Four decades ago, the last Shah of Iran Mohammad RezaPahlavi – who had consolidated power in 1953 through a CIA backed coup — was ousted from power through a campaign of civil resistance including both secular and religious elements. By February 11th, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini had come into power officially after all troops loyal to the Shah were defeated by guerrillas and rebel troops. Within another two months, Iran had overwhelmingly voted in a national referendum to become an Islamic Republic, and became an anti-Western theocracy from a pro-Western monarchy. These incidents did not only change the fate of Iran, but the world at large, and were particularly impactful where Islam was used as a tool for political activism – including Pakistan. However, like with most revolutions, things were not so easy for Iran after the dust had settled. The new theocratic government faced tough sanctions that persist to this day, crippling the economy of a country that has some of the biggest oil reserves in the world. Things got worse in September 1980 when Ba’athist Iraq invaded Iran, supported by the United States, the Soviet Union and other Arab states. When a stalemate was finally reached in 1982. It is estimated that a million Iranians died in the war.And although the Iran-Iraq war may be over, the Muslim world remains embroiled in a cold war between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia to this day. This phenomenon – combined with the rise of Sunni militant groups funded by the Gulf states in the 1990s — has caused deep fissures in the Muslim world, including in Pakistan. According to a report published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in September 2018, 95 percent of all sectarian violence in the year 2017 was focused against the Shia community. There was hope that Iran and the rest of the world could move closer in 2015 when former US President Barack Obama announced that Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement between Tehran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that would lift all nuclear-related economic sanctions on Iran and free up billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets. However, the Trump administration’s abdication from the agreement has been a step in the wrong direction. Regardless, other UNSC members continue to support the deal.However, 40 years after the revolution, the Iranian theocracy must also look inwards. Protests that continuously taken place in the country beginning with the reformist movement that led to Mohammad Khatami’s presidential election in 1997 show that the regime’s economic policies and lack of tolerance for dissent has resulted in strong grievances – particularly among young Iranians. Tehran must also consider its discriminatory policies against women. Protests against the compulsory wearing of the headscarf have become a more frequent affair, and are another symptom of growing discontent. Rather than disregard these incidences as ‘foreign conspiracies’, as Tehran has done until now, it must consider that both the world, and Iran, have changed in the 40 years since the overthrow of the Shah, and adapt accordingly. * Published in Daily Times, February 11th 2019.