April 5, 2001

Public Affairs Institute Looks to Future of Iran

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Having begun a campaign in January to introduce political reform to his native Iran, Reza Pahlavi addressed the issue during a lecture at Schwartz Auditorium yesterday.

The elder son of the late Shah of Iran, he characterized the Islamist regime that currently holds power in Iran as autocratic, repressive, and responsible for undermining the nation’s political, socio-economic, and cultural conditions since it took power in 1979.

“This is a critical moment in my country’s history,” Pahlavi said. “The Iran of my youth was a nation at peace with its neighbors and respected within the international community.

“Today, Iran has fallen into the abyss of international isolation, an inherently extremist regime — high inflation, huge unemployment, and rampant corruption.”

“The clerical regime brutally supresses human rights within Iran, and is the leading exporter of hate and terror beyond its borders. Today, after 22 years of constant decline and loss of hope, the country has reached an impasse under the status quo.”

Although Pahlavi admitted that the Islamist government has become more modern and liberal — thanks in large part to the election in 1997 of Mohammad Khatami — he nonetheless claimed that Iran must now rethink its political structure.

“While Western news headlines have described the dynamics within Iran as between the ‘reformists’ and ‘radical conservatives,’ the reality is far more complex,” Pahlavi remarked. “Today, the issue in Iran is not which faction of the Islamic Republic can meet the demands of the Iranian people, but what system besides an Islamic Republic can save Iran.”

More specifically, Pahlavi advocated that Iran should open its arm to secular democracy.

“Iranians today see a transparent political system in which full political participation in which free and fair elections are guaranteed for all freedom-loving individuals, irrespective of political ideologies, religious beliefs or ethnic background,” he said, adding, “In support of this quest, I am leading an effort for national unity among all groups dedicated to a democratic agenda and outcome to work together for a common cause — the establishment of a democratic and secular government.”

“My goal is to lead this movement culminating in a national referendum, beyond this system, and with international supervision, as a means to guarantee freedom and self-determination for the people of Iran.”

Because he has lived in exile from Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Pahlavi has focused his efforts on accruing support for his cause from the West. During a speech at the French Press Club last month, he urged the European Community to encourage political liberalization in Iran, and yesterday Pahlavi once again made a plea to Western governments to take seriously the situation in Iran.

“I ask that Western governments not forget that everyday in my country, basic human freedoms of speech, thought, press, and assembly taken for granted in the West are brutally crushed,” he said. “The West must care and not exclusively pursue business interests at the expense of human interests.”

During the question and answer period following his speech, Pahlavi asserted that constitutional monarchy could be a possible replacement for Iran’s ruling theocracy, opening the door for himself to ascend the throne that his father was forced to surrender 22 years ago.

But he quickly added that he was not concerned with what type of change is instituted in Iran, only that it’s instituted.

“My goal is simple, achievable, and straightforward,” Pahlavi said. “This is a cause I believe in and committed to see fruition, even if it were at the expense of my own life.”

Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj