Sam Ghandchiسام قندچي Myth of Democratic Monarchy for Iran

افسانه سلطنت دموکراتیک برای ایران






Although I have written on numerous occasions that a secular republic in Iran is *not* a guarantee of democracy,  nonetheless, I have always emphasized that a monarchy for Iran *is* a guarantee for despotism, and the myth of democratic monarchy for Iran, by giving examples of Spain or England, can only deceive those who do not understand the Iranian monarchy.


For a while I thought Reza Pahlavi's main intention was human rights in Iran, and not the return of monarchy.  This is why I hoped that he would distance himself from those wanting to bring back Shah's dictatorship, and would *abdicate* the throne, and announce the end of Iranian monarchy. 


I even wrote a defense for his work on human rights, and in an open letter to him, I suggested that he be the first to call for a secular republic in Iran, and initiate a constitution conference for the future, to plan a democratic constitution to avoid another dictatorship, after the fall of Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI).


All my suggestions to Mr. Reza Pahlavi were based on the assumption that he would *abdicate* the throne, and when he did not abdicate, and actually added his reliance on those who want to bring back Shah's despotism, the initiative for forming the unity of Iranian movement passed Reza Pahlavi. 


Around the time of July 9, 2003 (18-Tir anniversary), when there were numerous calls to him from Iranian political activists to abdicate, he just ignored them all, and this is how his dual role for the Iranian movement ended, and since he has been fading away in the Iranian political scene.  It is noteworthy that in contrast, unity *for* a secular republic, and *not* unity of republican, is in progress, and it is having its own leaders.


Reza Pahlavi's talk of referendum proved to be a way to legitimize his quest for return of the Iranian monarchy.  He says people can choose his mythical democratic monarchy in that referendum, and he will abide by it.  Well, if one was going to abide by a referendum, there was one held over 20 years ago, which overwhelmingly discarded the monarchy in Iran.  And if he does not accept that result, why should he accept the result, if monarchy loses again, in another referendum! He can claim again the referendum not to be a legitimate one,  and the saga can continue until the monarchy wins. 


And if monarchy wins in these hypothetical referenda, would monarchy allow the people every few years, to make such a decision again by holding referenda?  In other words, would the monarchy be willing to institutionalize it, that say every four years, people be given a right to decide if they want to keep the monarchy or change it to something else.  If today we argue that those who made the decision in the previous referendum, did not have the right to decide for those who are now living in Iran, and  are eligible to vote, then isn't it reasonable to expect to have such referenda about the system every few years?


I wrote to Reza Pahlavi in my open letter that  if he sincerely believed in democracy and human rights, he should call the end of Iranian monarchy and be the first one to criticize Shah's regime for its violations of human rights, and to condemn Shah's using of Islamists, to offset the victory of the democratic forces of Iran, which is how IRI was created.


The truth of the matter is that these are all political games.  If Reza Pahlavi really believed in being an ordinary Iranian citizen, he would have abdicated the throne a along time ago, to be in the same status as any other ordinary citizen, with the same political rights. People do not go to the poles to decide not to be allowed to elect anymore their leaders anymore.  If Reza Pahlavi be allowed to pass his political office by inheritance, thru this referendum, others can also get such privilege to do so, as it was during feudal times, and in Iran and elsewhere, when many state offices were also hereditary and not just the office of the king.  And from the other direction, why his child should have the right to become a king but the children of others should not have such a right.  What in this rule is equal opportunity of citizens, and selection by qualifications?



How the Myth is Blocking Real Unity of Iranians


Basically Reza Pahlavi's myth of democratic monarchy has blocked the unity for a secular republic in Iran.  This has been the most important factor to impede the progress of formation of the leadership for Iranian pro-democracy movement to remove IRI. 


It is true that anyone is free to think and advocate what they believe, including Reza Pahlavi, who wants to advocate this myth.  But at the same time anyone including me, has a right to show how this diversion is thwarting the change of regime to a democratic secular republic in Iran.  Freedom of speech does not mean that only Reza Pahlavi can have the right to advocate his quest.  Moreover, my critic is not anything personal about him. My discussion is about political issues, that are pertinent to secularism and human rights for Iran's future.


The real nature of monarchy in Iran is not defined by what Reza Pahlavi says about "democratic monarchy", when he is living abroad.  Even Ayatollah Khomeini when living abroad spoke of "democratic Islamism", but later in Iran said democracy is a Western concept and Islam is fundamentally opposed to it.  The reality of monarchy and Islamism in Iran, is independent of what the myth-makers promise.  Iranian monarchy will not become a Swedish monarchy by nice talks and PR (public relations).  In fact, for bad systems, the worst happens to people, when the system is sold, by the words of public relations of a sweet salesmen.


The leading monarchists of Iran, including Reza Pahlavi, in the last 22 years, have never blamed the fall of monarchy on the failure of that system of Savak dictatorship and corruptions.  A system which considered opposing ideas as traitorous and called the opposition as subversives.  They blamed their failure on foreigners, leftists, democrats, and again and a gain blamed their failure on treason and collaboration of some of their generals with mollahs, etc., but never cared to blame the monarchy's Savak, dictatorship, and corruption for its demise.


If one compares the leading Iranian figures associated with the failed Iranian monarchy, with some leading Russian figures associated with the failed Soviet Union, e.g. Yeltsin, it is easy to see how the latter clearly blamed the dictatorial and corrupt communism for the failure and fall of the Soviet system, whereas the former blamed anything else, but despotic system of Iranian monarchy.


Although Yeltsin was part of the central committee of Soviet Communism, he was the first to blow the whistle on its dictatorial and corrupt system. Iranian monarchists with a short phrase of "mistakes have happened" free themselves from talking about the past atrocities of monarchy in Iran and until they do as the x-Soviets did, all of Reza Pahlavi's talks of referendum are nothing, but a tactic to bring the same type of monarchy, back to power in Iran.


Reza Pahlavi is using more liberal-minded monarchists like Prof. Shaheen Fatemi to create a democratic mirage for Iranian monarchy, while at the same time his men announce that he does not have any spokesmen, and continues all these games of double-talk, to use even an honest man like Prof. Fatemi, when those in Reza Pahlavi's *in* circle, are the same old dictators and their progeny, who ran the show during the Shah, and today do not stop making personal attacks, even on people like Prof Fatemi, when they have *political* differences. So if this is how they treat a monarchist like Prof Fatemi, one can guess how others should expect to be treated by these dictatorial forces.


I think that anybody has a right to be a monarchist.  Just like anybody has a right to be an Islamist, and advocate it, but anybody also has a right to be a critic of them and challenge monarchism and Islamism without the fear of being harassed by their henchmen, from Sha'boon Bimokh (a wellknown monarchist thug who now lives in L.A.) to Allah Karam (a wellknown IRI thug who worked with the former during the Shah and now works for IRI).


I have to say what a catastrophe it would be if monarchy ever returns to Iran. The same way that the likes of Sepahbod Zahedi were followed by the likes of Ardeshir Zahedi, the progeny of them are keeping the line of succession in the ranks of Iranian monarchy today although not on the front.



Monarchy and Statism


Current fascinations with pre-Islamic Iran, and the beautiful Iranian cultural heritage, should not make us lose sight of the fact that Iran’s monarchy throughout the Persian history has been one of the main pillars of despotism in the Middle East. 


The predominance of state ownership of water in the past, and state ownership of oil in modern times, is one reason for strength of state central power in Iran. 


Even today with the pressure of the non-centralized forces of different Shia Ayatollahs, the Iranian state has not broken apart, something that quickly happened in Lebanon following the collapse of its previous regime.  This shows the strength of state power in Iran.  The state ownership makes the state in a way the main owner of the country.  It is more the state that pays the people, than people paying the state by taxes.  The state remains the biggest landowner and the biggest capitalist in Iran.


Although Reza Pahlavi has lived in the West for so long, he still has not settled the issue of his own succession when he has daughters and not sons.  One may wonder why he does not take the initiative to change the law of Iranian monarchy to allow women the right to succeed.  The answer is very simple, he wants to keep the image of permanence of monarchy in people's mind, and any change can damage the eternalness of the monarchy state which is what they like to project.


Every time an Iranian dynasty changed, the suitor would act as the Naieb (deputy) of the former dynasty for some time.  Nader Shah did that with regards to Safavids, and Reza Shah did it with regards to Qajars.  Why? Because they do not want the mentality of change to enter the mind of their supporters who should think of it as timeless.  So although changes have been pushed on Iranian monarchy, whether by Iranian people's movements or by the foreign powers, if left by themselves, Iranian kings would not wish any changes in the Iranian social psyche and prefer to project their dynasties with unchanging timelessness.


One may ask the reason of monarchy's emphasis on projecting timelessness?  My answer is that Iran has had many powerful decentralizing forces in its make-up. 


The most prominent one used to be the nomadic tribes (ashAyer), which are still a strong decentralizing element in Iran's social life.  The other force is the enormous number of nationalities and religious minorities, including orders such as Sufis, Izadis, etc.  In modern times, political thought has also grown into a decentralizing element.  I think with the exception of Turkey, Iran has had more types of political groups than all its neighbors.  The leftists were hundred flavors, Muslim activists the same, nationalists the same, modernists (tajadood-garAs) the same way.  Such strong decentralizing elements were controlled by the strength of a powerful central state depicting itself as an unchanging permanence.


Also in modern times, education, health, and social services have been primarily state-owned in countries like Iran, because they have been introduced from above.


As the world standards were being scaled up in these arenas, and following people's pressure from below, the main owner of the country, the state, became the deliverer for such services.  In the case of education, being a *must* for industrial development, the state had no choice, but to make it happen, when Iran entered the partial industrial development, even before Reza Shah, at the time of Amir Kabir.


Monarchy gets its legitimacy from its historical roots of Persian Empires, where their "natural" way to deal with diversity was centralism, although the Persian Satraps of Ancient Persian Empire were more like federalism than centralism of French monarchy, centrist model which was followed by the modern monarchies of Iran.  Central state power is how monarchy moves in the direction of despotism. 


Even more than 20 years after the overthrow of the Pahlavi's, Reza Pahlavi does not even try to fool the opposition abroad, by taking a strong position against the acts of Savak.  Why?  Because Savak was the most suitable organization for despotism of Iranian Monarchy.  The iron beds that were used by Shahpoor-e Zolaktaf of Sasanids were very similar to the torture tools of Savak.  Reza Pahlavi knows that he is going to need those executioners if he comes to power, and thus his window-dressing in the democratic West is very limited.


One may argue that 70% of the above factors are also true for a republic, and my response is that yes that is true, and such a danger exists, and this is why I am very doubtful of using Keynesian economics to design Iran's economic plans, although for a country like Spain, with its European surroundings, and background, I would not be as worried. 


This is why a republic by itself does not guarantee democracy in Iran, and the specifics of the future constitution, and the vigilance of political parties to practice them, are very critical factors in establishing a real democracy in Iran.


The main threat of falling back to monarchy is not just from the monarchists.  Even dynastical republics like Azerbaijan and Syria are a danger to be avoided in the new Iranian constitution. Any sincere monarchist of the past, who claims to care for secularism, human rights and democracy in Iran, as his/her first step, should repudiate any monarchy platform for the future of Iran.



Monarchy and Secularism


As far as the issue of secularism, the dilemma of monarchists is not just the fact that 1906 Constitution, which monarchists support, assumes the Shi'a religion as the official religion of Iran, and accepts the veto of 5 mojteheds (grand Shi'a ayatollahs), as the final say on all laws of the land. 


The monarchists' distance from full secularism is basically due to the erroneous assessment they have of the fall of Shah's regime. 


The monarchists think that Iran had progressed too fast during the Shah, and they think that had been the reason for Shah's fall, and they are taking a step backward in their current plans for Iran's future, especially with regards to the Western values such as secularism, and this is why they try so hard to give concessions to Shi'a ayatollahs and to show their following of Shi'a occasions all around the year.


In short, monarchy is the worst poison to advocate for Iran because it fails to bring about full secularism after the sacrifices people have given to fight the Islamist state all these 24 years.


Iran’s monarchy will never be a Sweden and monarchy is the gateway to open tyranny compromising secularism to block the democratic forces, because monarchy fears real democratic forces and shares this fear with the Islamists who prefer to block the advancement of  secularism.


I have explained the issue of secularism in Iran, in another article, and do not need to get into more details here.



Monarchy and Human Rights


If Reza Pahlavi was honest about his dedication to human rights and democracy, he would have fully condemn the atrocities under the Shah.   Once he spoke good of Dr. Mossadegh about 10 years ago, and some of his associates reminded him not to do that again, and today, when even the Islamic Republic, is disregarding Khomeini's vicious attacks on Mossadegh, and pays respects to Mossadegh’s tomb, Reza Pahlavi is way behind IRI in this charade, because of the limitations of the position of Iranian monarchy in dealing with its atrocities of the past.


Reza Pahlavi should have called the end of the system of monarchy for Iran, which is nothing but the prospect for another era of dictatorship. He should have participated in formulation of a constitution for a democratic republic, to work with others to make sure all the necessary checks and balances are predicted in the future constitution, and in doing so, I am sure the dictatorial forces would have flown away from his surrounding, and some of them would have looked for another king. 


This is how a real unity of Iranians based on the possibilities of the future, and not "glory" of the past, with a real focus on human rights, could have been formed, and not using human rights slogans, to return the despotic monarchy.  The unity of Iranians around Islamism or Monarchism belongs to the pre-industrial past of Iran, and ever since mashrootiat (1906 Constitutional Movement), the advanced forces of Iran,  have called for the unity of Iranians around democracy, civil society, and law and other possibilities of the future, and not the glory of the past Persianism or Shiism


Just saying unity, is not much different from what Khomeini advocated, who talked of unity to use the other forces to remove the regime, without clearly stating *what* regime was planned to replace the removed regime! And a referendum to legitimize monarchy by emotional voting after fall of IRI, is not an alternative, just as it was not in 1979!


The goal is *not* to unite the Iranian *opposition*.  The goal is to *unite* Iranian *people* and any unity with the Monarchists, reduces the chances for uniting the Iranian people, who see the reality of Iranian monarchy to be a powerful anti-human rights system.  The majority of *Iranians*, and not the *British* or *Swedish* or *Spanish* people, want a secular republic with respects for human rights.  Iranians are not looking for a Juan Carlos.


Iranians do not want to pay for a figure-head.  We want *accountable* positions, and are tired of the figure head games which Khatami and Khamaene'i have played, when questioned on human rights violations, and they have played the game better than all constitutional monarchies, which for better or worse, we never had under the Pahlavis. 


Reza Pahlavi could have pulled up his sleeves and started democratic organizations in the US, where he lives, to show if he is capable of creating any democratic organization, before Iranian people would trust him as an ordinary citizen for a *democratic* leadership of the whole Iran.  Abdicating the throne would have shown if he had the confidence to do it on his own.  But he decided to keep his position as a future king and just talk of human rights and referendum to legitimize his bid for the return of the monarchy.



Reza Pahlavi and the U.S.


True that nobody stops those royalists in France, to call themselves constitutional monarchists 200 years after the fall of monarchy, and the two constitutional monarch candidates of Iraq, can dream on as long as they want, but if US and UK try to push such a so-called constitutional monarchy on Iranian people, they will only get back the hate of Iranians, the hate Iranians had for US and UK all during the Shah's time.


Iranian pro-Democracy activists do not want to become the launch pad for Pahlavi Dynasty to get back to the throne, and then Pahlavis' only loyalty again to be to their foreign masters, who bring them back to power, and to the Savakis who kill and murder for the monarchy, and have never had any respect for human rights. 


The Iranian people and freedom-fighters who have been killed by IRI all these years, for speaking up for democracy and human rights in Iran, will then become the morgheh aza va aroosi (chicken of both funeral and wedding), and will go back to Evin prison, and the first to kill them will be the Savakis of the Pahlavi monarchy, who are even making threats to pro-Democracy activists abroad right now, in meetings and forums, before they have even returned to power again. 


Reza Pahlavi all these years avoided to create an organization abroad, because if it turned out to be a dictatorial organization, it would be written on his record. But how does he want the people to trust him with the organization of the whole country of Iran, when the only record of Pahlavi's organization is that of Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Shah, which was a complete despotic political organization of the country.  


We do not want a constitutional monarch.  Even as late as April 1977, there was a chance for the Shah to become a constitutional monarch, when in his speech, he said "people I have heard your voice". But a few months later, he ordered a military government and shot the demonstrators on the street. People go for moderating a monarchy when it exists, not twenty four years after its fall.  It is time to ask the United State government to announce in no uncertain terms that U.S. forces are not going to be the launch pad for Reza Pahlavi to come back to power in Iran. 


RP has stopped even responding to Iranian democratic forces, that have repeatedly asked him to hear us, that we do *not* want the return of monarchy, and until he *abdicates* the throne, he has no right to speak on behalf of Iranian people whose human rights have been violated by both the monarchy and IRI. 


Reza Pahlavi does not respond to the Iranian intellectuals, the same way Shah always ignored to hear our voice, and finally the people had to come out with their feet to the streets, to say that they do not want his system. 


Is Reza Pahlavi hoping for the U.S. help like the Shah, and then when failing, is he going to blame the U.S. again, rather than himself,  for not responding to the call of Iranian intellectuals, before the situation gets more critical?  Is he thinking the U.S. press and officials are going to make the change in Iran, or he believes in the Iranians, and if the latter then why doesn't he spend his time to answer to Iranians who have repeatedly asked him to abdicate the throne?


Many factions of monarchists have already left the monarchy platform, and have called for conservative republican political parties based on free market economy, but Reza Pahlavi is listening more and more to dictatorial shahollAhis, who are the reason why Iran is where it is today.


Pahlavi Dynasty is not a theoretical academic issue for Iranians.  It is a symbol of despotism.  Even today, the whole complain of Iranian people about IRI has been the fact that VF (Valie-Faghih) and GC (Guardian Council) under IRI act like offices of monarchy, and people even call the VF Khamene'i as the new Shah, to show their dissatisfaction with IRI. 


This is what the connotation of monarchy and Shah is in Persian.  In other words, the word new Shah people use for Khamene'i, is to show their hate for the unelected VF position,  then how could people want the return of monarchy, when their main opposition to IRI is the partial monarchy of VF position  of Khamene'i. 


Therefore to any honest observer of Iran, it is obvious that Iranian people do not want the return of monarchy.  How can this obvious fact be hidden from the eyes of U.S. experts.  Reza Pahlavi is after his vested interest of returning Pahlavi monarchy to the throne, with the U.S. help, and he tries to use a formula of referendum for republic vs monarchy to deceive people, and this fact has actually turned off the people from even supporting the referendum slogan. 


Shah's former Savaki beneficiaries are writing their dreams of return of monarchy for Iran, and a few U.S. officials may still believe them, but the reality is that such dreams are nothing but nightmare for the Iranian people, and the fear of people from any such eventualities has helped IRI to stay in power all these years.



Reza Pahlavi's Dual Role Tactic Not Working Anymore


Ever since Reza Pahlavi  chose a new tactic of a dual role of calling himself a private citizen, while not abdicating as the inheritor of Iran's Pahlavi throne, he created a confusion  for both republicans and monarchists, but at the same time he created a unique role for himself in the Iranian opposition movement by choosing this new tactic, whereas before this tactic, he was not of any significance in the pro-democracy movement of Iran..   He started speaking about human rights abuses in Iran, and about serving Iran's pro-Democracy movement, and abiding by people's decision in a referendum regardless of whether Iranians choose a republic or a monarchy.  Nonetheless he still kept his title to the throne. 


The reason the movement finally stopped to respond to Reza Pahlavi's dual role, was when on the anniversary of 18-Tir around  July 9, 2003; numerous organizations and leading figures of Iran's opposition asked RP to abdicate, if he was sincere in calling himself a private citizen, and Reza Pahlavi ignored all their calls, and took the high ground of repeating the etehAd (unity) slogan without even responding to the critics. 


Let me also note that many of the so-called Iranian monarchists are really neither monarchist nor political, and are basically former technocrats, the same way many Iranian singers abroad are artists of Shah's time and are erroneously referred to as monarchists, and they have more in common with the secular republican opposition, than with the dictatorial forces of Reza Pahlavi's *in* circle, the ones who want to bring back Mohammad Reza Shah's despotic regime.


These technocrats were *not* political intellectuals, albeit the pro-Shah ones, but were and *are* simply the technocrats of the time of the Shah, who shared only the economic and technical aspirations of the Shah's time, and at best tolerated the repressive political system of Shah's monarchy, including its Savak.  They were technocrats who were thrown out of the system with Shah's regime falling apart and in fact, they share with the political intellectuals of Iran, the desire for a modern system in Iran. 


In other words, as far as Iranian *political* intellectuals are concerned, they have all been republican all these years, although some being futurist, democrat, secular, liberal, socialist, religious, or other shades of the political spectrum.  Except for a very small handful of Savak functionaries, there are no one political intellectuals asking for *return* of the monarchy.


Return of monarchy, calling it constitutional party or RP party, *means* nothing but return of *past* monarchy, because *past* monarchy is the *only* platform for monarchy.  We do not know of any individual or group or family striving for start of a *new* monarchy in Iran. 


To summarize, what made Reza Pahlavi special, is what he did for over five years, when approaching the movement not as the next king, but sitting between two seats as a king and a private citizen.  This new strategy helped him to ascend in the opposition's leadership role and it is ironic that those who were responsible for this successful strategy, seems like are no longer in his *in* circle.  In the previous years prior to the dual role, just calling himself the next king, Reza Pahlavi failed to gain any status in the Iranian opposition.  Reza Pahlavi's dual role ended in July 2003, when he did not respond to the calls of main political activists of Iran to abdicate, if he was sincere in calling himself an ordinary citizen.  Reza Pahlavi, instead of abdicating, reinforced the shahollAhis in his *in* circle. He is now back to those days of his single role and is rapidly fading from the leadership of Iranian pro-democracy movement.




Unity for a Secular Republic

Not Unity of Republicans


In sum, as shown above, it is a proven fact that Iranian monarchy will *not* be democratic and the myth of democratic monarchy is just used to return the despotic monarchy.


The reason I call for a secular republic in Iran is not because of having any illusion of thinking such a republic would guarantee democracy in Iran.  On the contrary, anyone knowing Turkey and similar dictatorial secular republics can witness that such an illusion is very far from the truth.


In other words, with the monarchy, we will surely have despotism but with a secular republic, we may end up in a democracy or in despotism, depending on how we handle the constitution and the practice of implementing it.


This is why I emphasize that people should make sure that our secular republic does not end up in a dictatorship and thus the need for a thorough work on the constitution of future secular republic of Iran, to create a democratic blue print to strive for, as well as cultural and social work to maintain democracy in Iran. 


The above is the reason why I *oppose* the programs of unity of republicans of Iran, which is *not* the same as unity for a secular republic,  because many of the current republicans of Iran, are neither for democracy nor for secularism. 


In contrast many of those ranked as so-called monarchist, are now forming new republican groups, with free market economy and secularism in their platforms,  and they are the ones who will be the real allies for in the unity for a secular republic and not many of the mellimazhabis, who are not even thorough republicans and are busy making deals with the Iranian monarchists.  Deals that are compromising secularism in the post-IRI regime.



Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi

December 25, 2003




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