essays

Oct 1, 1979

The Shah Revisited

“The President’s behavior in the matter of Iran has been a national disgrace, and the sooner it is widely acknowledged as such…the better.”

AS WE GO TO press, it is uncertain how long the Shah of Iran will remain even officially in power in his country. A new Premier—a Premier designate, to be more exact—has begun the process of establishing a parliamentary government, and there is much open talk of the imminent departure of the Shah. He has spoken himself of taking a “vacation” once order has been restored to Iran—and there are indications that such order may stay restored only if the Shah never returns from his “vacation”.

Whatever may have come to pass by the time you read this in the last days of January, it should be emphasized and reemphasized that the Shah’s despotic regime has been brought into its current state of worldwide disrepute, with outright revolution on the part of its victims at home, by the sheer unmitigated barbarity of its conduct of government.

Early in December, a New York Times reporter asked the Shah what percentage of the Iranian people he believed still supported him. “Logically,” the Shah said, “all of them should, because everyone has benefited from my reign.”

Really? Everyone? Try telling that to the 56 year old man Amnesty International interviewed recently who had been burned all over his body with cigarettes by the Shah’s secret police after he was found with a printed statement by one of the Shah’s opponents. Try telling that to any one of the 300-thousand Iranians who have been imprisoned and tortured in the past twenty years for holding the wrong political views. Are torture and imprisonment among the benefits the Shah feels everyone has derived from his reign? Are torture and imprisonment what President Carter has in mind when he sanctimoniously explains to us that the Shah is in trouble with his people for “moving too forcefully and agressively to change some of their ancient religious customs?” Are torture and imprisonment what the President is talking about when he insists that the Shah is trying to change his country in a “constructive” way, moving toward “democracy” and “social progress”?

The President has repeatedly emphasized that his administration supports the Shah, whom Amnesty International has described as having the worst human rights record of any ruler in the world. That description was first published a year ago, but it remains true today. Shortly before the end of 1978, Amnesty International revisited Iran to check on the Shah’s claims that he had ended the practice of torture and loosened his restrictions on freedom of speech and the press. The human rights group concluded that nothing has changed in Iran and publicly accused the Shah of “gross hypocrisy”.

The Shah’s hypocrisy, however, is mild beside that of Jimmy Carter, who prates of human rights from one side of his mouth while pledging his full support to the Idi Amin of the Middle East out of the other; who pretends to believe the lie that the Shah’s opponents are communists and religious fanatics, while knowing all along that they are actually freedom-loving people in pursuit of the same civil liberties all Americans enjoy. The President’s behavior in the matter of Iran has been a national disgrace, and the sooner it is widely acknowledged as such, and something is done to change such sorry policies, the better.