constitution was being ratiÔ¬Āed, the constitutional movement was frac-
tured by internal disputes and external pressures. An important turning
point was the defection of a group of clerics who questioned the com-
patibility of the Constitution with Islamic Law. Nonetheless, the
majority of merchants and guild members did not break with the con-
stitutional movement. The conÔ¬‚icts at the turn of the century illustrate a
lack of unity among clergy and the independent agency of the Bazaar.
The Oil Nationalization Movement (1951‚Ä“3) The oil nationa-
lization movement spearheaded by Mohammad Mosaddeq was the next
national movement that featured the Tehran Bazaar as a major mobi-
lizing force.23 In 1951, Mosaddeq, a charismatic orator and pro-
constitutionalist parliamentary representative, headed a coalition of
parties known as the National Front in sponsoring a bill nationalizing
Iran‚Ä™s oil industry. In a thoroughly popular move that Ô¬‚ew in the face of
Mohammad Reza Shah‚Ä™s passive stance vis-a-vis the Anglo-Iranian Oil
Company and Britain‚Ä™s uncompromising attitude, Mosaddeq quickly
became the magnetic symbol for anti-British and anti-Pahlavi, if not
antimonarchist, sentiments that initially attracted a diverse array of
political currents including the illegal communist Tudeh Party and an
Islamic party afÔ¬Āliated with Ayatollah Abolqasem Kashani.
For the bazaaris, Mosaddeq‚Ä™s criticisms of government corruption
and advocacy of a ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜national economy‚Ä™‚Ä™ centered on domestic capital was
compelling.24 As early as March 1945, the Tehran Bazaar orchestrated a
closure to show support for Mosaddeq‚Ä™s criticisms of the Shah‚Ä™s cro-
nies.25 A principal ally of Mosaddeq‚Ä™s government was the active
Society of Merchants, Guilds, and Artisans, which was established in
1951 and led by Mohammad Rasekh-Afshar, the leader for the giveh26‚Ä“
sellers‚Ä™ guild. It included such other notable supporters as Hasan
Mark J. Gasirowski, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜The 1953 Coup d‚Ä™Etat in Iran,‚Ä™‚Ä™ International Journal of Middle
East Studies 19 (August 1987), 261‚Ä“86.
Ahmad Ashraf, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Nezam-e SenÔ¬Ā va Jame‚Ä˜eh-ye Madani,‚Ä™‚Ä™ Iran-nameh 14 (Winter 1374
Ashraf, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Bazaar-Mosque Alliance,‚Ä™‚Ä™ 548.
Giveh are a type of shoe produced in Iran.
Networks of mobilization under two regimes 237
Shamshiri, Abolqasem Lebaschi, and Hasan Qasemiyyeh.27 Through-
out Mosaddeq‚Ä™s struggle to nationalize Iran‚Ä™s oil industry and increase
the powers of the parliament and the prime minister, the bazaaris
actively championed the cause by distributing announcements and
newspapers, and organizing rallies and demonstrations, most of which
set out from the Tehran Bazaar and ended in front of the parliament in
Baharestan Square. Moreover, they organized roughly Ô¬Āfty closures of
the marketplace as a display of opposition to the Shah‚Ä™s policies.28
Bazaaris also Ô¬Ānancially supported the Mosaddeq government. With the
vast majority of oil companies boycotting Iranian oil, the government‚Ä™s
solvency was under threat. When the government began selling national
bonds, bazaaris quickly began purchasing them to support the govern-
ment.29 Nonetheless, in August 1953, the prime minister‚Ä™s government
was ousted in a CIA-supported military coup, ending the con-
stitutionalist and democratizing movement.
The Bazaar‚Ä™s opposition to the Shah and support for Mosaddeq were
in fact so great that despite the overthrow of the prime minister and his
military trial, merchants formed committees to oppose the coup and
continued to use closures to publicize their resistance to the Shah.30 In
November 1953, even after student protesters were muzzled and
Tehran University was reopened, the Tehran Bazaar continued to
demonstrate against the Shah.31 The bazaaris‚Ä™ actions earned them the
Shah‚Ä™s enmity, and three months after the coup, the regime responded
by exiling several of the bazaar organizers (including the famous res-
taurateur Shamshiri) and demolishing parts of the Bazaar‚Ä™s domed roof
and defacing its doors.32
In light of claims that the bazaar and the mosque are coupled in a
political alliance, it is signiÔ¬Ācant to note that the bazaar remained loyal
to Mosaddeq‚Ä™s cause after Kashani defected from the coalition in the
summer of 1952; Kashani and a number of high-standing clerics even
actively supported the Shah and the coup.33 Thus, the self-proclaimed
Abol Ghassem Lebaschi, interview by Habib Ladjevardi, tape recording no. 1, Paris,
France, February 28, 1983, Iranian Oral History Collection, Harvard University, 5.
Hasan Shamshiri, the owner of the most famous chelaw-kebab restaurant in the Tehran
Bazaar and staunch supporter of Mosaddeq, was one of the main purchasers of the
national bonds. After the coup, he was exiled to an island in the Persian Gulf.
Mina Jabbari, Hamisheh Bazar (Tehran: Agah, 1379 (2000)), pp. 136‚Ä“7.
New York Times, October 9 and 11, 1953.
New York Times, November 15, 1953; and Lebaschi, tape recording no. 1, 20.
The clergy‚Ä™s support for the Shah increased their inÔ¬‚uence in the court in the 1950s.
For a detailed discussion of state‚Ä“clergy relations in this era see Shahrough Akhavi,
Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran: Clergy-State Relations in the Pahlavi Period
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1980), chapter 3.
238 Bazaar and State in Iran
‚Ä˜‚Ä˜golden era‚Ä™‚Ä™ of the bazaar34 was largely independent of, and by the
end in opposition to, the religious establishment‚Ä™s indifference and pro-
The anti-White Revolution protests (1963) A decade later a
conÔ¬‚uence of events and the emergence of Ayatollah Khomeini as a
passionate rhetorician for anti-Pahlavi sentiments created another
opportunity for mass action against the regime. By 1960 the backbone of
the activists in the Society of Merchants, Guilds, and Artisans began to
feel that the Shah‚Ä™s regime was again vulnerable.35 The economy was in
a dire state (high levels of inÔ¬‚ation, bankruptcies, and labor disputes)
with the International Monetary Fund prescribing a set of policies to
limit imports, government spending, and credit. Meanwhile, the
Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations began to see political liber-
alization as a means to ward off radicalism and communism in the Third
World. Despite the suppression of dissident groups after his return to
power, the Shah had not formed a social base for his regime, and
therefore in 1961 he appointed a liberal prime minister to appease
internal and external political criticism. Key among the changes was
land reform. The Land Reform Law of 1962 was envisioned as a
method to prepare the agricultural sector for modern techniques
of production, and simultaneously to undermine the political power of
landowning families and attempt directly to mobilize the peasantry
via state institutions.36 This limited program became the Ô¬Ārst plank of
the Shah‚Ä™s White Revolution, which was to be approved in a plebiscite in
January 1963. All the major political factions opposed the plebiscite,
including the second National Front, the Liberation Movement of
Iran (LMI), and the many members of the clergy. The Tehran
Bazaar staged a strike for three days prior to the plebiscite. The state
responded by arresting the leadership of the National Front and the
LMI, including a number of activists from the Tehran Bazaar. With the
liberal nationalist organizations stiÔ¬‚ed, bazaaris turned to a new protest
network, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini‚Ä™s seminary circle in Qom.37
These events were all taking place at the time when Khomeini began to
become a public leader. After the death of the leading cleric Ayatollah
Ashraf, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Nezam-e SenÔ¬Ā va Jame‚Ä˜eh-ye Madani,‚Ä™‚Ä™ 21.
Lebaschi, tape recording no. 1, 20‚Ä“1.
Eric Hooglund, Land and Revolution in Iran, 1960‚Ä“1980 (Austin: University of Texas
Press, 1982). Hooglund‚Ä™s study shows that the land reform succeeded in eroding the
power of landlords and introduced the bazaars‚Ä™ merchants and moneylenders as a new
source of agricultural credit.
Lebaschi, tape recording no. 2, 9‚Ä“10.
Networks of mobilization under two regimes 239
Borujerdi in March 1961, Khomeini began to take on a more public
persona. His Ô¬Ārst public criticism was of the Shah‚Ä™s electoral reforms,
which included women‚Ä™s suffrage, for which he was brieÔ¬‚y imprisoned in
1962. On the issue of land reform, Khomeini joined the majority of
clerics in opposing the plan, which threatened the interests of many
clerics who owned agricultural land and the religious institutions that
were supported by earnings from agricultural trusts.38 Khomeini added
his own vociferous attacks against the ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜tyrannical‚Ä™‚Ä™ Shah, whom he saw
as making Iran dependent on the United States and Israel and endan-
gering Islam and the clergy.39 His outspokenness and uncompromising
courage endeared him to politically inclined seminary students in Qom
and religious activists. It also earned him another prison term prior to the
plebiscite. In June 1963 in Tehran, during commemoration of Imam
Hosayn‚Ä™s martyrdom, or ‚Ä˜Ashura, political protesters used the ritualistic
mourning ceremonies as a cover for a demonstration with participants
carrying pictures of Khomeini and chanting anti-Shah slogans.40 Mean-
while in Qom, the recently released and unreprntant Khomeini bluntly
attacked the Shah‚Ä™s regime. The next day, the equally persistent Pahlavi
regime arrested him again. On that same day, when a large group of
protesters, many of whom came from outlying regions of Tehran and the
fruit and vegetable bazaar, congregated in front of the Tehran Bazaar,
troops opened Ô¬Āre. The clashes lasted for three days and left several
hundred dead or injured.41 The protests were quelled. This political
mobilization was undermined by a number of factors, including the
imprisonment and suppression of secular groups since the 1953 coup, the
relative quietism of university and high-school students, and unrespon-
siveness on the part of import‚Ä“exporter merchants in the Bazaar.42 Yet, for
pro-Khomeini supporters the seeds of the Islamic Revolution were sown.
Most observers have neglected to note that bazaari mobilization in the
summer of 1963 was in fact preceded by two years of political activism
and collective action against the Shah‚Ä™s policies ‚Ä“ activism that was
largely independent of radical clerical protests.43 At the beginning of the
Akhavi, Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran, pp. 91‚Ä“105.
For texts of his speeches at this time see Hamid Algar, Islam and Revolution: Writings
and Declarations of Imam Khomeini (Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1981), pp. 174‚Ä“88.
Mehri, Masajed-e Bazar-e Tehran, p. 98.
Ibid. 95‚Ä“104. Khomeini was released on August 3, 1963, only to be detained and
expelled from Iran in 1964 for staunchly criticizing a bill that gave U.S. military
personnel diplomatic immunity.
Mansoor Moaddel, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜The Shi‚Ä™i Ulama and the State in Iran,‚Ä™‚Ä™ Theory and Society 15
(July 986), 544.
The exception being Misagh Parsa, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Mosque of Last Resort: State Reform and Social
ConÔ¬‚ict in the Early 1960s,‚Ä™‚Ä™ in A Century of Revolution: Social Movements in Iran, ed.
John Foran (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1994).
240 Bazaar and State in Iran
decade, the bazaaris (predominantly retailers and artisans) who were
hurt by tax reforms responded by refusing to pay taxes for three years.
This conÔ¬‚ict between the state and guilds came to the fore in spring
1963 when the state threatened to launch an antiproÔ¬Āteering campaign
and began to audit merchants who were delinquent in paying their taxes.
Along with these economically motivated collective actions, there were
a series of political moves. In 1960 the Tehran Bazaar, principally
organized by the second National Front,44 went on strike to protest the
parliamentary elections that were widely believed to have been rigged.45
Then in October 1961, bazaaris and shopowners around the parliament
again went on strike, this time in support of the school teachers‚Ä™ national
strike for higher salaries.46 Also, bazaaris joined and organized meetings
for the liberal and democratically inclined Union for the Safeguarding of
the Constitution and Individual Rights.47
The Islamic Revolution (1977‚Ä“1979) The exact causes behind,
the relative weight of coalition members in, and the motivation of par-
ticipants in the Islamic Revolution are greatly disputed by participants
and observers alike. However, it is agreed that the Revolution brought
together a wide array of social groups and political factions into a mass
insurrection that culminated in the overthrow of the monarchy and the
establishment of the Islamic Republic. It is also generally accepted that
the bazaars in Iran were, to borrow the chapter title from Misagh Parsa‚Ä™s
account, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜the eye of the storm.‚Ä™‚Ä™48 The Tehran Bazaar, the wealthiest,
most populated and commercially central market, was particularly vital.
In this section, I attempt only to summarize the collective action of
bazaaris in Tehran and other major cities during the build-up to the
demise of the monarchy to show how germane it was to the coordination
and mobilization of the insurgency.
Shanehchi, tape recording no. 2.
Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet, p. 36.
Parsa, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Mosque of Last Resort,‚Ä™‚Ä™ 145‚Ä“7.
Hossein Bashiriyeh, The State and Revolution in Iran 1962‚Ä“1982 (New York: St. Martin
Press, 1984), 23.
Misagh Parsa, Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution (New Brunswick: Rutgers
University Press, 1989), chapter 4. While I generally agree with Parsa‚Ä™s careful
narration and analysis of the Islamic Revolution and I rely on it extensively for this
section, I am less conÔ¬Ādent that ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Bazaari mobilization and collective action quickly
emerged as the most signiÔ¬Ācant features of the revolutionary conÔ¬‚icts and were of
primary importance in bringing down the Pahlavi regime‚Ä™‚Ä™ (p. 92). I believe Parsa
underestimates the importance of the economically crippling strikes by industrial
workers in the fall of 1978 that led to the Shah‚Ä™s imposition of the military government
in November 1978 and the Ô¬Ānal collapse in January and February 1979. It was not until
the mass strikes joined the bazaars‚Ä™ year-long activism that the power of the regime was
Networks of mobilization under two regimes 241
The underlying causes of the bazaaris‚Ä™ opposition to the state lay in
their systematic lack of access to state resources and institutions, as
described previously. But the immediate events that led to the bazaar‚Ä™s
opposition to the regime were a series of ill-designed and mismanaged
government policies, which not only threatened bazaari interests, but
directed their antagonism toward the state and provided an opening to
challenge the regime.
Principal among these was the state‚Ä™s antiproÔ¬Āteering campaign,
which began in August 1975.49 This heavily touted initiative, which was
added as the fourteenth principle of the White Revolution, was aimed at
reducing the high inÔ¬‚ation rate. The main sources of inÔ¬‚ation were the
increased cost of imports, labor shortages, and the inability of the econ-
omy efÔ¬Āciently to absorb high levels of capital brought on by expansive
development projects after the 1973 oil boom. The Shah, however, was
convinced that the root cause was proÔ¬Āteering on the part of shopkeepers.
To lower prices, proÔ¬Āts had to be curbed, and the state had to intervene
in the value chains.
The Chamber of Guilds, established by the state in the same year, was