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Stay away from courtiers
If you want to be regarded as a democrat, act like one

January 28, 2002
The Iranian

Once again Mr. Kadivar has done his prince a great disfavor ["We are awake"]. It seems that whenever the poor man, Reza Pahlavi, manages to show a "democratic" face and asks for a "referendum" those courtiers around him put their foot in their mouth and set him back on the dusty road to being the living symbol of a lost and anachronistic monarchy -- one, we are reminded with this essay, that was incredibly tasteless as well. At least the Medicis and the Sforzas if they were autocratic, had taste; the Pahlavi's should appear in the dictionary, under "dictatorial / gaudy."

This attempt at rewriting history is not only ridiculous but audacious as well. I suppose after 9/11, starry-eyed romantics like Mr. Kadivar have decided that they can rewrite history. That, I am afraid is difficult to do, without a Savak to round up opposition and a Ministry of Culture to print textbooks.

Some of us still remember, thanks to essayists like Mr. Kadivar, the Shah's dictatorship and its oppressive ways. We will never let others forget. Bad taste was the least of their problems. Their historic mistake was that by stifling secular and democratic opposition to the Shah's regime, they provided a fertile ground for theocracy to flourish. The ancien regime paved the way for revolution and for theocracy by co-opting for itself all notions of modernity and progress.

By allying themselves so blindly with the West and trying too desperately to impress, they gave the democracies that supported them a tainted veneer in the eyes of Iranians. It reached a point were everything they stood for, even the good things, like the liberation of women, came to smack of western influence and meddling and thereby lost its essential meaning. That, history has shown, was their worst crime. By equating secularism and modernity with a corrupt monarchy, they banished these concepts as viable options for a post-revolutionary Iran.

We are still battling the stigma of the Pahlavi reign in our attempt, as a people, to change the present theocratic regime. We are still trying desperately to save a secular ideal from the rubble of the Islamic revolution. What seems especially preposterous is the incredible amnesia that people suffer when it serves their agenda.

Mr. Kadivar, are you so young that you do not remember why the people of Iran overthrew the Shah? We overthrew the Shah exactly because of all the excesses and horrendous arrogance and heavy handedness that the 2500 year ceremonies so niftily embody. If there is one event that best represents all that was corrupt, over-the-top and gaggingly kitsch about the former regime, it is these 2500 years ceremonies. To flaunt them as if they were a triumph, to show pride in these "Idi Aminesque" chest blowings, shows deluded arrogance on the part of the monarchists.

Does Reza Pahlavi know how an essay like Kadivar's makes us not take him seriously? If I were he, I would stay miles away from the most blatant gaffes of my father. If I truly believed in myself as a symbol that could help bring about democratic change in Iran, I would stay far away from courtiers. I would stop them from trying to rewrite the history of a great people, who even today, under this continued atmosphere of oppression, manage to make their discontent heard. We are not a nation of warring, illiterate tribes that you have to unite. We are an educated, hard working people with a secular history all our own.

If I were Reza Pahlavi I would beg Cyrus Kadivar not to put pen to paper about the 2500 year ceremonies. They are synonymous, in the Iranian mind, with the worse excesses of the Pahlavi monarchy. Conjuring them up plays straight into the hands of the Islamic Republic's propagandists. To revive that regime and this ridiculous, expensive, megalomaniatic event, as if somehow this could help Reza Pahlavi's call for a democratic referendum, shows an incredible lack of understanding of the Iranian people, their desire for secularism and of politics in general.

Mr. Pahlavi,

If you want my two bits of advice, do not let courtiers run your campaign. Hire an American PR firm. I am sure they will tell you what I am telling you. It is true that we, the people of Iran, in exile or at home, have had it up to here with the Mollah's, but we have also, too often been promised one thing and ended up with another. We do not trust ex-princes, who claim they will listen to the vote of the people, any more than we trust clerics who promise that they will stay in Qom. This mistrust is very hard to break.

If you want to be regarded as a democrat, act like one. Tell your followers not to bring the worst skeletons out of the closet of your father's reign. Understand that to be secular-minded, to want democracy, to want a referendum, like you propose, we do not have to forgive the mistakes of Mohammed Reza Shah's regime.

One can be an Iranian who dislikes Ashraf as much as Khamenei. Most do. Just like one can be grow up to criticize one's parents. Most do.

We are not so fed up with the mollas that we will swallow whole a drippingly revisionist version of Pahlavi history. I, for one, am willing to give up my hopes of ever going back to my beloved Iran if it means that this kind of courtierism, this kind of chaplousi-ye-Irooni, is going to continue to thrive. Iranian courtiers have always shown an uncanny talent for ruining perfectly well intentioned princes and potential Leaders.

My father used to tell me how before the '53 coup that overthrew Mossadegh, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was quiet humble and approachable but the more people praised him and kowtowed to him the more he became arrogant, unbearable, and eventually deluded. With the likes of Mr. Kadivar the same can happen to you, Mr. Reza Pahlavi. Make sure, Mr. Pahlavi, that you do not fall into a slumber, no matter how glorious the dream, when the rest of the nation is awakening.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Setareh Sabety

By Setareh Sabety

Sabety's features index


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Citizen Pahlavi
Holding on to the monarchy will not do him any good

Democracy will prevail
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