By Antje Schippmann
Source: Bild (Germany)
Iran is marking the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Shah, overturned monarchical rule and brought the brutal clerical regime to power. The festivities, known as the „Ten Days of Dawn,” conclude on Feb. 11, the date Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s government collapsed after brief clashes between some army units and revolutionary gunmen, following nationwide protests.
The Shah had already left the country in January ’79. His authoritarian government had reformed the country, but also clamped down on opposition forces and was despised by many. What followed was not the democratic liberation many revolutionaries had hoped for but a tyrannic islamist regime engaging in mass killings, torture and brutal oppression of any opposition.
Countrywide anti-regime protests and strikes are blazing up regularly since December 2017, with chants calling for an end of the mullah’s dictatorship.
To some observers, the Shah’s son Reza Pahlavi (58) could be the ideal candidate to lead an Iranian government in exile. He has been an outspoken supporter of the democratic anti-regime forces in the country since many years. BILD spoke to the crown prince about his family’s heritage, the future of Iran and his personal ambitions.
Your family left Iran 40 years ago – in which condition do you see your home country today?
Pahlavi: “Had it not been for the Islamic Revolution, Iran, by most analyst’s predictions, should have looked like South Korea today. Unfortunately, it looks more like North Korea. If you look at the state of poverty, pollution, environmental decay, infrastructure, and general despair it is as if the plague has taken our country over. This is all as a result of gross mismanagement and corruption and more importantly, an utter lack of care for Iran and Iranians. This regime has proven that it does not care about our country or her people, only about its poisonous ideology.”
How frequently are you in touch with people in Iran?
Pahlavi: “On a daily basis. Social media and technology have expanded my ability to stay in contact with my compatriots and to remain in touch with happenings in my country.”
What is your prediction, will the regime be able in the near future to stop these protests?
So in case of a regime change: What impact would a secular democratic Iran have on the region?
Pahlavi: “Clearly a non-belligerent system which, first and foremost, cares about the welfare of its own citizens would also be keen to develop friendly relationships with its neighbors and with nations the world over. Iran was like this before the revolution. We were friends with just about every country and every people on the planet from Arabs to Jews, from Russians to Americans. We were also, as a result, respected by the world. A secular Iran will once again be devoid of the current totalitarian system which de facto, for its own survival, needs to export its ideology and destabilize the region. So when this regime is gone, Iran will contribute positively in the region.”
Some have described you as a “Shah in waiting” – what are your personal ambitions in Iran’s future?
Pahlavi: “As I have said countless times and as I have written in several books, my ambition is to liberate Iran. My sole focus at this time is for Iran to be free so that the Iranian people, once free to choose for themselves, can decide their own fate and their own future.”
When your ambitions for Iran’s future are discussed in Europe, the dark parts of your father’s heritage come up. What is your response to this?
Pahlavi: “I invite you to look beyond 1979 and to fast forward your clock to 2019 and see what the people of Iran have to say about the past and about my father. In the streets the younger generation shout my father’s name. On the walls the youth glorify my grandfather’s memory. They recognize the immense contributions that each made in building our nation. You can ask the people what they think, and they will give you a clear answer.”
What are your hopes for Iran’s next forty years?
Pahlavi: “My focus is on revitalizing and reinvigorating my country. This regime has attempted to destroy it for forty years. So first we will rebuild it for our citizens so that they can once again live in dignity. This begins with rebuilding our economy based on economic justice and the free market, not based on a cartel system designed to fund domestic repression and global terror. Thereafter, our country can be a beacon of peace, stability, and development in the region and the world as it has been in the past.”
In your view, what should Europe or Germany in particular do to support a free Iran?
Pahlavi: “In your countries, you value liberty, freedom, human rights, and democracy. You must understand that Iranians desire and demand those every bit as much as Germans and Europeans. As people who have struggled under the oppressive grips of fascist and communist dictatorship, Europeans should feel the desires of the Iranian people even more tangibly. Solidarity as democratic nations has to go beyond lip service and general statements.You cannot conduct business with this regime and hope for democracy at the same time because this regime is not reformable. You must choose a side. Coming to the understanding that the regime and its actions cannot be changed is the first step in supporting a free Iran.”