Iran’s nationwide uprising has entered its sixth month despite a heavy crackdown by security forces. As spectators see the mullahs’ demise on the horizon, one question remains unanswered: Who or what will replace the clerical regime?
From France to Russia and to Afghanistan, where monarchic systems were booted, the return of those deposed royal families to power became a myth. Although in some countries, like Afghanistan, the royal family was toppled through foreign invasion, foreign powers couldn’t return the power to the monarchic system.
While Iranians have demonstrated their desire to establish a democratic country, some observers suggest that the return of the Pahlavi dictatorship to Iran is one option on the table. Is this real, or is it just a fake alternative and part of Tehran’s strategy to discredit its principal opposition movement and detract the nationwide uprising from its main course?
Social media is filled with photos of women without the hijab during the Shah’s rule, trying to create this illusion that Iranians lived affluent lives in comparison with the current deplorable situation in Iran, particularly the women’s harsh conditions under the misogynous regime.
So, did Iranians make a mistake in ousting Pahlavi’s dictatorship?
In 1979, millions of Iranians poured into the streets, calling out the corrupt Shah regime that had plundered their wealth, squandering it on building its army. While the remnants of the deposed monarchy claim that Shah modernized Iran, a closer look at facts and figures proves the opposite.
In the 1950s, the Middle East and Asia were hotbeds of communist revolutions spearheaded by farmers and peasants. Shah, who owed his throne to the American-led coup against Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, was directed by his masters to counter the possibility of a revolution inside Iran, which could have sent a shockwave through the region.
Therefore, Shah started his so-called “White Revolution,” or land reforms. He made a lot of fanfare about distributing land among farmers and modernizing Iran’s agriculture. The real intention was first to diminish any motivation for revolution in farmers and, secondly, further plunder people’s wealth. This so-called reform was meant to preserve the traditional power pattern and safeguard the regime. The nobility and ruling elites, including the Pahlavi family, received the lion’s share of lands by owning the new industrial farms. As a result, Iran’s agricultural exports were reduced by half in less than a year, and by the mid-70s, Iran was no longer exporting agricultural goods.
Shah also started a series of so-called modernizing plans. Delusional about the huge oil revenue following the Arab-Israeli war in 1973, Shah started a series of so-called “modernization plans” while ignoring the country’s lack of infrastructure. By increasing imports and foreign investments, Iran’s economy caught the “Dutch disease.” So, when the oil prices suddenly dropped in 1975, Iran’s inflation and prices skyrocketed, adding to the people’s pain.
The combination of economic and social crises, most importantly Shah’s oppression and creation of a one-party state, prompted Iran’s middle and lower classes, who suffered both politically and economically, to revolt against the regime and topple it. The people also wanted to ouster the Shah for the many crimes of his regime, including the torture, murder, and execution of dissidents and freedom fighters. The SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police, is still known as one of the most notorious and brutal security agencies of contemporary times. It later became the basis for the VEVAK, the intelligence ministry of the mullahs’ regime.
Although the crimes of Shah’s regime pale in comparison to those of the incumbent theocracy, their common goal of plundering the national wealth and oppressing freedoms makes them de facto allies. Neither the Islamic Republic nor the Pahlavi dictatorship was seeking Iran’s progress. The ruling clerics and the comprador elites of the Pahlavi dynasty are not an economically and socially productive force.
The Iranian people’s revolution is the revolution of productive forces. The revolution of a people who actually turn the wheels of industry, agriculture, factories, workshops, etc., and want to participate in the society’s political governance and take over the affairs. Naturally, such a demand will find its appropriate answer in a pluralistic and democratic republic. This will not be achieved by replacing one dictatorship with another.
So, the return of a monarchic revolution in Iran is a mirage, and following it bears no result rather than political exhaustion and hinders the process of a revolution in the making in Iran against any form of tyranny. The international community should embrace this democratic change in Iran, as it will be the beginning of a flourishing era in the crisis-riddled region of the Middle East.