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Shahanshah Aryameher


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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Are we indebted to Pahlavi regime?

20th-Century Darius - Monday, Apr. 25, 1938

No country is more anxious to demonstrate its freedom than Iran, no ruler anywhere is more conscious of his dignity, more jealous of his sovereignty, than His Imperial Majesty Reza Shah Pahlavi, Shah-in-Shah ("King of Kings") of Iran. This week Iran's 60-year-old, 6-ft., grey-mustached King of Kings celebrates a coronation anniversary. Twelve years ago on April 5, the former Persian Cossack officer, born of middle-class landowners on the shores of the Caspian Sea, placed a specially-made crown of diamonds, emeralds and rubies on his own head. This week the monarch whom the elaborate-tongued Iranians often call "Most Lofty of Living Men," "Agent of Heaven in this World," "Brother of the Moon and Stars," will drive down Teheran's broad avenues, reflection of the glory of his reign, to famed Gulistan Palace.
There the King of Kings will be pleased to stand in front of the $50,000,000, 17th-Century Peacock Throne and watch file past him diplomats, ministers, army officers, notables, all clasping their hands on wrists to show they carry no weapons, all bowing heads in profound deference to the August Presence. Unhappy the lot of a mere commoner who should by chance say "Your Majesty" instead of "Your Imperial Majesty," or by a slip of the tongue call Iran "Persia."
Emancipator of his country from British domination, Shah Reza has commanded world attention during the last twelve years by deeds which, in other times, would have spurred British naval and military forces to action. Fresh proof that once-helpless Persia, now aggressive, heavily-soldiered Iran, could stand manfully up to her former master came early this month.
A giant, trimotored Junkers low-wing monoplane, with swastikas gleaming on tail, roared down to Teheran airport, inaugurating Lufthansa's new commercial airline between isolated, mountainous Iran and the Near East and Europe. The bustling American and European salesmen who made the inaugural trip were delighted that they had been spared the hitherto unavoidable, tedious, 48-hour journey from Bagdad, Iraq to Teheran over Iraq's slow railroads and Iran's slower, often impassable dirt mountain roads. Better still, they had missed having to put up for a night in one of Iran's insect-ridden rest houses. What the plane's arrival meant to Middle Eastern diplomats, however, was that the German-controlled Lufthansa had just won a significant battle with British Imperial Airways over flying concessions.
"Shadow of God."
Formerly divided into spheres of influence by Imperial Russia and Imperial Britain, Iran shook off Russian influence when Cossack officers retired from the country at the end of the World War I, but waited five years for the British-officered South Persia Rifles to disband. With a newly-created army of 40,000 men, commanded in person by the then Reza Khan, supplied with secondhand rifles, machine guns, tanks, Iran first dealt with her own warring, rebellious Kurds, Kashgais and Bakhtiaris, then began shaking a determined fist at Great Britain.
First real shock to reach Downing Street from Teheran was arbitrary cancellation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Co. concession scheduled to run until 1961. Surprised British statesmen, suddenly realizing that protection of this oil lease would involve great military effort and huge expenditures, ended by negotiating. Anglo-Persian's basic holdings were enormously decreased and the Shah obtained increased royalties which were promptly earmarked for the army. This highly successful instrument of national freedom, now 100,000 strong, still receives its daily orders from His Imperial Majesty. Another move was an Iranian hint that His Britannic Majesty's naval forces in the Persian Gulf were no longer welcome to make their base in Iranian waters. Result: The British Naval Base was moved across the Gulf to the oil-laden Bahrein Islands, territory of more tractable, independent H. H. Sheik Sir Hamad bin 'Isa al Khalifa, leaving His Britannic Majesty's diplomatic agent for the Persian Gulf uncomfortably high & dry in 'Bushire's British Residency (see map, p. IQ). Meanwhile protection-loving Imperial Airways revised its flying route to India, establishing its regular Persian Gulf stop for seaplanes at Bahrein instead of Iranian territory.
Since Iran was bent on proving her independence, lean pickings were in store for British advisers, British business. Ships were ordered from Italy and Italian officers were engaged to teach Iranian landlubbers theories of navigation. Barter trade was established with Soviet Russia and German goods began to pour into Iran under a clearing agreement arranged by the wily Dr. Hjalmar Schacht. Among the first arrivals were 100 German warplanes for the Iranian air force. Danes. Czechs. Swedes, Italians, all chipped in to build new beet-sugar factories, power plants, cotton mills. Road builders arrived from Europe and America and construction companies were not long in learning that Teheran, "City of the Shadow of God." was to undergo a facial operation. The King of Kings guaranteed prompt payment in foreign cash.
Iran the New
By this spring thickly-populated bazaar districts were condemned and destroyed, new, broad, straight avenues plotted through once narrow, crooked streets. Magnificent, many-roomed, multistoried government buildings stood where once sagged ancient one-story huts. A handsome post-office building covering a city block has arisen and a Ministry of War Building, with sufficient space to house the general staffs of Germany, France and Great Britain at the same time, is being utilized by the ever-expanding but still relatively small Iranian staff.
The Imperial Bank of Iran, set back from the street, needed an entire square. Slowly rising to completion is an Imperial Opera House to cater to the hitherto undiscovered musical tastes of Iran's citizens. The shortcomings of the Shah's dozen years in office, the ludicrous anomalies, misappropriations and mass suffering bring laughter and tears only to the eyes of Westerners. By Oriental standards, his own, the Shah is the man of his generation in the Middle East.
Iranian public building has all been under direct orders of the Shah. He approved plans, altered details. Little did it seem to matter to the King of Kings that an architect omitted plumbing detail when building a hotel, that Teheran's water supply still came through the streets in half-open, easily contaminated cement drains, that Teheran's old electric power plant had a limited capacity. When His Imperial Majesty drove at night through a street not sufficiently lighted for his tastes, he ordered more powerful bulbs installed. Upshot of this was that the rest of Teheran was plunged into semidarkness.
Most Lofty.
Almost illiterate when he came to the throne, speaking only Persian with a smattering of Russian, Reza Shah Pahlavi had a strong historical sense, pictured himself as a 20th-century Darius even when he was still only a cavalry colonel. When he became Minister of War in a Shah-less government (the former do-nothing Shah had moved to Paris), he acted more like the great Persian monarch. He imposed his will on hitherto independent fierce tribes, hanging dozens of warring sheiks, making other suspected local chieftains his permanent "guests." On a group of disobedient mullahs (Moslem priests) he applied the whip in person. Strongwilled, previously healthy followers of the absent Sultan Ahmad Shah, whom Reza Khan later had deposed, developed mysterious maladies from which they never recovered. One chief of polio committed suicide, and a foreign minister underwent a fatal operation for a vague ailment. Summed up the Most Lofty of Living Men several years ago: "I am a soldier-a simple soldier-and love my job."
The King of Kings combines his knowledge of time-honored Iranian political methods with a passion for reform and an incorrigible interest in blue prints. Despiser of meddling, dictating European governments, he nevertheless admires Western habits and dress, Western technical achievements. Just as Kamal Atatürk had ordained in Turkey a few years before, Reza Shah Pahlavi ordered jail sentences for turban-wearers, forbade veils for Iranian women. Robed, turbaned mullahs were obliged to carry licenses. The Iranian habit of contracting temporary marriages, sanctioned by the Shiah sect of Mohammedanism, was so curtailed by the Shah that polygamy became difficult. The number of wives decreased, the number of prostitutes increased among Iran's heavy female population.
Instead of religious schools government-controlled secular education was expanded. Boy Scout movements were encouraged, the army was taught to read and write. Mohammedan law was largely nullified. The vexing problem of land titles was solved, one major result being that suddenly vast, rich areas became known as "crown property"-i.e., were simply taken by the Shah. Once healthy, abstemious Shah Reza considered outlawing opium smoking, but factors other than reform weighed heavily. Important was the fact that an estimated half of the adult population smokes opium, that it is used as solace for the famine victim, to quiet crying babies and pleading children, to deaden the pain of a disease-ridden population largely unserved by doctors or hospitals, as well as for sheer pleasure. More important was that the opium trade, transported by camel caravan into Russia, then carried over the Tran-siberian Railroad to China by the obliging Soviets, accounted for more than half of Iran's exports (excluding oil revenues, used exclusively for the army), bringing the King of Kings needed foreign money.
Receipts and Expenditures
Money was needed to make Teheran a city worthy of the residence of the "Most Lofty of Living Men." His Imperial Majesty must have expensive macadam roads for his occasional visits to the summer palace on the Caspian Sea-a palace convertible into a summer hotel for commoners when the royal master is not in residence. More expensive than all other modern improvements put together, however, scheduled to cost $160,000,000, nearly three times the annual revenue of Iran, is an 865-mile railroad line. No foreign country is to own any part of this line, no foreign loans are to be accepted. Conceived as a strategic railway, to enable the Iranians to repulse possible British invasion from the Persian Gulf, Russian invasion from the Turkomen Soviet Socialist Republic, the railroad line carefully avoids all Iran's big cities except Teheran, skirts round the Empire's more fertile districts, spans wide rivers, crosses mountain passes as high as 7,200 feet, bores into numerous tunnels, connects with no foreign lines. Foreign engineers, not interested in strategy, chuckled that the railway goes from "nowhere to nowhere." This spring Scandinavian engineers were doubling shifts to finish before autumn a 200-mile gap so that His Imperial Majesty can soon ride by rail from his estates on the Caspian to his lands on the Persian Gulf.
The first few hundred miles of the King of Kings' expensive railroad toy was paid for by a heavy tax on tea, favorite Iranian beverage. When this tax failed to produce sufficient money, large portions of Iran's silver reserve were sold. The Iranian rial lost more than half its value (worth about 6½¢ today), necessitating creation of Government monopolies for imports and exports, prohibition of entry or departure of Iran's paper or silver money. Food prices doubled, taxes trebled. To meet clearing agreement promises, large stores of grain, rice, dried fruits, some needed for home consumption, were exported. In one area His Imperial Majesty decreed that cotton should be grown instead of wheat. Drought ensued, the cotton crop failed, and to make matters worse the world's cotton market just then fell. To the Iranian masses this meant extreme privation, to foreign visitors scenes in Iran's villages were shocking.
Forgotten Men.
This spring Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. operators began to report they were unable to buy vegetables for their staffs. Other meats not available, chicken reached price levels reminiscent of early oil-rush days. Eggs were soon unobtainable. No Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. employe suffers unduly from this lack of foodstuffs, for the rich concern, having profited from cash sales of oil to warring Italy three years ago, can import vast quantities of canned foods. But all through southwestern Iran what had been for years a chronic famine has now deepened into acute starvation. Emaciated Iranian citizens can be seen sitting around in streets and doorways, their bones almost sticking through their skins, their eyes seeming to pop out of their heads, lacking the energy even to brush away the swarms of flies covering their bodies. Scores of beggars greet incoming travelers. Still greatly flourishing is the opium poppy, which withstands drought, is immune from locust attacks. Despite the bustling, superficial prosperity of Teheran, all was not well last week in the Empire of the Shah-in-Shah.
That little opportunity exists for outward manifestations of unrest was evident from the fact that His Imperial Majesty keeps a tight rein on the army, maintains a force of 20,000 of his best-clothed, best-fed, best-paid soldiers in Teheran, This week the stern dictator's men were making the rounds of households along the route of the contemplated state drive of His Imperial Majesty, warning citizens to display flags, hang out banners. When an American automobile agent in Teheran recently suggested to the King of Kings that he might be interested in a bullet-proof car such as was formerly supplied to Al Capone & Company, the sensitive monarch resented the none-too-subtle comparison. A multilingual secretary replied briefly and pointedly: "His Imperial Majesty, beloved of his people, certain of his subjects' affection, has no conceivable need for such a conveyance."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The title should have said " Are we indebted to Reza Khan? " And the answer would be a firm ' YES'. I am not sure you can say that about the Pahlavi regime. Look what happend after Reza khan was exiled. His heir to the crown being a puppet of the west never attempted to follow his father's steps, otherwise we wouldn't be where we are now.