After the elected president of Iran was invited by Columbia University to speak on its campus, Columbia University President and Washington Post Company/Newsweek media conglomerate board member Lee Bollinger (http://youtube.com/watch?v=g0JpF07SOo4 ) impolitely attempted to insult his guest by calling him a “petty dictator’ --before Columbia’s invited guest was even given a chance to deliver his speech.
Ironically, the “great dictator” of Iran who was installed by the CIA’s 1953 coup, the Shah of Iran, was awarded an honorary “Doctor of Laws” degree by former Columbia University President (and former member of the Mobil oil company board of directors) Grayson Kirk in February, 1955. The CIA then apparently helped Columbia University’s “Doctor of Laws” honorary degree recipient set up a police state in Iran prior to the 1979 Iranian Revolution. In addition, in July, 1977, former Columbia University President (and former member of the Texaco oil company board of directors) William McGill gave the Shah of Iran’s wife, Empress Farah Pahlavi (http://www.charlierose.com/guests/farah-pahlavi ), a Columbia University presidential citation. So if you’re a Columbia University student who wasn’t able to find an Iranian people’s history course offering in Columbia’s catalogue, following is a capsule people’s history of what happened in Iran between 1953 and 1979 that might interest you:
A CIA employee named Robert Lessard apparently “trained the Shah’s secret police in the techniques of subversion and torture, after the CIA’s overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953,” according to the 1985 book Washington’s Secret War Against Afghanistan by Phillip Bonosky. Four different underground political tendencies, however, still emerged in Iran to oppose the Shah of Iran’s dictatorial regime following the 1953 CIA coup: the traditional Islamic groups; the constitutionalist and liberal groups; the independent left groups; and the Tudeh Party. The constitutionalist and liberal groups drew their support mainly from Iran’s secular middle-class and Iranian government employees. Although anti-communist, the Iranian constitutionalist and liberal groups were anti-imperialist in their politics and advocated semi-socialist economic democratization reforms and the democratic political secularization of Iranian society. Together with the independent left groups and the Tudeh Party, the constitutionalist and liberal groups formed a new underground National Front in the late 1950s.
1960s and 1970s Resistance to Shah’s Regime
The traditional Islamic groups that opposed the Shah of Iran’s dictatorial regime were led by Iranian politicians from the religious Iranian Bazaar merchant class and the Iranian clerical hierarchy. Although they were opposed to the Shah of Iran’s regime and advocated Islamic unity against Anglo-American imperialism in the Middle East, the Islamic religious politicians were strongly anti-communist in their politics and generally hostile to the secular Tudeh Party. In addition to establishing an Iranian government which would more effectively protect Iranian businesspeople from the economic competition of foreign corporations in Iran, the leaders of the traditional Islamic groups in Iran also wanted to create a society in Iran that was governed by the principles of the Islamic religion.
In the Spring of 1960, the Shah of Iran finally agreed to allow a limited amount of political freedom for certain opposition Iranian groups prior to a scheduled Summer 1960 election of a new Majlis/Iranian parliament. As a result, between 1960 and 1963 the National Front opposition group was allowed to be openly active, while the Tudeh Party was still banned from aboveground political activity in Iran. From exile, however, the Tudeh Party’s Central Committee in August 1960 called for a broad united front to be formed to replace the pro-U.S. imperialist regime of the Shah with an anti-imperialist, nationalist democratic regime that eliminated all remnants of feudalism within Iranian society.
The Summer 1960 Iranian parliamentary election of the Shah’s regime turned out to be a fraudulent one. So by May 1961 there were public student-teacher demonstrations against the Shah’s regime in Tehran; and the first public meeting of the National Front in Iran since the CIA’s 1953 coup was held that same month which attracted a crowd of 80,000 Iranians who demanded immediate, honest, democratic elections in Iran. In response to these demonstrations, however, the Shah of Iran’s regime began withdrawing the post-1960 political concessions it had made to the non-left, non-communist and non-Tudeh Party-affiliated groups by the summer of 1961.
To try to decrease the growing popular support for both the legal National Front and the illegal Tudeh Party among Iranian’s landless peasants in the early 1960s, the Shah of Iran’s regime finally instituted a limited land redistribution program. The Shah of Iran’s regime also finally proposed in the early 1960s that Iranian women be allowed to vote in Iranian elections.
In response to both the Shah’s land reform program and the proposal that Iranian women be allowed to vote, as well as to the dictatorial and pro-imperialist nature of the Shah’s regime, however, a widespread religious uprising against the Shah’s regime, led by the traditional Islamic opposition groups who were influenced most by Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini broke out in June 1963. After three days of rioting, this 1963 religious uprising in Iran was crushed by the Shah of Iran’s military in a brutal way, with 600 protesting Iranians killed and 2,000 Iranian demonstrators injured by the Shah’s troops.
Following this June 1963 religious uprising, Khomeini was arrested and then exiled in 1964, first to Turkey and then to Iraq. In addition, the National Front opposition group was again banned by the Shah of Iran’s regime between 1963 and 1978. At the same time, the repression of the underground Tudeh Party activists in Iran continued. As Sepehr Zabith observed in his 1986 book The Left in Contemporary Iran:
“The Pahlavi regime’s suppression of the Tudeh Party was more severe than that of the National Front. While the latter’s activists received short-term imprisonment or were forced into exile (with the exception of Hossein Fatem, who was executed), the regime showed no mercy for Tudeh Party activists or those affiliated with their organization. Forty-two of its prominent leaders—mostly officers—were shot, 14 were tortured to death, and another 200 were sentenced to life imprisonment. Moreover, SAVAK continued to bear down mercilessly on the Tudeh members even after the party ceased to be a major threat.”
Iranian dissidents in the 1970s estimated that between 25,000 and 100,000 Iranians were held as political prisoners in Iran between 1963 and 1978 during the Shah of Iran’s police-state regime.
After 1965, an Iranian New Left of younger Iranian activists also developed which worked for the overthrow of the Shah of Iran’s U.S.-backed dictatorship. Influenced by the Cuban Revolution, the Chinese Revolution and the Vietnamese Revolution, two New Left groups were formed in Iran which waged guerrilla warfare against the Shah of Iran’s regime between 1966 and 1978: The People’s Fedayeen and the People’s Mojahadeen.
Formed by defectors from the outlawed Tudeh Party’s youth group, in 1963 the People’s Fedayeen group was secular and Marxist-Leninist in its political orientation. Its founder, Bijan Jazani and three other former Tudeh Party Youth organization activists, had met while in prison in 1955. In 1966, Bijan Jazani and other People’s Fedayeen leaders concluded that the Shah of Iran regime’s limited land reform program had changed Iranian society internally from one dominated by feudalist Iranian landlords to one dominated by pro-imperialist Iranian businesspeople.
In 1968, the original New Left leaders of the People’s Fedayeen were arrested by the Shah of Iran’s secret police, the CIA-trained SAVAK, and sentenced to a long period of imprisonment. During the 1970s, Bijan Jazani was, subsequently, executed in Iran’s Evin Prison by the Shah of Iran’s regime. Other People’s Fedayeen leaders like Hassan Zarif and Aziz Sarmedi were also murdered while in prison by the Shah of Iran’s regime in the 1970s. Despite the imprisonment and repression of its leaders, however, between 1971 and 1978 membership in the People’s Fedayeen guerrilla group grew to around 2,175. And prior to the early 1979 overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the People’s Fedayeen organized politically effective strike committees in Iran.
The founders of the religiously-oriented People’s Mojahedeen guerrilla group were former members of the non-communist National Front. Its leaders concluded in a 1969 position paper that under the Shah of Iran’s regime:
“Iran was essentially a police state where the armed forces constituted the ultimate power base. The strength and political stability of the regime was based on the effective functioning of its security bases, which were directed by the American Central Intelligence Agency.”
Given this 1969 political analysis’ conclusion, the People’s Mojahadeen group, not surprisingly, decided that the only way to establish a democratic, Islamic-oriented society in Iran was to begin urban guerrilla warfare against the Shah of Iran’s regime in 1970.
Unlike the People’s Mojahadeen, the People’s Fedayeen generally waged guerrilla warfare in rural areas of Iran, not in Iran’s cities. But both the People’s Fedayeen and the People’s Mojahadeen guerrilla groups held U.S. imperialist government policies responsible for the political repression and mass poverty that existed in Iran under the Shah’s regime.
Aboard, during the late 1960s and 1970s Iranian students who were members of the Confederation of Iranian Students, which has been founded in the mid-1960s, also organized protests against the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran’s dictatorial regime. When the Shah of Iran’s wife, Empress Farah Pahlavi (http://www.charlierose.com/guests/farah-pahlavi ), was given the Columbia University presidential citation award by former Columbia University President McGill in 1977, for instance, a large anti-Shah protest in Manhattan led by foreign students from Iran who wore masks (to avoid being identified by SAVAK agents) was organized by the Confederation of Iranian Students’ local members.
Mass opposition in Iran to the Shah of Iran’s dictatorial regime grew rapidly during the late 1970s. Yet the Democratic Carter Administration continued to provide support for the Shah of Iran’s regime during 1978, when the Shah of Iran tried to retain political power in Iran by ordering his troops to shoot down unarmed Iranian civilian demonstrators who dared to protest against his pro-imperialist Iranian police state. Over 60,000 Iranian civilian demonstrators were killed and about 100,000 Iranian civilian demonstrators were wounded and disabled in 1978 by the Shah of Iran’s troops before the people of Iran were finally able to overthrow the Shah of Iran’s regime on February 12, 1979.
The preamble to the October 24, 1979 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran described how the people of Iran were able to create the 1979 Iranian Revolution:
“….The employees of all government establishments took an active part in the effort to overthrow the tyrannical regime by calling a general strike and participating in street demonstrations. The wide-spread solidarity of men and women of all segments of society and of all political and religious factions, played a clearly determining role in the struggle. Especially the women were actively and massively present in the most conspicuous manner at all stages of this great struggle. The common sight of mothers with infants in their arms rushing towards the scene of battle and in front of the barrels of machineguns indicated the essential and decisive role played by this major segment of society in the struggle.”
In response to the large pro-democratization demonstrations in Iran in 1978, the Shah of Iran’s regime also agreed to release some of its Iranian political prisoners before it finally collapsed on February 12, 1979. About 200 members of the People’s Mojahadeen group, for instance, were released from prison in the summer of 1978.
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