Historical Context

  • FEBRUARY 1979 - Supporters of the leader and founder of the Islamic revolution Ayatollah Khomeini hold his picture

The 20th Century


1978 On January 9th, many Iranians protest the Shah in the holy city Qom. Security guards attack the protestors, killing at least five people.
1978A young Donia Bijan and her family leave Tehran for California.
1978 On September 8th, martial law is imposed for the first time. The secret police fire on protestors in Jaleh Square in Tehran. At least 100 people are killed on this day which will come to be known as “Black Friday.”
1978 On December 29th, the Shah appoints Shapour Bakhtiar, a long time leader of the opposition, to be prime minister.
1979 On January 12th, influential senior opposition cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, originally deported by Iraqi leader Sadam Hussein, forms a revolutionary council to oversee the government transition.
1979 On January 16th, the Shah and his wife flee the country for Egypt.
1979 On February 11th, Iran’s general staff declares the neutrality of the military and troops are ordered back to their barracks, guaranteeing the success of the Islamic Revolution. Prime Minister Bakhtiar flees Tehran.
1979 On March 30th, a referendum is held and approximately 99% of voters present support the formation of an Islamic Republic.
1979 On August 3rd, Iranian citizens elect members of the Assembly of Experts for Constitution to write a new constitution for the Islamic Republic.
1979 On November 4th, Iranian students storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran and take 52 Americans hostage, demanding the extradition of the Shah in return for their release.
1979 — On December 15th, the Shah leaves the United States and goes to Panama.
1980 On January 25th, Abolhasan Bani-Sadr is elected the first president of the Islamic Republic.
1980 — On March 23rd, – The Shah leaves Panama for Egypt where he is granted asylum by Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat. While there, he receives urgent medical treatment.
1980 — On July 27th, the Shah dies from lymphoma in Cairo.

The 21st Century


2001 — On September 11th, the Islamic terrorist group al-Quaeda hijacks planes headed for California and redirects them to hit the Twin Towers and Pentagon. Almost 3,000 people die, forever changing America’s relationship with Middle Eastern countries, people, and Islam.
2010 — Donia Bijan returns to Tehran after 30 years in exile.
2011 — Maman’s Homesick Pie, Bijan’s memoir, is published.
2012 — Approximate year that The Last Days of Cafe Leila takes place.
2017 — On January 27th, Executive Order 13769 (commonly referred to as the Muslim ban or the travel ban) is signed, preventing Iranians and others from majority Muslim nations from entering the US. It is later replaced by the similar Executive Order 13780.
2017 — On April 18th, The Last Days of Cafe Leila is published.

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Jessica Jenkins ’19

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