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Stanford Report, November 19, 2003

Iranian revolution depicted in posters on display at Hoover


A grim, Warhol-esque image of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini; a cartoon of the Shah grasping at the coattails of Uncle Sam; and a row of blindfolded men yelling "Long Live Iran!" as they await execution are featured in stark but compelling posters on display at the Herbert Hoover Memorial Exhibit Pavilion.

"Creating an Islamic Republic: Iranian Collections from the Hoover Library and Archives" uses posters to trace events surrounding the 1978 revolution that overthrew the pro-Western government of the Shah and established the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979.

The exhibit, open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Dec. 19, features selections from 300 revolutionary posters at Hoover collected by Edward Jajko, curator emeritus of the institution's Middle East collection.

Exhibits coordinator Cissie Hill said Hoover has a range of rare, historic documents from the Middle East, but its only poster collection comes from Iran. Hill worked with Abbas Milani, a Hoover research fellow and a visiting professor of political science, to create the exhibit, which takes visitors from early-20th-century Iran through events leading up to and including the Islamic revolution.

In addition to the poster collection, which also highlights opposition to the revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, a 50-minute documentary titled Islam Rising informs visitors about recent developments in Iran prior to the U.S. invasion of neighboring Iraq.

Milani, an expert on Iranian cultural, political and security issues, said the exhibit tries to give visitors a glimpse into aspects of a country poorly understood in the West. "My sense is that there is a tendency to simplify the whole Iranian question," he said. "My hope is that this would show that what has happened in Iran is a very complicated attempt to democratize society that has gone badly wrong."

In addition to the exhibit, Milani is trying to broaden knowledge about Iran on campus by teaching new classes in the History and Political Science departments. Last spring, he taught a course titled Iran and Modernity, and this quarter he is giving a lecture course on Iran and U.S. relations. Additional courses Milani will lead this academic year include Modern Iranian Politics and Islam and the West.

A major international conference on Iran is scheduled to take place on campus next May. It will feature this year's Nobel Peace laureate, Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, as the keynote speaker. Proceedings from the conference, which will be edited by Milani and Hoover Senior Fellow Larry Diamond, will be published in English and Persian.


This poster currently on display at the Hoover pavillion depicts a white female figure with a raised fist smashing the Pahlavi crown, the symbol of the shah who was overthrown in the 1978 Iranian revolution. Courtesy of the Hoover Library and Archives