Black Friday (1978)
|Part of Iranian Revolution|
|Date||8 September 1978 (GMT+3.30)|
|Perpetrators||Imperial Army of Iran|
Black Friday (Persian: جمعه سیاه Jom'e-ye Siyāh) is the name given to 8 September 1978 (17 Shahrivar 1357 in the Iranian calendar) because of the shootings in Jaleh Square (Persian: میدان ژاله Meydān-e Jāleh) in Tehran, Iran. The deaths were described as the pivotal event in the Iranian Revolution that ended any "hope for compromise" between the protest movement and regime of the Mohammad Reza Shah.
As protests against the Shah's rule continued during the spring and the summer of 1978, the Iranian government declared martial law. On 8 September, thousands gathered in Tehran's Jaleh Square for a religious demonstration, unaware that the government had declared martial law a day earlier.
The soldiers ordered the crowd to disperse, but the order was ignored. Initially, it was thought that because of that reason the protesters' continuaous pushing towards the military that made it open fire, killing and wounding dozens of people.
Recent theories have suggested greater ambiguity in the situation, especially because of the presence of Palestinian guerillas in Iran, who some believe were agitators.
Black Friday is thought to have marked the point of no return for the revolution, and it led to the abolition of Iran's monarchy less than a year later. It is also believed that Black Friday played a crucial role in further radicalizing the protest movement, uniting the opposition to the Shah and mobilized the masses. Initially, opposition and western journalists claimed that the Iranian army had massacred thousands of protesters. The clerical leadership announced that "thousands have been massacred by Zionist troops".
The events triggered protests that continued for another four months. The day after Black Friday, Amir-Abbas Hoveyda resigned as minister of court for unrelated reasons.
A general strike in October shut down the petroleum industry that was essential to the administration's survival, "sealing the Shah's fate". The continuation of protests ultimately led to Shah leaving Iran in January 1979, clearing the way for the Iranian Revolution, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Initially, western media and opposition reported "15,000 dead and wounded" despite reports by the Iranian government officials that 86 people had died in Tehran in the whole day. Michael Foucault, an influential French journalist and social theorist, first reported that 2000 to 3000 people had died in the Jaleh Square, and he later raised that number to 4000. The BBC's correspondent in Iran, Andrew Whitley, reported that hundreds had died.
According to Emadeddin Baghi, a former researcher at the Martyrs Foundation (Bonyad Shahid, part of the current Iranian government, which compensates families of victims) hired "to make sense of the data" on those killed on Black Friday, 64 were killed in Jaleh Square on Black Friday, with two females: one woman and a young girl. On the same day in other parts of the capital, 24 people died in clashes with martial law forces, with one female, making the total casualties on the same day to 88 deaths. Another source puts the Martyrs Foundation tabulation of dead at 84 during that day.
The square's name was later changed to the Square of Martyrs (Maidan-e Shohada) by the Islamic republic.
In 1978 shortly after the massacre, the Iranian musician Hossein Alizadeh set Siavash Kasraie's poem about the event to music. Mohammad Reza Shajarian sang the piece "Jāleh Khun Shod" (Jaleh [Square] became bloody).
Nastaran Akhavan, one of the survivors, wrote the book Spared about the event. The book explains how the author was forced into a massive wave of thousands of angry protesters, who were later massacred by the Shah's military. The 2016 adventure video game 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is based on the event. The game is directed by Navid Khonsari, who was a child at the time of the revolution and admitted he did not have a realistic view of what was taking place. Khonsari described creating the game as "[wanting] people to feel the passion and the elation of being in the revolution – of feeling that you could possibly make a change."
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