The US Peace Corps sent its first group of volunteers to Iran in 1962 and closed its Iran operations in 1976. During these fourteen years, the Peace Corps sent almost 1,800 Americans to serve on educational, agricultural, environmental, and urban planning projects in dozens of Iranian villages, towns, and cities. Entering Iran precisely when the Shah launched his 1962 White Revolution, the Peace Corps became involved in social, economic and political transformations unfolding in Iran.
Peace Corps volunteers thus witnessed and participated in major state-sponsored projects in 1960s Iran, such as the teaching of English in middle and secondary schools and the Literacy Corps. Three of the four presenters on this panel were Peace Corps volunteers in Iran during the 1960s and later became scholars of modern Iran. For many such Peace Corps volunteers, service in Iran sparked a lifetime of study and travel, facilitating their careers as scholars engaged with Iran and the Middle East.
The presentations on this panel will recount and examine the implementation and consequences of land reform and other reforms carried out in the 1960s. The first presentation, entitled “The Peace Corps in Iran: A Case Study of US-Iran Relations in the 1960s” will discuss the Peace Corps administration’s collaboration with the Shah’s White Revolution and the volunteers’ ambivalence toward aspects of reform implemented in the areas where they served. The second presentation, entitled “The Early Years of the Peace Corps in Iran (1962-64): A Volunteer's Perspective,” features the unique personal experiences and observations of a volunteer in “Iran-I,” the first group of Americans in the Peace Corps sent to Iran as witnesses to and sometime participants in the Shah’s reform efforts. The third presentation, entitled “From Agriculture to Urban Real Estate: A 21st Century Perspective on the 1962 Aliabad Land Reform,” charts the varied and adverse consequences of land reform in Fars province. The fourth and final paper, “Peasant Unrest in West Azerbaijan Based on Eyewitness Accounts, 1964-1966” will discuss mixed reactions to land reform and literacy projects in rural Azerbaijan from the mid-to-late 1960s.