Famous Rulers in History The Shah of Iran Part 4

About the famous Persian ruler the Shah in Iran, history and biography of his reign and rule, state of Iran now.


Criticism of the shah is forbidden. Regardless of the news of the day, all newspapers must lead with a story about the shah or the royal family. The deification of the monarchy bombards Iranians in schools, in churches, and in the media.

And the keeper of the faith is SAVAK. SAVAK does not give an accounting of its activities. There are an estimated 60,000 SAVAK agents, but no one is sure of the exact number. There are even more informants than agents. All of Iranian society is infiltrated by this secret police. Each cabinet minister is assigned a shadow, whose job it is to inform the shah directly about the minister's activities. No two army officers above the rank of major are allowed to meet without the shah's permission for fear they will plot against him. SAVAK is also active abroad, harassing and keeping tabs on Iranian students living in other countries.

Although "show trials" are staged, people often disappear and are never heard of again. According to Amnesty International, "The exact number of political prisoners in Iran is not known, but Amnesty International believes it to be several thousand. Other sources have given approximate numbers which range from 25,000 to 100,000."

Perhaps the shah's greatest display of power was symbolic. It occurred in 1967, when the shah staged his own coronation, 25 years late, and placed the crown on his own head.

The shah's most ambitious reform program to date has been the White Revolution, begun in 1963. Cloaked in democratic and populist rhetoric, the program called for the nationalization of water and forest resources, land reform, women's suffrage, a health corps, a literary corps, and an agricultural aid program. Few of these projects have been carried out. The land reform program--inspired, said the shah, by his admiration for the Kennedy administration--did little for the poor peasants. The government bought land from large landowners, many of whom owned entire villages, and then sold it in small parcels to wealthy peasants. The program's goal was to put money in the hands of the landowners and thus encourage them to invest in Iran's expanding industrial state. Politically, the land reform law was a brilliant move in that it created a divided peasantry that no longer had a common complaint against the shah.

The shah has maintained a relatively independent policy regarding oil. He has surprised a great number of people by continuing to sell oil to Israel, even during the Yom Kippur war of 1973--perhaps because Israel helped train SAVAK.

The shah has pulled Iran out of the feudal era, and he now talks about making Iran the fifth-greatest power in the world. Industrialization and foreign investment continue to grow because of the regime's "stability." The shah seems to realize that someday his country will run out of its precious oil, and he is actively seeking to control oil exports and use the profits from oil sales to build industrial plants for the future. The shah has also rid Iran of foreign troops and of various spheres of influence which used the country as a pawn in earlier times.

But Iran remains one of the most repressive and paranoiac societies in existence today. Its torture techniques and its countless violations of human rights have been thoroughly documented. The economy is not in as good shape as the shah would like everyone to think. While the Gross National Product is rising, the gap between rich and poor is widening. There are still many problems to overcome, including a 75% illiteracy rate due to an inadequate number of good schools and universities. Also high on the list of problems are deadly health standards, caused by the lack of qualified doctors and medical facilities.

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