A note by Ali Afshari , Tuesday 12/1/15
Translation by Iran Press Watch
Baha’i News Magazine (Modaaraa) – Recently an Iranian TV station has been showing a series called “The Mystery of the Shah”. Aside from the poor production and bad acting of most characters, this film strongly expresses invalid points and distorts contemporary historical facts beyond imagination. It was expected that an Islamic Republic TV series depicting the life of Reza Shah Pahlavi would not portray him favorably and would include governmental propaganda and falsification of the current history of Iran. However, the content and caliber of these ridiculous accusations and the distortion of the realities has been raised to an extraordinary level. Those commissioning this series have not only insulted the intelligence of both the younger and older generations of Iranian society, but also in essence have ridiculed and humiliated the Iranian Revolution and the leaders of Islamic Republic. There is no glory in triumphing over such cowardly, ignorant puppet rulers as they portray in this series.
One of the pivotal propaganda points in this TV series is the accusation that Baha’is are affiliated with Great Britain, and the role Reza Shah supposedly played in supporting them! In one part, the future Shah Mohammad Reza conveys to his father, Reza Shah, the concerns of Hussein Fardoost (The Shah’s confidant) to be mindful of the sensitivity of Muslim clergy toward Baha’is. In response, Reza Shah is made to state: “Do not pay attention to his concerns, as Baha’is have rendered services to us! We will protect them.”
The producers who spent a fortune on this false scenario did not bother to keep in mind the conversation between Ayatollah Khomeini and the Shah in the latter’s early days of ruling. In 1946, on the order of Grand Ayatollah Borujerdi, Khomeini met with the Shah to request a royal pardon for the murderers of several Baha’is in the city of Abarqu .
The Shah replied that as a constitutionally elected monarch he did not have a right to do so. An argument ensued and, according to the narrative of Ayatollah Dr. Mehdi Haeri Yazdi, Khomeini persuaded the Shah to oppress Baha’is. He recounted to Haeri: “Yes, I reminded His Highness that Reza Shah, his late crowned father, had this misled group tied up in stables!”
Contrary to the false claims proposed in this TV series, Baha’is did not live a better life under the rule of Reza Shah. Their rights as a minority religion were not recognized. They were under pressure. By order of Reza Shah, schools that were run by Baha’i owners and principles, even though they were not teaching Baha’i ideology, were shut down in 1934. That is n thoughev these schools were among the most progressive schools, and had not faced any problems at the time of the Qajar kings. Temporary commotions would ensue but subsided soon after.
Another strict policy of Reza Shah was to punish Baha’is who, in observance of their religious holidays, closed their shops. The punishments included paying hefty fines, imprisonment and even banishment. Under his reign, there were many cases of the mass killings of Baha’is in Iran. At the time of Mohammad Reza Shah, the condition softened a bit for Baha’is; however, they still faced discrimination, and the new government had no plan of easing up on them. In 1954, an anti-Baha’i progrom throughout the nation started under the rule of the Shah that culminated in the deaths of some Baha’is, as well as the demolition of their House of Worship in Tehran and confiscation of their belongings. Several Baha’is who had governmental positions lost their jobs. In later years certain Baha’is held higher positions in socio-economical bureaus and offices, and the oppression eased up a bit. However, these promotions were not due to their religious beliefs. The claim that Abbas Hoveyda, the Shah’s Prime Minister for 13 years, was a Baha’i is baseless, as he repeatedly confessed to be a Muslim to the end of his life. (A fundamental tenet of the Baha’i religion is that they are not allowed to dissemble their faith.)
The allegation of Baha’is playing a role in bringing Reza Shah to power is clearly a major calumny. Those who know anything about the coup on 22 February 1921, the confrontation of Reza Shah with Ahmad Shah Qajar failed in an attempt to form a republic. The eventual formation of the Constituent Assembly and dethronement of the Qajar dynasty testifies to how baseless these allegations are.
Of course, the Pahlavis were not anti-Baha’i per se; however, they did not treat them favorably either.
2. For a detailed description of the incident, see the 2011 dissertation of Aaron Sealy, “IN THEIR PLACE”: MARKING AND UNMARKING SHI’ISM IN PAHLAVI IRAN, p. 116-119, here: http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/86360/asealy_1.pdf?sequence=1