Saturday, November 05, 2005

I heard the voice of your revolution...

On this day, November 5, 1978 (Aban 14, 1357), the late Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in what would go down in history as his famous last words, addressed a nation, crippled by non-stop violent street protests and widespread strikes:

"I heard the voice of your revolution ... Let all of us work together to establish real democracy in Iran ... I make a commitment to be with you and your revolution against corruption and injustice in Iran ... I urge dear young Iranians not to ruin their future by their own hands..."

Shah's emotional plea to the Iranian people for an end to what he admitted as "revolution" came at a time when the country had already plunged into an all-out chaos. A couple of days earlier, in response to a general strike order dictated by Ayatollah Khomeini from his retreat in Neuohle-le Cateau, France, oil workers had walked out and paralyzed Iran's oil industry. Riots had begun to spread to other cities, and university and high school students had now joined the so-called "Islamic revolution". Banks, cinemas, public buildings and hotels in Tehran were constantly being sacked and burned. The country had already turned into a mad house in which no one was willing to listen to common sense.

I still don't know what prompted Shah to make such a self-defeating speech. He might have thought that admitting the past mistakes at that point in time could be his best shot at restoring stability and calm to the country.

But histroy would prove him wrong.

Shah's speech no only dealt a fatal blow to his image as a strong leader in charge, but furthured the crisis it had intended to diffuse. Emboldened by the specch, Khomeini and his revolutionary followers pushed for a more aggressive approach toward toppling Shah's government and eventually succeeded in doing so, in February, 1979.

Now, 27 years later and in light of the horrible events that followed Shah's speech in Iran and the Middle East, one can't help but think, where would Iran be standing now, if Iranian people had held Shah to his promise of reforms and narrowed their demands to their constitutional rights only?

Did Shah--whose government, unlike the current outlaw regime, never turned to bloodshed to save itself-- not deserve to be given a second chance?

Or maybe this is all 'Monday morning quarterbacking' on my part...