Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Flashback: Farah Pahlavi, Widow of Shah of Iran

See the above BBC News video for a dramatic example of the widespread expressions of support for the Iranian demonstrations against the recent presidential elections. Today, those demonstrations are continuing, focused on mourning for the protestors killed in earlier demonstrations and on showing support for the reformist campaign in the country.

Some people have been expecting such an uprising for many years. On March 15, 2004, The Commonwealth Club of California hosted a program featuring Farah Pahlavi, the widow of the Shah of Iran. Before a packed auditorium, she engaged in an extensive conversation with Mary Bitterman, then the director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes and currently president of the Osher Foundation and vice chair of The Commonwealth Club's Board of Governors. Much of their discussion concerned her family's time in power and her personal adjustment to the revolution that brought the current Iranian government to power, but she also spoke about her belief that Iranians wanted more freedom and a better economy, themes that are being repeated these days as the protests in Tehran and other Iranian cities continue despite a government attempt to silence journalists covering the demonstrations.

Here were some of her thoughts in 2004:
I don't want to predict, because one cannot know, but from what I hear from the Iranian insiders, I have said that the majority of them are unhappy. They want change, because when you see the state of the economy – a country which was going forward…. To just give you an example, if one dollar was 70 rials 25 years ago; today it is 8,000 rials. The per capita income that was $2,500 25 years ago, now is around $1,000 and maybe less. And also the situation of young people who want freedom, who want the chance to work, to own a house, to be free like all the people in the world; so many young people are addicted, because they have no hope. The condition of women and so many young girls, who unfortunately, because of poverty, are forced to go into prostitution; and so many children beggars in the street. Also the respect of Iran in the family of nations, the environment, the corruption which exists – all that is making the Iranian people very unhappy. But I hope, again, with the effort of all Iranians and also with the support of the free world to support these freedom-loving people of Iran, Iran will gain its freedom and especially keep its territorial integrity. But we just cannot hope and dream, but we have to, all of us, have our part in trying to help in that direction.

You can read the complete transcript of the event here; there are also links to audio of the program.


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