© IRAN-RESIST.ORG – FEB 27, 2010 | While it has to square up to its total collapse at every level which is expressed by the permanent boycott of its official demonstrations by Iranians, civilians or militiamen, the mullahs’ regime had the idea to stage an internal revolution against those the West identified as wicked people. Thus this would polish up the image of the revolution and link it with a democratic ideal by making Iranians appear as people who are attached to the Islamic revolution. Such operation which is lead by the Green Movement and Mussavi has focused right away its communication on a comparison between “the Shah’s bloody dictatorship and Ahmadinejad’s one” in order to pay tribute to the Islamic revolution of 1979 -the thing which needs to be rescued. Such speech didn’t have the expected impact in Iran because nowadays nobody believes the tales about the crimes of the Shah. Most authors of those incriminating words have confessed for years that they lied. However such talks were quoted and published solely in Persian language. De facto, the Shah has remained a criminal to Westerners’ point of view and this constitutes a great help for the Green Movement, the alter ego of a regime whose back is to the wall. It appeared necessary to us to expose the facts such as they are known by Iranians.

by Babak Khandani

Short time after the revolution, during a reception in a posh suburb of Paris, a woman told : “the exactions of the Shah’s regime are true. My brother was finishing his engineering studies in Germany and he just obtained his degree of specialist in industrial oven. When he came back to Iran, he was snatched by the Savak and taken to an unknown region. There, he had to work by force to an incineration line where there was a conveyor on which hermetically sealed boxes used to arrive. They were conveyed towards the incinerator. One day, one of those crates fell down and some stinking smell overspread in the shop. My brother went near the broken box and noticed cadavers. The guards didn’t take long time to come forward and they clubbed everybody away. Upon a day off, my brother escaped abroad.”

The narrator of such tall story wasn’t a visionary one but a well-educated woman who studied at the French School of Tehran and who looked like a socialite. It’s even not necessary to specify that we’ve never discovered any extermination camp in Iran and that such tale is the pure invention of a person who had personal interests in this regime and who wished to support it by any mean. However, far be it from being anecdotic, such example is emblematic of one the Islamists’ current ways to misinform the public opinion. Unfortunately, such methods came off and obtained the expected results : the sullying of the former regime so to justify present horrors.

The Human Rights situation was much better in the Iran of Pahlavi than in most countries. The Shah’s detractors didn’t find better weapon than systematic calumny and extreme exaggeration seemed appropriate. However such calumnies appear irrelevant if we face them with critical analysis.

The number of political prisoners | The opponents to the Shah’s regime stated that the latter detained more than 100,000 political prisoners. If we consider that a big jail such as Fleury-Mérogis has a capacity of 3,500 prisoners, thus there would have been around thirty political prisons under the Shah, i.e. one in each big or average-sized city. But we know only a single one, the Evine prison which is located in Tehran and whose maximal capacity is up to 3,000 prisoners. Besides, when every political prisoner were released few months before the fall of imperial regime, they were only 2,400 -see below.

Every inspection of the International Red Cross in the 70’s proved that detention conditions were satisfactory anyway. Exaction tales remain impossible to verify and it seems that tough interrogations and police errors -which are always to blame- are changed willingly into systematic torture.

The notion of political prisoner | Some people may make objections and tell that 2,400 political prisoners are too many. However were the facts reproached to those prisoners simple opinion offence or what is a matter of involvement into acts that were much more reprehensible ?

Far from being a quiet country, Iran was shaken up in the 70’s by daily attacks and armed actions. Every day, a bomb exploded or a bank was attacked with weapons. Regularly innocent people were killed, victims of true or false revolutionaries of all kinds. It appeared then normal that guilty people were prosecuted or jailed. What is sure is that for less serious acts, the terrorists of Direct Action, of the Red Brigades or of the Baader-Meinhof were sentenced with heavier sanctions. Besides was the designation of “political prisoner” appropriated to such act ? When we learn moreover that a great part of those attacks were crooked, we get to sympathise even less with criminals who try to appear as victims.

Curiously, those terrorists had a predilection for banks ! Today they claim that “this was a revolutionary act against capitalism which permitted also to bring financial support to the political resistance”. Actually they used to train for a practice they would apply on a larger scale and in an illegal way : the pillage of the wealth of Iran.

Recently, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the official movie director of the mullahs’ regime -and spokesperson of the Green Movement, declared in an interview that the Shah himself came to jail to torture him. Such as every Islamists, whether they are bearded or wearing a tie, Makhmalbaf doesn’t hesitate to tell the most incredible tales in the best Jihadi tradition. Nevertheless, he doesn’t tell that when he was 16, he was a suburban bigwig and for reasons which were villainous and not political at all, he killed an innocent police officer to steal his gun. For such murder, he was jailed for 5 years only and when the Shah fell, he proclaimed himself revolutionary person and became even the mascot man of movie festivals.

The race for lies about the revolutionary times | As long as they have few tangible reproaches to heap on the Shah socially and economically speaking, the revolutionaries of the 70’s didn’t find better tactics than the excessive misuse of the martyrdom theme. From the end of 1977, newspapers worldwide have relayed false news about the people who were killed in confrontations which most of the time didn’t take place and they used to announce an average of “one hundred daily victims”. According to such information, there would have been around fifty thousand killed during those revolts which lasted a year and a half, right before the Shah left.

Calumny reached its highest point when both key events of this time happened : the criminal fire of a cinema in Abadan and the gunfire on a small place of Tehran.

On the 20 August 1978, the exits of the Rex cinema in Abadan were locked and fire was set to the place. More than 400 people died. Worldwide media accused immediately the Shah’s regime by giving sometimes, such as did the newspaper Le Monde, details about how the agents of the regime proceeded. But after the revolution, the Islamists’ version was questioned immediately by the the families of the victims. Finally, people’s tongue loosened and various articles were published in the regime’s newspapers and gave the exact version of such crime in which the way to proceed was finally not much different from what was committed elsewhere by Khomeini’s henchmen, for instance in a cinema of Qom.

Two weeks after such fire, on the 8 September, gunfire broke out between revolutionaries and soldiers on a small place of Tehran whose name is Jaleh. While the real number of killed didn’t exceed 90 people, the international press mentioned there was 3,000 killed. Some even suggested a figure of “10,000 victims of whom 100 children who were less than 2 years old” ! However, on this day, Western journalists were there to cover he event freely and a TV team even filmed the place from a helicopter. 3,000 killed represent less than 30 trucks filled with cadavers and besides this would require several hours to load them. But we cannot see on any photography or in any topical report those people who fell on the spot. The only few cadavers that were shown were at the morgue and it was question of road casualties such as it would be the case afterwards in Romania.

86 people died on this gunfire and half of them were soldiers ! Indeed, such slaughter was triggered by Palestinian snipers whose mission was to cause a bloodbath. Such a massacre which was pined straightforwardly on the Shah would have turned people and international opinion against the Shah. Few years later, when relations between the mullahs and Yasser Arafat grew acrimonious, the latter reminded them via the press the decisive support his organization brought on this day to the Islamic revolution.

More royalist than the King himself | After an investigation which was carried out in 1980 by the regime but which was made public solely in 2003 by Emad-ol-Din Baghi, “from 1963 -date of Khomeini’s first revolt- until the victory of the Islamic revolution in 1979, only 341 people were killed or died irrespective of cause : confrontation with police forces, execution -after trial, suicide or natural death in jail”. The investigation was made by Ahmad Bani-Ahmad, one of Khomeini’s trustworthy men, and it was brought before the latter on the 18 March 1980 ; it added that those “341 people couldn’t be considered in anyway as opinion prisoners” because their death was related to terrorist acts. The investigation specified that “even not a single case of opinion prisoner who was handled roughly in the Savak’s jails” was known and regarding Jaleh Place, it reduced the number of victims from 86 to 64.

Emad-ol-Din Baghi confessed publicly that the results of such investigation were concealed for a long time from the public because they were in entire contradiction with the speech of the leaders of the revolution, starting with Khomeini.

Other researches made by opponents to the Shah lead to the same conclusion : at a time that lasted 15 years, the magnitude of killed people owing to any reason doesn’t exceed 300 people and 4,000 people were jailed owing to political reason -this doesn’t count short-term detentions, i.e. inferior to two weeks. Few countries in the world did better at that time.

The Shah and the international context | According to his detractors, “the Shah was right after Hitler and Stalin in terms of crime”. Let’s make a comparison with several countries from 1945 to 1980.

Nowadays, around ten thousand mothers still mourn their missing sons in Chile or in Argentina. There’s not even a single mother facing such situation towards the regime of the Shah. Today, we still find mass graves in Spain, vestige of Francoism. Did we ever find any mass grave that would be imputable to the Shah of Iran ? Around 30 to 40 thousand people were executed during the purge on the Liberation of France. Can we find an example of such extent into the facts attributable to the Shah of Iran ?

At that time, it was easier to be an opponent in Iran compared to any other country of Eastern Europe or compared to China, Korea -from the North to the South- and Taiwan ; we don’t even mention other Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand or Malaysia. In Turkey and in Pakistan, both super-vassal of the United States in the region, the number of victims from political opposition involves not hundreds of people but hundreds of thousands people. We even don’t mention Arab or African countries. No need also to highlight the Colonels’ case in Greece or the dictatorship of Salazar in Portugal.

Being a separatist was less dangerous in Tehran than in Belfast. In the United States, once somebody was communist in his life, he was banned for ever while in Iran it was possible to be an empress -Farah Diba- or Prime Minister -Hoveyda. Worse than this, it’s the reproach that was heaped on the Shah of Iran. Indeed, it was possible to be in collusion with the enemy and betray the country and at last to be reprieved much easily.

The regime of the Shah didn’t fall owing to excesses but owing to permissiveness. It’s from this point that Iranians judge much severely the former regime.

The french version of this article :
- Iran : La réalité de la répression à l’époque du Shah
- (27 FÉVRIER 2010)

All our articles in English...

| Mots Clefs | Institutions : Les Racines de la Révolution Islamique |

| Mots Clefs | Histoire : Mohammad-Reza Shah (le Chah) |

| Mots Clefs | Auteurs & Textes : Babak Khandani |