Political Pluralism and Freedom of Press in Pahlavi Iran


Political Pluralism and Freedom of Press in Pahlavi Iran
by Darius Kadivar

BBC's Panorama visits Iran in 1961 in this revealing documentary on the level of social freedoms and progress enjoyed by Iranians at the time. University Students are asked about the Freedom of the Press and Politics. Also the Shah is asked if he allowed the formation of political parties ( Non Communist). This was a decade before the creation in 1970's of the unified Rastakhiz Party which put an end to political pluralism in Parliament and tragically sealed the doomed fate of Shah's Regime. 

Go Here ( Go particularly to 2 min 32 sec for the above interview) 


The 1960s saw the beginning of the end of dynastic rule in Iran.

But the emergence of modern Iran can be traced back four decades earlier to Reza Khan, who brought the Qajar dynasty, which had ruled Iran since the late eighteenth century, to a close in a 1923 British-backed coup.

With Reza Khan taking the throne in 1925, the Pahlevi dynasty was established, but was to span just two monarchs.

Between the two world wars, the Shah, as Reza Khan was known, quickly pursued a modernising agenda.

However, during World War II, and despite Iran declaring its neutrality, the Allies suspected the Shah of siding with Germany. As a result, Russia and the UK occupied Iran.

Reza Khan was forced to abdicate and the Allies replaced him with his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlevi.

Power struggles ensued between the Shah and a Qajar aristocrat and intellectual, Mohammad Mossadeq.

Mossadeq was appointed prime minister in 1951 and led a popular campaign for the nationalisation of Iran's oil.

American influence

In 1953 the Shah was forced to flee the country but returned to the throne following a coup sponsored by US and British intelligence agencies in which Mossadeq was ousted. This marked the start of US influence on Iran.

The newly installed Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, pursued his father's social and economic modernisation programme and became the first Muslim leader to recognise the state of Israel. He focused his efforts on consolidating ties with the US as well as his immediate neighbours.

His modern vision of Iran enjoyed some success and the status of women and religious minorities improved. But his reputation was marred by his excesses.

Corruption and cronyism were rife. He repressed political dissent and took power away from the clergy and conservative merchants, fuelling his unpopularity. That he was able to suppress dissent was in no small part due to the loyalty of the army.

Among the Shah's critics was a Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who opposed the Westernisation of Iran and the country's ties to America.

He wished to overthrow the monarchy and replace it with clerical rule. His outspoken opposition led to his forced exile in 1964, but taped sermons continued to be smuggled into the country as Khomeini continued to build on his vision of an Islamic state.

In 1961, Panorama visited the country to ask just how stable and secure the Shah was, as the West's view of Iran's strategic importance continued to grow. 


BBC Persian 2010 coverage on the CIA Coup (Counter Coup?) of 1953 with historian Mashallah Adjoudani and former Imperial Iran's Ambassador to the UK Parviz Radji:

NOTE: Parviz Radji (who has been a harsh critic of the Shah's last years of reign in his 1983 autobiography In the Service of the Peacock Throne, particularly for abandoning Hoveyda to his sad fate) say's the Shah had NOTHING to do with the Coup. See : Ex Ambassador Parviz Radji interview by Cyrus KADIVAR)

Mostafa Tajzadeh: IRI's Former deputy Interior Minister's speech a month before June 2009 elections ( Arrested Since):

Tajzadeh ( his name means "born with a Crown") speaks about all the social Freedoms which existed prior to the revolution 


Related Blogs:


Morocco's King Mohammed VI pledges constitutional reform

ROYAL FORUM: Morocco's Steady Path Towards Democracy


How Truly Democratic And Stable Is The British Monarchy?

Stephen Fry On Why Monarchy Is Imperfect Yet Should Be Preserved


Other Related blogs:


CONSTITUTIONALIST FORUM: Daryoush Homayoun Political and Journalistic life Honored in Germany

HISTORY FORUM: Nader Naderpour on Iran's Constitutional Revolution and European Rennaissance (1996) 



more from Darius Kadivar

The shah

by hirre on

The majority of the people in the world (including iranians) and also historians/schoolars agree that the shah did not enable political pluralism in practice. Even in the interview that shah wants to control "alternatives" ("if they mean liberal freedoms, we have it")... This was also the case of all political parties during his regime. They all were more or less shah-supporters and the funny thing was that even though they supported the shah, he got more confused and got rid of them at the end...

No matter what goals the shah had, his methods, that is, how he implemented the goals was his ultimate failure. No matter how much you go back and forth in history, the shah will always be a one-man ruler, that's it, there is no nobility in politics...

Maryam Hojjat

Bravo, Tajzadeh

by Maryam Hojjat on

He said what pains Iranians.  They had all freedoms except political freedom.  Now, under IRR/IRI in past 32 yrs not only they did not gain any political freedom but also they lost all their social freedoms.  Down with Akhoonds & Mullahs.

Darius Kadivar

NOTE to admin ...

by Darius Kadivar on

I was not able to embed the BBC Panorama Report in question.

If possible I would Appreciate if you do.

Thank you in advance.