Thereare several ways through which social and political changes have beenachieved in the history of human societies. According to Marxismschool of thought, revolution is an important process through whichsocial and political changes are effected. The human society has atendency of becoming oppressive to the majority, propagated by theruling class. This results into dissatisfaction and sentiments whichresults into a revolution. The revolutions result into an overthrowof the social and political systems which does not connect with themajority. In many cases, these revolutions are characterized byviolence and disobedience. According to Marxists theorists, a movefrom a capitalistic social and political structure to socialism is aninherent aspect of development of human societies. While thecapitalistic system is supported by the minority ruling class, asocialism system is supported by the majority. Based on thisargument, revolutionary violence has been used to express displeasurewith a social and political system. In some cases, revolutionaryviolence has evolved into terrorism tactics (O`Kane, 496). Thus,Marxism theory of revolutionary violence should not be applied in themodern society. There are non violent methods in the modern societythrough which social and political revolutions can occur.Revolutionary terrorism refers to violence by extremist groupstargeting mass population with an aim of causing fear among thoseopposed to the revolution or awakens sentiment against a social orpolitical ideology. On the other hand, the aim of revolutionaryviolence aims at forcing the government to take action on an aspectwhich the society is not contented with. Revolution terrorism doesnot result into division in the society because it does not target aparticular society. On the other hand, revolutionary terrorismresults into opposing social or political groups, especially when thetargeted group tends to retaliate. For example, revolution terrorismby Islamic extremist group is one of the most important securityissues in the modern world. The extremist groups have targeted thewestern societies resulting into deaths and destruction ofproperties, which has necessitated retaliations (O`Kane, 496).
Questionshave been raised on whether the Cinema Rex Fire during the Iranianrevolution was an act of terrorism or revolution violence. Cinema RexFire was one of the most important historical events in the historyof Iran. It also marked a new form of Islamic insurgence activitiesin the Middle East and the rise of terrorism in the modern world. There are numerous issues that emerged before and after the CinemaRex Fire which have had an impact on Iran, Islamic insurgence andterrorism, and the entire world. The Cinema Rex Fire tragedy tookplace in Abadan city in the oil rich island in Khuzestan province inIran. It took place on 19thAugust 1978 resulting into death of over 400 people. The fire brokeout in the evening when hundreds of people had gathered to watch themovie Gavaznha (Sreberny-Mohammadi and Mohammadi 126). It isestimated that there were about 700 people in the cinema hall whenthe fire started. Due to a combination of factors, people in thecinema hall were unable to escape from the fire, resulting into morethan four hundred people being burnt alive and more sufferingmultiple burns. Controversial information on the governmentstatement, the response of the fire department and other factorssurrounding the incidence resulted into suspicion that the governmentauthorizes could have intentionally caused the fire (Satrapi 14).This suspicion was propagated by the conservative mullahs whoinfluenced the international and local media reports which blamed thegovernment for the tragedy. The conservative group argued that thegovernment intentionally caused the tragedy in order to destroy thereputation and discredit the group. The media ignored all the factand believed in the propaganda (Sreberny-Mohammadi and Mohammadi126).
Atthe time of the tragedy, there was a heavy police presence in thevicinity, which contributed to the perception that the fire wasplanned by the government. A police department was situated about 100meters away from the tragedy scene but it took time for them torespond. Additionally, the response by the emergency governmentagencies was relatively poor. There were three tanks from the firedepartment, but none of them had water (Satrapi 14). It is alsoimportant to note that at the time the tragedy, the doors of thecinema hall were locked which made it difficult for the people toescape. The resulting stumpage resulted into more deaths. Thesurvivors of the fire escaped through the roof. The conservativemullahs argued that the police blocked the access to the scene andlocked the doors resulting into deaths. This allegation was publishedby both local and international media which greatly influenced theperception and opinions against the Iranian government. Thegovernment on the other hand blamed the Islamic terrorists seeking toestablish an Islamic government in Iran. The government linked thetragedy with the 1964 military coup anniversary and the attempts bythe Islamic militants to discredit the government. This was alsotaken by the Islamic insurgencies and conservative groups who arguedthat the tragedy was a plan to scare the public (Sreberny-Mohammadiand Mohammadi 127).
Thetiming of the Cinema Rex Fire is one of the most important aspects ofthe tragedy. There is no doubt that the reports in the media and theconservative Muslims propaganda resulted in a huge disconnect betweenthe general public and the Shah government. Cinema Rex Fire wastherefore an important event that fueled the Iranian revolution.However, by the time tragedy took place, the public was alreadycharged and the revolution atmosphere was already evident in thecountry. As a result, the accusations and counteraccusations by thegovernment of Shah and the Islamic conservatives made it difficult toidentify the perpetrators of the tragedy. The revolutionaries werevery fast to adopt the theory that the government of Shah through theCIA trained SAVAK were responsible for the Cinema Rex Fire. Althoughthe verification of the claims was considered unnecessary, the theoryhad a huge impact on the emergence of the revolution. This was fueledby the circumstances under which the fire occurred which favored therevolutionary bloc and increased the level of suspicion among thegeneral public (Mottahedeh 375). According to Mottahedeh (375),"thousands of Iranians who had felt neutral and had until nowthought that the struggle was only between the shah and supporters ofreligiously conservative mullahs felt that the government might puttheir own lives on the block to save itself. Suddenly, for hundredsof thousands, the movement was their own business”. Immediatelyafter the fire tragedy, thousands of Iranians started protests allover the country demanding “barn the Shah” since they believe ingovernment was guilty.
AnIslamic militia group later claimed that it was responsible for theCinema Rex Fire. The claim of responsibility by the militantexonerated the government of Shah from the blame. However, this tookplace after the revolution and an Islamic republic had beenestablished. The claim of responsibility by the militant was anattempt to give themselves credit for their role in the revolution.One of the persons directly involved in the Cinema Rex Fire describedhimself as a revolutionary person who fought against Shan regime.However, these facts were ignored since the Islamic republic wasdetermined to blame SAVAK under the instruction of Shah(Sreberny-Mohammadi and Mohammadi 127).
Thereare several theories that have been developed to explain why theIslamic militants attacked the Cinema Rex Fire. Perhaps the CinemaRex Fire led to the emergence of modern terrorism activities.Altogether, the revolutionary bloc against Shan government tookadvantage of the situation to discredit the government. The mostimportant aspect of the Iranian revolution is the opposition to theinfluence of the west, mainly the United States in Iran. Shangovernment was supported by the United States, which trained thegovernment’s internal security agency, the SAVAK. Islamicorganizations and Islamic students were opposed to western ideologiesand sought to create an Islamic republic free from American influence(Afkhami 95). The Cinema Rex Fire has been viewed as a revolutionaryviolence or revolutionary terrorism perpetrated by the Islamic groupsto awaken the Iranians and initiate a revolution against the Americansupported Shan government. It has also been views as an expression ofintolerance by the Islamic conservatives to American ideologiesperpetuated by Shan government. The cinema mainly watched in thecinema was against the Sunni Muslim ideologies and religiousdoctrines. Some Muslims extremists and conservatives believe thatmotion pictures are un-Islamic and a threat to the mortality of thesociety. This also heightened the anti western sentiments in theIranian population, which resulted into Islamic ideological dominanceof the Iranian society (Afkhami 95).
Afkhami,Gholam. TheIranian Revolution: Thanatos on a National Scale.Washington, DC: Middle East Institute. 1985, Print.
Mottahedeh,Roy. TheMantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran,Oxford, Oneworld, 2000. Print.
O`Kane,Rosemary H. T. Revolution:Critical Concepts in Political Science,New York, NY. Routledge, 2000. Print.
Satrapi,Marjane. Persepolis.Pantheon Books, 2003. Print.
Sreberny-Mohammadi,Annabelle and Mohammadi, Ali. SmallMedia Big Revolution: Communication, Culture and the IranianRevolution.University of Minnesota Press, 1994. Print.