Achievements and Progress during the reign of the Pahlavi Monarch

In 1976, Iran became the first country among the nations of the so-called “South” to reverse the brain drain, while the number of its educated people reached levels necessary for a qualitative leap in the areas of science and technology.  Had Iran been able to complete its petrochemical projects, it could have become one of the world’s largest petrochemical centers many years ago. In 1974, Iran launched a peaceful nuclear program to develop a nuclear energy industry that, if continued, it could have three French and German-built nuclear power plants by 1980-81.  In 1978, Tehran hosted the first gathering of the “Dialogue of Civilizations.”

The 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution provides the best opportunity for our beloved compatriots to examine the Islamic Republic’s record and render judgment on the cost of the regime’s policies, actions, and slogans for the people of Iran and the international community.  To be meaningful, such an undertaking will have to focus on what Iran was before the revolution, what it is now, and what it could be now had the revolution not occurred. It is in the light of such comparative analysis that we can truly grasp the intolerable harm and devastation the 35 years of Islamic government have brought on to our people and our country. It is, of course, a fact that more than two-thirds of Iranian men and women have been either born after the establishment of the Islamic Republic, or were too young to have a vivid memory of the times before the Revolution.  It also is a fact that the complete misrepresentation and revision of Iran’s contemporary history has been a major and continuous goal of the Islamic government’s leaders, in order to deprive the young generation from learning the realities and the facts of the past.  Nonetheless, I am certain that a great majority of the Iran’s youth have not been deceived by the false propaganda of the Islamic Republic’s leaders and their spokesmen, and that thanks to direct and indirect modern sources of communication, they have become increasingly aware of the facts about their contemporary history.  Today, the young realize that the Islamic Revolution and the government that it gave birth to not only did not contribute to their progress, welfare, and security, but it has ruined the country and has made it prey to unprecedented and horrendous dangers.

Given the precarious conditions prevailing in Iran, I feel duty-bound to share with the young generation of Iranians a summary of what had been achieved during the reign of the Pahlavi kings, the magnitude of the country’s relative “regress” under the Islamic Republic, and the scope of calamities that have befallen them because of the Revolution.  The young generation must know that the anniversary of the Islamic Republic is not an occasion for celebration, but a time of mourning, and more importantly, a reason to mobilize in order to attain a better future worthy of the freedom-loving people of Iran.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, a series of domestic and international events led to the serious weakening of Iran in many areas, pushing the country to the brink of collapse.  In the early years of the 19th century, the Tsarist Russia occupied large portions of northern Iran, and after the imposed treaties of Golestan and Turkmenchay, it annexed parts of Iran’s territory for good. The weight of those defeats, coupled with Nasseredin Shah’s 50 years rule, were major factors that contributed to Iran’s further weakening and lack of progress in the second half of the 19th century.  In the early years of the 20th century, the Constitutional Revolution, during Mozafaredin Shah’s reign, led to the creation of the 1906 Constitution and its amendments in 1907. In the same year, Britain and Russia reached an agreement to divide Iran’s south and north into their respective zones of influence.  During WWI, 1914-18, Britain, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire invaded Iran and destroyed many towns and provinces in their wake.  Britain tried hard to impose upon Iran an agreement in 1919 that had it been ratified by Parliament at the time, would have turned Iran into a virtual colony of that country, robbing Iran of its independence.  At the time, Iran’s economy was in severe decline and its political structure shaky and unstable. The mullahs had vast influence over educational and social institutions of the country, Iran’s territorial integrity was on the verge of annihilation, and the government did not have the ability to stand up to foreign enemies.

It was during those times that Reza Khan, first as the commander of the army (Sardar-e-Sepah), and then as prime minister, rose to deal with perils that were threatening the nation. In 1925, with the approval of the Constituent Assembly, he ascended to the throne.

Reza Shah’s Major Achievements and Services

The most significant achievement of Reza Shah was to rekindle Iran’s glorious and proud pre-Islamic past.  Thanks to a renewed awareness of their past history, Iranians were able to transcend any sense of inferiority, take advantage of their potentials and talents with a newly-found s self-confidence, and sedt set out to pave the way for Iran’s progress and development.  Reza Shah’s other important services and achievements could be summarized as follows:

-Preservation of Iran’s territorial integrity and unity.
-Annulment of the Capitulation Regime.
-Creation of a modern judiciary and ending the influence of the clerics over judicial and legal matters.
-Establishment of a secular system of education, building new schools, colleges for training teachers, and a modern university system.
-Modernization and ref
orm of the bureaucracy.
-Laying the foundation for modern industries and workshops.
-Creation of a modern financial and tax order.
-Ordering the unveiling of women as the first step toward the realization of women’s freedoms and rights, empowerment of girls to attend schools and universities, and their participation in social arenas.
-Providing funds to build the country’s economic and social infrastructures, especially the national rail system.
-Providing scholarships for students to study in advanced countries to gain knowledge in various fields and serve their country.


Mohammad Reza Shah’s Achievements and Services

Mohammad Reza Shah ascended the throne during the perilous and turbulent years of WWII, during which armed forces of Britain and the Soviet Union entered Iran’s soil and forced Reza Shah to abdicate the throne and leave the country, while both powers seemed to desire to see someone other than his eldest son become king.  Since his early years on the throne, Mohammad Reza Shah had believed, and so stated, that the following five elements were a part of the fundamental rights of the Iranian people: Food, clothing, housing, education, and healthcare.  However, the first 12 years of his reign were consumed by efforts to defend and maintain Iran’s independence and territorial integrity, including forcing the Soviet Union to vacate Iran’s soil, liberate Azerbaijan from the hands of a Soviet puppet regime, stand up to the ever-increasing power of the Tudeh Party, and secure Iran’s rights over its oil resources in the country’s southern regions.

Contrary to claims made by Mohammad Reza Shah’s opponents, it was he who encouraged Dr. Mossadegh to accept the post of prime minister, helping him gain Parliament’s vote of confidence.  He never wavered from supporting Mossadegh against domestic and foreign enemies opponents? .  He felt obligated by the constitutional demands and powers of his office to dismiss Mossadegh because Mossadegh had clearly failed to resolve the oil crisis, brought the country close to bankruptcy, and allowed the Tudeh Party, backed by Moscow, to achieve extraordinary power. Even then, had Mossadegh not forced the parliament that no longer supported him to dissolve by staging an illegal referendum, and had he still enjoyed parliamentary support, he would not have dismissed him.

Unlike the Islamic Republic that, knowingly or otherwise, has endangered Iran and the Iranians and has made them face threats of destruction and ruin, Mohammad Reza Shah considered guarding the nation from danger and harm to be the main duty of the government.  For this reason, the Shah’s foreign policy was based on having friendly relations with the international community, while he considered a strong and modern military to be the guarantor of Iran’s protection from foreign invasion.  Although a major portion of Mohammad Reza Shah’s rule coincided with the Cold War, during the 60′s and 70′s, however, Iran managed to establish good relations with almost every country in the world, including relations with Nasser’s Egypt after the 1967 War, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq after 1975.  Moreover, in addition to peaceful and friendly nations, Iran established ties with countries that were in conflict with one another, including with the United States, the Soviet Union, and China; India and Pakistan; and Israel and Arab states.

To truly appreciate Mohammad Reza Shah’s achievements for Iran, we must place them in context: the chaos of the war and oil nationalization years, and the social, economic, cultural and geostrategic evolution of Iran between 1954 and 1978. Within the short time-span of 24 years, Iran, still one of the most underdeveloped nations of the world in the 1940s, became an outstanding example of a rapidly developing economy and society during the 1960s and 70s, boasting one of the world’s highest rates of economic growth, as well as a rare record in the area of social welfare and cultural change.  A few examples of Iran’s progress and development are as follows:

-Iranian women were granted the right to vote, as well as the right to be appointed or elected to any position, including those of judges, lawmakers, and ministers.  With the passage of laws concerning “family welfare,” women were given equal rights with men, particularly in the areas of marriage and child custody.  The number of women enrolled in universities rose steadily.  The passage of the “National Action” law, allowed women to participate and have a role in all governmental decisions that affected women’s status, freedom, equality, and other social issues.  The basic principle of this action, long before it was adopted in other countries, was that women played a role in all events and aspects of the society, and were involved in its affairs.

-Education and educational institutions spread across the country to towns and villages.  In 1975, education and daily meals for every child, from kindergarten to eighth grade became free.  A number of Iranian universities, including Aryamehr Technological University (now Sharif) and Pahlavi University in Shiraz were able to compete with the best institutions in developed countries.  Nearly 60 thousand Iranian students were studying in some of the best universities in the West.  By 1976, Iran had become the first nation among the countries of the “South” to reverse the brain-drain, providing what was necessary to make a qualitative leap in science and technology.

-Iran’s economy and society became outstanding models of development, with its income per capita that was less than $100 back in the 40′s, jumping to $2400 in 1978.

-Land Reform freed the farmers from the yoke of landowners; every farmer became a land-owner, able to farm and join cooperatives.

-In 1963, Sepah-e-Danesh (Education Corps) was established, and in 1964 and 1965 respectively, Sepah-e-Behdasht (Health Corps) and Sepah-e-Tarvij-va-Abadani (Reconstruction and Development Corps) were created to serve in small towns and villages.

-In 1965, the citizens themselves established Arbitration Councils and Houses of Justice to adjudicate problems.

-According to a newly passed law in 1975, the Iranian government was mandated to provide every Iranian social security benefits.  The same year, workers gained the right to buy shares in large industrial plants.

-In 1975, pregnant women and children under the age of two received qualified to receive food and nutritional assistance.

-Unlike the Consortium Agreement of 1954, when Iran’s oil had not yet become truly nationalized, in 1973, the nationalization of oil became a reality.  With Mohammad Reza Shah’s direct involvement, Iran’s government annulled the 1954 agreement and signed a new one to buy and sell oil with the Consortium’s individual members.  The National Iranian Oil Company took complete control of the country’s production, exploration, exports, and marketing of oil.  Iran also gained total ownership of its oil reserves.  Member countries of the Consortium became Iran’s premier oil customers.  In reality, with the signing of the new agreement, Iran attained its goal of nationalization of oil.

-Iran began to export natural gas to Europe by completing a pipeline and developing its natural gas industry.  Had Iran been able to complete its petrochemical industry, it would have become one of the world’s major petrochemical centers a long time ago.

-In 1974, Iran launched its peaceful nuclear program to produce nuclear energy.  Had the project continued, Iran could have had 3 German and French-built nuclear power plants by 1980-81.

-New industries, including steel-mills, machine-tool factories, and tractor manufacturing plants were built during that period by taking advantage of prudent and balanced relationships with the Eastern Bloc as well as the West.

-In the areas of environmental preservation, from water resources and forests to plants and animals, Iran had become on par with advanced nations.

-With its important strategic situation, Iran was striving to act as a bridge that would bring diverse cultures and nationalities together.  Along the same lines, Iran pursued a series of cultural programs that included Shiraz Art Festival, Isfahan Folklore Festival, Toos Festival, as well as the establishment of new museums, and the promotion of music, cinema, and other visual arts.  New theaters and cultural centers, government-run or private, were opening with increasing frequency.  The first seminar on the “Dialogue of Civilizations” got underway in Tehran in 1978.

The Islamic Republic and the Rights of the Iranian People

The Islamic Revolution of 1979 delivered a major blow to human and material foundations of Iran that had been growing steadily for 50 years up to that point. As explained before, during the 20′s Iran was one of the poorest countries in the world, whereas in the 70′s it had become a symbol of development in the Third World, with one of the highest rates of economic growth.  In social services, Iran had reached a high level, and had made inroads in other areas that were collectively considered necessary for progress, including women’s rights, environmental protection, life expectancy, education, science, and cultural ties.  Because of these achievements and changes, Iran was able to reverse the brain-drain in 1975 by becoming a magnet for “brains,” something that had not been seen anywhere in the Third World before.

Actions that were taken under the guidance of Mohammad Reza Shah in the White Revolution revitalized and changed Iran’s society entirely. The effects of those changes are such that after 35 years of trying, the Islamic Government has not been able to wipe them out.  The same effects and changes continue to exist in our society to this day and guide Iran toward the future.  From the very beginning, the new regime discounted what the Iranian society had achieved during the 50 years of Pahlavi rule.  It broke-up the concentration of all elements that were deemed necessary for a modern society, and belittled the culture of progress and development. The Islamic Government robbed women of their rights and freedoms, destroyed and contaminated the environment, turned an ever-increasing number of Iranian children and youths into wanderers and the homeless, pushed the young toward addiction, spread fear and horror, restored the brain-drain, and landed mortal blows to Iran’s long-standing international credibility and stature.

The Iran-Iraq War, that thanks to Iran’s peaceful diplomacy and powerful military before the Revolution had been a remote possibility, devastated the country, and shed the blood of hundreds of thousands of the young.  While Iran’s per capita income in 15 years up to the Revolution had grown 12-fold, jumping from $195 in 1962 to almost $2400 in 1978, it plummeted sharply after the Revolution.  In 2004, 25 years after the Revolution, Iran’s per capita income had remained a little under $2400, while at the same time Rial’s value had dropped sharply, with the cost of living and inflation rising dramatically.  To realize the depth and the scope of the disaster of the 1979 Revolution, one should draw a chart that indicates economic, social, cultural, technological, and geo-strategic achievement curves in Iran beginning any decade before the revolution, extend it to the year of the revolution, and project it to the present time, and compare it to the situation today. This way, the depth of the disaster that the Revolution was and the historical costs that the Islamic Republic has imposed on Iran and Iranians becomes very clear.

The Islamic Republic’s ruinous blows are not aimed at Iranians alone.  Clearly, had the Revolution not happened, the situation of Iran and other countries in the Middle-East would have been far different.  Thanks to Iran’s political and military power, the Iran-Iraq War would not have taken place, and Saddam Hussein would not have invaded Kuwait. The Soviet Union, most likely, would not have occupied Afghanistan, Taliban would not be formed, and Al-Qaida would not get the chance to thrive.  Islamic Fundamentalism and religious extremism that found a material and spiritual backer in the Islamic Republic would have been contained, and as a result, the situation in the Middle-East could have been far more different than what it is today.  Large numbers of Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans, Syrians, and other peoples would not have to die, get maimed, or become refugees, struggling in exile.  A large portion of the wealth and the infrastructure of these societies would have remained intact.  The United States would not have gotten involved in the Persian Gulf War.  Most probably, Globalization would have had more friendly connotations, and the “clash of civilizations” would have been less violent than what it is today.  Who knows, it could probably have turned into a genuine “dialogue of civilizations.”

Truly, what has befallen Iran and the Iranians in the past 35 years is nothing short of a historical disaster.  But, as the late Mohammad Reza Shah used to say and always strived for all Iranians to achieve, “freedom and progress” are among the most basic and natural demands of every human being, and I am confident that with the help of patriotic, Iran-loving men and women, in the end light will triumph over darkness.

Article by:
HIM Farah Pahlavi


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