The Iranian Monarchists Do Not Represent The ‘Multinational Iran’

January 30, 2023 | By Himdad Mustafa*

Most of the opposition figures and groups want a new democratic republic to replace the authoritarian Islamic Republic. However, it recently made the news that a Persian-led group nostalgic for Iranian monarchy is endorsing exiled Reza Pahlavi, son of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, to “lead a transition” when the Islamic Republic falls. It was also reported that an online campaign was launched to give power of attorney to Reza Pahlavi, who has not yet apologized for the violation of human rights under the cruel Pahlavi dictatorship (1925-1979).

This move was highly criticized, especially by Iran’s minorities. In fact, many Iranians do not think that Reza Pahlavi, the son of a dictator, is the right person to lead a “transition.” He was only 18 years old when he left Iran in 1979 and lived most of his life in the United States. He therefore has no experience ruling a country. Nevertheless, Iranian monarchists seem to insist that Reza Pahlavi is Iran’s sole representative and that monarchy is the only political system that should replace the Islamic Republic. This attitude makes many people believe that the “transitional period” is just a euphemism for “forever period,” just as Ruhollah Khomeini was supposed to be a “temporary” Supreme leader.

Neither The Shah Nor The Mullahs

In early January 2023, for the first time, Reza Pahlavi called on Iranians to give him the power of attorney to represent Iranians. Pro-Pahlavi Persian activists in the West have launched massive online campaigns and hashtags to present Reza Pahlavi as the favored representative of all Iranians from all walks of life.

Between February 17-27, 2022, The Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran (GAMAAN) carried out a survey, titled “Iranians’ Attitudes toward Political Systems.” As reported on the GAMAAN website, the final sample used in the report consisted of 16,850 Iranians living inside Iran, of whom 74.2% speak Persian at home (which may imply that they are ethnically Persian). When asked about their preferred type of government, 34% chose a “secular republic,” 22% the “Islamic republic,” 19% a “constitutional monarchy,” 3% an “absolute monarchy,” and over 21% declared that they are “not sufficiently informed to answer this question.”

However, 53% of those who chose “absolute monarchy” believe that the function of the head of state is not for life, and only 27% of the proponents of “constitutional monarchy” are in favor of “giving life tenure to the head of state.” Finally, 95% of those who chose a “secular republic” are “against life tenure” for the head of state.

Iranian scholar Aidin Torkameh wrote: “If we turn our attention from the mainstream media and focus on what is happening on the ground it appears that the actual presence of the Pahlavists is not significant.” “Their huge propaganda machine has failed to fully reach the masses, and many segments of the masses are actively rejecting it. It is worth noting that even this existing level of support for the old Pahlavi regime should not be taken as the result of an entirely organic process. Most of the pro-Pahlavi protesters are passive defenders of the Pahlavis because alternative views have been eliminated. Their worldview has been largely shaped by, and is limited to, the nation-state-centric (Iranist/Farsist) viewpoint that has developed over the past century,” Torkameh said, adding that “in an open political environment where progressive groups can operate freely, Pahlavi’s supporters are likely to become even less influential.”

This is also reflected in anti-regime protests, as one of the main slogans is “Marg Ba Setamgar, Che Shah Bashe Che Rahbar [Death to the Dictator, Be it Shah or Ayatollah].” This slogan refers to a 120-year-old historical struggle of all the multi-national Iranian groups for freedom against dictatorial regimes that were brought about after the 1905-1911 Constitutional Revolution.

It is worth noting that key figures of the Iranian opposition – such as the president and spokesman of The Association of Victims’ Families of Flight PS752, Hamed Esmaeilion, actress Nazanin Boniadi, and activist Masih Alinejad, as well as political figures and other groups that represent Iran’s minorities – have not endorsed Reza Shah.

London-based broadcaster Manoto TV (known for its “distinctive pro-Pahlavi bent”) recently claimed that Seyyed Nasreddin Heydari, a leader of the Yarsani Kurdish community, has endorsed Reza Pahlavi. However, this news was later refuted, as the source of the endorsement came from a fake Twitter account. Kurdish journalist Kaveh Kermashani commented: “A media that, despite the existence of possibilities, without the least knowledge and research, turns the writing of a fake account into the desired news of its advertising machine, is not only unprofessional but also unethical.”

Labor rights activist group Haft-Tappeh Factory Workers from Khuzistan described the pro-monarchist coalition as a “one-sided, anti-majority, power-seeking group,” and added: “They are irrelevant to our real struggle. The practical leaders of our struggle are ourselves and our imprisoned friends.”

Iran’s Minorities Reject The Monarchy And Its Ideology

The majority of Iranian minoritized ethno-nations have remained very much attached to their ethnic identity, prioritizing their ethnonational identities over Persian-centered “Iranianness.”

Since 1905, the incompatibility of the minority-majority positions has led to heightened tensions that have regularly exploded in deadly and protracted ethnic conflicts. In recent years, Iran has witnessed the rise of ethnonational sentiment that has become a greater challenge for the Islamic Republic and the “pan-Iranists” in the diaspora, as many members of ethnic minority groups such as the Kurds, Balochs, and Ahwazi Arabs increasingly mobilize and push for greater cultural and political rights.

As opposition groups in the diaspora are trying to form alliances to encounter the Iranian regime, suppressed minorities have found themselves marginalized once again as none of the Persian-led opposition groups have publicly addressed minorities’ demands.

Kurdish people in Iran assert that they will not allow another monarchist authoritarian regime to exercise its control over Kurdistan, as they say that there is no difference between the Pahlavi regime and the Islamic Republic. On Twitter, a Kurdish activist, known by the name of Fariba, wrote: “It is time for Kurdish political parties to form a united coalition with Lurs, [Azeri] Turks, Baloch, Gilakis, Turkmen, Arab activists, parties and the leftist forces [i.e., non-monarchist forces] and with all [the forces] that are not represent by Reza Pahlavi.” The user then called on the president and spokesman of The Association of Victims’ Families of Flight PS752, Hamed Esmaeilion, who has expressed his support for Kurdistan, to lead this coalition, saying: “You can be the center of gravity of this coalition, you are both sympathetic and known and reliable among all these peoples, you are a symbol of sympathy and unity for overthrowing the Islamic Republic.”

In response to the online campaign to give power of attorney to Reza Pahlavi, Ahwazi activist Wael Saffah wrote: “The supporters of the monarchy and the centrists once again voted to confiscate the rights of the marginalized nations and went along with tyranny in order to create a future for themselves by concentrating our power and accumulating our looted wealth in the center. This hypocrisy puts the future of the country on a dangerous path.”

Washington-based Ahwazi journalist and activist Rahim Hamid tweeted: “The ethnic non-Persian political and human rights groups are completely marginalized, their voices are censored, and even they are subjected to online bullying and threats and even physical assaults by Shah Pahlavi supporters when attending rallies in London and Washington D.C.” He then added: “The voices and true demands of the current protests in Iran are censored and misrepresented on a large scale by Persian media and Shah Pahlavi supporters. The major demands are the decentralization of Iran’s future rule and the end of the ethnic oppression of non-Persian nations… The current protests’ demands in Iran are not merely on individual civil liberties but the major issue is the cause of marginalized peoples in Kurdistan, Ahwaz, Balochistan, and South Azerbaijan [that] endure brutal ethnic oppression and fight for their national ethnic rights.”

Hamid also stressed: “Fanatic fans of the son of the former despotic Shah Pahlavi… use social media in spontaneous clicktivism, prompting the restoration of Shah’s dark times to Iran. This group expresses their nostalgia towards the Persian nationalist authoritarian rule. They have a clicktivist cyber army that launches online petitions and hashtags in supporting the son of the former dictator Shah. Their campaigns are backed by Persians TV channels. This group of Persian nationalists is rejecting the national and ethnic rights of Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, Balochis, and Azerbaijani Turks.”

On January 20, 2023, during the Friday protests against the Islamic Republic, Balochi protesters showed also their disdain for Reza Pahlavi, showing posters, stating: “Reza Pahlavi is not our representative. Understand we have our own parties,” “Iran is a country of 70 nations. A coalition of parties. One person [referring to Reza Pahlavi] is not an attorney for the whole country. Any coalition of any kind, if it is going to happen, must be formed with all parties,” and “No to Mullah and No to the Shah; No to Pahlavi and No to Rajavi [leader of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK)]; IRGC Terrorists; Freedom.”

A placard held by Baloch protesters reads: “Reza Pahlavi is not our representative. Understand we have our own parties.” (Source: Twitter)

A placard reads: “Iran is a country of 70 nations. A coalition of parties. One person [referring to Reza Pahlavi] is not an attorney for the whole country. Any coalition of any kind, if it is going to happen, must be formed with all parties.” (Source: Twitter)

Baloch protester holds a placard. (Source: Twitter)

* Himdad Mustafa is a Kurdish scholar and expert on Kurdish and Iranian affairs.

Source: Selected sections and excerpts from the article published by MEMRI

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed and language used within the above article are solely the author’s and do not represent the position of CODIR and its Central Executive Council.

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