Thursday, October 02, 2008

Reza Shah, The Saviour of the Constitutionalist Revolution

Dr. Mashallah Ajudani is an acclaimed Iranian researcher and historian, a former Iranian university lecturer and a former member of the scientific committee of Isfahan university for almost seven years. After the so called cultural revolution in the Islamic Republic, he was one of hundreds of secular university lecturers who were eventually intellectually cleansed from Iran's universities in the years after.

Having been forced to flee Iran, Dr. Ajudani settled in London, where he is now the director of the Library of Iranian Studies in Acton. The Library was set up and is run entirely by donations from the Iranian community in UK. It has more than 20,000 books and manuscripts and busts of key figures of Iran's rich cultural heritage sculpted by Iranian sculptor, Mahmoud Mohammadi, provide an extra sense of pride and joy to Iranian ex-pats who visit the library.

During his youth, Ajudani was swept by the Marxist ideology which had gripped the young Iranian intellectuals at the time and spent five years in prison under the Shah as a sympathiser of the Fedayeen Khalq Marxist guerrilla organisation. In prison he met many of the major Iranian dissidents at the time and he was dismayed at their superficial knowledge of Iran's history and society.

He has researched and written many books in exile on Iran's contemporary history. His first book, Iranian Constitutional Revolution and the Antecedents to the Velayat Faqih Theory, is now a text book in contemporary Iranian history and very popular and influential amongst the university students inside Iran.

In his book, Ajudani brilliantly demonstrates how Iran suffered from two dictatorships, a political one and a religious one, and while the Iranian intellectuals targeted the political dictatorship in the country, they often ignored or simply dared not to tackle the much more repressive and deep rooted religious repression which made it impossible for any true long lasting political emancipation and ultimately led to the tragic 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Dr. Ajudani often comes across as curt and temperamental, he does not suffer fools gladly and doesn't have time for the customary Iranian adulation and flattery but in terms of his vast knowledge, expertise and first hand knowledge of the Iranian society, there are not many I know who can match him. Its a shame that he is not better known amongst non-Iranian circles and the think tanks, for if he was, the likes of pseudo Iran experts like Vali Nasr, Ansari, Setareh Sabety, Soraya Sepahpour, Elaheh Rostami, Peoples(?) Baroness Afshar and such like, mostly offsprings of the former regime's political figures by the way, would never dare raise their heads in public as Iran experts.

In a recent interview with the Iranian website, gooyanews, Ajudani courageously names Reza Shah, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, as the champion of Iran's constitutional revolution that took place 100 years ago. Reza Shah has been the bogey figure for the Iranian Left and he is often accused by them for having 'terminated' the democratic aspirations of the constitutional revolution. Ajudani, however points out that Reza Shah achieved two other major aspirations of the Constitutional Revolution, a competent central government at a time when Iran was being torn to pieces by local warlords and tribal leaders, and the rapid modernisation of Iran's backward society. In less than 20 years, Reza Shah managed to transform Iran into a more compatible country with the modern world. Modern school system instead of the seminaries, universities, modern secular judiciary, national rail way, industry, banks, emancipation of women, the creation of Iran's middle class, limiting the influence of the clerics and so much more were also aspirations of the constitutional revolution which were largely achieved during Reza Shah's reign.

Ajudani points out that the constitutional revolution was already dead and buried after the second Majlis (parliament) was annulled and Iran was divided into two spheres of influence, the British and the Russians at the start of the WWI, social insecurity and anarchy, famine and sheer mass poverty and the imminent threat of fragmentation of Iran, meant the desire for a competent central government and modernisation of the society became the more urgent priority for Iranians. Shame I don't have time to translate all of the interview but I really wish the likes of Ajudani were better known in the West and his writings were translated into English.


Winston said...

I am a lot more informed these days by reading Dr. Mirfetros works and Adjudani's interviews. Facts are stubborn things as John Adams once said. May Reza Shah's soul rest in peace!

Bahramerad said...

Please have alook at this video that I just made.
The Great Reza Shah Pahlavi- The Greatest Iranian Man of The 20 Century - My Tribute to Father of Modern Iran - Reza Shah The Great.

Anonymous said...

Ali Akabar Siyasi in his memoir , published by Agah Publication and the Late Shahroukh Meskoub in his social history of Iran and as well as Kaveh Bayat in his article in Kof-to- Go ( dialog)quarterly under the title of Mashrouteh ( constitutional) program and Shiites and Constitutional movement written by Haaeri published by Amir KAbir publication
gave good information about Rezashah and his progressive role and at the same time the root of despotism in later stages of modern Iran's history .

Hanif Leylabi said...

In the late 1950s Iran's literacy rate was 15% 1

The Marriage Law of 1931 reaffirmed in legal terms, the pre existing subjegation of women. For example, "husbands still controlled their wives right to work and travel, and the husbands chose their place of residence."

Girls could be married off at 15, temporary marriages with concubines were codified and men could have more than one wife.

Abortion has never been legal in Iran apart from extreme circumstances.

Not really that modern and heroic is it?

Azarmehr said...

Hanif you bourgeoise Communist who thought Taleghani's eye lids were removed :)))

Besides the fact that your figures are as worthless as your Socialist 'Worker?' rag, here are some facts:

Before Reza Shah, the literacy rate was less than 3%. Literacy was only amongst the aristocrats and the clergy. What did you want Reza Shah to do, invent school teachers who could teach others over night?!

Thanks to the Islamist revolution and the support of your co-Communists in Iran, girls can now be married at the age of 9.

Whereas before women had to give consent for their husbands to marry again, recently there was a Majlis bill where men, have no further such requirement and so long as they can afford it they can have as many wives as they like.

During the second Pahlavi women could study abroad on their own and without consent of their husbands or fathers, now they need that consent.

abortion was legally carried out before the revolution and it was banned after your beloved 1979 revolution.

Which ever way you look at it, this has been a regressive revolution. Your figures and stats are all as worthelss as your claims that Shakespeare and Mulier were banned in Iran before the revolution. You are a lying illiterate ASS.

There is not a single non-Leftist independent Iranian historian who does not value and praise the great works of Reza Shah.

Anonymous said...

potkin and hanif, some of your assertions are wrong, forget figures for now.
potkin, abortion was never legalised during the pahlavis, even farah pahlavi said so in her last book. women still needed their fathers or husbands written permission to even travel outside iran, let alone study abroad, during the pahlavis. farah pahlavi too confirms this in her book. Leftist and Islamists have largely been in bed and in agreement about the pahlavis.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of generalization on this blog and the comments here too. I dont care for vatanforoush people like winston or others (im not sure he/she is even iranian).

Being a person from the left wing ive always felt that Reza shah was the best thing that happened to Iran for centuries. Secularism, building an infrastructure and modernising the country are all things the left stands for. More and more people are realizing that the scandinavian social democracy is the best model. Certainly the same cant be said on the soviet and the american system.
So is human rights and democracy, but on this issue i dont agree with the left. Iran was not ready for political democracy and Reza shahs tough behaviour was good.

Only when democracy starts from the grassroots it has a chance. There is a balance. Reza shah was too good for iran and so was mossadegh. Mossadegh came too early.

Its a shame that Dr. Mashallah Ajudani hasnt got more coverage. Maybe the bloggers can do a job here, thanks for that azarmehr.

but what we need todays is another Reza Shah. A true compatriot.

But we must not forget that unfortunately, the iranian culture is very traditional and religious. hanif leylabi has some good points here.

Anonymous said...

shakespeare was NOT officially banned but certain plays that showed the kings evil were always on the grayline.

azarmehr should remember that there are plenty of leftist that praise reza shah too.

your blog is good but it appears not balanced at all when you generalize to this extend. you sound like khamenei by going this far..

Hanif Leylabi said...

I'll break my reply into numbers to make it easier to read

1) None of my figures came from socialist worker.

2) The USSR literacy rate went from 28% to 57% in the 10 years following the Russian revolution and then went up to 75% by the mid 1930s.

3) I have never and would never defend the IR marriage age. How are Tudeh or Fadaian 'co-communists' of mine?

4) I didn't write an article defending the regime, you DID defend and glorify Reza Shah.

5) Abortion on demand has never been legal in Iran. What is your source for this?

6) I'm quite clearly not illiterate but you are extremely immature.

Anonymous said...


You are like a dog who thinks the more and more he practices, the more and more he takes notes of other dogs trying to accomplish the same thing, that he will, one day, in fact, catch his tail.

First, since you like to correct people so much, I'm going to begin with a correction - Russian and England divided Iran in WWII not one.

Second, I have read Ajudani's book - and given the abundance of similar literature, it is sub par.

Look, I'm not saying Reza Shah didn't do good for most of his people, he did. He was not a tyrannical king like some from the Safavid or Qajar dynasty. He did help modernize Iran and give it a centralized structure in order to be able to compete with the rapidly modernizing (militarily, economically, and bureaucratically) European nation-states. I give him credit.

But to cheerfully associate him with sustaining the constitutional reforms is absurd. First, just because the word "constitution" is used doesn't mean it was a worthy document, and, in fact, the 1906 document fell quite short. Second, what good is a constitution if one man, i.e. a king, can abolish it at his own whim? Or for that matter, What's to say that his son won't? And herein lies the problem of hereditary kingship.

be salamat,

Anonymous said...

hanif, you would be happier if Lenin was in charge in Iran killing Iranians?

Azarmehr said...

LOL of Barmakid :)), you do prove me right with your constant clangers which reassure me that I was right in refusing to waste my precious time 'debating' with you on the phone.

If you do read your history correctly, how the hell did you get your history degree?, or if you just Google on the Anglo-Russian Entente, you will see that a few years before the start WWI, the treaty divided Persia into a British Zone of influence in the South and Russian Zone of influence in the North with only the central part supposedly run by the Iranian administration.

Looks like you can't read Persian, just like most of the 'Iran Experts', because you would have then read that in Ajudani's interview with Gooya News.

Anonymous said...

Number one, I did not read the interview - just one of his books, and that was a while ago. Number two, I skimmed through your post and thought you were referring to the invasion of Iran in WWII by the British and Russians. Number three, how in the hell would I not know how to read Persian? I sent you a frikikin link of the debate transcribed in Persian. Number 4, I don't have a history degree, but I can see how my vast knowledge of history would make you think that:) Number 5, I never wanted to talk to you on the phone - that's too expensive:) But yes, I did invite you to debate through a video conference. Don't you think that would be fun? A three-way between me, you, hanif, and whoever else would like to join.

be salamat,

p.s. Should you ever accept my offer, know that Hanif (if he also accepts) and I would rip you a new one:)But please, don't be scared...

Anonymous said...

You are doing a great job Azarmehr. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Just imagine, What would became of our nation, if these Mulla's came to power directly after those Qadajaries?
Women were in the Bourqas, Probably my mother was became a grandmother at the age of 20,the Iranian woman had no right. a country full of Haramsara's, (thank God for the hard actions of Reza shah),.. the whole country was still in the hands of the bandits, just like in the Qadari's time, etc...
The absolutism of Reza Shah Pahlavi was certainly needed, to save our nation from that bad backward situation.


U.S.A said...

he was a fag iran is full of terrorist

Unknown said...

Too young to know what was happening around me growing up in Hamburg. I made some Persian friends over the years, also in Leysin.
Savak obviously was part of the problem few mention now. I understand that Sharia law was often cited to enforce harsh codes without the support of the clergy.
Did this factor in as being a partial cause of the revolution?