Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

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Mohammed Reza Pahlavi

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ( Persian محمدرضا پهلوی, DMG Moḥammad-Reża Pahlavī [ moɦæˈmːæd reˈzɑː pæɦlæˈviː ] * October 26, 1919 in Tehran ; † July 27, 1980 in Cairo ) came from the ruling Pahlavi dynasty and was the last Iranian Shah .

After the abdication of his father Reza Shah Pahlavi in the course of the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran, he ascended the throne on September 17, 1941. With the support of the United States , Pahlavi subsequently set up an authoritarian regime and had the opposition suppressed by the SAVAK secret service . On October 26, 1967, he was crowned Shahanshah ("King of Kings").

The events of the Islamic Revolution under Ruhollah Khomeini led to the overthrow of the monarchy in 1979 and Pahlavi left Iran on January 16, 1979.


Childhood and youth

Mohammad Reza as Crown Prince, 1926

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was the eldest son of Reza Pahlavi, the commander of the Persian Cossack Brigade , and his second wife Tadj ol-Molouk . He was born on October 26, 1919 with his twin sister Aschraf as the third of eleven children in Tehran . His older sister was Shams and his younger brother Ali Reza was killed in a plane crash in 1954. Gholamreza Pahlavi was one of his half-siblings .

After a successful military coup and the overthrow of the Qajar dynasty, his father became the new Shah on December 15, 1925 by a resolution of the parliament . By decree of January 27, 1926, he appointed his seven-year-old son Mohammad Reza to be crown prince and colonel in the Persian army.

On the advice of Court Marshal Abdolhossein Teymurtash , the Shah sent the twelve-year-old heir to the throne in September 1931 to the renowned Swiss boarding school Le Rosey . In May 1936, three weeks before his final exam, he returned to Iran and completed an officer training course at the military academy . In 1938 Mohammad Reza graduated from this with the rank of lieutenant and was soon promoted to captain .

First marriage

With the aim of improving diplomatic relations, Crown Prince Mohammad Reza married Princess Fausia of Egypt on March 15, 1939 in the Abdeen Palace in Cairo . The bride was a daughter of the Egyptian king Fu'ad I. After her arrival in Iran, the wedding ceremony in Tehran was repeated according to the Shiite rite .

From the marriage a daughter emerged:

The marriage arranged by the fathers was unhappy; above all, no male heir to the throne was born. In June 1945 Fausia left the Shah and returned to her homeland. Their marriage officially ended in divorce on November 19, 1948.


Mohammad Reza Pahlavi takes the oath of office as Shah of Iran in front of the Iranian parliament, 1941
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the way to Parliament before he was sworn in, 1941

On August 25, 1941, British and Soviet troops marched into Iran and forced his father Reza Shah to abdicate . Mohammad Reza was sworn in on September 17, 1941 as the second Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty in the Majles , the Iranian parliament . The British initially thought of appointing a Qajar prince , Mohammad Hassan, and then suggested that a viceroy appointed by them should take over the business of government. In the end, the Iranian MPs of the British occupation forces came first and swore in Mohammad Reza before the British troops had marched into Tehran.

The replacement of the Pahlavis by a Qajar was also considered by the British in the 1950s during the Abadan crisis . This time it turned out to be problematic that Hamid, the son of Mohammad Hassan, who was also a candidate for the pretender to the throne, had meanwhile taken the surname Drummond, had become a British citizen, served in the British merchant navy and did not speak a word of Persian.

The Anglo-Soviet invasion

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi meets Stalin and Molotov during the Tehran Conference, heavily retouched photo from 1943

At 3 p.m. on September 17, 1941, British and Soviet troops, who until then had only occupied the north and south of Iran, marched into Tehran and took control of the Iranian government. With this the goal of the occupation, the complete military, political and economic control of Iran, was achieved. In the next step, a supply route, the “ Persian Corridor ”, was set up across the Caspian Sea and further into the Soviet Union, via which American weapons could be supplied from the Persian Gulf by the Red Army. As early as February 18, 1941, the US Congress had passed the Lending and Lease Act, which provided the legal basis for the lending of materials essential to the war effort before the USA officially entered the war.

On October 27, 1941, Pahlavi was informed by the British and Soviet ambassadors that he only had representative functions. Three months later, on January 26, 1942, the Iranian Parliament ratified the tripartite agreement negotiated by Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Foroughi and the British and Soviet Ambassadors. The agreement ensured Iran's territorial integrity and the withdrawal of Allied troops after the end of World War II . In return, Iran undertook to cooperate with the Allied forces in the defense of the Soviet and British homelands, to grant access to the existing means of transport and communication, to provide manpower and materials and to introduce press censorship.

In December 1942, American troops reinforced the British and Soviet forces in Iran. Pahlavi tried to get President Franklin D. Roosevelt to sign the tripartite agreement as well. Roosevelt then demanded that Iran join the war on the side of the Allies. On September 9, 1943, Iran declared war on Germany, thereby fulfilling Roosevelt's conditions. Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin signed the Three Power Declaration at the Tehran Conference on December 1, 1943, in which Iran was promised the withdrawal of the occupation troops after the end of the war and economic compensation for the burden of the war.

Balance with the clergy

Pahlavi in ​​conversation with mullahs from Esfahan and Shiraz, 1944

The most important change after Reza Shah's abdication concerned the relationship between the monarchy and the clergy. Reza Shah believed that the clergy were one of the main obstacles on Iran's path to modernity . He therefore took measures to minimize the influence of the clergy. He curtailed their income by abolishing clerical jurisdiction and introducing a secular legal system, and he reduced their cultural and social influence by introducing a modern, co- educational system of education.

A few months after Mohammad Reza took the throne from his father, he sent a messenger with a sum of money to Najaf to invite Ayatollah Kasem Schariatmadari to return to Iran. Pahlavi believed that all mullahs were "monarchists from the bottom of their hearts" and that the clergy were fully aware that Islam could not survive without the monarchy due to a latent communist threat in Iran.

Ayatollah Kasem Schariatmadari, who had left Iran a few years earlier to protest against Reza Shah's anti-clerical policies, accepted the invitation and returned in June 1942 to the cheers of more than 100,000 Tehrans. Ayatollah Kasem Schariatmadari stated that the Shah had assured him that he would not continue his father's policy, which was hostile to the clergy, of allowing the wearing of the chador again, introducing religious instruction in schools, including school prayer, and abolishing co-education immediately. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi complied with Ayatollah Kasem Schariatmadari's demands. The Shiite clergy had power and influence again in the new political system.

A few years later, when Ayatollah Hossein Borudscherdi returned to Iran, Pahlavi broke protocol and visited him in the hospital. During these days he never tired of asking the clergy to become more politically active. From 1946, for the first time in Iran, trains had to stop at prayer times so that the faithful could perform their prescribed prayers.

post war period

The end of World War II did not bring peace to Iran. The British and US troops began withdrawing their troops as agreed. However, the Soviet Union refused, triggering the first international crisis after the end of the war, the Iran crisis , which marked the beginning of the Cold War . In 1946 and 1947, the Shah gained great popularity through the successful driving back of the Soviet Union from the northern provinces of Iran ( Azerbaijan ). The legal basis was formed by the Tripartite Agreement from 1942 and the Tripartite Declaration from 1943. The political pressure from President Harry S. Truman , who threatened Stalin with a re-entry of American troops into Iran, led Stalin to give in. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, the republic of Kurdistan supported by the Soviet Union in Mahabad and the Azerbaijani people's government were broken up . From 1946 December 12th was designated as the "Day of the Liberation of Azerbaijan" (ruz-e nedschat-e Azarbaidschan) . Iran's economy was completely shattered after the end of World War II. The eleven tons of gold reserves of the Iranian National Bank were taken by Soviet troops as part of their withdrawal from Tehran to the Soviet Union.


Pahlavi in ​​hospital after the assassination attempt on February 4, 1949

February 4, 1949

On February 4, 1949 at around 3 p.m. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was assassinated. During an official visit by Pahlavi to the University of Tehran , the assassin Fakhr Araϊ (= Fachr Arai) was able to gain entry using a press card issued by the newspaper Partcham Islam (“The Flag of Islam”). As the Shah was walking towards the law school building, Araϊ approached him with a camera and drew a pistol. He aimed at the Shah and fired five shots. The first three bullets only grazed the scalp, the fourth bullet pierced the lower lip and cheekbones, and the fifth bullet hit the collarbone. Fakhr Araϊ was shot first in the leg and then by two bullets in the abdomen and hip when the officers accompanying the Shah were shot. He died immediately after the attack.

Although it could not be proven that the assassin was acting on behalf of the communist Tudeh party , the attack was used as an excuse to ban the party. Its members went underground to avoid possible arrest. The party structure was therefore largely retained. During the reign of Prime Minister Mossadegh , the party appeared again in public, as Mossadegh no longer enforced the party ban; however, it was not canceled either.

In February Pahlavi presented a law to parliament to establish a second chamber, the Senate (Kach-e Madschles-e Sena) , which, although provided for in the 1906 constitution, had not yet been constituted. Parliament approved the bill on February 27, 1949, and the Senate was opened by the Shah on April 21, 1949. With the establishment of the Senate, Pahlavi was able to expand his power base vis-à-vis parliament, since half of the senators were appointed by him and elected directly by the population. The first session of the Senate took place on February 9, 1950.

April 10, 1965

The second assassination attempt on April 10, 1965 at 9:30 a.m. by Reza Schams Abadi , a member of the Imperial Bodyguard, hit Pahlavi in ​​the entrance area of ​​his palace. Armed with a submachine gun, the assassin fired into the entrance hall, killing two bodyguards and wounding another before collapsing when hit by bullets. The ex-general Teymur Bachtiar, who was in exile, appeared as the alleged client in the investigation into the backers . Ahmed Mansuri and Ahmed Kamerani were sentenced to death at the trial of six conspirators, Parviz Nikkhah received life imprisonment and other defendants were acquitted. The death penalty for the two main defendants was commuted to life imprisonment following a direct conversation between Ahmed Mansuri and Pahlavi. On January 2, 1971, all three convicts were pardoned and released.

The nationalization of the oil industry

The assassination of Prime Minister Razmara

The economic development of Iran was and is linked to the oil revenues ( pule naft ). Since the 1933 agreement with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC, today: BP ) granted Iran only 8% of net profits from oil sales, a special commission was set up by parliament in 1950 to deal with the question of oil concessions should deal. The chairman of this commission was Mohammad Mossadegh , who was later replaced by Prime Minister Ali Razmara . The British state remained the majority owner of the AIOC. In 1950, the US Arabian-American Oil Company (ARAMCO, today: Saudi Aramco) negotiated a new agreement with the Saudis that provided for a 50/50 division of net oil revenues. The Iranians wanted to achieve a comparable settlement with the British-run AIOC. However, the negotiations between Prime Minister Razmara and the AIOC could not be completed because Razmara was shot on March 7, 1951 by Chalil Tahmasebi, a member of the radical Islamic Fedayeen-e Islam . Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani declared the murderer Razmaras to be a “savior of the Iranian people” and demanded his immediate release from prison. The day after Razmara's assassination, Parliament's Oil Commission decided to nationalize the oil industry.

The dispute over the nationalization of the oil industry was conducted as a fundamental political discussion in Iran. For the communist Tudeh party , nationalization was an important step towards a socialist Iran. For Mohammad Mossadegh and his National Front party , it was more about political sovereignty and national honor. The Islamic right pursued a policy against the westernization ( gharbsadegi ) of Iran, Razmara focused more on technical feasibility. He pointed out that the oil, like all mineral resources, already belonged to the Iranian state due to a constitutional article, that ultimately it was only about the nationalization of the refineries and facilities of the oil industry. Razmara stated before Parliament:

“I would like to make it very clear here that Iran currently does not have the industrial possibilities to get the oil out of the earth and sell it on the world market. ... Gentlemen, you cannot even manage a cement factory with the staff at your disposal. ... I say this very clearly, whoever puts our country's assets and resources at risk is betraying our people. "

Mossadegh replied:

“I mean, the Iranians only hate what the Prime Minister has said and consider a government illegitimate to engage in such slavish humiliation. There is no avoiding the nationalization of oil. "

The nationalization law under Prime Minister Ala

On March 15, 1951, a week after Razmara's assassination, parliament passed the law on the nationalization of the oil industry and instructed the parliamentary oil commission to draw up the implementing provisions. The Senate approved the law on March 20, 1951, and Pahlavi signed it on the same day, putting it into effect. Hossein Ala , the new Prime Minister, was to lead the upcoming negotiations on the practical implementation of the nationalization with the management of the AIOC, which was indirectly subordinate to the British state. However, Mossadegh, who at the time was a member of parliament and spokesman for the parliamentary committee on oil, tabled a nine-point plan on April 26 to implement the nationalization law without consulting Prime Minister Ala, whereupon Ala submitted his resignation.

Implementation of nationalization under Prime Minister Mossadegh

Mohammad Mossadegh with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, 1952
Consortium agreement

On April 29, 1951, the Shah appointed Mossadegh as the new Prime Minister. In the meantime, parliament had adopted Mossadegh's 9-point plan. On April 30, the 9-point plan was confirmed by the Senate and put into effect on May 1, 1951 by Pahlavi.

In June 1951, the newly established National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) began its work. The provisional management of the NIOC traveled to Khorramshahr and said that the workers and employees of the AIOC were now employees of the National Iranian Oil Company. They demanded the surrender of the cash register and instructed the management of the AIOC that 75% of all income was to be transferred retrospectively from March 20, 1951 to the Iranian treasury. The local management of the AIOC in Abadan then stated that all employees and workers were employees of the British AIOC and that the NIOC should contact the corporate headquarters in London. The tankers lying in the port were no longer loaded with oil and the sale of Iranian oil came to a standstill. The dispute over the nationalization of the oil industry developed into the Abadan crisis . The British called the International Court of Justice in The Hague and later the United Nations Security Council without reaching an agreement on the matter. The court declared that it did not have jurisdiction because it only regulates conflicts between states and this is a conflict between a corporation and a state. The Security Council also refused to interfere in this dispute.

After the domestic political situation in Iran had escalated into a crisis, Mossadegh asked the Iranian parliament to have full power of attorney to pass laws personally and without parliamentary intervention. After heated discussions, on August 3, 1952, with the votes of MPs from the National Front and the Communist Tudeh Party, Parliament passed the Act authorizing Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh for six months . As the discussion that took place in Parliament in the following months shows, Mossadegh did not adhere to the procedure provided for in the Enabling Act to submit the provisionally valid laws he had signed to parliament for discussion and resolution. MPs repeatedly criticized the fact that Mossadegh did not appear in front of parliament for reasons of illness and that the country "governed from his bedroom". Since the duration of the powers of attorney was limited to six months, the parliamentary discussion shifted to the question of a possible extension of the Enabling Act. A majority of MPs agreed to extend the power of attorney on the condition that all bills signed by Mossadegh must be submitted to parliament for discussion and resolution without delay. The extension of the powers of Mossadegh by one year was decided by the parliament on January 20, 1953. But Mossadegh did not abide by the requirements of the law and continued to rule without parliament.

When the majority of MPs turned against Mossadegh, Mossadegh organized a referendum on August 3, 1953 to dissolve Parliament. On August 15, 1953, Pahlavi signed a decree dismissing Mossadegh as prime minister and appointing Fazlollah Zahedi as the new prime minister. Mossadegh refused his resignation and had the officer who brought him the discharge decree arrested. On August 16, 1953, the Shah fled first to Baghdad and later to Rome. With its uncompromising policy on the oil question and its proximity to the communist Tudeh party , Mossadegh had led Iran into a serious economic and political crisis. On August 19, 1953, Prime Minister Mossadegh was disempowered and arrested as part of the US-led Operation Ajax . After the return of the Shah on August 22, 1953, he was sentenced to three years in prison and then house arrest.

The consortium agreement

Pro-Shah demonstrations, Tehran 1954

It was not until the fall of the Mossadegh government and the renegotiation of the concession that oil production operations began again. A consortium agreement with a term of 25 years was negotiated with the Iranian government in 1954 between a consortium of international oil companies. The extraction, processing and distribution of the oil products were no longer reserved exclusively for the AIOC. In addition to the AOIC, Shell from the Netherlands, Jersey and other smaller companies from the USA and the Compagnie Française de Pétroles ( CFP ) from France were also involved. As part of the consortium agreement, two London-based companies based in Iran were founded under Dutch law, Iranian Oil Exploration and Producing Co. and Iranian Oil Refining Co. These two companies were 100% owned by Iranian Oil Participants Ltd, which was also newly founded . based in London, whose shares were shared by the companies named in the consortium agreement. Another newly founded company based in London is Iranian Oil Services Ltd., which supplies the technical equipment for oil production and refining. This company is also 100% owned by the consortium partners. 50% of the profits of the companies were transferred to the Iranian state. As compensation for the nationalization and the abandonment of the monopoly on the extraction of Persian oil, so to speak as a transfer fee for the concession from 1933, the AIOC received 20 million US dollars from the oil companies of the consortium agreement for 10 years. The Iranian state paid US $ 2.5 million a year in compensation for the nationalization of the AIOC's industrial facilities. After the conclusion of the contract, the "old AIOC" ceased to exist. The name of the existing company was then renamed from AIOC to British Petroleum Company .

Full national control of the Iranian oil industry

According to the consortium agreement, the NIOC was only responsible for the "non-basic functions" such as training of employees, public transport, maintenance of the roads, houses for workers and employees, their medical care and social services. On its own, the NIOC only operated the sale of oil products in Iran, the yield from the small Naft-e-Shah oil field and the refinery in Kermanshah . The operation of the oil facilities in Abadan and the exploitation of the important oil fields in southern Iran continued to be controlled by the international oil companies.

In a speech by the Shah on the tenth anniversary of the White Revolution (see section below) on January 23, 1973, Pahlavi accused the international oil companies of harming Iran with their production policies:

“We are currently negotiating oil production with the companies that work with us in Iran and with companies that want to work more closely with us. Without giving details, I would like to set out the general line of negotiation clearly for you. When we signed the consortium agreement in 1954, we couldn't get any better terms than we negotiated at the time. One of the treaty points was that the oil companies respect Iran's future well-being. We have evidence they didn't. The contract of 1954 provides for a possible three-time extension of the contract for 5 years each time. In the section on the contract renewal, reference was again made to the fact that the future well-being of Iran must be taken into account. We have ample evidence that this contractual clause of the 1954 Treaty was not respected. For this reason, we will definitely not extend the contract from 1954 beyond 1979. "

- Speech by the Shah in 1973 on the future of the contract with the consortium of Texas Company, Standard Oil, SOCONY-Vacuum, Gulf, Royal Dutch-Shell, Compagnie Française de Pétroles, AIOC. Radio Iran, 1973.

After this speech there were new negotiations between the consortium and the Iranian government. Pahlavi demanded that the NIOC take full control of oil production in southern Iran and the refineries in Abadan, and that the oil companies be only buyers of Iranian oil. In July 1973 a new agreement was reached, with the retroactive effect of March 21, 1973, the operating companies of the consortium for the production and sale of Iranian oil were dissolved. The NIOC took over their task and was from now on responsible for the extraction, processing and sale of the Iranian oil. It had taken 22 years for the Iranian oil industry to be completely in the hands of the Iranians since the nationalization law was passed in 1951.

Economic programs

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi attends a project presentation on the second development plan, 1955

At the suggestion of Abol Hassan Ebtehadsch , the Iranian parliament had already passed a law in February 1949 to set up an independent planning authority. The first economic plan was to cover a period from 1949 to 1955. Funding for the plan was to come from oil revenues and a $ 250 million loan from the World Bank. The World Bank refused. The development projects envisaged in this plan therefore had to be financed entirely from oil revenues. The nationalization of the Iranian oil industry and the boycott of the sale of Iranian oil imposed by Great Britain resulted in an economic crisis during the reign of Prime Minister Mossadegh, which caused the implementation of the plan to fail. The crisis that went down in history as the Abadan crisis led to the complete collapse of Iranian oil exports. The economic crisis sparked a political crisis that was exacerbated by strikes and mass demonstrations. The projects started in the first business plan were discontinued.

After the traumatic experiences of the Abadan crisis, the Shah wanted to shape Iran into a great power . Never again should foreigners, and especially the British and the Russians, determine the fate of Iran. Even before the new oil deal was signed in 1954, he appointed Abol Hassan Ebtehadsch to be the man who should develop Iran's economy. Ebtehadsch fundamentally reformed Iran's economic planning by introducing a planning office that was supposed to design, implement, evaluate and further develop centrally managed, multi-year economic plans. Ebtehaj saw economic planning as a means of overcoming the deadlock in the Iranian economy, which he succeeded in the following years.

The second development plan , which extended over the period from 1955 to 1963, focused primarily on the regional development of Khuzestan as a model region.

The third development plan , which spanned the period from 1962 to 1967 and focused on education, agriculture and industry, formed the economic basis for the start of the White Revolution.

The white revolution

Land reform begins

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Prime Minister Amini and Agriculture Minister Arsanjani distributing land deeds in Kermanshah, 1961

For years Pahlavi had spoken of the need for land reform as a basis for further economic and social reform, but resistance from the landowners and clergy had repeatedly led him to postpone reform. At the end of the reign of Prime Minister Manouchehr Eghbal by the then Minister of Agriculture was Jamshid Amusegar the Parliament submitted a bill on land reform, which was however diluted by the representatives of the big landowners as in Parliament that despite the adopted 6 June 1960 the first law is to Land reform did not result in a fundamental redistribution of land ownership in Iran.

On November 11, 1961, the Shah commissioned Prime Minister Ali Amini to work out proposals for implementing the planned reform program. On November 14, 1961, Amini announced that the Shah had given him special powers to implement the reform program. The MPs of the National Front expressed massive criticism of Amini, so that in the end Amini had the leaders of the reform critics arrested. In January 1962, he instructed his Agriculture Minister, Hassan Arsanjani , to revise the 1960 Land Reform Act. From now on the large landowners were only allowed to own a single village. They had to sell the rest of their land to the state, which in turn would give it to the landless farmers at a much lower price. The state also granted farmers cheap loans when they formed agricultural cooperatives. Prime Minister Amini resigned on July 18, 1962 because of the protests organized by the clergy and the big landowners.

The 6-point program

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi with Iranian students before their departure for the USA and Europe, 1960

The original 6 points of the White Revolution included:

  1. Abolition of the feudal system and distribution of arable land from large landowners to farmers
  2. Nationalization of all forests and pastures
  3. Privatization of state industrial companies to finance the compensation payments to the large landowners
  4. Profit sharing for workers and employees of companies
  5. universal active and passive voting rights for women
  6. Fight against illiteracy by building an auxiliary teacher corps ( army of knowledge) .

In order to break the resistance of the big landowners and the clergy against the reforms, Iranian economic experts developed an economic and social reform concept, which they called the White Revolution , which was to turn the feudal agricultural state of Iran into a modern industrial state in the coming years. With the White Revolution, Mohammad Reza Shah wanted to coordinate and bundle economic and social reforms in Iran. The cabinet of Asadollah Alam , who had been elected as the new Prime Minister after Prime Minister Amini's resignation, had the mandate to legislate the reforms. This comprehensive reform program of the White Revolution could only succeed if it was supported by the vast majority of the Iranian population. For this reason, Iranian citizens should vote in a referendum on whether they approve of the reform plans of the Shah or not.

Although Khomeini branded the referendum as an anti-God project and called on all believers not to take part in the vote, on January 26, 1963 5,598,711 Iranians voted for it and only 4,115 against. Grand Ayatollah Hossein Borudscherdi had also spoken out against the reforms, but his death in March 1961 invalidated the fatwa directed against them . With the clear approval of the Iranians for the planned reform projects, the resistance of the landowners and the clergy was initially broken. On February 27, 1963, at the opening of an economic congress on active and passive women's suffrage, the Shah declared to the women of Iran: “Our revolution, which is only met with approval throughout the world, would not be complete if this elementary human right were withheld from you. “Active and passive women's suffrage was introduced in September 1963.

The Shah initially created two parties called Melliyun (National Party) and Mardom (People's Party), whose programs were almost identical. Because of their character as puppet parties , they were nicknamed the Yes Party and Yes-Sir Party . One should be the government, the other the opposition. In 1975 he dissolved both parties and replaced them with a single one, the " Party of Resurrection "

The economic boom

Three men steered the economic development of Iran that was now beginning: Minister of Economic Affairs Alinaghi Alikhani , the new head of the planning organization Safi Asfia and the director of the central bank Mehdi Samii, founded in 1960 . Safi Asfia developed the five-year economic plans, Minister of Economic Affairs Alikhani implemented the plans developed by Safi Asfia as part of a reform-oriented economic policy, and Mehdi Samii developed the financial and banking system of Iran. The Third Economic Plan, passed in 1963, provided investment aid to the economy of $ 2.7 billion. In the 4th economic plan passed in 1968, investment aid had already increased to 6.7 billion US dollars. The economic growth thus created was enormous at 15% annually. Only South Korea and Singapore grew faster.

The increase in prosperity mainly benefited the higher classes. In 1960 the richest 20% of the population had a share of the total expenditure of 52%, whereas the poorest 20% only spent less than 5% of the total expenditure. Even then, Iran was one of the countries with the greatest inequality. Over the next 14 years, the gap between the poorest and the richest continued to widen. It is estimated that in 1974 economic power was concentrated in the hands of 45 families, all of whom were closely related to the ruling house. Together they owned 85% of the largest companies in the country.

As a result of the economic growth, a group of wealthy industrialists and traders emerged in the early 1970s, but they no longer felt represented by the Shah's political system. The increasing number of well-trained workers in industry and in the service sector represented their demands with increased self-confidence. The traditional middle class, especially the bazaris , were hit hard by the economic reforms. For three quarters of the farmers, the land allocated in the course of the land reform was too small for profitable cultivation, so that they had to sell it to large agricultural corporations and migrate to the poor areas of the big cities

Long-term planning

Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hoveyda and his cabinet, 1975

In 1976, in addition to the sixth five-year plan, the planning organization created a perspective plan covering the next 20 years for the years 1972 to 1992 and a national spatial development plan. Within the framework of the National Spatial Development Plan, the less developed areas of Iran in particular should receive more support in order to counteract migration to the cities. As part of the 6th economic plan, the dependency on oil revenues should be reduced by further expanding industrial production and mining.

The 20-year long-term plan was based on Mohammad Reza Shah's ideas about the development of the “Great Civilization”. Iran was one of the few countries in the Third World that managed to break free from its state of underdevelopment. Iran had the money, the natural resources, the executives and the workforce to become a modern industrial nation. According to the perspective plan, Iran should have achieved the economic level of Europe in 1978 in 1990, and by the year 2000 the aim was to be on a par with the countries of Europe economically and socially.

Regional economic cooperation

In July 1964, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan signed the Regional Cooperation and Development ( RCD ) treaty as a supplement to the military cooperation within the CENTO . The aim of the agreement was to strengthen trade between the partner countries in order to reduce their chronic balance of payments deficit with the West. A monetary union was sought in the long term. The countries common market comprised 170 million people. This provided the economic basis for an increase in industrial production through to mass production of consumer goods. The European Community and EFTA served as models for the RCD .

In addition to general declarations of intent for increased cooperation, the contract contained specific project intentions to improve the communication systems, the expansion of highways, rail and air connections. Specifically, the fees for letters, telegrams and telephone calls between the countries were reduced and international trade increased. Trade experts were exchanged between the countries, technical assistance was provided for large-scale industrial projects and the establishment of a joint merchant navy was tackled. Iran supplied oil to Pakistan and Turkey at preferential prices.

In order to strengthen the cultural bond between the countries, textbooks were revised, chairs for academic exchange between the RCD countries were established and the curricula were revised in order to mutually promote training in the language and culture of the three countries.

The Council of Foreign Ministers of the RCD countries served as the decision-making body. A planning commission, which consisted of representatives of the individual state planning commissions, prepared the meetings of the RCD Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers and the Planning Commission had their own secretariat with a Secretary General with the rank of ambassador.

From 1969 Pahlavi sought to expand the RCD by including Afghanistan and India. During the years 1974 to 1976, when Iran's oil revenues reached a new high, the Shah pledged large sums of development aid to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Sudan and Lebanon. These states began to incorporate relevant projects into their development plans, assuming that the financing of the projects would largely be taken over by Iran. But after Saudi Arabia at the OPEC meetings from 1975 onwards increasingly fiercely resisted the oil price increases demanded by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Iran's oil revenues fell as a result, Iran was no longer able to meet its international obligations.

The countries that had hoped to achieve greater political independence through Iranian economic aid turned away from Iran and towards the Soviet Union . One example of the dramatic political consequences of the discontinuation of Iranian economic aid is the political development in Afghanistan . In 1975 the Shah promised Afghan President Mohammed Daoud Khan US $ 1.2 billion for economic development projects, in particular for the construction of an Afghan rail network. With these resources, Daoud could have reduced Afghanistan's almost complete economic dependence on the Soviet Union. By 1977, however, only US $ 10 million in Iranian economic aid had been received in Kabul. Due to the persistently poor economic situation in Afghanistan and the lack of promised construction projects, a coup took place in April 1978 in which President Daoud was shot. Daoud's death was also the end of the Republic of Afghanistan. With the establishment of the socialist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and the attempt to establish a socialist state through radical reforms, a civil war was sparked that led to the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1979 .

After the Islamic Revolution , economic cooperation with neighboring countries was initially discontinued. It was not until 1985 when the Organization for Economic Cooperation (ECO) was founded that the RCD was reissued.


Official coronation photo in 1967

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi became Shah of Iran on September 17, 1941 at 4:30 p.m. by taking the oath of office before the Iranian parliament. The coronation ceremonies had been postponed to a later date. Iran was occupied by British and Soviet troops during World War II. The population suffered from the occupation. The food supply for the Iranian population had been rationed due to the supply of the occupation troops.

Mohammad Reza refused a solemn coronation until the country should have found its place in the world. On October 26, 1967, he thought the day had come. The coronation was organized as an Iranian ceremony to which no foreign state guests were invited. Only Karim Aga Khan IV. Attended the coronation ceremony as a guest.

In addition to his coronation, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi wanted his wife Farah Pahlavi to be crowned for the first time in the 2,500-year history of the Iranian monarchy.

Relationship with the USA


The presence of US military advisers was a thorn in the side of the Soviet Union. She called the Iranian armament "aggressive and adventurous" and felt generally threatened by the Shah. Conversely, the US expected the Shah to seal off the border with the Soviet Union, secure the oil wells in the Persian Gulf and try to ease Israeli-Arab tensions. The fact that Iran itself was in huge difficulties and that the country first had to be developed economically and socially went down "in the heat of the Cold War". On March 2, 1959, Iran declared that it no longer recognized Articles 5 and 6 of the 1921 Soviet-Iranian Friendship Treaty , which granted the Soviet Union the right to station troops in Iran at any time. On March 5, 1959, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey signed bilateral defense agreements with the United States. The Baghdad Pact was renamed CENTO.

Military rearmament

In April 1962, Pahlavi traveled to Washington, DC to meet President John F. Kennedy . They agreed that Iran was too weak to repel an attack by the Soviet Union, but had to become strong enough not to be an easy target for a Soviet attack. The decision to arm Iran had been made. In the same year, a team of US military experts traveled to Iran to get a precise picture of the technical status of the Iranian army. The result was a program that included the delivery and training of modern weapons systems by American military advisers.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi visits Richard Nixon (1971)

The United States had significant foreign policy problems during this time because of the Vietnam War . In addition, the war between India and Pakistan caused problems in the region. On May 30, 1968, President Johnson signed a memorandum with which the wiretapping systems stationed in Pakistan and extending into the Soviet Union were moved to Iran for security reasons. In April 1968, US Secretary of State Dean Rusk , Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and National Security Advisor Walt Whitman Rostov endorsed a US $ 600 million military armament program for the Iranian armed forces over the next six years. So 100 million US dollars were earmarked for the purchase of weapon systems per year.

Military spending rose from $ 67 million in 1953 to $ 9.4 billion in 1977. The military increased from 20,000 in 1963 to 410,000 in 1977.

Visit to Germany in 1967

In the German rainbow press the Shah and his family were often the subject of richly illustrated reports in the 1960s, but on the other hand there was also increasing criticism in the German press. During his state visit to the Federal Republic of Germany there were massive protests.

During the demonstration on June 2, 1967 in West Berlin,Jubelperser ” and SAVAK agents beat demonstrators and passers-by unmolested. In the further course of the violent clashes between the Berlin security forces and the demonstrators, the student Benno Ohnesorg was shot by the police officer Karl-Heinz Kurras , who was revealed as a Stasi agent in 2009 .

In response to the visit, the West German student movement spread and radicalized in the 1960s . Social and police reforms under the SPD-FDP government since 1969 as well as the terrorism of the Red Army faction since 1970 and the June 2nd movement since 1972 go back to this historic event.

Internal cultural conflicts

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1975)

Internally, the policy of secularization of public life that Reza Shah had pursued was fundamentally changed. The demonstrative closeness to the USA and the militant anti-communism connected with it were interpreted by his critics as a “West-oriented attitude in social issues”.

With the linking of socialist and Shiite concepts propagated primarily by Ali Schariati , a bridge between left and Islamic groups was created in the 1970s.

The 2500 year celebration showed that there are considerable discrepancies between the theoretical concept of society and practical politics. It had already been proposed by Shodja'eddin Schafa in 1958 and was initially planned for 1961. In October 1971, “ 2500 years of the Iranian monarchy” was celebrated in 50 splendid tents in the ruins of Persepolis together with 69 heads of state and monarchs .

In 1976 a new calendar was introduced, which had not the Hijra of Muhammad as the starting point of the calendar , but the coronation of King Cyrus I , an affront for the clergy. Reza Shah had already introduced the Iranian solar calendar with Iranian month names as the official calendar, but started counting the year with the hijra. Over the years, this led to different dates for the year compared to the Islamic lunar calendar . With the resetting of the beginning of the year counting, the calendar reform already begun by Reza Shah was completed. In 1977, after just one year, the new year counting was reversed by Prime Minister Jafar Sharif-Emami to meet the demands of the clergy. Reza Shah's calendar reform is still in place today.

In addition to promoting traditional Iranian folk culture, to which the wife of Mohammad Reza Shah, Shahbanu Farah Pahlavi , was the main focus, the Shiraz art festival spanned the range from the pre-Islamic culture of the Achaemenids to modern Western culture. The Shiraz Art Festival was the first and only modern art festival in Iran. His focus was on the presentation of electronic music and avant-garde art in the fields of music, dance and theater. It took place from 1967 to 1977 in the city of Shiraz and in front of the ruins of Persepolis . For conservative clergy, the festival was evidence of “the moral depravity” of the Pahlavis. In 1977 Khomeini joined the discussion: “It is difficult to say anything about it. Indecent scenes are shown in Shiraz, and soon this is also to happen in Tehran. Nobody says anything. The clergy in Iran is silent on this. I don't understand why the clergy don't protest. ”The festival planned for 1978 could no longer be held because of the demonstrations that took place in the run-up to the Islamic Revolution .

The pro-Western personal lifestyle of the Shah and his family was also viewed with suspicion. Every winter the family spent their skiing holidays in St. Moritz in Switzerland . In numerous television interviews in French and English, the Shah tried to consolidate his international role. In a TV interview with US journalist Mike Wallace in 1976, the Shah also complained about what he thought the “Jewish lobby” in the US had too much influence.

The Shah was opposed to democracy. When asked by a journalist, he replied:

"Freedom of Thought! Freedom of thought! Democracy! Democracy! Five year olds who go on strike and take to the streets! ... Democracy? Freedom? What do those words mean? I don't want anything to do with it. "

- Mohammad Reza Pahlavi : Abrahamian, E. Iran. Between two revolutions. Princeton / New Jersey 1982, pp. 440 f., Cited therein. in:

Founding of SAVAK and accusation of torture

The law establishing the secret service SAVAK was passed by the Senate on January 20, 1957 and by Parliament on March 20, 1957. According to the text of the law, the SAVAK should “protect the interests of the state and prevent any conspiracy against the public interest”. The domestic intelligence of the SAVAK infiltrated almost all opposition groups in Iran, from the National Front co-founded by Mossadegh to the communist Tudeh party , from the Marxist People's Mujahedin to the Fedajin-e Islam and the Hezbollahis , the Shiite clergy around the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomein. Smaller groups such as the Maoist Union of Iranian Communists (Sarbedaran) or terrorist groups with a large number of members such as the Organization of the People's Fedajin Guerrilla Iran were under constant surveillance. In a few years a left guerrilla movement had established itself in Iran , which initially operated independently. Thousands of opponents of the regime were arrested, interrogated, tortured and, if they were involved in terrorist activities, executed. Amnesty International estimated the number of politically imprisoned people in Iran at several thousand in 1977.

The trials against political prisoners were military tribunals, according to the treason section of 1931, in which the findings of the secret service or confessions obtained under torture were used as evidence. A lawyer was assigned to the defendants. They had no right to a lawyer of their choice. Treason was subject to the death penalty, which was executed by shooting within 48 hours of the verdict. If the death sentence was appealed, the Shah was able to approve an appeal within six days.

With the establishment of the People's Mujahedin in 1965, the first militant movement of Islamic socialism became active in Iran. Their “people's war” was directed primarily against the Americans working in Iran. In 1970 an attempt to kidnap the US Ambassador to Iran, Douglas MacArthur , failed. The attempt to assassinate US Brigadier General Harold Price, who was head of US MAAG in Iran, also failed. In 1973, the Mojahedin succeeded in assassinating Lieutenant Colonel Louis Hawkins and a member of the US military mission. In 1975, Lt. Col. Jack Turner was "executed" by the US Air Force. In 1976 three Rockwell International employees , William Cottrell, Donald Smith and Robert Krongard, were murdered. However, the SAVAK succeeded in infiltrating the Mojahedin organization and arresting many of their leaders, including Masud Rajavi.

In an interview on February 4, 1974, the Shah stated that he did not know the number of SAVAK employees, but estimated that there were fewer than 2,000 agents . When asked whether he knew that there was torture in his country, he replied with " no ". He described newspaper reports reporting torture as lies.

In the late 1990s, Emad al-Din Baghi investigated the number of victims of the Shah's regime on behalf of the journal of the Iranian “Martyrs Foundation” ( Bonyade Schahid ) and based on the data collected by the foundation after the Islamic Revolution. He came to the conclusion that between 1963 and 1979 a total of 3,164 Iranians had been killed in the fight against the regime, 2,781 of them in the revolutionary unrest of 1977/78. He puts the number of victims of the Marxist guerrilla struggle since 1971 at 341, of whom 171 were killed in combat with the security forces, 91 were executed, 15 "disappeared" and 42 died under torture.


Open political space

On 7./8. January 1978 appeared in the Iranian newspaper Ettelā'āt an article about Ruhollah Khomeini . "For years the regime's propaganda machine had left no stone unturned in denying the very existence of Khomeini," and now Khomeini was reviled as a communist conspirator. This article, published under the pseudonym Ahmad Raschidi-ye Motlagh , is considered to be the initial spark of the Islamic Revolution. The author of the article is believed to be Darius Homayun, Minister of Information in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jamschid Amusegar . The sympathy rally for Khomeini organized by students in Qom on January 9 was forcibly broken up by the security forces. Four demonstrators were killed. The commemorative rallies for the demonstrators who died in Qom, which now run every 40 days, received more and more visitors. Grand Ayatollah Shariatmadari demanded an apology from the government to the clergy before the sporadic demonstrations spread into a nationwide wave of protests.

On August 5, 1978, Mohammad Reza Shah responded to the demonstrators' demands. In a Constitution Day speech, he announced democratic reforms:

“This is a new chapter in the history of our country. […] We will have the same freedom rights as in Europe, and the limits of freedom in Iran will not differ from those in Europe. [...] That means there will be parties, peaceful and unarmed parties. [...] We will have freedom of speech and freedom of the press on the basis of a new press law, which we will formulate along the lines of the press laws of the free world. The coming elections will be completely free; everyone has the right to vote, and every vote will be counted. [...] But it must be clear that no nation that calls itself democratic can tolerate fights, violence, provocations and lawlessness. "

The leader of the opposition movement, Ruhollah Khomeini, had already taken a clear position in May 1978 on the Shah's intentions to reform the political system. Khomeini had stated:

“What freedom is he talking about? It is not up to him to allow freedom. God gave man freedom. Islam gave them freedom. "

Arson attack on the Cinema Rex

The protest marches against the government continued and took on violent forms. On August 19, on the 28th Amordad according to the Iranian calendar, the 25th anniversary of the overthrow of the Mossadegh government , 28 cinemas throughout Iran were set on fire by Islamists. More than 400 deaths were recorded in the arson attack on Cinema Rex in Abadan . Khomeini and Mehdi Bāzargān and Karim Sandjabi , leading members of the National Front , accused the government of being responsible for the fires in order to "cast a bad light" on the opposition. As far as we know today, a relative of Seyyed Ali Khamene'i was responsible for planning and carrying out the arson attack . Khomeini had long ago issued a fatwa against “colonial programs” and “Western cinema”.

On the occasion of the arson attack, Mohammad Reza Shah spoke of the "great fear" that would soon reign in Iran if the opposition came to power. He wanted to make the difference to his future vision for Iran, the "Great Civilization", clear. The government under Prime Minister Jamjid Amusegar seemed paralyzed. Queen Farah wanted to go immediately to Abadan to visit the families of the victims and offer them her condolences. Prime Minister Amusegar thought it would be better to wait for the results of the investigation first. The result was further demonstrations across the country. Iranian students occupied the Iranian embassies in Germany, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands. After the demonstrators in Tehran demanded the resignation of Mohammad Reza Shah on August 26, Amusegar resigned from the office of prime minister on August 27 and left the country shortly afterwards. Jafar Sharif-Emami became the new Prime Minister .

Prime Minister Hua Guofeng visits Tehran in August 1978

With the first visit by a high-ranking Chinese delegation since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Iran and China, a certain normality returned to everyday political life in Iran. Prime Minister Hua Guofeng traveled to Iran in August 1978 in order to put economic relations between the two countries on a new contractual basis. China had always supported the Shah's economic policy, particularly on the issue of increasing oil and gas prices, and Iran had become an important trading partner for China since 1970.

In order to enter into a political dialogue with Khomeini and to meet the demands of Khomeini's followers for their leader to return to Iran, Grand Ayatollah Kasem Shariatmadari , Prime Minister Schrarif-Emami and Mehdi Bāzargān of the National Front Party prepared a proposal with conditions who Khomeini could return to Iran in nine to ten months if he recognized the existing constitution. But Bazargan decided to recognize Khomeini as the top leader of the opposition movement. The proposal drawn up by Shariatmadari and Sharif-Emami was not even presented to Khomeini, as Khomeini refused to cooperate or engage in any dialogue with the existing government.

Black Friday

On Friday, September 8, 1978 (17th Shahrivar 1357), the political conflict between the government and the opposition came to a head, which would go down in Iran's history as Black Friday . The government had mobilized troops to put a stop to further demonstrations in Tehran. On Jaleh Square in downtown Tehran, soldiers wanted to stop a demonstration by shooting in the air. A few minutes later, dead demonstrators and police were lying in the square without it being clear at first how the fatal shots had come about. The Islamist groups spread the news that "thousands of peaceful demonstrators had been massacred by Zionist troops".

The official account of the events was given to the press by Minister of Information Ameli Tehrani after an investigation by the military. Tehrani reported the number of people killed and injured in clashes with the security forces throughout Tehran that day, with 86 dead and 205 wounded, 64 of whom were killed in Jaleh Square. He said that the troops in Jaleh Square were shot at and that they then shot back. Trained and armed agitators in Libya and Palestine had joined the march of demonstrators to stir up the mood. In the cabinet it was said that in addition to the 64 demonstrators, 70 police officers and soldiers were killed in the exchange of fire on Jaleh Square, but this should not be disclosed.

The news of "15,000 dead and wounded" spread by the opposition groups sparked further nationwide demonstrations against the government and ultimately led to a general strike that also affected the oil industry. The official figure of 64 dead protesters in Jaleh Square was not believed. "Black Friday" sealed the fate of Prime Minister Sharif-Emami's government. On November 5, 1978, Tehran was on fire. Administrative buildings of foreign companies, cinemas, shops selling alcohol, buses, cars and, above all, bank buildings had been set on fire by opposition groups. Almost 400 bank branches were set on fire that day. Prime Minister Sharif-Emami's government of national reconciliation had completely failed with its policy of concessions to the opposition. On November 6, 1978, Jafar Sharif-Emami resigned and left Iran a little later.

The Islamic Revolution could no longer be stopped. The leading figure was Ayatollah Khomeini who was deported from long-term Iraqi exile on October 6, 1978 to Neauphle-le-Château near Paris . In Paris, Khomeini formed an alliance between sections of the clergy, the left-wing intellectual opposition, and the Marxist-Leninist and Maoist groups whose common goal was the overthrow of the Shah.

The Cabinet of the Military

After the resignation of Prime Minister Jafar Sharif-Emami and the failure of a "government of national reconciliation", General Gholam Reza Azhari became the new Prime Minister. The ministerial posts were also largely filled with generals. On November 5, 1978, Mohammad Reza Shah announced the establishment of a military government in a speech broadcast live on Iranian television by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Islamic philosopher and former rector of Tehran's Aryamehr Technical University, and Reza Qotbi , head of state television, was designed, known personally:

“Dear Iranian nation. In a time of political openness that has been gradually implemented over the past two years, you, the Iranian nation, rose up against oppression and corruption. As King of Iran and as an Iranian, I can only approve of this revolution of the Iranian nation. Unfortunately, in the course of the Iranian Revolution, others conspired to use your feelings and anger to their advantage and to organize riot, anarchy and revolt. The wave of strikes, many of which were legitimate, has moved away from their original demands in recent months and is about to paralyze our economy and the daily lives of the people, even the oil production on which the economic life of this country depends, bring to a standstill. [...]

I understand that as steps are taken to prevent turmoil and anarchy, past mistakes such as repression and oppression can repeat themselves. I am aware that some will think that introducing repressive measures in the name of the national interest and for the sake of the country's progress is intended to create fear and repeat the unholy alliance of material and political repression. But as your King, who has sworn to protect the country's territorial integrity, national unity and Shiite religion, I repeat my oath before the Iranian nation. I assure you that the mistakes of the past, lawlessness, oppression and corruption will not be repeated and that the damage caused by these mistakes will be made good. I assure you that once law and order are restored, a national government will be appointed as soon as possible to restore basic civil liberties and that free elections will be held so that the Constitution, which was won with the blood of the Constitutional Revolution , will be held. can come into force again. I heard the message of your revolution, Iranian nation [...] "

Mohammad Reza Shah's attempt to lead the “Iranian Revolution” in order to prevent the “Islamic Revolution” seemed to him the only way to end the strikes without bloodshed and to end the economy of Iran to get going again. The government statement by Prime Minister Azhari, who also sought talks with the opposition, received much applause in parliament.

The military government under General Azhari ultimately only continued the policy with which his predecessor, Jafar Sharif-Emami, had already failed. Detained government opponents have been released from prison while former ministers, officials and officers have been arrested. Those arrested included Amir Abbas Hoveyda , long-time Prime Minister, Manutschehr Azmun, former Minister without Portfolio, Dariusch Humayun, former Minister of Information and Tourism, Mansur Ruhani, former Minister of Agriculture, General Nassiri , former head of SAVAK , Manutschehr Nikpay, former Mayor of Tehran, Lieutenant General Sadri, former police chief of Tehran, Abdulazim Valian, former governor of Khorasan , Schaychulislam Zadeh, former health minister, Nili Aram, former Deputy Minister of Health, and Fereidun Mahdavi, a former economy minister.

On December 1, 1978, Khomeini attacked the military government directly. He declared on the first day of Muharram , the Shiite month of mourning, that the soldiers of the army should consider it their religious duty to leave the barracks and desert. The soldiers stayed in the barracks and did not desert, but that night the cry of " Allahu Akbar " was heard for the first time from the roofs of Tehran . Soon this call could be heard every night in Tehran. At this point it had already become clear that the military government under General Azhari would not be able to solve the problems, especially since Mohammad Reza Shah had not given his military a free hand to end the ongoing demonstrations and strikes with the use of violent measures.

Government mandate to the National Front

On December 28, 1978, Mohammad Reza asked Shah Shapur Bakhtiar to form a new government. On December 31, 1978, Gholam Reza Azhari resigned from the post of Prime Minister. The generals turned their backs on politics again. Shahpur Bakhtiar had accepted the government mandate. The National Front , which had fought for so long to gain power in Iran, had reached its goal. However, the board of the National Front expelled his board colleague and Prime Minister Shahpur Bakhtiar from the party. He had become a traitor to the National Front for working with Pahlavi. It had already agreed with Khomeini that it would only support a government led by Khomeini.

The Guadeloupe Conference

Helmut Schmidt, Jimmy Carter, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and James Callaghan in Guadeloupe, 1979

From January 4 to January 7, 1979, the Guadeloupe Conference was held in Guadeloupe at the invitation of French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing . The conference was declared an informal meeting to discuss strategic and economic issues. One of the main issues discussed at the conference was the crisis in Iran. In addition to the host Valéry Giscard d'Estaing from France, President Jimmy Carter from the USA, Prime Minister James Callaghan from Great Britain and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt from Germany took part in the conference. No official decisions were taken at the conference.

At the beginning of the conference it was first necessary to agree on a common assessment of the situation in Iran. While Helmut Schmidt pointed out the military threat posed by the Soviet Union and emphasized the stabilizing factor of the government under Mohammad Reza Shah, President Carter was obviously already of the opinion that the Shah “could not be kept”. Carter was more concerned with how things should go in Iran after the Shah. Before the conference, Zbigniew Brzeziński , Carter's security advisor, had stressed in front of the world press that the US would fully support the Shah. But President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing reported on the discussion in Guadeloupe in his book Le Pouvoir et La Vie :

“President Jimmy Carter surprisingly told us that the United States had decided to no longer support the Shah's regime. Without the support of the United States, the regime is lost. I still had the report from Michel Poniatowski , who had informed me that the Shah was fully capable of acting, but full of sadness, tired and disaffected. He had assumed that the US would continue to support him. But within a week, the wind had changed ... Jimmy Carter explains us the further development. The military will seize power and restore order in the country. The military leaders are all pro-Western, most of them were trained in the United States. "

The Shah is leaving the country

“Shah raft - The Shah is gone” - headline in the Ettelā'āt newspaper on January 16, 1979

With the words "I am tired and need a break", Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left the country forever at noon on January 16, 1979 via the Tehran airport . To Prime Minister Shahpur Bakhtiar, who saw him off at the airport, he said:

“You now have all power and authority in your hands. I hand over the land into your and God's hands. "

Pahlavi planned to travel to the United States after visiting President Sadat in Egypt. On January 3, 1979, the question of the visit to the USA had already been discussed in the Special Coordination Committee (SCC) and National Security Council (NSC) of the White House. It had been decided that Pahlavi would be welcome to the USA and that he could live in the Walter Annenberg Estate in California during his stay in the USA .

On January 18, 1979, US President Carter stated that Vietnam had taught the US not to interfere in any country's internal affairs and that he trusted Ayatollah Khomeini to support the Bakhtiar government as it legitimately came into office be. On January 20, 1979, the President of the Regency Council Seyyed Jalaleddin Tehrani, who according to the Iranian Constitution represents the monarch in his absence, traveled to Khomeini in Paris and, at Khomeini's request, declared that the Regency Council was illegal and that he would take office with immediate effect lay down.

Two weeks later, on February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran from exile in France. With the return of Khomeini, the Islamic Revolution entered a new phase. It was only a few days before Prime Minister Bakhtiar had to flee into exile in France.

Causes of the fall

The extensive temporal coincidence between the signing of the oil consortium agreement in 1954 with the return of the Shah and the overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadegh as well as the driving role of the Shah in the context of the oil price increases by the OPEC is often due to Western political interests and preferences in the oil industry. and economic sector. This dependence on the West is seen as a factor in the fall.

Role of the USA

"Since the CIA saved the throne from the Shah in 1953," writes Tim Weiner , "the Shah has been a central figure in US foreign policy in the Middle East." In 1971, Richard Nixon wanted "more politicians with his vision in the world [ ...] and with his ability to exercise a rule that basically [...] amounts to a de facto dictatorship of a benevolent kind ”. In December 1977 Jimmy Carter described Iran as an "island of stability in a stormy sea". In August 1978, in a report to the White House, the CIA described Iran as "very far from a revolution". A grandiose misjudgment, which, according to Weiner, was based on the fact that the spies and analysts of the CIA had revered the Shah's self-image for 15 years. "We slept plain and simple," said then CIA director Stansfield Turner.

At the Guadeloupe Conference, which ran from January 7 to 9, 1979 , President Jimmy Carter declared to the heads of state from France, Great Britain and Germany, President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing , Prime Minister James Callaghan and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt that he was no longer under the Shah's regime will support. With that he had decided the further political fate of the Shah.

In his book The Real War (New York, 1980), former US President Richard Nixon commented on the behavior of the USA in connection with the events that led to the revolution and the overthrow of the Shah :

“In view of what happened through us to the Shah of Iran, the leaders of those states whose friendly bilateral relations with us are in the interests of our country will rightly ask themselves whether if they too are in a similar one Situation would be, d. that is, would be attacked by a revolution that would be supported from abroad, but would not suffer a similar fate on our part. "

Press conference. Niavaran Palace 1971.

According to the February 1979 weekly newspaper Die Zeit , the Shah not only lost contact with its people, but:

“His faults lay in his inability to loosen the authoritarian system in step with modernization and to transform it into freer political forms; in his arrogance, which forbade him to really delegate responsibility; in the harsh impatience that led him to push the pace of progress beyond any reasonable measure; in its insensitivity to the procrastination caused by culture and faith of large parts of the people to indulge in the new without hesitation and inhibition; in his megalomania, which made him buy weapons where he should have bought machines. "

Stations of flight, illness and death

After fleeing through Egypt , Morocco , the Bahamas and Mexico , Pahlavi, suffering from cancer, arrived in New York on October 22, 1979 to be treated at the Cornell Medical Center at New York Hospital . When this became known in Iran, the news was circulated that the US was giving him refuge. On November 4, 1979, the US Embassy in Tehran was stormed by Iranian students and the embassy staff were taken hostage . At the end of his treatment in the United States, Pahlavi had to leave the country under pressure from the US government, which wanted to avoid further provocation.

On December 3, 1979, the German Foreign Office contacted Pahlavi, who had since left the hospital in New York and had been brought to the hermetically sealed Lackland Air Force Base outside of San Antonio, Texas. Former Prime Minister Mehdi Bāzargān had handed over a letter to Pahlavi to the German ambassador in Tehran, Ritzel, on December 1, 1979: after consultation with the Presidium of the Revolutionary Council, he asked the federal government to encourage the US government to influence Pahlavi, voluntarily to Iran to return. Iran will assure him safe conduct and after presenting the complaints of the Iranian people and hearing their account, let him leave the country again. On December 2, 1979, then Ministerialdirektor Montfort traveled to the USA to deliver the letter to Pahlavi. He thanked the federal government for its efforts; he was ready to help as far as the hostages in the US embassy were concerned. But he refuses to accept a letter from the current rulers in Tehran. "These are murderers with whom he no longer wants to have anything to do with."

Mohammad Reza Pahlavis resting place in the al-Rifa'i Mosque in Cairo , Egypt

After leaving the USA on December 15, 1979, Pahlavi lived with his family in Panama for a short time and then returned to Egypt.

He died on July 27, 1980 of complications from Waldenström's disease (a non-Hodgkin lymphoma ). During his reign, he had refused chemotherapy treatment for his illness, which French doctors had diagnosed in 1974. The Egyptian President Mohammed Anwar as-Sadat declared the day a national day of mourning and ordered a state funeral. In addition to the Pahlavi family, Anwar as-Sadat, Richard Nixon and Constantine of Greece took part in the funeral march through Cairo . Pahlavi was buried in the al-Rifa'i mosque , where he found his final resting place next to the penultimate Egyptian king Faruq I.

marriage and family

Pahlavi's first marriage was with the Egyptian princess Fausia (born November 5, 1921 - July 2, 2013) on March 16, 1939. The daughter Schahnaz (born October 27, 1940) comes from this marriage . The marriage was divorced on November 19, 1948.

On February 12, 1951, Pahlavi married the maternal German-born Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiary (* June 22, 1932, † October 25, 2001). This marriage was enthusiastically received by the German tabloids and made headlines for years. However, since the marriage remained childless, the divorce took place on April 6, 1958.

The third marriage with Farah Diba (born October 14, 1938) took place on December 21, 1959. The children come from this connection:

  • Cyrus Reza Pahlavi (born October 31, 1960)
  • Farahnaz Pahlavi (born March 12, 1963)
  • Ali Reza Pahlavi (born April 28, 1966 - † January 4, 2011 in Boston - suicide by shooting)
  • Leila Pahlavi (born March 27, 1970 - † June 10, 2001 in London - suicide by taking tablets)

Awards (selection)

In addition to around 50 international orders and awards, the Shah received the following decorations:


  • Gholam Reza Afkhami: The Life and Times of the Shah . University of California Press, Berkeley, CA 2009, ISBN 978-0-520-25328-5 .
  • Iman Ansari, Patrick Germain: Mon père, mon frère, les Shahs d'Iran . Entretiens avec le prince Gholam-Reza Pahlavi. Editions Normant, 2004, ISBN 2-915685-06-1 .
  • Yves BOMATI et Houchang NAHAVANDI: Mohammad Réza Pahlavi, le dernier shah (1919–1980) , Éditions Perrin, 2013.
  • Richard Blank (ed.): Shah Reza, the last German emperor. Documents from the rainbow press. In: rororo 4376 , Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1979, ISBN 3-499-14376-3 .
  • Ryszard Kapuściński : Shah-in Shah . A report on the mechanisms of power and the emergence of Iranian fundamentalism (original title: Szachinszach , translated by Martin Pollack). Eichborn, Frankfurt am Main 2007 (first edition 1997), ISBN 978-3-8218-5672-8 (history 1949–1979).
  • Abbas Milani: The Shah. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 488 pages, ISBN 978-1-4039-7193-7 .
  • Mohammed Reza Pahlavi: In the service of my country . German publishing company, Stuttgart 1961.
  • Mohammed Reza Pahlewi: Answer to the story (original title: Réponse à l'histoire , translated by Walter Hertenstein). Herbig, Munich / Bern 1980, ISBN 3-7766-1053-0 .
  • Gérard de Villiers : The Shah . 2nd edition, Heyne Munich 1979, ISBN 3-453-00632-1 .

Web links

Commons : Mohammad Reza Pahlavi  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ De Villiers: The Shah. 1976, p. 81.
  2. Afkhami, Gholam Reza (2009). The life and times of the Shah. London, England: University of California Press. pp. 29-31. ISBN 978-0-520-25328-5 .
  3. ^ De Villiers: The Shah. 1976, p. 84.
  4. Gholam Reza Afkhami: The life and times of the Shah. UC University Press, 2009, p. 41.
  5. Gholam Reza Afkhami: The life and times of the Shah. UC University Press, 2009. p. 43.
  6. Gholam Reza Afkhami: The life and times of the Shah. UC University Press, 2009, pp. 67, 75.
  7. Comparison between the original and the post-processed image ( memento of August 2, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) on .
  8. ^ Stationery Office : Dispatch on Operations in Iraq, East Syria an Iran, from 10th April, 1941 to 12th January, 1942 . In: Supplement to The London Gazette . August 14, 1946, p. 4100 ( [PDF]).
  9. Gholam Reza Afkhami: The life and times of the Shah. UC Press , Berkeley 2009, pp. 87 f.
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predecessor Office successor
Reza Shah Shah of Persia / Shah of Iran
Title expired ( Islamic Revolution )