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Interview with Prince Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah of Iran

Wednesday, June 6th, 2001 by Afsané Bassir

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In an interview with "Le Monde", the son of the late Shah of Iran, whose régime was toppled by the Islamic revolution of 1979, characterizes the presidential race of June 8 as "farce elections". The Prince alerts the international community on the necessity to put pressure on the régime in order to bring about fundamental changes. "70 millions Iranians are asking for liberty ", "listen to them!", he concludes.

WASHINGTON, by our special reporter,

Q: First of all, a question on form than substance, What is the appropriate way of addressing you? I ask because, for the big majority of the Iranians outside of the country, you are the Monarch.

A: I am Reza Pahlavi, I leave the choice of the title to others.

Q: How do you judge the presidential election of June 8 in Iran?

A: I don't foresee any change. Once again, the régime intends to manipulate the people while pretending to organize legitimate elections, whereas the Iranians know that it is only a farce process.

Q: But, four years ago, the Iranians participated massively in the elections…

A: I think that the Iranians voted then against the establishment. Mohammad Khatami was elected because he promised reform, that was then, four years has gone by, and there has only been "talk" of a progressive movement. Today the situation is different, because he could not deliver his promises. And, with his position as President, he doesn't have any power, nor does he have any control over the radio or the television. Worse, Mr. Khatami was unable to take firm positions when facing the hard-line elements in the régime. To the slightest jolt, he always aligned himself with the régime.

Q: You often speak of the necessity of a referendum. How do you perceive its fruition ?

A: I think that, to arrive there, it is necessary that the international community begins to put pressure on the régime. For example, the Americans should not consider removing some sanctions against this régime without certain pre-conditions. This applies to the Europeans, who speak of an expansion of the investments in Iran. As a condition, they should ask for certain changes in the modus operandi of the regime, for example: freeing of the students, lifting the censorship on the newspapers and, why not, organizing of a referendum.

Q: How do you intend to convince the Western powers?

A: It is a question of conscience. My role is henceforth to attract attention on the fact that Iranians ask for a democratic solution and that they don't believe anymore in the empty promises for reforms. Outside of the country, my role is one of catalyst facilitating a unity in action. Today, the time has come for those on the left as well as those on the right, republican or monarchist, to focus on this unity.

Q: You claim that you don't represent the former régime and that you represent yourselves...

A: It is true, I don't present myself as the representative of a particular institution but like a catalyst whose goal is the establishment of democracy in his country.

Q: Are you as supported in Iran?

A: I am in constant contact with a lot of people in Iran - people who are within the régime, I'm referring to the pasdarans, the bassidjis – the caretakers of the Revolution, the Armed forces and the clergy – to whom I say: you are not obliged to capsize with this ship that is sinking.

Q: You say that with a lot of confidence…

A: I say it with conviction because I know that the Iranians don't support the régime anymore. In four years, they have learned a lot; because of today's cyber technology, a real tie exists between the Iranians and the rest of the world. I think therefore that the moment for change has come. I evidently think about a transition without violence as we all witnessed lately in Serbia. My concern is evidently that, in that case, the régime opts for violence.

Q: What is your message to the international community?

A: I say, listen to the Iranians. During twenty-two years, you forgot the Iranians, they are close to 70 millions today who hanker for liberty. I say to the west: the oil that flows in your pipelines is not more important than the blood that flows in the veins of Iranians.

Q: With the recession, what, in your opinion, justifies the revolt of the Iranian people in 1979?

A: It is evident that a lot of mistakes and excesses have been committed before the revolution. I don't deny it, on the contrary - there was evidently a lack of political liberty. I don't deny either that the revolt was popular, but those that spearheaded the revolution didn't want this result, Iran has regressed for twenty-two years. I prefer to speak of the future, history will judge what happened in the past.

Q: What political system is best suited for Iran of today in your opinion?

A: The question should be decided by Iranians. What matters for me is the content of the régime which must be based on democratic principles. In this diagram, the form is secondary, a republic or a constitutional monarchy, it does not matter -what counts is that the future régime ought to be democratic.

Q: What would your role be in a republic?

A: One of a committed citizen.

Conducted by Afsané Bassir For Le Monde