Ethnic Cleansing and Dictatorship vs. Pluralism and Democracy:

A Critique of Ethnic Policies of Pahlavi and Islamic Fundamentalist Regime

Masoud Kazemzadeh, Ph.D.

Published in Khaneh: Iranian Community Newspaper (2004)


In the process of modernization, many polities encounter numerous issues and problems. One is the actual and cultural articulation of nationhood in the process of the creation of a “nation-state.” One policy is what was embraced by Adolf Hitler in Germany, Reza Mirpang Pahlavi in Iran, and Slobodan Milosevic in former Yugoslavia. This requires the identification of only one group as the sole owner of a country and the elimination, marginalization, or subjugation (physical, cultural, etc) of all other groups. Hitler designated the Aryans, Reza Mirpang and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi the Persians, and Milosovic the Serbs as the sole owner of his “nation-state.” [1] 


Each then instituted harsh discrimination against the others. This method requires a brutal dictatorship not only to eliminate and oppress the other groups but also all those in the designated dominant group who are liberal, social democrat, and humanitarian who oppose genocide, ethnic cleansing and discrimination.  But what would Iranian democrats do to develop a modern polity? Is ethnic cleansing or genocide the only way to create a modern nation-state or is there a pluralistic and democratic way?  In this essay, I intend to discuss some of the problems with the dictatorial ethnic policies in Iran since 1920s and suggest that we need a different approach if we are to have pluralism and democracy in the post-fundamentalist Iran.


Iranians and Iran have remained a nation and a country in much of the last 2,500 years.  The Euro-centric belief argues that: (1) “nation” is a European construct;  (2) the origins of the nation-state began in Europe after the peace of Westphalia in 1648; and (3) the other constructions of nationhood in the Thirds World are artificial imitations of the Europeans who had colonized them and taught them about the notion of nation.  This Euro-centric perspective has made many to argue that Iranian nationalism is an artificial construction of recent times.  A typical rendition of this argument is Joya Blondel Saad, The Image of Arabs in Modern Persian Literature (Lanham, MD; University Press of America, 1996).   Saad writes that Iranian nationalism is the invention of the 18th and 19th century Europeans,  that Iranians borrowed it from the Europeans, and that Iranian nationalists are anti-Arab racists.


Anyone who is familiar with the pre-Islamic history of Iran, the resistance to the Arab-Islamic conquest of Iran, and the existence of cultural articulation of Iranian nationhood by many including Ferdowsi, the 10th century poet, knows that Saad’s view is clearly mistaken.  Franklin Lewis, of Emory University, in his excellent review of Saad’s book, writes:


This argument I find problematic for a number of reasons.  First, the modern definition of Iran in terms of a linguistic, ethnic, racial and territorial entity distinct from its foreign, and specifically Arab, neighbors appears in fully articulated form in the Shu`ubiyya movement of the 10th and 11th centuries, and indeed much earlier.  The Avesta speaks of the Airyanem Vaeja, the homeland of the Aryan Iranians, and in the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, the sharp distinction between Iran and non-Iran (an-iran)-- rivals and invaders variously associated with mythic, Greek, Turkic, and then eventually Arab and Muslim peoples gives the story its primary contours.  Ferdowsis sense of tragedy over the conquest of Sasanid Iran stems not so much from the religion of the conquerors (Ferdowsi was, after all, Muslim), but because of the nomadic and uncivilized nature of the victorious Arab tribesmen who brought the saga of the Iranian nation to an end.  Ferdowsi curses fate for allowing a superior and glorious civilization, which had withstood the attacks of its enemies since mythopoetic time immemorial, to succumb to barbarian invaders, whom he characterized as lizard-eaters and camel milk-drinkers with overwhelming ambitions on the realm of the Persians (`ajam, itself an Arabic word for the linguistic Other, which however came to inform Iranian self-definition as referring specifically to Persians and Sasanain Iran).



....But the Arab for these poets [Naderpour, Akhavan-e Sales] is not a contemporary living being, he is merely a symbol in the nationalism of nostalgia, formulated already a thousand years earlier in the Shahnameh. [2]


Therefore, the sense of Iranian-ness is very old and is NOT an artificial imitation of Western nationalism in the post-Westphalian world.  The sentiment and ethos of Iranian-ness goes back at least 2,500 years as reflected in the writings of Cyrus the Great and Dariush.  It is also reflected in the resistance Iranians carried against foreign conquest of their motherland in the past 2,500 years.  Despite invasion and colonial subjugation by Alexander the Macedonian, Omar-Arab-Islamic invaders, the Mongols, the Russians and the British in the 19th and 20th centuries, there have been those who resisted and fought for Iran's independence like Babak Khorramdin, Maziar, Yaghob ol Leis Safar, Sattar Khan, Baqer Khan, Dr. Mossadegh, and Dr. Fatemi.


And our history has also witnessed those who collaborated with foreign invaders, opened the gates, guided them through mountain passages, and planes of our country. In the 20th century, one could name the likes of Vosugh ol-Dowleh, Seyyed Zia Tabatabaee, Reza Mirpang Pahlavi, and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who collaborated with foreign colonizers and helped defeat patriotic Iranians and helped subjugate Iran to foreign colonial control. [3]


What is a “Nation”?  What is a “State”?  What is a “Nation-State”?


In common English-language conversation, words “nation,” “state,” and “country” are used interchangeably.  Political scientist, however, provide a more precise definition to these terms in order to better describe and analyze politics.  Political Scientist Ellen Grigsby defines “nation” as: “A nation is a group of people with a sense of unity based on the importance the group attributes to a shared trait, attribute, or custom.  A common language, religion, ethnicity, race, and/or culture are often the foundation of national identity.  Indeed, the very origins of the word nation attest to such foundations, because nation is based on the older Latin word natus (birth), and nations generally consist of people whose sense of unity is based on something shared by virtue of the group into which they are born.[4]


Grigsby defines “state” in the following words: “A state is an organization that has a number of political functions and tasks, including providing security, extracting revenues, and forming rules for resolving disputes and allocating resources within the boundaries of the territory in which it exercises jurisdiction.  That is, states consist of government offices, which have the tasks of providing the ultimate, or primary, security, extraction processes, and rule making within a territory.” [5]


The “nation-state” is generally defined as: “A state structure in which a nation resides and exists (ideally) to protect and promote the interests of that nation.”[6]


In reality there are very few states that are composed of one nation or ethnic group. Human beings have always moved around the globe. Therefore, the term "nation-state" -- if by nation one refers to one ethnic group or one race — is a rare phenomenon. In reality all modern states are multi-national.  Moreover, we observe supra-national entities such as the EU which have emerged that pull together previously organized countries into a unit composed of many "nations."


When we look at the US, or Canada or Switzerland, we observe not one nation, [nation defined as one ethnic group or race or linguistic group], but rather a melting pot of many nations or races or ethnic groups or linguistic groups.


In Farsi, the word mellat [nation] is used in contradiction to "dowlat" [state, government].  There is a huge element of subjectiveness to the definition of "nation" [mellat]. The shared history may be real or mythical. What is very interesting is that history, political culture, and political realities have had a huge impact how words are used in Iran and the U.S.  For example, in Iran the schools that are governmental are called "dowlati" whereas private schools are called "melli." Here the word "melli" refers to what belongs not to the state but rather to the people.  In the U.S., the schools that are private, are called "private school" referring to an exclusive group of people that might exclude and discriminate (e.g., a private Baptist school or a private Jewish school or a private Catholic school or a private Muslim school). But the schools owned by the government are called "public schools" referring to the school belonging to the public and not a private interest.


In Iran, unlike the U.S., we have had terribly oppressive regimes (Qajar, Pahlavi, Islamic fundamentalist) where each was an exclusive group composed of a terribly brutal clique that oppressed and discriminated against the people of Iran (the public). Therefore, our words and terms have come to reflect this huge gulf which exists between the government (under Qajar, Pahlavi, Islamic fundamentalists) on the one hand and the people of Iran on the other.


The term melli, related to the word mellat in Iranian political culture has come to refer to the politics of those who defend the interests of the nation or public against the oppressive state.  And the term melliun to the group of individuals who are melli.  The terms melli and melliun have developed from the time of the Constitutional Revolution (1906) to refer to those who sided with the national interests of Iran which was contra-posed to the king (regarded to be both a puppet of foreign colonial interests and oppressing the nation). Since 1949 the term melliun refers to those in or close to the Iran National Front [Jebhe Melli Iran]. The term melliun can be translated to nationalists, populists, patriots, or democrats.


In Farsi, no clear distinction exists between “dowlat” and “hokomat.”  Both have been used to refer to “state” and “government.”   Perhaps, because of the long experience with totalitarian regimes where one person or one clique totally dominated the state, Iranians did not distinguish the different nature of state and government.  This has caused much confusion in the past decade when the concept of “separation of state and religion” has dominated discourse among Iranian democrats.  Iranians either use the English word “state” to clarify their intention, or increasing use the phrase “sakhtar-e hokomati” [state structure or governmental structure] to refer to what Political Scientists call “the state.”


To become modern was it necessary for Hitler to discriminate and eliminate Jews or gypsies? Was it necessary for Milosevic to discriminate and eliminate Slovens, Croats, Bosnians, Kosovor Albanians? Was it necessary for Reza Mirpang Pahlavi to designate Persian chauvinism as the official state ideology, to replace Iranian nationalism [melli-garaee Irani] with Persian chauvinism, and then to brutally oppress our Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Qashqais, Bakhtiaris....


Was Iran a country with territorial integrity under Safavids? Yes.  Were Safavids Persian? No. Safavids were Azerbaijanis. They did choose Shia Islam and with the force of the sword killed and forced hitherto Sunni Iranians to convert to Shia Islam. Was it necessary to kill and/or convert Iranians to Shia in order to create a “nation-state,” or was there a pluralistic and non-violent way?


The fact of the matter is that our Azerbaijanis defended Iran and Iran's territorial integrity from Russians and Ottomans under the Safavids. Iranians from other ethnic groups lived peacefully in one country. It was Afghans, an Iranian related ethnic group that overthrew the Safavid dynasty.  Under the Qajars, Iranians, whether Persian, Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Bakhtiari, Qashqai, lived in one country.  And it was the Qajars who re-created the modern borders of Iran by fighting against Ottomans and Russians (initially successfully and the later Qajars very badly).


In fact, many of the tribal groups defended Iran's national interests and territorial integrity. For example, the Tangestani tribes fought bravely against British colonizers. Same with the Qashqais and Bakhtiaris.

Ethnic sub-nationalism in Iran is of recent origins and goes back to the resistance to the fascistic polices of the Pahlavis and the Islamic fundamentalists in the past 80 years. The Pahlavi polices of ethnic cleansing and cultural oppression and actual physical elimination and genocide have left many non-Persian Iranians feeling like second-class citizens in our common land of Iran. Kurds and Persians have lived together for over 2,700 years, but the racist policies of the Pahlavis have created so much resentment that at times this has put the territorial integrity of Iran in jeopardy.

Khomeini followed similar policies that were pursued by the Pahlavis, but the lexicon of Persian- ness was replaced by the lexicon of ommat [Shia] Islam. Horrendous discrimination and ethnic cleansing against Azeris, Kurds, Jewish, Bahai, Sunnis, Zoroastrians, Qashqais, and others have occurred in the past 25 years. What have been the policies of Islamic fundamentalists and the ideological and historical contexts of their policies?
Islamic Identity vs. Iranian Identity
Although the Prophet Mohammad and his successors Abu Bakr and Omar used the sword to consolidate their power, nevertheless for most of the Arabs of the Arabian peninsula, Islam was (and is) a genuine home-grown religion and worldview. On the contrary, Islam was violently imposed on the reluctant and conquered Iranians. In the bloody wars of 637-643 AD (Islamic years 15-23), the Arab-Islamic invaders defeated Iranians, killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians, took as war booty thousands upon thousands of Iranian women and young girls and distributed them among their soldiers and sold them in the slave and concubine bazaars of Mecca and Medina, burned libraries in Iran, and made Iranians second-class subjects in their own homeland forced to pay heavy taxes (called jeziah). The fact that Iranians mounted a protracted war is quite significant considering that the Arab invasion occurred in the wake of a particularly painful period of Iranian history.
Iranians were forced to accept Islam in order to escape persecution. Even as Muslims the Iranians were treated as second-class Muslims by their less literate Arab conquerors. The overwhelming majority of Iranians adopted Sunni Islam and were Sunnis until the Safavid dynasty established itself in northwestern Iran (today's Azerbaijan province) and literally through the sword converted hitherto Sunni Iranians to the Shia denomination of Islam beginning in 1501. The only Iranians who are Sunni today are those who lived on the periphery of the Iranian heartland, too far away to have been subdued by the Safavid kings (i.e., Baluchis, Turkoman, and half the Kurdish population living either in the mountainous region or located in places that came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire at one time or another).
For the people of the Arabian Peninsula Islam is a genuine reflection of their values and mores. In Iran, Islam is the ideology of the invading foreign colonizers. Both Iranian nationalism and culture are in constant tension with Islam (in both Shia and Sunni versions). The Arab-Islamic conquest of Iran was in effect the cultural genocide of Iranians: Iranians lost their independence, sovereignty, culture, alphabet, religion, and mores.
Many Iranians are not aware of the direct role of Imam Ali [First Shia Imam] in encouraging and advising Omar to invade and conquer Iran. Omar the 2nd of the Rightly Guided Caliphs [Kholafayeh Rashedin] asked Imam Ali what should he [Omar] do about Iran. Omar had two primary concerns: (1) Should he [Omar] invade Iran?; and (2) Should he [Omar] lead the invasion force or should he stay back at home in Mecca? In Sermon 145 in Nahjol Balagheh, Imam Ali provides Omar the following advice.
1. Imam Ali tells Omar to invade Iran. That he should not worry about the larger size of the Iranian Army. That Allah wants Arabs to defeat Iran. That in their previous wars, the Muslims did not have the larger army.

2. Imam Ali tells Omar to stay back in Mecca. One reason is that the leader is very important. That if he [Omar] personally led the invading troops, then the Persians will aim at him and kill him and hence will be able to disperse the Arab-Muslim invading army.

The following is from Nahjol Balagheh, Sermon 145. The Shia believe that the words in Nahjol Balagheh are direct words of Imam Ali.
“Spoken when Umar ibn al-Khatab consulted Amir al-Mu’minin about taking part in the battle of Persia.

[Imam Ali says to Omar]:

In this matter, victory or defeat is not dependent on the smallness or greatness of forces. It is Allah’s religion which He has raised above all faiths, and His army which He has mobilized and extended, till it has reached the point where it stands now, and has arrived its present positions. We hold a promise from Allah, and He will fulfill His promise and support His army.

The position of the head of government is that of the thread for beads, as it connects them and keeps them together.  If the thread is broken, they will disperse and be lost, and will never come together again. The Arabs today, even though small in number are big because of Islam and strong because of unity. You should remain like the axis for them, and rotate the mill (of government) with (the help of) the Arabs, and be their root. Avoid battle, because if you leave this place the Arabs will attack you from all sides and directions till the unguarded places left behind by you will become more important than those before you.

If the Persians see you tomorrow they will say, “He is the root (chief) of Arabia. If we do away with him we will be in peace.” In this way this will heighten their eagerness against you and their keenness to aim at you. You say that they have set out to fight against the Muslims. Well, Allah detests their setting out more than you do, and He is more capable of preventing what He detests. As regards your idea about their (large) number, in the past we did not fight on the strength of large numbers but we fought on the basis of Allah’s support and assistance.” [7]
Iranians can and do rely upon many sources of cultural identity which are not Islamic. For example, Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, which is widely regarded to be equal to, if not superior to, Homer's Iliad, is memorized and recited by literate and illiterate Iranians alike. The works of Omar Khayyam, Hafez, and Saadi are cultural icons for the Iranians. Iran has a long history of scientific achievement. For example, Razi (865-925 A.D.) known in the West as Rhazes, and Ibn Sina (980-1037 A.D.), known in the west as Avecina, made major scientific contributions to world civilization. Razi compiled the first medical encyclopedia in history (more than twenty volumes). Ibn Sina recognized the contagious nature of some diseases. Ibn Sina's Canon of Medicine (al-Kanun) "was the chief medical book of the Middle East and Western Europe from the twelfth to the seventeenth century." [8] Ferdowsi, Khayyam, Hafez, Saadi, and Razi were declared a mortad (one who commits blasphemy and, therefore, should be killed) by their contemporary Islamic clerics.
After coming to power, the fundamentalists started a massive attack on "Iranian identity" and attempted to replace it with an "Islamic identity" for the people in Iran. For the fundamentalists, "ommat Islami" [Islamic community] is the only true source of identity and nationalist allegiance is false and anti-Islamic. In a recent interview on the reason why the fundamentalist leaders attacked Iranian identity, one of the experts from the fundamentalist regime said: "...some of the fundamentalist leaders believed that by accepting the genuineness of Iranian identity and giving legitimacy to Iranian civilization, it was possible to undermine and hurt the legitimacy and credibility of the Islamic identity." [9]

Since the 1979 revolution, fundamentalist leaders have de-emphasized, banned, or maligned these icons of Iranian civilization in the state media and school textbooks. [10] Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali, the infamous "hanging judge" who was one of the closest associates of Khomeini, organized a group to bulldoze Ferdowsi's tomb in Tus near Mashhad. Only the intervention by then-Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan and his entire cabinet (which was composed of liberal Islamists and secular liberal democrats) prevented Khalkhali from carrying out this plan. The fundamentalist assault on "Iranian identity" and their attempt to replace it with "Islamic identity" backfired within one generation. This has given rise to a "crisis of identity" among young Iranians who have in large numbers abandoned Islamic identity and have embraced Iranian identity more than any time in Iran's recent history. Every year, the fundamentalist regime has to send its coercive apparatuses to suppress the youth celebrating pre-Islamic Iranian celebrations such as Chahar-Shanbeh Souri. The Supreme Leader has repeatedly condemned and ridiculed these pre-Islamic celebrations as pagan fire-worshiping rituals.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
On the other side of those who advocate and implement discrimination and genocide are those who advocate separatism. In reaction to the ethnic cleansing and discrimination of Reza Mirpang, Mohamad Reza Pahlavi, and Khomeini, there have emerged those in the oppressed communal groups arguing that survival requires THEIR "nation-state." Thus the other side of the Pahlavist-Khomeinist mode of oppression has been the demands and feelings for secession and separatism. Foreign powers have abused the sense of injustice and oppression among these discriminated communal groups to undermine the central government and put in jeopardy our territorial integrity. Ethnic cleansing and ethnic separatism are two sides of the same coin.

The fact is that in our history, we have had 2,700 years of wonderful harmony between Kurds [the ancient Medes] and Persians until the rule of Reza Shah who terribly oppressed our Kurdish compatriots, and then Stalin was able to take advantage of their grievances in 1946. Our Azerbaijani compatriots recreated the modern Iran under the Safavids in 1501. The Qajars, a related Turkic group also pushed the Russians out and re-established the current borders. Our Tangestani tribes stood up to the British foreign colonizers and did as much as they could to help the weak, inept, and corrupt central government under Qajars. The Bakhtiari tribes and Armenians defended the Constitutionalists from the combined forces of Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar and Russians in 1911. Same with the Qashqai tribes who repeatedly came to the aid of the central governments and fought against foreign powers.

The British colonizers did manipulate some tribes (including one sub-clan from the Bakhtiari tribe and many Arab tribes) and used them for their own interests. Both Reza Mirpang and Sheikh Khazal served as servants of the UK. There have been many cases where various British government entities supported opposite sides in a war. For example, the Foreign Office, the British High Commissioner in Cairo and the India Office, took opposite sides in the civil war in the Arabian peninsula; where both the Hashemites and Saudis received money, arms, and support from different British agencies! The same was true in Iran. Both Reza Shah and Khazal were traitors to Iran's national interests. Khazal wanted to separate our Khuzestan from the rest of the Iran. In this case Iranian patriots support Reza Mirpang and condemn Khazal.

Reza Mirpang's model almost resulted in Stalin being able to take our Azerbaijan and Kurdestan away from us. Thanks to President Harry Truman, Ahmad Qavam, and the overwhelming majority of our wonderful Iranian-nationalist Azerbaijanis, we were able to defeat Stalin's plan.
In the case of Azerbaijan, melliun (Iranian patriots) condemn Pishevari for his collaboration with Stalin in general and his collaborating with Stalin in separating our Azerbaijan from Iran in particular. Qavam (although in 1952 committed treason because of working with the British against our nationalist movement) but in 1946 did the right thing. While melliun condemn Qavam in 1952, they support his actions in 1946 in defending the territorial integrity of Iran. What is most interesting is that while all these serious crisis were brewing, Mohammad Reza Shah was silent and absent. But as soon as the whole episode was resolved and AFTER the Kurdish forces gave up and surrendered, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi went to Kurdestan and publically hanged the leaders who had already surrendered without a fight. The Shah's brutal savage killings left a legacy of bitterness. The wise policy would have been to forgive the Kurdish leaders and bring them in into a united Iran and share power with them.
Tribalism is a backward form of organization like monarchy, feudalism, and theocracy. We need to have modern forms of organizations like political parties based on policies and platforms. We need to modernize the old and ancient forms of administration and bureaucracies. The question is how to proceed.
One method is the fascistic method of ethnic cleansing and discrimination employed by Hitler, Reza Mirpang, and Milosevic. Another form is the pluralistic and democratic method used in all the multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-national, multi-cultural societies. This task is not easy. But the fascistic model (Hitler, Pahlavis-Khomeinists, Milosevic) has generated continued conflict and, in the case of Yugoslavia, disintegration of that country. Before the racist policies of Reza Mirpang, most of our various groups lived together. It was Reza Mirpang's racist policies that made many of the minorities opt for separatism. We should condemn both the racism of Pahlavis and the separatism of the separatists.

The racist policies of Reza Shah, Mohammad Reza Shah, and Khomeini are responsible for the resentments among various groups. The Pahlavis have left a legacy of discrimination and ethnic cleansing, a legacy continued by Khomeinists. This legacy has reproduced the mirror image among our many communal groups that the only way to be safe from these genocidal policies is to have a "nation-state” of their own.

The policies of the Pahlavi regime and the fundamentalist regime are not polar opposite; rather they are mirror images. The phrase “mirror image” implies similarity of policies in all their essential aspects except on one policy where the two policies are opposite reflections. Whether in their ethnic policies or gender policies or myriad of other essential aspects, the Pahlavi and fundamentalists were quite similar with the difference being the mere reflections.

The defeat of Constitutionalists and the consolidation of power by the highly dictatorial rule of Reza Shah (1925-1941) witnessed two contradictory impacts. On the one hand, independent journals and groups were destroyed. On the other hand, the authoritarian state imposed its conception of identity. Let’s take the example of women’s identity. Reza Shah banned wearing the Islamic hijab and the police were ordered to tear off women’s hijabs and beat them if they came to the streets covering their hair. Under Reza Shah’s rule, women, like other sectors of the society, lost the right to express themselves and dissent was harshly repressed. Khomeini (like Reza Shah) refused to accept the right of women to have their own organizations and imposed his notion of proper identity on women. Khomeini (like Reza Shah) ordered women to do as he wished and ordered the coercive apparatuses to arrest and beat up women who refused.
Under the Pahlavis and fundamentalists, the state imposed its version of proper identity from above. The polar opposite of Pahlavist-Khomeinist policies would be pluralism of identity, constitutionalism, democracy, freedom of expression, individual liberties, rule of law, respect for human rights, autonomy of the individual, and civil society. Pahlavi and Khomeinist regimes are different forms of ethnic cleansing and dictatorship. The opposite of these would be pluralism and democracy.
We need to learn the lessons of how Tsarist Russian and then Soviet policies finally ended up in the disintegration of USSR into 15 independent countries. Either we continue the racist and authoritarian policies of the Pahlavis and Khomeinists, or we come up with a new and pluralist policies that would bring all Iranians into a republic that is democratic and where there is no discrimination against any ethnic, linguistic, or religious group.

It is up to those of us those who value the territorial integrity of Iran, pluralism, and democracy to stand up to Pahlavists-Khomeinists and condemn all forms of discrimination against ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. We need to find a formula that all Iranians can live in one country, with our territorial integrity protected, where no one is deprived of their rights to political power, linguistic freedom, religious freedom, and other civil liberties. It is much more preferable to have our Azeri ham-mihanan say “Yashasun Iran” in their beautiful Azeri language than either separate from Iran or be forced into a racist subjugation. Same with all other Iranians.
Democracy and ethnic and linguistic pluralism are compatible. It is not easy, but the answer to our problems and dilemmas are not to follow dictatorial policies of Pahlavists and Khomeinists. Identity is a complex and dynamic process. Members of a society encompass a plethora of identities. In Iran, we have numerous ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. Moreover, some are religiously devout, agnostic, atheist, or mixed beliefs. Some are traditional, some modern, and some a combination. If Iran is to become democratic, we need to condemn the dictatorial policies of the Pahlavis and Islamic fundamentalists, and we need to embrace plurality and tolerance of identities. And most significant of all, to respect the rights of the individual to choose his or her identity or identities and reject the authoritarian ideologies of Pahlavism and Islamic fundamentalism that have imposed their anti-democratic vision on the rest of the population.

Masoud Kazemzadeh, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Utah Valley State College. He is the author of Islamic Fundamentalism, Feminism, and Gender Inequality in Iran Under Khomeini (Lanham, MD: University Press of American, 2002).
[1] On the role of Iranian Nazis in the Pahlavi regime see: Masoud Kazemzadeh, “The Day Democracy Died: The 50th Anniversary of the CIA Coup in Iran,” Khaneh: Iranian Community Newspaper, vol. 3, no. 34 (October 2003). This article can be accessed on the Internet at: { }. On the relationship between Reza Shah and Hitler’s regime and Reza Shah’s fascistic policies against minorities see: Ervand Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), pp. 163-165.
[2] Iranian Studies, vol. 32, no. 1 (Winter 1999), p. 164.

[3] For an excellent brief article see: Ramin Kamran, “Deltangi Baray Reza Shah,” { }. For a detailed account see: Mohammad Gholi Majd, Great Britain and Reza Shah: The Plunder of Iran, 1921-1941 (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2001).

[4] Ellen Grigsby, Analyzing Politics: An Introduction to Political Science, 2nd ed., (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2002), p. 58.

[5] Grigsby, ibid., p. 50.

[6] Steven L. Spiegel, et al., World Politics in a New Era, 3rd ed., (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2004), p. 700.

[7] Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, Peak of Eloquence, Nahjul Balagha, Sermons, Letters and Saying of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, translated by Sayed Ali Reza, introductory notes by Syed Mohamed Askari Jafery, 6th edition (Elmhurst, New York: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 1996). pp. 302-304.

[8]  Don Peretz, The Middle East Today, 5th ed., (New York: Praeger, 1988), p. 39.

[9] Interview with Dr. Jalil SazgarNejad in Roznameh Iran, Tir 25 and 26, 1380 (Iranian calendar) published in Iran, and placed on the internet: { }.
[10] Middle East Watch, Guardians of Thought: Limits on Freedom of Expression in Iran (New York: Human Rights Watch, August 1993), p. 123