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Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

From Academic Kids

His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (Persian: محمدرضا شاه پهلوی) (October 26, 1919July 27, 1980) holder of the deferential title Aryamehr ("Light of the Aryans"), was the last Shah of Iran, ruling from 1941 until 1979.

Contents

Youth, Education, and Family Background

Mohammad Reza was born in Tehran, Iran to Reza Pahlavi the reigning shah, and his second wife Tadj ol-Molouk (18961982). Young Mohammed attended Institute Le Rosey, a Swiss boarding school and the Military College in Tehran.

His father, Reza Pahlavi, (18771944), had risen from the post of Minister of War to that of Prime Minister, before he was elected by the National Assembly (parliament), also known as the Majlis of Iran, as Shah of Iran in 1925, starting the Pahlavi dynasty.

Prior to Reza Pahlavi's ascension, the kingdom of Iran had been feeling the gradual encroachment of two expanding empires: Russia and Britain. In the nineteenth century, Russia had annexed the northern part of Iran, which came to be known as Tajikistan. Britain, meanwhile, began to exercise increasing influence over the south of the country through its control of India, a traditional trading partner; and domination of the Iranian oil industry. British foreign policy emphasized adroit diplomacy backed by military might to ensure the privileged treatment of British interests in the country, and Britain imposed humiliating restrictions on Iranian sovereignity. Reza Pahlavi sought to decrease this influence by reaching out to other European powers such as Italy and Germany. Ironically, instead of decreasing British and Russian influence, this policy only provided new impetus for continued interference in Iranian affairs and proved Reza's undoing: in 1939, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began.

Reign of Mohammad Reza

Deposition of his Father

In 1941, Germany invaded its former ally, the Soviet Union, which quickly re-allied with Britain. Concerned that Reza Shah was about to align his petroleum-rich country with Germany, the British and the Soviets occupied Iran and forced Reza to resign in favor of his son. Iran became a major conduit for British and later American aid to the USSR. This massive supply effort became known as the "Persian Corridor", and marked the first large-scale US involvement in Iran.

Counter-coup and consolodation of power

At the end of World War II, political unrest dogged Iran and in 1953 the nation's nationalist prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, forced the Shah to flee the country. He was quickly escorted back to power and fired Mossadegh through a counter-coup, led by General Fazlollah Zahedi, which was supported by the American CIA and Britain's SIS (MI6).

With Iran's great oil wealth, Mohammad Reza Shah became the pre-eminent leader of the Middle East, and Guardian of the Persian Gulf. He abolished the multi-party system of government so that he could rule through a one-party regime in autocratic fashion, which he claimed was a response to the Soviet Union's support of Communist uprisings, through Iran's leftist Tudeh Party. The Shah authorized the creation of the secret police force, SAVAK, infamous for its ruthless persecution of dissidents. He made major changes to curb the power of certain ancient elite factions by expropriating large and middle-sized estates for the benefit of more than four million small farmers. In what was called 'the White Revolution', he took a number of modernization measures, viewed as populist by some commentatators, including extending suffrage to women, to favour the people. He instituted exams for Islamic theologians to become established priests ("mullahs"), which were widely unpopular and broke centuries-old religious traditions.

His policies led to strong economic growth during the 1960s and 1970s but at the same time, opposition to his autocratic rule increased. On January 16, 1979 he and his family were forced to flee Iran a second time following a year of extreme turmoil and public protests leading up to the Iranian revolution. Following the Shah's departure, conservative Muslims — led by the Ayatollah Khomeini who had returned from exile from France — staged a revolution, abolished the monarchy, and established an Islamic Republic.

Exile and Death

The exiled monarch, suffering from unfavorable propaganda spread by a network of the Ayatollahs and the KGB, had become unpopular in much of the world and travelled from country to country in his second exile seeking what he hoped would be a temporary residence. First he went to Egypt, and got an invitation and warm welcoming from president Anwar el-Sadat. He later lived in Morocco, the Bahamas, and Mexico. But his non-Hodgkins lymphoma began to grow worse, and required immediate and sophisticated treatment. Reluctantly, President Jimmy Carter allowed the Shah to make a brief stopover in the United States to undergo medical treatment. The compromise was extremely unpopular in Iran, where the new regime vilified the Shah and demanded his return to Iran to face trial and execution. This resulted in the Iran hostage crisis. Once the Shah's course of treatment had finished, the American government, eager to avoid further controversy, pressed the former monarch to leave the country. He left the United States and lived shortly in Panama. Finally he went back to Egypt where he died in Cairo on July 27, 1980. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is buried in the Mosque of ar-Rifai in Cairo, a mosque of great symbolic value. The last royal rulers of two great ancient empires are burried here, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran and King Farouk of Egypt. Baksheesh is required to view the tombs of the royals, which lie off to the left of the entrance.

Wives and children

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was married three times. His first wife was Princess Fawzia of Egypt (born November 5, 1921), a celebrated beauty of her day, daughter of King Fuad I of Egypt and his second spouse, Nazli Sabri, and a sister of King Farouk I of Egypt. They married in 1939 and divorced in 1948 after her failure to produce an heir to the throne (although later she did in fact have a son with her second husband). Fawzia was extremely unhappy at the Iranian court and longed to return to Egypt, which she did shortly before the forced abdication of her brother and the abolition of the Egyptian monarchy. They had one daughter, Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi (born October 27, 1940).

His second wife was Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiari (June 22, 1932-October 26, 2001), daughter of Khalil Esfandiary Bakhtiari, Ambassador of Iran to the Federal Republic of Germany, and his German wife, Eva Karl. They married in 1951 and divorced in 1958 when it became apparent that she could not bear children. Given the title Princess Soraya of Iran after the divorce, she briefly debuted as a film actress, appearing in the 1965 movie "Three Faces of a Woman," and became mistress of its Italian director Franco Indovina, 1932-1972.

The Shah's third wife was Farah Diba (born October 14, 1938), daughter of Sohrab Diba, Captain in the Imperial Iranian Army, and his wife, Faredeh Ghotbi. They were married in 1959, and Farah was created Shahbanu, or Empress, a title created especially for her. Previous royal consorts had been known as "Malekeh" (Arabic: Malika), or Queen. Farah Diba bore him four children:

  1. Reza Pahlavi II, the Crown Prince (born October 31, 1960)
  2. Farahnaz Pahlavi (born March 12, 1963)
  3. Ali Reza Pahlavi (born April 28, 1966)
  4. Leila Pahlavi (March 27, 1970June 10, 2001)



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