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made responsible for imposing price-¬xing rules and adjudicating cases.
Retail prices were set at pro¬t rates that were half the rate of in¬‚ation.50
The draconian measures included the establishment of ˜˜Supervision
Teams™™ composed of 10,000 newly hired inspectors, many of whom
were university students who received cash bonuses for ticketing
offenders. Inspectors had the right to hand out instant ¬nes and
recommend penalties of prison terms, internal exile, and closure of
businesses.51 When retailers argued that they were forced to sell at high
prices because of in¬‚ated wholesaler and producer prices, the govern-
ment commissioned the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines
to impose price controls on wholesale goods and to void the import
licenses of those who did not comply, which only led to corruption,
capital ¬‚ight, and decline in production in the industrial sector.52


49
Mehdi Motameni, interview by Habib Ladjevardi, tape recording no. 3, St. Martin,
Netherlands, April 30, 1986, Iranian Oral History Collection, Harvard University;
Ervand Abrahamian, Iran: Between Two Revolutions (Princeton: Princeton University
Press 1982); pp. 496“8; Davoud Ghandchi-Tehrani, ˜˜Bazaaris and Clergy: Socio-
economic Origins of Radicalism and Revolution in Iran,™™ Ph.D. dissertation, City
University of New York, 1982, 93“4; and Keyhan International, October 2, 1978.
50
Parsa, Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution, p. 83.
51
Keyhan International, October 2, 1978.
52
Motameni, interview; and Ghassem Ladjevardi, interview by Habib Ladjevardi, tape
recording no. 2, Los Angeles, California, January 29, 1983, Iranian Oral History
Collection, Harvard University, 16“18.
242 Bazaar and State in Iran

The results of the campaign were sweeping: the government ¬ned and
closed down 250,000 businesses, sentenced 8,000 businessmen to jail
terms ranging from two months to three years, and deported 23,000 to
remote areas of the country. Furthermore, the state publicly humiliated
those charged with pro¬teering by placing their names on banners and
in newspapers. A number of respected individuals in the Tehran Bazaar,
as well as prominent industrialists were also charged with pro¬teering
(e.g. Habib Elghanian, Mohammad Vahhabzadeh, and ˜Ali Khosraw-
shahi), but ordinary retailers and bazaaris, whom the political elite had
already deemed to be pariah forms of traditionalists, made up the
overwhelming majority of those sentenced. During the Revolution, a
bazaari recalled, ˜˜Almost every bazaari family has had someone who
suffered from the shah™s program, . . . as if we were the cause of all of
Iran™s in¬‚ation.™™53 At the end of the summer of 1977, members of the
Tehran Bazaar met with government of¬cials, but as usual they were
unresponsive. In the end, when the guild courts were closed in
November 1978 (two months before the Shah™s departure from Iran),
in¬‚ation was not reduced (in fact the store closures and cancellation of
import taxes only helped to worsen supply shortages), and the bazaar™s
animosity toward the regime had turned into a revolutionary torrent. A
bazaari told a western journalist, ˜˜We were made the whipping boy of
Iran to create a smoke screen for the vast corruption that was going on in
the government and in the bosom of the royal family.™™54
This antipro¬teering campaign coincided with a number of other gov-
ernment policies that attacked the bazaar™s interest. For instance, the
government announced a plan to raise taxes by charging social security
dues for all workers, including temporary employees. In addition, a law
aimed at curbing land speculation by placing limits on the sale of unde-
veloped land hurt the economic interests of the propertied middle class.55
Although this was not intended as a direct attack on the bazaar, since
many bazaaris had been actively investing in property and land, they were
adversely impacted by this measure. In December 1976 the government
also sought to regulate business practices by ¬xing store hours and char-
ging a heavy ¬ne for violators.56 Finally, the municipalities even talked of
building an eight-lane highway through the Tehran Bazaar and converting
it into a market along the lines of London™s Convent Garden.57


53
Wall Street Journal, November 30, 1978.
54
New York Times, December 17, 1978.
55
Ibid. This was brought up in my discussions with bazaaris.
56
Ghandchi-Tehrani, ˜˜Bazaaris and Clergy,™™ p. 94.
57
Keyhan International, October 2, 1978.
Networks of mobilization under two regimes 243

The bazaaris transformed this growing laundry list of grievances into
political action against the state. The most fundamental form of protest
during the Revolution was closure of the bazaar across the country.
During the initial buildup to the Revolution (from the fall of 1977 to the
fall of 1978), when protests were limited to leftist activists, radical
religious circles, and old liberal nationalists, the major bazaars in Iran
struck repeatedly, with the Tehran Bazaar often taking the lead role.58
For example, Mehdi Bazargan recalls that when the Society of Mer-
chants, Artisans, and Guilds along with members of the Liberation
Movement of Iran called for the ¬rst national closure of bazaars to
commemorate the anniversary of the 1963 uprising, the bazaars in
Isfahan, Mashhad, and Tabriz were completely closed and 70 percent of
those in the Tehran Bazaar did not open their stores and of¬ces.59 By
the time the Revolution had expanded into a multiclass constellation
with industrial workers, white-collar workers and government bureaucrats
joining in the fall and winter of 1978, the bazaars were on almost con-
tinual strike. The ¬rst national bazaar closing took place on October 16,
1978, in commemoration of the killings on Black Friday Zhaleh Square.60
These closures were a powerful economic measure to undermine the
regime. As the principal commercial center in Iranian cities, and in the
case of the Tehran Bazaar the main wholesale center in the country, the
strikes crippled the economy and resonated through nationwide eco-
nomic channels.61 Moreover, as a highly visible and historically mean-
ingful form of protest, the bazaars™ closures were an evocative symbol of
political con¬‚ict. It was the sort of action that had Iranians talking about
the bazaar being ˜˜sholugh.™™ Strikes also freed some bazaaris to engage in
other political activities. A bazaari told me that he has never read as many
newspapers and political books as he did during the strikes of 1978.
The strikes also often coincided with another public form of protest,
the mass rally. Ashraf and Banuazizi calculated that out of the 2,483
demonstrations reported during the course of the Revolution, almost
two-thirds were organized by the mosque“bazaar alliance (with a
quarter being organized by secondary school and university students

58
Misagh Parsa, States, Ideologies, and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of Iran,
Nicaragua, and the Philippines (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000),
pp. 208“10.
59
Mehdi Bazargan, Enqelab-e Iran dar Daw Harekat (Tehran: n.p., 1363 (1984)), p. 45.
60
Resalat, 20 Esfand 1365 (March 11, 1987). Over half of the strikes during the critical
months of October and November 1978 involved elements of bazaars, universities, and
high schools. Ahmad Ashraf and Ali Banuazizi, ˜˜The State, Classes and Modes of
Mobilization in the Iranian Revolution,™™ State, Culture and Society 1 (Spring 1985),
p. 25.
61
Hooglund, Land and Revolution in Iran, p. 140.
244 Bazaar and State in Iran

and teachers).62 Many of these political rallies were organized on
religious occasions (days marking the births and martyrdoms of Shiite
Imams) and forty-day mourning commemorations for people killed by
the regime.63 Thus, the rallies turned into cyclical confrontations with
the state that sustained opposition throughout 1978. Mosque associa-
tions were critical in smoothly coordinating the rallies, which brough
together tens and even hundreds of thousands of participants.64 As in
earlier con¬‚icts, these rallies often began from the bazaar area, but they
now often ended at Tehran University, rather than the Majles, as was
the case in earlier decades. The shift from the Majles, to university
campuses and high schools65 was indicative of a number of transfor-
mations, including the demise of all public deliberative institutions
during the last two decades of Pahlavi rule, the emergence of a politi-
cized middle class based very much in institutions of higher education,
and a northward shift in the city center.
The bazaar-based organizations also supported the political activities
and strikes of other social groups. They set up and collected funds for
university professors, workers in the oil industry, and journalists who at
various stages struck and were thus without income. To coordinate these
activities and organize the mobilization, the Tehran Bazaar also estab-
lished a number of committees, including the Committee for the Affairs
of Prisoners, the Committee for the Families of Martyrs, the Committee
for the Support of Combatants, and the Committee for the Organization
for Rallies.66 The Committee for Printing and Distribution of Informa-
tion was responsible for the widespread distribution of ¬‚iers announcing
meetings and making declarations, as well as copying and circulating
audio-cassette recordings of Khomeini™s speeches in Najaf. The bazaaris™
resources and access to publishing and copying of¬ces became political
resources; the distribution networks essential for national commodity
markets were equally vital in creating a market for political opposition
statements. All of these activities expanded the social base of the Revo-
lution and maintained the mobilization for months on end.
In the effort to understand the revolutionary movement and the
Islamic nature of the subsequent government, analysts have tended to
emphasize and interpret the actions and motivations of participants in
62
Ibid., p. 25.
63
Islamic custom calls on Muslims to mourn the deceased on the seventh and fortieth day
after the death of a loved one.
64
Lebaschi, tape recording no. 3, 5“6.
65
Tehran University was also surrounded by a number of well-established high schools
and technical schools. Thus, what was then Shah Reza Street (now Islamic Revolution
Street) was an apt site for congregation and contention.
66
Entekhab, 13 Day 1379 ( January 2, 2001).
Networks of mobilization under two regimes 245

the Islamic Revolution in primarily cultural and religious terms. How-
ever, a prospective, as opposed to a retrospective, analysis tends to
demonstrate important nuances in the timing of events, demands of
participants, and heterogeneity within groups. Most signi¬cantly, it
suggests a greater degree of bazaari independence from the clergy than
the concept of the mosque“bazaar alliance would predict.
First, there is an important temporal variation in participation in the
anti-Pahlavi movement.67 The bazaaris community was one of the ¬rst
groups to join the wave of protests that culminated in the Iranian
Revolution of 1979. Aggrieved by the regime™s economic policies, in
1977 bazaaris joined liberal nationalists who began to confront the
regime™s authoritarianism and call on it to protect human rights and
conduct free and fair elections. In March 1977, the Tehran Bazaar also
sided with the university community by closing in support of their
protests against the government™s plan to move the Aryamehr University
from Tehran to the politically less in¬‚uential city of Isfahan. Bazaaris
helped students establish and publicize a fund and encourage professors
who went on strike and had their salaries reduced.68 Sadeq Ziba-Kalam,
currently a political scientist at Tehran University, remembers that ˜˜the
bazaar enjoyed a great deal of popularity among academics and intel-
lectuals in the pre-revolutionary era. During the Shah™s reign the bazaar
had the highest number of political prisoners after the university. Most
of the demonstrations that began in the [Tehran] Bazaar ended in front
of the university; similarly the students marched toward the Bazaar.
This link was quite visible at that time.™™69 The existence of close rela-
tions between the Tehran Bazaar and the universities was not lost on
outside observers either. Jonathan Kandell, a New York Times reporter
covering the revolution, wrote a piece on how the students and bazaaris
had formed an alliance.70 When I mentioned the issue of bazaar“
university cooperation to bazaaris a number of them pointed out that
notwithstanding the expectation and desire for their sons to work in the
˜˜free sector,™™ education was very important to bazaaris. They were well
aware that only a university education provided not only the necessary

67
This section follows the analysis by Ashraf and Banuazizi, ˜˜The State, Classes and
Modes of Mobilization in the Iranian Revolution,™™ and Parsa, Social Origins of the
Iranian Revolution.
68
Lebaschi, tape recording no. 3, 1. Also, the Tehran Bazaar was the site of a university
student and faculty gathering after the death of ˜Ali Shariati. Daftar-e Adabiyyat-e
Enqelab-e Eslami, Ruz-shomar-e Enqelab-e Eslami, vol. 1 (Tehran: Hawzeh-ye Honari-
ye Sazman-e Tablighat-e Eslami, 1376 (1997), 290.
69
Amir Nakha˜i, ˜˜Tahazzob va Sakhtar-e Eqtesadi,™™ Jame˜eh-ye Salem 7 (Esfand 1376
(March 1998)), p. 30.
70
New York Times, November 7, 1978.
246 Bazaar and State in Iran

skills and access to new technologies for success in an industrial econ-
omy, but also social standing and status in a modern society.71 Uni-
versity education was also a means to cultivate ties with the new middle
class. Thus, bazaaris generally encouraged their children to seek higher
education. With their sons, and to a lesser extent their daughters,
attending universities in Tehran and abroad, many bazaaris became
aware of the campus activities, concerns, and ideological developments,
such as Islamist and leftist politics.
The principal bazaari agitators in this early stage were activists allied
with the National Front and sympathetic to Mehdi Bazargan and
Mahmud Taleqani™s Liberation Movement of Iran. These were not the
Islamist and clerical groups centered in the seminaries. These liberal
nationalists and Muslim intellectuals had seized upon several political
opportunities to call for reforms and organize small groupings. For
example, in 1977 Lebaschi, who continued to be a major voice for the
National Front in the Bazaar, actively organizing groups and meetings,
publishing and distributing political pamphlets, was followed and
questioned by the secret police.72 In October 1977, the diverse grouping
of politically active bazaaris organized a service to commemorate the
death of Khomeini™s son. While an earlier clerical memorial passed with
little attention, the Tehran Bazaar closed so shopkeepers could attend
this ceremony at the nearby mosque. These events and other such
actions, while far from being revolutionary in goal or seriously chal-
lenging the power of the regime to rule, predate the mobilization of
religious radicals headed by Khomeini or moderate clerics (e.g. Shar-
i˜atmadari). It was only in January 1978, after troops massacred
seminary students in Qom, that clerics began to join the movement
against the regime and the bazaar“mosque mobilizing structure came to
the fore.
The prevailing demands in the protest statements issued by bazaari
organizations are also revealing. Even though in these declarations, the
movement was described as ˜˜Islamic™™ and in defense of ˜˜innocent™™ and
˜˜deprived Muslims,™™ they called only rarely for the establishment of an
Islamic government or defended the clergy as a class.73 Instead, the
statements consistently called for rather ecumenical objectives such as
the end to political violence and repression, the removal of despotism,
and the creation of an independent Iran free of imperialism. Exhibiting
the strong liberating nature of the struggle, in June 1978 a bazaari told a

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