Land Reforms – American Reforms in Iran (1960-1963)

Land Reforms – American Reforms in Iran (1960-1963)

The subject of donating land to farmers was one of the principles posed by communism parties after the communist revolution in Russia in 1917 and tried to attract the distressed farmers and tillers to communist ideology. Of course from constitution onwards the issue ...

Niloufar Kasra

 

The subject of donating land to farmers was one of the principles posed by communism parties after the communist revolution in Russia in 1917 and tried to attract the distressed farmers and tillers to communist ideology. Of course from constitution onwards the issue of improving the farmers’ conditions in Iran was always noted by authorities and statesmen but political problems and current crises caused the governments and the parliament to not attend to this issue. After September 1941 and formation of communism parties in Iran, the subject of land donation to farmers was always used for opposing the governments such that in 1946 the Azerbaijan democrat sect arranged and approved the land reform laws after declaring independence.the collection of these issues and the cold war, forced the western block to think of plans and ways to prevent the spread of communism ideology in the Soviet Union neighboring countries. One of these techniques was changing the traditional system of agriculture and to donate lands to farmers in order to improve the farmers’ lives through granting governmental loans and ceding of mechanized farming machines. To this end, the land reform plan as a prohibiting factor against the spread of communism in Iran was put on the Americanagenda. Of course the planners the US foreign policies wanted to find ways for their future plans too including investment of American farmers’ financial and industrial organizations and selling their products so that by providing a cheap work market, they attract minor farmers who were forced to migrate to city suburbs and reach saturation in production and increase their sales by creating new urbanized population.

Thus the government by Manouchehr Eghbal sent the land reform bill to the parliament for approval but this bill was faced with opposition of most representatives who were great landowners and proprietor themselves. Interesting that after donating Reza Shah’s lands – which were taken from people by force in the first place – to his son, Mohammad Reza Shah, he was the biggest land owner in the country and clearly he was the main obstacle for a while. so a plan was conceived so that the royal lands were entitled as Pahlavi Foundation and so were not included in the reforms. It is noteworthy that the biggest and most important obstacle against this American plan was the supreme scholar, Ayatollah Boroujerdi, the most eminent Shiite authority in Qom who was also the head of Qom seminary and fought the Americans and their puppet governments with the religious principle that people are entitled to their own properties and in this way they were forced to retreattemporarily.

To confront this issue and the opposition of Qom scholars, the Shah sent Ardeshir Zahedi to Najaf to gain approval by getting the positive opinion of Ayatollah Hakim regarding land reforms. But Ayatollah Hakim approved the Qom scholar’s opinion.

Thus the government postponed  the execution of land reforms to after the death of Ayatollah Boroujerdi. At the same time with Boroujerdi’s death the democrats gained power in the US and supported Amini’s land reform plan as an aristocrat and modern land owner and the Shah was pressured to appoint Amini as chancellor despite his own will. as his first step, Amini asked the Americans to prevent the Shah from interfering in any affair and get his order on liquidation of the parliament. he then acted on stamping out internal opponents and appointed Hassan Arsanjani as the minister of agriculture who was one if the enthusiastic  leftists and in favor of land reforms. Arsanjani immediately prepared the land reform act  in 38 articles and sent it to the Shah  and after its official and legal confirmation started work from the town of Maragheh. to fight the great feudalists he ordered that all land transfer enactments after the approval of land reform act to be cancelled after  so that great landowner were prohibited from transferring their lands to their children, wives, relatives or trusted people.

In the first stage, Ali Amini started land reforms in his inherited lands in Lasht Nesha and in second stage this plan was more widely enforced in the affluent north west region of Maragheh in Azerbaijan. Hassan Arsanjani announced that all people who transferred their property to their children after the approval of the property law are troublemakers and traitors and must be punished. So immediately after that the great feudalists in Maragheh volunteered to carry out the land reform plan.

On Tuesday, March 13th 1962, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi headed to Maragheh on the royal train and went to the village of Verjouy to perform the show of donating farming lands to the peasants. After standing in position he said to the reporters who were photographing the pathetic conditions of the peasants that: “… I myself was commissioner for execution of land reforms…” these were said while he was the biggest land owner of Iran who was able to maintain his property under Pahlavi foundation. Then he attached a medal of land reform on the chest of agriculture minister and his own and regarded himself the redeemer and commissioner of land reform.

It must be noted that land reform in Iran led to chaos in traditional agricultural system and disorganized the owner and farmer relations without founding a new system for agriculture and prevent the decline of their work. So Iran agriculture society suffered from confusion such that the farmers who could not gain enough water and fertilizer immigrated to the city outskirts due to poverty.

During the land reforms the lives of farmers did not change and no educational grounds was laid for advancement of production. No loans or necessary machinery was given to them to increase their harvest and finally urbanized system of life spread to the villages and the doors of villages opened up to American products… and the villagers’ urban effects and problems  and their frustration led to creation of marginalized sects in the cities.

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