Imam Khamenei

"Support for the oppressed" in the Islamic Republic of Iran's foreign policy

Following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has always been supportive of oppressed countries and nations in its foreign policy. It has paid heavily in terms of political and international costs for this issue. The present article studies the intellectual foundation behind the principle of supporting the oppressed in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It also examines some manifestations of this principle.


Since the beginning, the Islamic Revolution’s worldview, one based on independence and justice, has criticized the existence of oppression, at an international level, as the most important criterion of the current international system. The pursuance of domination and power, as factors shaping oppression in the international system, has caused oppressed countries and nations to be subjected to systematic oppression and exploitation and it is the existence of such systematic oppression that leads to a vicious circle of violence and terrorism, to the violation of human rights, and ultimately to the emergence of threats to global peace and security. On this basis, the Islamic Republic of Iran – as a system with an Islamic identity – has always placed the principle of confronting oppression and supporting the underprivileged at the top of its foreign policy agenda. In this op-ed, the ideological bases of supporting the oppressed and of confronting oppression, as well as some of the examples of this support and confrontation in practice, in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be discussed. 


The Islamic Revolution’s religious principles in supporting the oppressed

In order to understand and analyze the foreign policies of countries, beyond their political and social structures, we need to pay attention to their beliefs, tenets and ideological structures, ideas and philosophies. On this basis, the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic is inspired and influenced by Islamic teachings and in order to have a correct analysis, we should pay attention to Islamic teachings about an Islamic government’s foreign relations.

First of all, it should be said that in Islam, the philosophy of government and power pivots around the administration of justice. In fact, from the viewpoint of Islam, the government is not a goal in itself, rather it is a means for administering justice and for rejecting oppression and confronting inequality in various areas. Quran, Muslims’ heavenly book, considers the request for help to be the right of every oppressed person and those who have been oppressed are entitled to demand help and assistance. On the other hand, in the face of an oppressed person’s request for help, others have the responsibility to support him. Of course, it should be mentioned that the support movement is a common principle in all divine religions, but in Islam, not only has it been described as an undeniable principle, but it has also turned into one of the conditions for believing in God.

On this basis, it is safe to say that supporting the oppressed and the underprivileged and defending human dignity is one of the major and perpetual principles of the Islamic government. In fact, not only is the Islamic government responsible for defending and supporting the people under its authority, but it is also obliged to defend other Islamic societies and all oppressed nations in the world. According to the Holy Prophet of Islam (Praise be upon him), “If a Muslim does not fulfill an oppressed person’s request for help, they are not a Muslim.” Also, the Islamic government should develop its foreign relations in a way that the dignity and independence of Muslims will be preserved and the domination and influence of foreign countries, in various areas, in Muslim societies will be prevented. This is applicable at an individual, social and international level.

According to the discourse presented by the Islamic Revolution, wherever Islam exists, the rejection of the pillars of global domination exists as well and in whichever place an Islamic structure is built, the opposition to oppression, transgression, colonialism, the humiliation of peoples, and confrontation against the symbols of the global domination system will appear as well. Unlike the propaganda efforts launched by the media working for the global domination system – they describe extremist groups such as DAESH as symbols of Islam, but on the basis of what some American politicians say, they themselves played a role in the creation of that group – terrorism is a direct product of transgression and pursuance of domination and Islam is a religion of peace and peaceful symbiosis. The Islamic Revolution discourse on foreign relations also stresses the necessity to establish peace, but it states that peace is only possible in the shade of administering justice, confronting oppression and rejecting inequality. Accordingly, it criticizes oppression and inequality as the most important factors in threatening global peace.

It must be said that such a discourse and literature has always been new and attractive for public opinion in the world in recent decades. Mahjoob Zweiri, an expert at Brookings, refers to the development of the Islamic Revolution in the minds of Muslim nations saying, “Iran is a praiseworthy country because despite the existence of many confrontations at the hands of its enemies, it has always pursued the discourse of supporting the oppressed and it has managed to stand on its feet, despite those confrontations.”


Support for the oppressed in the Islamic Republic’s Constitution and the viewpoint of its leaders

The victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran rekindled new hope among Muslims, the oppressed, and Islamic and freedom-seeking orientations. Of course, throughout the past four decades, imperialist powers have hatched many plots and made extensive efforts to destroy it as they found it against their own interests. Undoubtedly, the Islamic Republic’s commitment to the principle of confronting hegemony and supporting the oppressed has seriously influenced the global system and the relations among nations. As stated above, defending the oppressed and the underprivileged is one of the major principles in the Islamic Republic’s foreign relations and it has been specified in the Islamic Republic’s Constitution as well.

On the basis of Article 3 of the Constitution, the Islamic Republic of Iran government should develop its foreign policy on the basis of Islamic criteria and brotherly commitment towards all Muslims and whole-hearted support for the oppressed throughout the world. Also, according to Article 152, the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran pivots around the categoric rejection of imposing and accepting oppression, defending the rights of all Muslims and non-alignment with hegemonic powers and establishing peaceful relations with non-hostile governments. Moreover, on the basis of Article 154 of the Constitution, the Islamic Republic considers the happiness of all human beings as its ideal and it supports the legitimate activities of the oppressed in the face of arrogant powers all over the world, but without interfering in the domestic affairs of other nations. Therefore, in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, the fate and happiness of Muslims is not the only criterion that has received attention; the happiness of the entire humanity, in particular that of the oppressed, is also one of the main ideals of the Islamic Republic and its foreign relations.

Imam Khomeini (Praise be upon him), the founder of the Islamic Republic, considered defending the oppressed in the face of colonialists to be everyone’s responsibility, saying: “We are obliged to save oppressed and underprivileged peoples. We have the duty to be the supporters of the oppressed and the enemies of oppressors.” [Islamic Government, page 37] Also, regarding the principle of supporting the oppressed, Ayatollah Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, says, “Because this Revolution believes in supporting the underprivileged and the oppressed, it always confronts bullies and arrogant people.” [June 27, 1990]. He also said: “One of the main principles and values of the Islamic government is to support the underprivileged. Another major principle is supporting the oppressed all over the world.” [June 3, 2016] and he mentions elsewhere: “In order to confront the plots hatched by arrogance, we have many responsibilities towards our country, the region and all underprivileged nations and we should fulfill them.” [January 9, 1991]


The Islamic Republic’s support for the underprivileged in practice

The performance of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy in different periods of time shows that since the beginning, it has clearly and transparently shown its practical commitment to the principle of supporting underprivileged nations and societies. Today too, after the passage of four decades, it pays special attention to this principle in its foreign policy.

Since the very first days of its establishment, the Islamic Republic embarked on defending the oppressed Palestinian nation by changing the apartheid Zionist Embassy to Palestinian Embassy. The Islamic Republic’s massive support – political, military and other forms of support – for the Palestinian people’s freedom and independence-seeking activities against the Zionist regime’s usurpation is an issue that has been completely clear to public opinion in the world. Although the Islamic Republic has paid a high price in political and economic terms because of this support, it will continue to adopt the same measure. In order to resolve the Palestinian issue, the Islamic Republic has proposed that a free referendum be held with the participation of all citizens from various religions in the occupied lands. 

Another example of the Islamic Republic’s support for the oppressed was standing up for the South African people against apartheid racism. A few months before the victory of the Revolution, Imam Khomeini had announced that the Islamic government had no restrictions on communicating with the world and would open talks with everyone except for the Israeli regime and the racist apartheid regime in South Africa, neither of which had any legitimacy. He even declared that selling oil to those regimes would be stopped. And this change of approach occurred after the Islamic Revolution. While South Africa's apartheid regime supplied more than 90 percent of its crude oil imports from pre-revolutionary Iran, and the monarchy at the time refused to boycott the racist government even under international pressures, immediately after the Islamic Revolution, oil exports to South Africa were cut off.

Also in the 1990s, in the wake of the Bosnian genocide, the Islamic Republic of Iran actively supported the oppressed and homeless Bosnian nation. This played an important and effective role in establishing peace and putting an end to crimes, and it ultimately led to independence for the Bosnian people.

On the other hand, in the case of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran immediately put the protection of the oppressed people of that country on the agenda and stressed that the occupation of Afghanistan should stop. In addition, the Islamic Republic of Iran has played an effective role in alleviating the suffering of the Afghan people in particular as the host of millions of Afghan refugees and emigrants over the past few decades.

Also in recent years, after the military transgression of Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen (Saudi Arabia has been accused by many countries and the United Nations of human rights violations) and after their confrontation against its popular revolution, the Islamic Republic has embarked on providing worldly and otherworldly support for the oppressed people of Yemen. In this regard, the Islamic Republic of Iran has proposed a four-article peace plan and believes that the Yemeni-Yemeni dialogue should be formed because the enjoyment of democracy, freedom and security is the fundamental right of that nation. This plan should be seriously supported by other countries and by international institutions.



  • Islamic Revolution