Slander in black & white
What have you learned from living in a democracy?
August 9, 2007
It is astonishing that a simple travelogue [my "East meets West at their best"] should turn into a dispute among Iranians [Parvane Kemp's "Reza Shah vs. Ataturk"]. But I guess we have learned a few things from living in the West, such as that dialogue after all is healthy and a positive component of the democratic process. I wish both Reza Shah and his son, instead of learning and using some of the negative aspects of the West, had adopted the ideals of freedom of speech, assembly and press.
By way of preface, as I mentioned to JJ, the editor of Iranian. com, it is unethical and against all the principles of journalism for Ms Parvane Kemp to include comments directed at anyone's personal life. Fortunately, JJ took these comments out. Instead of coming up with valid arguments, her piece mostly attacks me on a personal level.
But let's get to the point. First of all, I wrote on Turkey on the basis of a ten-day trip, what I witnessed and what I encountered in the places I visited, nothing less and nothing more. It was not my intent to analyze the history of the Ottoman Empire, or Ataturk's rule, or many other aspects of Turkish life. I am sure as in any country, including the US, Turkey has many shortcomings and flaws.
My observations were about Istanbul and a few other towns I visited and the people of Turkey. Now, when one compares Reza Shah to Ataturk, the differences are striking. On the one hand we have Reza Khan Gholdor, (surely there was a good reason why he was given this nickname) who put his foot on every piece of land, confiscated it for himself and his newly named Pahlavi family, and then distributed it. How noble of Reza Khan! History has taught us that he was a malovolent dictator, who was ruthless towards his opponents and in the end sided with the Nazis.
Let us name some intellectuals, poets, high ranking men who were incarcerated, shot at or killed at the order of Reza Khan: As'ad Bakhtiari, Maleko shoarayeh Bahar, Mirza-zadeh Eshghi, Mirza Taher Tonkaborni (whose lands were confiscated, lived in poverty until he died and his family was forced to go live in exile) Teimourtash, Ali Akbar Davar, Shapour Bakthiar's father, Sardar Fateh, and Nosratedolleh Firouz, are among the many who come to mind. Reza shah used harsh measures to force women to take off the hejab, an act, which after the Revolution would come to haunt the women of Iran.
Although this lady wants to give a bit of credit to Mossadegh, history tells us that Reza Shah threw Mossadegh into a prison in Birjand under extreme conditions (many of his later illnesses were due to the time he spent in Brijand) because Mossadegh had opposed his dictatorial decrees. Mossadegh came from the Qajar nobility but he rejected that nobility; Reza Shah, who was semi-literate and of uncultured background, moved up the military ladder, grabbed power, and proclaimed a new dynasty that proceeded to assume great power and wealth. Thanks to Reza Khan, the family prospored and the daughters and sons all got a good share of the pie while remaining utterly corrupt. Have we forgotten about Ashraf Pahlavi? No wonder that the dynasty became reviled by most Iranians.
The contrast with Atarurk is great indeed. There are good reasons why he is still a hero in Turkey some 70 years after his death, and why he continues to inspire Turks of all walks of life, regardless of his many flaws. Again, the author has her history wrong. The Armenian genocide, a huge scar on Turkish history, and one which many Turks continue to deny, did not occur under Ataturk; although, an officer in the Turkish army, he was not ruthless. He did not imprison his opponents, he did not order anyone to be killed. Yes he changed many things, including the alphabet, and with it cut off the Turks from their past, and he had a hand in suppressing the Kurdish population, but he also created a new viable Republic out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.
Why were the statues of Reza Shah and M. R. Shah toppled all over Iran whereas in Turkey, Ataturk stands tall everywhere? These are questions we may want to ask. Are the Iranians ungrateful and the Turks grateful as she puts it?
The author also accuses my father of being a crony of Khomeini. History--and please go read some history--tells us that N. Amini who like millions of Iranians including myself initially were in favor of the revolution, albeit not an islamic revolution, agreed to be the governor of Fars but that he was the first to resign and quick to abolish the Komites of Imam Khomeini in all of Fars province. Before going back to Iran, he telephoned the late Shapur Bakthiar from the US and told him to declare a republic before the Mullahs could take over.
For the author's information: my father saved Persepolis. Confronting Khalkhali's thugs, Nosratollah Amini declared that Thakht-e Jamshid "will be destroyed over my dead body." To slander and throw false accusations at a man of such credentials is not only disingenuous but disgusting. I am proud and honored to have a father like him who to this day has remained faithful to his mentor, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. I am proud that my father, even though he was repreatedly offered the position of Minister of Justice by the Shah, refused to work for a regime which was brought in by way of an American and British-sponsored coup d'etat.
As said, many of us did support the revolution at the beginning. Indeed, even Mohammad Reza Shah said before leaving Iran that " I have heard the voices of your revolution!" We were idealists and believed and still believe in a new Iran, based on democracy and the rule of law. Nevertheless, if there was a choice today, I would say loudly and without hesitiation that I wish this revolution had not happened, but history is out of our hands. As intellectuals, students of history or just witnesses, we should reflect and see where we went wrong.
Dictatorships in any form or shape are wrong; if His Majesty had not become such a megalomaniac and had engaged in major and real reforms as opposed to cosmetic ones, if he had let young people flourish in politics and had not surrounded himself with Baleh ghorbans, if young men and women were not taken to jail for reading books , if censorship had not existed, if the clerics had not been let loose on the country, then we would not be here today.
Neverhtelss, I do not see things in black and white, both Reza shah and Mohammad Reza Shah made important contributions to Iran and were influential in creating a much needed infrastructure including the first railroad, roads, hospitals, schools, etc. However, from the outset, corruption and mismanagement were part and parcel of the Pahlavi regime. It is odd and sad that towards the end of his rule, M. R. Shah actually realized his mistakes and finally asked for help form the same "cronies" (as she refers to them) of the Nationall Front that he had imprisoned. Unfortuanely it was a little too late.
Finally, I am glad that my writing has progressed and needs less editing, I take this as a sign of maturity and the fruit of hard work. In fact, judging by the e-mails I get, many people appreciate my pieces. I don't write for money or fame, and many of my interviews have alrady been translated in Iranian journals under this very Islamic Republic. As for my skin, I actually think it looks pretty great. I also plan to go on many more honeymoons, and I will surely write many more interesting articles! Comment