“Papa, what’s the Shah’s job?”
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The Shah of Iran, or Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was Iran's last monarch. He ruled the country from 1941 until the Islamic Revolution in 1979. This opinion piece on the "king of kings" and his legacy was sent to us by one of our registered users, Shohreh A, 42, from Tehran. Read more...
Stamps dating 1975.
The Shah of Iran, or Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was Iran's last monarch. He ruled the country from 1941 until the Islamic Revolution in 1979. This opinion piece on the "king of kings" and his legacy was sent to us by one of our registered users, Shohreh A., 42, from Tehran.
This is Shohreh's personal opinion and has not been edited by FRANCE 24 journalists. If you'd like to give your own view on the Shah, then please either leave a comment or sign up as an Observer and send us a tip.
When I was a child I used to ask my father what job the Shah did. And each time he would reply: ‘He's a Shah'. Since I didn't understand what he meant I asked: ‘I mean where does he go to work from five in the morning till the afternoon, like you?!" And again I got the same answer. And I thought to myself, ‘why does papa knows so many things but not this?!'
A few years later, when I was 11 years old, the black revolution of 1979 occurred as a result of the so-called Guadeloupe Conference plot. Since the Shah had always wanted to be the only decision-maker, the whole country was standing on his shoulders; so when he left, it collapsed very easily. Since then, we Iranian people have been going through tragedy after tragedy. Many people have been - and are still being - tortured and killed by the religious regime.
The Shah had made Iran the ‘gendarme of the region'. He controlled the price of oil and refused to engage in war with our neighbours. That's why the Guadeloupe Conference took place [a discussion by Western powers in Guadeloupe in January 1979, which many see as the moment when the West decided to withdraw its support for the Shah]. Despite his good work, according to the memories of his men, the Shah ignored the working classes and the disadvantaged of Iran and didn't want their living and economic conditions to improve, because he thought that if they became financially stable, then they would turn into his enemies! But he was absolutely wrong, and ignoring the people led to losing their support. He didn't realise that the people's support could have guaranteed his stay in power.
Years after 1979 I began to learn more about the Shah and my country. I found out that he couldn't stand crises and he would leave the country or the capital to avoid them. As he did in 1953 and eventually in 1979. Before leaving Iran for good, he had put some of his long-serving men in jail in the hope that by sacrificing them people would turn to him. He left Iran without releasing them - though he didn't forget to take his pet dogs with him. The Shah left those individuals and turned the whole country over to Khomeini. And Khomeini executed many, many people, including those officials who had been imprisoned by the Shah.
Now his son lives on the other side of the world...always hidden behind the walls of his palace, only surfacing when Iranians take to the streets, to say ‘Hey, I'm there for you!' Yes, people take to the streets, chant, risk their lives, get thrown into jail, but still resist. All this is for freedom, not because of you, Mr Reza Pahlavi. And what did you do for the freedom of Iran?! You met one of Khomeini's grandsons and had a nice conversation with him. After the revolution, when many political refugees were sentenced to be extradited from Turkey to Iran for execution, your financial aid could have saved them. But you closed your eyes and ears. And just recently, when Jundallah [militants] killed a group of Revolutionary Guards in Baluchestan, you sent your condolences to their families. And strangely enough, around eight years ago, your mother-in-law came to Iran to visit relatives without any difficulty! How was that possible? You know the answer and so do we...
As my father never gave me a proper answer about what the Shah did I tried to find out for myself. By piecing things together, I realised that he wasn't a responsible Shah, especially when he left Iran for good. Because of that, many of us blame him for all the misery Khomeini brought about. We blame him for all the dark moments, for the years which were spent in fear and deep sorrow, for all the lives that were lost, for all and all. Each time one of us is executed it's like part of our soul goes with them. And it's not easy to explain how we feel. This is something you will never understand Mr Pahlavi! And I'm quite sure that you don't even want to try.
The book of monarchy has been closed and the only person who closed it was your father. What was his job? He was a Shah..."
Front cover of one of Shohreh's books: "The Shah of Shas", by Ryszard Kapuscinski, translated into Farsi.
Inside the book, a photo of former prime minister Dr. Mohammad Mossaddegh, on trial for treason in 1953 after an attempted coup d'état. Below, Richard Nixon and the Shah standing outside the White House.
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