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Iran’s Protesters Recall Better Days Under the Shah

Protesters in Iran continue to pour out onto the streets in the majority of provinces across the country in demonstrations that have lasted for a week. What began as grievances over the price of bread and a cut in state subsidies on food has escalated into a full-steamed political movement that is being met with violent and deadly aggression by the Islamic Republic who has beefed up its security assets to disrupt the gathering of protesters. 

Over the last four decades, the Iranian opposition to the regime has made its grievances known by the colorful and almost-always rhyming chants that are heard as protesters march through the streets. In the current round of protests, the passion and fervor of the demonstrators was heard early on with “Death to the Supreme Leader!” And “Death to (President) Raisi!” 

Experts point out that the Iranian people use these slogans to make their message to the world clear; This is not a protest over the price of bread. This is a call for the removal of the regime. 

As the days go on, the people’s chants have become increasingly focused on the Pahlavi monarchy, evoking the name of the late Shah, his father Reza Shah and his exiled son now living in the United States. Protesters have been chanting ,”Reza Shah, bless your soul,” “Without a Shah, our country has no order!” “What a mistake we made supporting the Revolution!” and “Return back to us, Shah of Iran!”  

“Iranians inside and outside of Iran fondly remember and recognize the Pahlavis’ contributions to Iran. It was under the Pahlavis that Iran made tremendous economic and social progress, only to be undone by the Islamist-Radical Left alliance,” Washington D.C.- based Iran scholar and commentator Alireza Nader said to The Foreign Desk.

“Today, the Pahlavis are more popular than ever, especially the son of the Shah, Shahzadeh Reza Pahlavi. That’s why thousands and thousands of Iranians are calling for his return to Iran and the overthrow of the Khamenei dictatorship,” Nader said.

Reza Pahlavi, 61, or Shahzadeh, as he is fondly called by Iranians literally meaning son of the Shah, is the oldest son of the last Shah of Iran and currently resides in Maryland. He is an ardent critic of the current regime which replaced his father’s rule.

Interestingly, the majority of Iranians— about 2/3 of the population—are under the age of 40 as Iran experienced a significant baby boom in the 80s when the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini urged Iranians to have children to make up for the population loss in the Iran-Iraq War. 

As young Iranians protest the current regime, it is curious to see them refer to the Pahlavi Dynasty or political figures that they never lived under or perhaps only heard about from their parents.

“As an Iranian who loves her country, the Shah represents 2,500 years of history and culture. But in addition to their historical legacies, hearing the names of the generations of Shahs, reminds us Iranians of better days- filled with comfort, happiness, and great strength,” political dissident Mitra said. “Reza Shah, may his soul be blessed, was the father of modern Iran, and we owe the Pahlavi dynasty for building up our country.” 

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