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Inside the Iron Cage of Liberalism: International Contexts and Nonviolent Success in the Iranian Revolution

Nonviolent Conflict and Civil Resistance

ISBN: 978-1-78190-345-2, eISBN: 978-1-78190-346-9

Publication date: 19 September 2012


As recent events in the Middle East and North Africa suggest, nonviolent revolutionary movements may represent an oppressed population's most promising path to ridding itself of an authoritarian regime. But as the diverging experiences of Tunisia and Egypt on the one hand, and Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen on the other suggest, nonviolent victory is never a foregone conclusion. This chapter seeks to contribute to our understanding of nonviolent revolutionary success through an analysis of one of the world's first nonviolent revolutions, that of Iran in 1977–1979. Based on historical evidence, I argue that friendly international relations between the United States and Iran is a key factor in explaining both the revolutionaries’ preference for nonviolent tactics and the government's inability to repress the movement. Jimmy Carter's human rights framework served as an important incentive for revolutionaries to remain nonviolent while ensuring that state repression of unarmed protesters would come at a political price high enough to discourage the government from resorting to overwhelming violence.



Ritter, D.P. (2012), "Inside the Iron Cage of Liberalism: International Contexts and Nonviolent Success in the Iranian Revolution", Erickson Nepstad, S. and Kurtz, L.R. (Ed.) Nonviolent Conflict and Civil Resistance (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Vol. 34), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 95-121.



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