February 11 marks the anniversary of Iran’s anti-monarchical revolution. Less than half a century later, there is another revolution in the making in Iran, with people rejecting any form of dictatorship.
Millions of Iranians took to the streets, calling out Pahlavi’s dictatorship. They were deeming democracy and freedom. Sadly, Ruhollah Khomeini hijacked the 1979 revolution and began a reign of terror by suppressing those who shed blood and tears for the revolution. Khomeini was Shah’s true heir and the inevitable result of a one-party system that had imprisoned, tortured and executed political dissidents with democratic aspirations.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ascended to the throne with the help of foreign powers who removed his father, Reza Khan (called Reza the bully by the Iranian people), from power for cozying up with Nazi Germany. Mohammad Reza, also known as Shah, took power while ensuring the economic interests of world powers, mainly Britain at the time, which controlled Iran’s vast oil and gas resources.
Foreign occupation fueled Iranian nationalism, leading to strong protests against the country’s national wealth being monopolized. Under public opinion pressure, Shah was forced to choose Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh as Prime Minister. Once in office, the great nationalist leader launched a domestic and later an international legal struggle against unjust foreign occupation and managed to nationalize Iran’s oil.
In 1952, Shah removed Mosaddegh from power, only to face an unprecedented uprising in Tehran and other cities, which forced him to flee the country. Once he returned, he was forced to nominate Dr. Mosaddegh as PM. However, a year later, in an American-led coup-d’état supported and implemented by religious fanatics such as Ayatollah Abolghasem Kashani and Khomeini, Shah removed Mossadegh from power.
Shah fulfilled his so-called “White Revolution,” claiming that he would distribute land among farmers. Yet, the plan supplanted the ruling class elites and landlords into a new, more powerful group of commercial farmers, with the Pahlavi family having the lion’s share. Unlike Shah’s claim, this reform, in fact, decreased Iran’s agricultural exports. From 1972 to 1973, Iran, which used to export agricultural goods, imported as much as a one-billion-dollar worth of agricultural products.
In 1972, the American embassy reported that Iranians were suffering from high inflation. While prices had increased, wages stayed low. But then the 1973 Arab-Israeli War happened, causing the oil prices to jump. Iran’s oil revenue experienced an unprecedented rise. Since the country had no real infrastructure, and Pahlavi’s dictatorship was bereft of any meaningful plan to use this wealth, it squandered on building the army and importing goods, therefore, increasing the unemployment rate and decreasing national production. The injection of the oil revenue into the market also increased liquidity, and given the low production and high unemployment rates, inflation further increased.
Amir Assadollah Alam, Shah’s Prime Minister, writes in his memories: “We claim we have helped Iran reach the gates of a glorious civilization, but the country constantly grapples with electricity shortage. We can’t even provide water and electricity in the capital.”
When the oil prices dropped in 1975, the country’s wealth rapidly declined, while the financial calamities continued to increase. In a nutshell, despite the bogus claims by the deposed monarchy’s remnants, the Pahlavi dictatorship achieved nothing but misery for average Iranians. The only people that benefited from Shah’s “reforms” were the ruling elites.
Shah quashed any form of dissent, dissolved all political parties, despite their loyalty to his regime, and banned any political activities or critical thinking. Soon after the “White Revolution,” he formed his Shah created the Rastakhiz (Resurgence) Party, announcing it as Iran’s only political party, effectively turning the country into a one-party state. In other words, he closed any path of reform.
In the early 60s, opposition groups began to form. They were not seeking any reform and righteously considered the regime’s downfall as the only solution to Iran’s crises. Among them were the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and the Organization of Iranian People’s Fedai Guerrillas (OIPFG).
The Pahlavi dictatorship faced a growing wave of dissent and later a rising trend of youth joining the ranks of the MEK and OIPFG. Thus, Shah’s foremost goal was to establish a security apparatus to control people. In 1958, with the help of the U.S., Shah formed his notorious SAVAK secret police and began a ruthless crackdown on opposition movements, all the while raising the specter of radical Islamists such as Khomeini.
As a result, real leaders of the Iranian people’s revolution were either executed or imprisoned. The MEK founders, for instance, were executed, and the organization’s leading officials – including Massoud Rajavi, who later became the Iranian Resistance leader in Khomeini’s era- were in prison until the last days of the revolution.
Thus, it was Ruhollah Khomeini and his network of clerics and fundamentalists who hijacked the revolution.
Iran’s ruling theocracy
Khomeini began his killing spree soon after the 1979 revolution. Thousands were arrested and executed, and the 1980s marked the deadliest decade of brutal oppression by the regime. In the summer of 1988 alone, over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly MEK members, were executed. The clerical regime never stopped its crimes against humanity. Iran, under the clerical regime, is the world’s top executioner per capita. During the November 2019 protests, security forces gunned down over 1500 protesters, and during the recent uprising, they killed over 750 citizens who were asking for their rights.
But the regime’s crimes are not limited to human rights abuses. By squandering people’s wealth on its terrorist activities and nuclear weapons program, and corruption, the Iranian regime has left one of the world’s richest nations in absolute poverty. The official unemployment is 8.9%, but the real number hovers over 25%. The inflation rate constantly increases, with many experts considering it above 60%. The majority of Iranians are living under the poverty line. Meanwhile, the regime has wasted billions of dollars on its nuclear program. Women immensely suffer from the mullahs’ misogynous rule, and ethnic and religious minorities have been brutally suppressed.
Therefore, decades of corruption and oppression have turned Iran’s society into a powder keg. A few weeks before the current uprising erupted in Iran, the regime’s Supreme National Defense University published two studies admitting that “Three of four Iranians participate in protests” and how unstable the regime is.
One of these studies, titled “Iran after [the Persian Year] 1400,” counted various economic calamities and stressed that “All these factors have completely changed aspects of Iranian society, and along with the two protest waves of January 2018 and November 2019, the suspicion that Iranian society is on the threshold of political collapse has been strengthened.” This research concludes by warning regime officials that they can never ignore the “danger of mass, unorganized, unpredictable, violent and leaderless rebellion” in Iranian society.
Although the crimes of Shah’s regime pale to those of the clerical regime, the pattern and system are the same: An authoritarian regime trying to hold its grip on power by every means. The situation in Iran is very similar to the one before the 1979 revolution. But there is one major difference: The presence of organized opposition.
When Khomeini began oppressing dissidents, particularly after he ordered IRGC to open fire on the MEK’s protest in Tehran in June 1981, Massoud Rajavi formed the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a coalition of democratic Iranian opposition groups and prominent individuals, one month later in Tehran. The NCRI and the MEK have been incessantly fighting with the regime and paying the price of this struggle. The Iranian Resistance was the first to expose the regime’s nuclear weapons program and its terrorist activities across the globe, as well as its human rights abuses. The MEK, through its Resistance Units network, has been playing a leading role in recent uprisings in Iran, spreading the message of hope and resistance against tyranny by having daily activities under the nose of the regime’s covert and overt agents surveillance system. The Iranian Resistance has held numerous summits and events, attended by renowned politicians from both sides of the Atlantic, to raise awareness of the current situation in Iran and also mobilize the international community against Iran’s terrorist regime.
As a result, Tehran has tried to eliminate its viable alternative through terrorism and a vast demonizing campaign. In July 2018, an Iranian terrorist diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, was arrested while attempting to bomb the NCRI’s annual Free Iran World Summit near Paris.
Parallel with its terrorist activities, the clerical regime has been pushing a massive demonization campaign against the MEK in western countries.
In recent months, seeing their imminent downfall on the horizon, the mullahs have been trying to fabricate “alternatives” in a bid to outflank the growing popularity of the NCRI and MEK inside Iran.
One of the main goals of the Iranian regime's four-decade demonization campaign against the #MEK has been to spread the narrative that the MEK is a fringe group, a cult with no popular base inside Iran.#IranRevolution pic.twitter.com/TrV6YhGBBQ
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) February 9, 2023
For years, Tehran managed to deceive the world community by speaking of “reformism” and “moderation.” Sadly, Western democracies followed the mirage of reform and the myth of moderation. Years later, during the nationwide 2018 uprisings, the Iranian people chanted, “Reformist, hardliner, the game is over.”
So the mullahs’ regime began forming a new alternative: Shah’s son, Reza Pahlavi. Reza has been living a lavish life since Shah’s family fled from Iran while stealing billions of dollars of the Iranian people’s wealth. Reza Pahlavi’s entire political career consists of posting sporadic and politically expedient tweets and Facebook and Instagram posts, taking part in self-promoting television interviews, and praising the IRGC.
Bereft of any solution to Iran’s crises and any socio-political foothold in Iran- other than his family relation to a dictator and especially taking a position against the main and only organized resistance against mullahs in the past 42 years. Pahlavi is the regime’s perfect choice and a “harmless” opposition figure.
While the Persian-speaking media and the IRGC’s cyber army have been promoting Pahlavi, the recent campaign “To Give Power of Attorney” showed the absolute failure of marketing a deposed monarchy.
This campaign began following Reza Pahlavi’s interview with Manoto TV, a controversial TV channel, with some celebrities who were active inside Iran up until the last few months, giving “power of attorney” to Reza Pahlavi on social media platforms. They also launched a petition to show the monarchy’s popularity base inside Iran while counting on their millions of followers on social media. Yet, this was much ado about nothing, as the petition collected less than 500,000 signatures. This is while anyone could have signed the petition as many times as they could using different names and emails.
There is a revolution in the making inside Iran, and the regime’s days are numbered. Like a drowning man, Khamenei clings to anything and anyone to save his regime, and who’s better than the remnants of the deposed monarchy that shares many fundamental ideas with the regime?
Yet, For Iranians, the choice is not the lesser of the two evils. The return to monarchy in Iran is a historical impossibility, and the Iranian people have rejected both the Shah and the mullahs’ regime by chanting, “Death to the oppressor, be it Shah or the [supreme] leader.”
The current revolution in Iran is in line with the 1979 revolution and shares the same goals of establishing a democratic and secular Iran. The values of this revolution have been preserved by the Iranian Resistance throughout the years, despite its heavy price. Iranian people and their organized Resistance are ready to realize their goal of establishing a democratic, secular, and representative republic that respects human rights and the rights of women and minorities.