H.I.M. Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran
Center for the Study of
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
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
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
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 Leader."
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 oil market.
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 "foreign enemies."
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
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 rebellion.
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
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 government.
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
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
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
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 life.
I thank you for your attention, and stand ready to answer any of your