H.I.M. Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran
Center for the Study of Democracy
Dean Schonfeld, Professors Dalton and Petracca, UCI
Department of Political Science, Center for the Study of Democracy, the Student
Host Committee, organizers, members of the faculty, students and guests,
thank you all for inviting me and for your warm welcome here this evening.
There is much to be said, and a lot more to be done about the plight of the
Iranian people and the issues facing my homeland today.
Tonight, however, I will keep my comments limited to what I believe to be the
most important challenges facing my countrymen on the eve of the eighth
presidential drama - a drama written and conducted by the Clerical Regime in Iran
in order to stage the perception of electoral legitimacy, for the exclusive
consumption of western media and world public opinion.
In sixteen days, in a somber atmosphere marked by the closure of more than 40
newspapers, the arrest of nearly every single voice for freedom, and the
banning of all opposing political parties and entities, Iranians are being
asked to participate in what the clerical regime is presenting to the world
as "free elections."
However, the results of the June 8th drama will not represent the people's
true choice. That is why Iranians from all walks of life are today openly
challenging the election's very legitimacy. Why? Because the clerical
regime's approbating control over the electoral process is a mirror image of
the methods used by the former Soviet Union in the last century.
Nevertheless, and in all probability, the regime will be able to use its
enormous "powers of persuasion" - such as brute force and crushing
social control - to force a substantial turnout. However, the fact remains
that my countrymen are no longer beguiled by any promise of change and reform
from this theocracy.
It is a simple reality that political candidates in Iran are exclusively
confined to those selected and approved by the "Guardian Council"
-- the State organ tasked with the review, selection and ultimately the
dictation of the regime's choice of candidates to the people.
It is noteworthy that members of this 12-member "Council" are in
effect appointed by one-single-man - Supreme Theologian Ali Khamenei - who
handpicks half of the council members, while the rest are picked by the head
of the judiciary -- in turn, another personal appointee of "The
As a result, today Iranians are dying for meaningful reform - literally. They
are imprisoned, tortured and murdered, to silence a growing cry for the very
platform of reform that, ironically on this very day, four-long-years ago
propelled Mr. Khatami into the Presidency.
Still, too many in the west fail to see the real picture and are quick to
applaud any election - even a Soviet Union-style charade - as a sign of
Iran's flourishing new democracy and reform. While western news headlines
have described the dynamics within Iran as a struggle between the
"reformists" and "radical conservatives," the reality is
truly far more complex.
The issue in Iran is not which faction of the Islamic Republic can meet the
demands of the Iranian people, but rather what system other than a theocracy
can save Iran.
After two decades of sustained crisis and clerical misrule, Iran's economy
continues to be plagued by low confidence and mismanagement, widespread
corruption, an overburdened public sector, and total dependence on a volatile
In a country in need of nearly one million new jobs annually, only a fraction
stand a chance. The Iranian economy is confronted with severe unemployment
(more than 35%) and skyrocketing inflation (over 40%). According to the
regime's own figures, 40% of the population lives under the poverty line:
that is a total of nearly 30 million people who are desperately in need of
real solutions for their real problems.
Yet, for 22 years, the regime's method of addressing its chronic problems has
been simple: blame the "Great Satan" and a world filled with
Big changes are coming, however. The Iranian people, especially the youth,
comprising 70% of the population, are quick to point out that solutions for
their social and economic ills lie in their own hands and begin with the need
for dramatic and fundamental political change. To facilitate this change, the
Iranian people need to be equipped with the best tools and weapons of modern
politics: knowledge, access, communication and free dialogue.
The Clerical regime is now confronted with a new generation that has neither
taken part in the revolution nor has shown any evident commitment to its
ideals. The regime's greatest weakness lies in its inability to respond to
the youth's demands for fundamental economic and political freedom, as well
as the removal of cultural restrictions.
By any measure, dramatic change in Iran is inevitable. The only choice is
whether it will occur peacefully, minimizing social disruption, or the regime
continues crushing freedom seekers -- thus, igniting violence and mass
There was a time when the clerical regime's periodic, token and partial
reforms masked its inherent incompatibility with the principles of freedom,
democracy and civil society. Today however, for Iranians, the shine has worn
thin on the "moderate reformers" who once smiled to the world and
promised "reform" and "dialogue between civilizations,"
but for four-long-years delivered nothing short of pain, terror and death --
to the very people who entrusted them with their hopes, dreams and votes.
I am here to tell you that the time has finally arrived to write a new
chapter in the history of my homeland - a chapter that ends this brutal
regime, but corrects the mistakes of the previous one too. Iranians seek a
transparent political system in which full participation in free and fair
elections are guaranteed, irrespective of political ideologies, religious
beliefs or ethnic background.
The principle issues confronting Iranians today are basic and fundamental:
freedom, self-determination, human rights, justice and economic opportunity
-- in short, objectives attainable under a secular democratic system.
In support of this quest, I have energized an effort calling for national
unity among all groups dedicated to a democratic agenda and outcome to work
together for a common cause -- the establishment of a democratic and secular
My goal is to lead this movement culminating in a national referendum, beyond
this regime, and with international observation, as a means to guarantee
freedom and self-determination for the people of Iran.
My goal is simple, achievable and straightforward: I envision an Iran wherein
its prosperous economy gives every Iranian an equal chance for hope and
opportunity; An Iran where its women fully participate in the political,
socio-economic and cultural life of their homeland; An Iran where its press
is free from intimidation, harassment, imprisonment and torture; An Iran
which will, in its version of a post-inquisition Renaissance, build its
foundation on age-old Persian principles of tolerance and pluralism.
This vision includes a progressive, civil and stable society in which the
separation of Religion and State is realized. Finally, the Iran of tomorrow
will be best served by the pursuit of a foreign policy based on principles of
harmony, trust and mutual respect.
An important part of my responsibility in this quest is to raise the level of
international awareness over the real plight of my countrymen. In that light,
I am also here to voice the expectations and demands my countrymen have from
the world -- especially from Western governments:
1- I ask that Western governments not forget that everyday
in my country, basic human freedoms of speech, thought, press and assembly,
taken for granted in the West, are brutally crushed. Not a day goes by
without reports of new arrests, disappearances and harassment of citizens,
journalists and those with alternate points of view. The West must care, and
not allow such acts go unchallenged.
2- I ask that, in pursuit of economic opportunities in Iran, the West not
lose sight of the demands, needs and fundamental rights of the Iranian
people. Governments and business sectors alike bear a special responsibility
to invest in the people of Iran, and not the brutal religious dictatorship
ruling it. The West must care and not exclusively pursue business interests
at the expense of human interests. Ultimately, investments in people far
outlast investments in regimes -- especially those in direct conflict with
their own people.
3- In support of the above, I urge western decision makers, as a precondition
to lifting of sanctions or expanded economic ties with Iran, demand the
observance of human rights by the clerical regime. Specifically, the regime
must make measurable progress and meet realistic and achievable milestones
a. The immediate release of all student, journalist,
political and religious prisoners;
b. The reversal of the ban on free press and opposing political parties;
c. The unconditional acceptance of a free and fair national referendum,
supervised by international observers, as a means to guarantee freedom and
self-determination for the people of Iran.
The ship of freedom has set sail in my homeland. The world
must care, and make the right choice in favoring the winds that will give
birth to a long-awaited secular democracy in Iran.
The Iranian people deserve no less. This is a cause I believe in and am
committed to see to fruition, even if it were at the expense of my own
I thank you for your attention, and stand ready to answer any of your