Few events in modern history have had the impact that Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution had on the Middle East and the world at large.
Led by the charismatic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolution ended over 2,500 years of monarchy in Iran, completely changed the country’s foreign policy, and brought Islamic jurisprudence to the country – in short, it shook the world.
Naturally, there are plenty of landmarks across Iran commemorating the revolution and its impacts. In this article, you will read about a handful of sites in Tehran that either played an instrumental role in the February 1979 revolution or were built following the uprising.
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A former village that’s now a neighborhood in northern Tehran, Jamaran is where Ayatollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic, called home. The house was not actually owned by the revolutionary leader: He had rented it from fellow Muslim cleric and scholar Mehdi Emam-Jamarani.
A mud-and-brick house, its location adjacent to Jamaran Hussainia, a religious center where Ayatollah Khomeini addressed his followers in the years after the revolution, is said to be one reason why the founder of the Islamic Republic was keen on residing there.
It has now been turned into a museum by the late leader’s estate. Ayatollah Khomeini’s personal belongings, from books and diaries to pens and chairs, are all on display at the museum.
Former US Embassy
Also referred to as the “Den of Espionage”, the former American Embassy in Tehran was the site of a major incident in 1979 that led to the complete severance of diplomatic ties between Tehran and Washington.
Members of a group of students who identified themselves as followers of Ayatollah Khomeini seized the embassy in downtown Tehran in November 1979 and took 66 captives.
The seizure was in response to America’s decision to grant asylum to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whose monarchy was toppled by the 1979 revolution. Many believed that the former Shah (king) had to be held accountable and tried in the court of law in Iran for having led an autocratic regime.
The Hostage Crisis, as the incident has come to be known, lasted until January 1981 and ended with the signing of the Algiers Accords.
The former embassy is now a museum known as Museum of 13 Aban – reference to the Iranian date of the beginning of the crisis – or simply Laan-e Jasusi (Den of Espionage).
During the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, political prisoners were incarcerated in Tehran’s notorious Towhid Prison. The prison remained open even after the 1979 revolution until it was finally shutdown in 2000, and turned into Ebrat Museum.
Ebrat, which is Persian for edification, is an apt name for the museum, whose sole purpose is to raise awareness about the mistreatment of political prisoners by the Shah’s secret police, SAVAK.
Built in 1932, Towhid Prison served as Iran’s first modern jail before being turned into a site of illegal incarcerations by the so-called Anti-Sabotage Joint Committee, consisting of SAVAK and the imperial police force.
Using wax figures, photographs and other props, the museum now offers a glimpse into how intelligence agents prior to the 1979 revolution tortured prisoners. Despite its maximum capacity of 200 inmates, the prison at times held up to 800 people, according to some sources.
Ebrat Museum is located in downtown Tehran, close to Imam Khomeini Square. The museum is open every day, including on the weekend, from 9 to 17. You’ll need at least two hours to walk around the museum, so plan accordingly.
Mausoleum of Imam Khomeini
Without a doubt one of the grandest post-revolution architectural undertakings, the Mausoleum of Imam Khomeini just south of Tehran draws thousands of domestic and foreign tourists every year.
The mausoleum also contains the tombs of Ayatollah Khomeini’s wife Khadijeh Saqafi, his second son Ahmad and his son-in-law Mahmoud Boroujerdi, as well as the bodies of important revolutionary figures, namely former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.
Work on the complex began shortly after Ayatollah Khomeini’s passing in June 1989 – three months before his 87th birthday – and was completed in 1992.
Stretching across over 70,000 square meters, the site is surrounded by four 91-meter minarets while the central dome where the Leader’s tomb rests is adorned with 72 tulips, symbolizing the 72 people who fought and died alongside the third Shia imam, Imam Hussain, in Karbala (c. 680 AD).
The complex includes a museum and a five-star hotel (Aftab Hotel) and is close to a number of supermarkets.
Getting there is easy: Take the Line 1 train and get off at Harram-e Motahhar Station.
Established four years before the 1979 revolution, Qoba Mosque in northern Tehran quickly became central to anti-Pahlavi protests, particularly in the month leading up to the revolution.
Ayatollah Mohammad Mofatteh, a follower of Ayatollah Khomeini and staunch critic of the monarchy, delivered rousing speeches at the mosque in defiance of a ban and organized marches that started from Qoba Mosque.
The mosque became so popular that it turned into the source for dissemination of statements issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, even during his 15 years in exile in Turkey, Iraq and France.
It is named after a mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, which is widely believed to be the world’s first mosque.
Qoba Mosque is located in Tehran’s Shariati Street, close to a famous religious center known as Ershad Hussainia.
Tehran is home to many other sites related to the events that led to the Islamic Revolution, and in this article we sought to introduce five landmarks. If you’ve visited any of these sites let us know below what you thought and what advice you would offer first-time visitors.