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KOMITEH. Revolutionary committees active in the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Komitehs arose in the fall of 1978 when students and young people formed neighborhood defense units against government-backed clubwielders who attacked protesters and set fire to shops, stores, and schools. Initially, the Komitehs were comprised of individuals with differing political ideologies and were not directed by any central authority. Two processes brought them under the control of the fundamentalist clergy, who employed them as a coercive organ. First, many members who had supported a democratic revolutionary outcome voluntarily left these organizations in the face of increasing authoritarianism. Second, in the summer of 1979, the clergy initiated an ideological purge of the Komitehs, dismissing forty thousand who did not meet with their ideological approval. The purified Komiteh members were largely drawn from the lower middle class, urban poor, and recent rural migrants.

With the collapse of the monarchy in February 1979, the Komitehs mobilized offensively to arrest and punish officials of the shah’s regime. Many Komiteh members had armed themselves with weapons confiscated during attacks on army barracks in the last two days of the revolutionary conflicts in February. During the first six months of the Islamic Republic, the Komitehs arrested a large number of officials and executed more than 220 police and army officers, SAVAK (secret police officials), and politicians linked to the monarchy. Over the next five years, they imprisoned numerous nonpolitical Baha’is, executing more than 200.

Liberal and nationalist political leaders who remained in the government, such as Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan and President Abol-Hasan Bani Sadr, repeatedly complained about the arbitrary nature of Komiteh activities. There were even some large-scale demonstrations in Tehran against the repressive measures taken by the Komitehs. In response to growing criticism, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini stated in late February 1979 that as soon as the government was in complete control of the cities, the Komitehs should relinquish their power and avoid involvement in government affairs. In mid-April, however, Khomeini, recognizing the threat posed by mounting social and ideological cleavages, modified his stand, declaring that the Komitehs needed purging, not dissolution. He stated that as long as corrupt individuals existed, there was a need for the Komitehs.

As the revolutionary coalition broke down and new conflicts emerged within the Islamic Republic, the Komitehs directed their attention against those who opposed fundamentalist rule. The Komitehs were significant in the dissolution of Workers’ Councils that sprang up in factories, the closure of colleges and universities throughout the country beginning in 198o, the repression of liberals aligned with President Bani Sadr in 1981, and the armed struggle against the socialist Islamic group, the Mujahidin-i Khalq, during the early 1980s. In addition, the Komitehs were instrumental in the arrest and execution of more than seven thousand leftist, Kurdish, and Tiirkmen opponents of the regime between 1981 and 1984.

By 1984, with the repression of the opposition virtually complete, the Komitehs moved out of the local mosques, where most of them had been headquartered. Their tasks were redefined and directed toward controlling smuggling and drug trafficking, and enforcing the use of the veil by women. In 1991, they were incorporated into the regular police force and ceased to exist as an independent entity.

[See also Iranian Revolution of 1979.


Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran between Two Revolutions. Princeton, 1982. Excellent history and analysis of the rise and demise of the Pahlavi dynasty and the creation of the Islamic Republic.

Amnesty International. Law and Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. London, 198o. Discusses the formation and functions of revolutionary organizations and issues of human rights in the early months of the Islamic Republic.

Bakhash, Shaul. The Reign of the Ayatollahs: Iran and the Islamic Revolution, New York, 1984. Insightful narrative of the post-1979 conflict and the establishment of the theocratic state.

Parsa, Misagh. Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution. New Brunswick, N.J., and London, 1989. Analyzes the nature of the state, economy, social conflicts, and collective action by various social groups between 1951 and 1981, with special emphasis on the 19771979 conflicts.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/komiteh/

  • writerPosted On: July 27, 2014
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