White Revolution

White Revolution

The White Revolution ( _fa. انقلاب سفید "Enghelāb-e Sefid") was a far-reaching series of reforms launched in 1963 by the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

The Reforms

The Shah had intended it to be a non-violent regeneration of Iranian society through economic and social reforms, with the ultimate long-term aim of transforming Iran into a global economic and industrial power. The Shah introduced novel economic concepts such as profit-sharing for industrial workers and initiated massive government-financed heavy industry projects, as well as the nationalization of forests and pastureland. Most important, however, were the land reform programs which saw the traditional landed elites of Iran lose much of their influence and power. Nearly 90% of Iranian share-croppers became landowners as a result.

Socially, the platform granted women more rights and poured money into education, especially in the rural areas. The "Literacy Corps" was also established, which allowed young men to fulfill their compulsory military service by working as village literacy teachers.

The White Revolution consisted of 19 elements that were introduced over a period of 15 years, with the first 6 introduced in 1963 and put to a national referendum on January 26th, 1963.

# Land Reforms Program and Abolishing "Feudalism": The government bought the land from the feudal land lords at a fair price and sold it to the peasants at 30% below the market value, with the loan being payable over 25 years at very low interest rates. This made it possible for 1.5 million peasant families, who had once been little more than slaves, to own the lands that they had been cultivating all their lives. Given that average size of a peasant family was 5, land reforms program brought freedom to approximately 9 million people, or 40% of Iran's population.
# Nationalization of Forests and Pasturelands: Introduced many measures, not only to protect the national resources and stop the destruction of forests and pasturelands, but also to further develop and cultivate them. More than 9 million trees were planted in 26 regions, creating 70,000 acres (280 km²) of "green belts" around cities and on the borders of the major highways.
# Privatization of the Government Owned Enterprises, manufacturing plants and factories by selling their shares to the public and the old feudal lords, thus creating a whole new class of factory owners who could now help to industrialize the country.
# Profit Sharing for industrial workers in private sector enterprises, giving the factory workers and employees 20% share of the net profits of the places where they worked and securing bonuses based on higher productivity or reductions in costs.
# Extending the Right to Vote to Women, who had no voice and were suppressed by Islamic traditions. This measure was widely criticized by the clergy.
# Formation of the Literacy Corps, so that those who had a high school diploma and were required to serve their country as soldiers could do so in fighting illiteracy in the villages. At this point in time 2/3 of the population was illiterate.
# Formation of the Health Corps to extend public health care throughout the villages and rural regions of Iran. In 3 years, almost 4,500 medical groups were trained; nearly 10 million cases were treated by the Corps.
# Formation of the Reconstruction and Development Corps to teach the villagers the modern methods and techniques of farming and keeping livestock. Agricultural production between 1964 and 1970 increased by 80% in tonnage and 67% in value.
# Formation of the Houses of Equity where 5 village elders would be elected by the villagers, for a period of 3 years, to act as arbitrators in order to help settle minor offences and disputes. By 1977 there were 10,358 Houses of Equity serving over 10 million people living in over 19,000 villages across the country.
# Nationalization of all Water Resources, introduction of projects and policies in order to conserve and benefit from Iran's limited water resources. Many dams were constructed and five more were under construction in 1978. It was as a result of these measures that the area of land under irrigation increased from 2 million acres (8,000 km²), in 1968, to 5.6 million in 1977.
# Urban and Rural Modernization and Reconstruction with the help of the Reconstruction and Development Corps. Building of public baths, schools and libraries; installing water pumps and power generators for running water and electricity.
# Didactic Reforms that improved the quality of education by diversifying the curriculum in order to adapt to the necessities of life in the modern world.
# Workers' Right to Own Shares in the Industrial Complexes where they worked by turning Industrial units, with 5 years history and over, into public companies, where up to 99% of the shares in the state-owned enterprises and 49% of the shares of the private companies would be offered for sale to the workers of the establishment at first and then to the general public.
# Price Stabilization and campaign against unreasonable profiteering (1975). Owners of factories and large chain stores were heavily fined, with some being imprisoned and other's licenses being revoked. Sanctions were imposed on multi-national foreign companies and tons of merchandise stored for speculative purposes were confiscated and sold to consumers at fixed prices.
# Free and Compulsory Education and a daily free meal for all children from kindergarten to 14 years of age. In 1978, 25% of Iranians were enrolled in public schools alone. In that same year there were 185,000 students of both sexes studying in Iran's universities. In addition to the above there were over 100,000 students pursuing their studies abroad, of which 50,000 were enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States.
# Free Food for Needy Mothers and for all newborn babies up to the age of two.
# Introduction of Social Security and National Insurance for all Iranians. National Insurance system provided for up to 100% of the wages during retirement.
# Stable and Reasonable Cost of Renting or Buying of Residential Properties (1977). Controls were placed on land prices and various forms of land speculation.
# Introduction of Measures to Fight against Corruption within the bureaucracy. Imperial Inspection Commission was founded, consisting of representatives from administrative bodies and people of proven integrity.


Though the White Revolution contributed towards the economic and technological advancement of Iran, the failures of some of the land reform programs and the partial lack of democratic reforms, as well as severe antagonism towards the White Revolution from the clergy and landed elites, would ultimately contribute to the Shah's downfall during the Iranian Revolution in 1979.


Critics complain that despite the many economic reforms, the White Revolution failed to include sufficient measures increasing democratic representation in Iran at the executive branch of government, though other democratic changes were implemented, such as extending suffrage to women. A number of the reforms were botched or fell victim to corruption.

Examples of these were land reform programs which did not give most peasants enough land to live on, creating widespread discontent; the loss of land by illiterate peasants to loan sharks; and the ruin of vital qanats (irrigation works) from lack of maintenance formerly organized by landlords. "When the qanats failed, they took thousands of productive villages with them."Citation | last =Mackey | first =Sandra | author-link = | date = 1996 | year = | title = The Iranians : Persia, Islam, and the soul of a nation | place =New York | publisher =Dutton | page =229 | isbn =0525940057 | url=http://books.google.com/books?id=3vcNAAAACAAJ&source=gbs_ViewAPI ]

Land reform has been criticized for leaving both landowners and rural workers without a "job," i.e. taking their old job without replacing it with a new one; for policies that followed developed countries reform too closely without considering Iran's unique circumstances (some places lacked of water, some places had too much water, etc...) The sometimes family-like bonds between landowners and workers were severed; workers received land they sometimes had no interest in and which they sometimes sold to multinational companies who often produced crops such as artichokes for export rather than domestic consumption. [Citation | last =Vaziri | first =Chahrokh | author-link = | title =Du Ghanat a l'Oleoduc: Essai sur le petrole et le pouvoir en Iran | place =Lausanne | publisher = Ed. Piantanida | url =http://www.antiqbook.de/boox/haker/242432.shtml ] The powerful Shī‘ah clergy were also angered at the reforms that removed much of their traditional powers in the realms of education and family law, as well as lessening their previously strong influence in the rural areas. A "large percentage of the upper echelon of the clergy came from landowning families" deeply affected by the reform and much absentee rent income went directly to the clergy and their institutions. The rents from an estimated 10,000 villages whose rents helped finance the clerical establishment were eligible for redistribution. [harv|Mackey|1996|p=221]

Leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini got his start as a political leader and organizer opposing the White Revolution. In a March 22, 1963 speech at Qom in honor of students killed fighting against the Shah's reforms, he attacked provisions of the reforms that would allow members of Iran's non-Muslim minority to be elected or appointed to local offices:quote|I have repeatedly pointed out that the government has evil intentions and is opposed to the ordinances of Islam. ... The Ministry of Justice has made clear its opposition to the ordinances of Islam by various measures like the abolition of the requirement that judges be Muslim and male; henceforth, Jews, Christians, and the enemies of Islam and the Muslims are to decide on affairs concerning the honor and person of the Muslims. ["Islam and Revolution," p.175]

A couple months later on Ashura, Khomeini gave an angry speech attacking the Shah as a "wretched miserable man" [cite book |author=Moin, Baqer |title=Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah |publisher=Thomas Dunne Books |year=2000|page=104] and asking whether the Shah was an "infidel" Jew. [cite book |author=Brumberg, Daniel |title=Reinventing Khomeini : The Struggle for Reform in Iran by Daniel Brumberg, |University of Chicago Press| year=2001|page=74] Two days later, on June 5, Khomeini was arrested. This sparked three days of rioting and left several hundred dead. The riots were remembered in speeches and writings as the time when the army "slaughtered no less than 15,000". [cite book |author=Khomeini, Ruhollah |editor=Algar, Hamid (translator and editor) |title=Islam and Revolution : Writing and Declarations of Imam Khomeini |publisher=Mizan Press |location=Berkeley | year=1981|page=17] Khomeini was released from house arrest in April 1964 but sent into exile that November.


[http://www.iranbanan.com/PDFS/WhiteRevolution.pdf White Revolution] fa icon



*citation|last=Mackey|first=Sandra|title=The Iranians: Persia, Islam and the Soul of a Nation |publisher=Dutton |year=1996

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