Key dates since Iran’s 40-year-old Islamic revolution

Tehran: Here are key events that have marked Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the monarchy.

– Islamic republic proclaimed –

On January 16, 1979, the US-backed shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, leaves for exile after months of protests.

On February 1, revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini makes a triumphant return from exile.

The shah falls 10 days later, with public radio declaring “the end of 2,500 years of despotism”.

An Islamic republic is proclaimed on April 1.

– 1979: US hostage crisis –

On November 4, 1979, pro-Khomeini students take 52 Americans hostage at the US embassy in Tehran to protest the ex-shah’s admission to hospital in the United States.

Washington severs diplomatic relations in 1980. The hostages are freed on January 21, 1981, after 444 days in captivity.

– 1980: Iran-Iraq war –

On September 22, 1980 Iraq invades Iran after its president, Saddam Hussein, tears up a 1975 treaty on the strategic Shatt al-Arab waterway.

It triggers an eight-year war that leaves 680,000 people dead or missing, according to French historian Pierre Razoux. It ends on August 20, 1988 with a UN-brokered ceasefire.

– 1989: Khamenei takes over –

Khomeini dies on June 3, 1989 and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, president since October 1981, becomes supreme leader.

Moderate conservative Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is elected president. Re-elected in 1993, he orchestrates a relative opening up of the government and post-war reconstruction.

– 1997-2005: Conservative standoff –

Rafsanjani’s reformist successor, Mohammad Khatami, runs up against conservative opposition during his two terms from 1997 to 2005.

In July 1999, the government faces the biggest protests since 1979, with students who back Khatami clashing with police.

– 2002: ‘Axis of Evil’ –

On January 29, 2002, US president George W. Bush puts Iran on a list of “axis of evil” states with Iraq and North Korea, accusing it of backing terrorism.

Washington had already in 1995 decreed a total trade and financial embargo on Iran.

– 2005: Ahmadinejad era –

On June 25, 2005, ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is elected president. In August, he says Israel should be “wiped off the map”.

During his two terms, Iran begins uranium enrichment, alarming the West which suspects Tehran of wanting to produce a nuclear weapon.

A crackdown on nationwide protests after his re-election in 2009 decimates the reformist movement.

– 2015: Rouhani elected –

The election of moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani on June 15, 2013 marks a warming of relations with Washington.

On September 27, Rouhani and US president Barack Obama talk by phone, contacts unprecedented at this level since Iran’s revolution.

An accord with world powers on Iran’s nuclear programme is reached on July 14, 2015, after 21 months of negotiations.

It gives Tehran relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme.

– 2016: Break with Saudi –

In January 2016, Iran’s regional Sunni rival Saudi Arabia and its allies break off or scale back their diplomatic relations with Tehran, after a crisis prompted by Riyadh’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Iran has since been accused of interfering in the affairs of Arab countries, including fanning conflict in Syria and Yemen.

– 2017: Wave of protests –

On May 19, 2017, Rouhani is re-elected with the support of reformists and a majority of the youth vote.

However, criticism mounts that he has abandoned the poor with his austerity policies.

Days of anti-government protests erupt late December 28, leaving at least 25 people dead.

– 2018: US quits nuclear deal –

President Donald Trump on May 8, 2018 pulls the United States out of the nuclear pact and heralds the reinstatement of sanctions, which are reimposed in two waves in August and November.