Education in Persepolis

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Persepolis is a completed autobiographical series by author Marjane Satrapi that shows her upbringing in the war-torn city of Tehran, located in Iran. The citizens of Tehran were subjected to years of war and religious extremism. The environment of her childhood in Iran had changed her personality. This will be the central theme of this paper.

In order to explore how the author’s life had been shaped by the Islamic revolution, we must understand the background information surrounding the unrest in the city of Tehran. In multiple occasions, we had witnessed different forms of corruption, religious extremism and sexism. The situation was substantially worsened due to riots and protests which led to numerous deaths. The theory that the author’s personality was vastly affected by the war is plausible.

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The author had shown bravery on many occasions in her childhood. Such attributes will be discussed at great length in the following sections of the paper. The author’s story can be studied psychologically because of the sudden change of environment for the author. She moved from the war-torn city of Tehran to the relatively peaceful country of Austria. This change of environment caused her to be socially awkward and unforgiving in some cases.

The city of Tehran had endured years of war and oppression. An observation made was how divided the city of Iran appeared on the favourability of governance. The constant battle between imperialists and communists in Tehran resulted in the king being overthrown. The crucial aspects during the time of the coup and the battle with Iraq were the

Using these factors, we will try to understand the effect each of these aspects played into shaping Marjane Satrapi. We will try to research and understand each of these factors by studying historic events and draw conclusions from each of these factors.

Mohammed Reza Pahlavi Overthrown

The revolts leading up to the downfall of the Shahanshah Pahlavi was the first experience of political violence that the author had seen. It was a historic event.

The Pahlavi dynasty was the last ruling house of the Imperial State of Iran from 1925 until 1979 when the Persian monarchy was overthrown and abolished as a result of the Iranian Revolution. The dynasty was founded by Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1925, a former brigadier-general of the Persian Cossack Brigade, whose reign lasted until 1941 when he was forced to abdicate by the Allies after the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran. He was succeeded by his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.

The Pahlavis came to power after Ahmad Shah Qajar, the last Qajar ruler of Iran, proved unable to stop British and Soviet encroachment on Iranian sovereignty, had his position extremely weakened by a military coup, and was removed from power by the parliament while in France. The Iranian parliament, known as the Majlis, convening as a Constituent Assembly on 12 December 1925, deposed the young Ahmad Shah Qajar and declared Reza Khan the new King of Imperial State of Persia. In 1935, Reza Shah asked foreign delegates to use the endonym Iran in formal correspondence and the official name the Imperial State of Iran was adopted.

Following the coup d'état in 1953 supported by the United Kingdom and the United States, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's rule became more autocratic and was aligned with the Western Bloc during the Cold War. Faced with growing public discontent and popular rebellion throughout 1978 and after declaring surrender and officially resigning, the second Pahlavi went into exile with his family in January 1979, sparking a series of events that quickly led to the end of the state and the beginning of the Islamic Republic of Iran on 11 February 1979.

The overthrow of the Shah came as a surprise to almost all observers. The first militant anti-Shah demonstrations of a few hundred started in October 1977, after the death of Khomeini's son Mostafa. Rohullah Khomeini was the former supreme leader of Iran. The Shah had employed secret police, named NAVAK. Mostafa’s death is widely regarded to be the actions of the NAVAK. Thus, the revolution had started gaining momentum after the incident.

Another incident that was mentioned in the graphic novel was the burning of the Cinema Rex, what happened on 19 August 1978, killing at least 420 civilians. The event started when four men doused the building with aeroplane fuel before setting it alight. The attack was responsible for triggering the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of the Iranian monarchy. It was the largest terrorist attack in history until the 9/11 terror attacks.

The ruling Pahlavi dynasty initially blamed 'Islamic Marxists' for the and later reported that Islamic militants started the fire, while anti-Pahlavi protesters blamed SAVAK, the Iranian secret police, for setting the fire.

On 19 August 1978 at the Cinema Rex in Abadan, Iran, hundreds of people were watching The Deer when, at 20:21, four men barred the doors of the cinema and doused it with petrol from a can. The fire started outside three entrance doors to the main hall after the attackers allegedly dropped a match into the petrol. The attackers then fled and blocked the doors from the outside. Some people attempted to escape by the roof.

The author’s parents were politically active at this time. They discussed politics at home in front of the young author. This was also the first event, after which we saw the author’s parents get involved in the revolution.

The Black Friday had been mentioned in the comic Persepolis. It was the first time that Marjane had decided to participate in the revolution. It was Marjane’s first direct political involvement. She was only nine years old. She went to the protest with her maid Mehri. Black Friday will forever be engraved in Iran’s history as a very significant day to overthrow the monarchy. On 8th September 1978, the Shah’s military shot at the protesters, killing 88 people and injuring 205 to 8000 people. This incident had ended any “hope for compromise” between the protesters and the Shah.

Even though the Shah had stated that the Islamic Marxists were responsible for the arson of the Rex Cinema and 86 people died on Black Friday, the citizens of Tehran did not trust these sources. This points to growing distrust among the civilians to their autocratic ruler.

Education under the Pahlavi dynasty

Education is a very important theme in Persepolis. Under the Shah’s rule, we witness education being used as a propaganda tool. The author’s school teachers also suggested that the Shah was chosen to be the ruler of Iran by God. This was a very effective method as we observe the author discussing the idea with her father. The literacy corps took place over the White Revolution, which occurred under Muhammad Reza Pahlavi. It was believed by the government that the majority of the population was illiterate and the Literacy Corps was an attempt to change the statistics. The program included hiring young men who had a degree in secondary education to serve in the Literacy Corps and involved teaching children between the ages of 6 and 12, and of which had not attended 2nd-grade education, to read. The goal is to improve literacy in Iran in a cheap and efficient manner, which they also believed would improve workmanship. 200,000 young men and women participated in the Literacy Corps, teaching 2.2 million boys and girls and over a million adults. In many cases, the volunteers would continue to work as educators after their conscription ended.

The Literacy Corps were accused of involving propaganda techniques in their education. However, the educated people of Tehran were cautious of such techniques. The author believed that the Shah was appointed by God. The author’s father was quick to inform the author about the Shah.

However, the goal of education was ‘an aristocracy of culture’, producing small numbers of technocrats, but not nurturing thoughtful and critical individuals. Rote learning was dominant, and the curriculum was imposed by foreign knowledge and expertise, becoming irrelevant to the cultural and socio-economic aspects of the society, as well its basic needs and demands. This meant that the universities simply could not produce the human resources required by the country. This educational policy provoked the young generation to protest strongly against the foundation of the regime. Eventually, the universities became the centre of political activities and were instrumental in the all-encompassing changes that occurred in 1978 and 1979 - the Islamic Revolution.

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Education in Persepolis. (2022, November 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from
“Education in Persepolis.” Edubirdie, 25 Nov. 2022,
Education in Persepolis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 May 2024].
Education in Persepolis [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Nov 25 [cited 2024 May 30]. Available from:

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