Abolition of Monarchy as a Symbol of Oppression and Authoritarianism

  July 05, 2021   Read time 3 min
Abolition of Monarchy as a Symbol of Oppression and Authoritarianism
Karbala's tragedy is one of the core leitmotif of Iranian Islamic Revolution. This revolution is grounded in the ideas of martyrdom, sacrifice, devotion and freedom. All these key notions have their origin in religious traditions of past and present in Persia.

To come from Ramadan to Muharram, from September to December 1978, the massive demonstrations that had taken place at the end of Ramadan were repeated on the two most crucial days — ninth and tenth of the month — which are in terms of the traditional Shia commemorative ceremonies of the martyrdom, the most important days. First, it was said by Azhari, the military premier, that a dawn-to-dusk curfew would be imposed and that no ceremonies would be allowed even in the mosque, let alone in the streets of the city. Then, when it was made clear that the people had no intention of observing this ban, gradually it was lifted and permission was given for a vast demonstration that took place along the major thoroughfares of Tehran, concluding at the socalled Shahyad monument — the monument to twenty-five hundred years of Iranian monarchy. We may remark in passing on another instance of revolutionary humor in Iran, which was the renaming of the shahyad monument as the “shayyad” monument — a monument not in memory or commemoration of the Shah but in commemoration of a “scoundrel.” On this day the streets leading to the northern parts of Tehran where most of the royal palaces and the abodes of the wealthy are situated were sealed off and a vast number of people, estimated at between five million and six million, moved along the main arteries towards the square where a manifesto was read and approved by those present.

The manifesto called for the abolition of the monarchy, for the institution of an Islamic republic and the observance of certain points relating to internal and external policy. There was a total of sixteen points. President Carter, in one of the foolish remarks for which he is becoming increasingly celebrated, said that the fact that the day had passed off without bloodshed was somehow a triumph for the Shah's regime and an indication that, after all, things would not be too bad and he could weather the storm, as he had weathered previous storms. The fact that there had been no bloodshed was uniquely the result of the nonintervention of the army on that day. It was a moral triumph for the Islamic movement and a stunning defeat for the Shah.

It became increasingly recognized by the Shah, and more importantly by his foreign advisers, that his was a lost cause and that the best that could be hoped for was the installation of what was called in American terminology a compromise solution — that is to say, neither the Shah nor the Islamic regime but something in between led by “moderate, reasonable people”; in other words, people who would be content to see a prolongation of American strategic domination in Iran.

After some hedging and looking around for a suitable candidate, in late December the candidate was decided upon, Shapur Bakhtiar, the leader of the National Front, who was immediately promoted in western propaganda as being a longstanding foe of the Shah, a leading member of the opposition, a champion of human rights, and all other kinds of high-sounding titles.

It should be pointed out that the National Front, particularly as it had come to exist in recent years in Iran, was not a major organ of opposition to the Shah. It had a certain weight and represented a certain number of interests, but it was not in any way an important organization of political opposition such as it had been in the days of Dr. Musaddiq. Even within the attenuated National Front Shapur Bakhtiar had a very dubious standing. There were a number of incidents in which he was involved that had earned him the suspicion of his associates, so much so that when he accepted the offer of the Shah at the prompting of the United States to become the new prime minister, with the Shah going on vacation, members of the National Front and still less the Iranian people at large were not surprised.

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