Iran’s dictators make Shah look like a benevolent despot
It is hard to miss the irony of the son of the late Shah of Iran calling for the world to rain approbation on today’s brutal Iranian dictators.
Iran is what it is today because of an uprising against Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was overthrown in February 1979. His fall ended a reign of 37 years that saw the emergence of a largely secular, Westernized Iran in which women were as free as anywhere in the Middle East, and far more free than in most countries. But the shah’s ties to the West, his marginalizing of the mullahs and his obscenely opulent lifestyle created a resentment that could be contained only by his brutal secret police, the SAVAK, and only for so long.
The revolution that drove the shah from the throne also returned Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini from exile and gave him near absolute power. It drove the United States out by attacking its embassy and holding its diplomats hostage. And it has shown itself capable of being just as brutal as the shah in attempting to preserve power for Khomeini’s successors.
The aristocracy has been replaced by a theocracy that considers the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei answerable only to God and a civil government headed by an evil loon, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who stole the last election. That’s a dangerous combination, made more dangerous by tens of thousands of religious fanatics who are intent on seeing Iran remain an Islamic dictatorship.
The pro-democracy rallies that emerged from public discontent following Ahmadinejad’s rigged election have been brutally suppressed by the government. They are now being met with a dangerous reaction from hard-liners who are calling for the execution of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and those who demonstrate in support of him. This comes after at least eight people died during anti-government protests on Sunday, including Mousavi’s nephew.
Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed shah of Iran, has called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to launch an investigation into human- rights violations during the unrest. He also urged other nations to withdraw their ambassadors from Tehran in protest of the violence against demonstrators.
Whether the U.N. and Western nations respond will say something about the value they place on supporting freedom. But regardless of what the West says, the response of the regime in Iran is predictable.
Rulers who came to power through revolution are prepared to crush any uprising that threatens them with far more brutality than they faced when they were the outside demonstrators.
While it is important for the demonstrators in Tehran to maintain their independence — the United States, for instance would do them no favors by injecting itself into Iranian politics — the United Nations dare not be silent while Iranian dissidents are slaughtered.
Western nations, many of which sided with Islamic revolutionaries against a monarch in Iran a generation ago, are now being challenged to recognize that the new dictators are worse than the old.