. Lies were frequently used by the Islamic Republic to cover up the regime’s failings.
After the Iranian Revolution, the Islamic Republic maintained its power by dealing harshly with its critics with force, such as the killings and beatings. Children on the other hand were persuaded into the party’s beliefs more harmfully, filled with lies and so much propaganda. Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is in power, led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with whom rests absolute power, along with his Guardian Council (Kagan, 2014). It remains to be see whether Iran will stay as theocracy or will one day change back into a becoming a Westernized country it once was.
Brumberg, Daniel (1981) Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran. University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 116
Kagan, Frederick W. (2014) Islamic Republic of Iran [Online] Available at:
Satrapi, Marjane (2003) Persepolis.
Shaul Bakhash (1990) The Reign of the Ayatollahs. Basic Books, US.
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