Sunday, January 5, 2020

Let's Talk About Iran

Iranian women in Shiraz wearing the chador.

Alice C. Linsley

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was born in 1919, the son of Reza Shah, an army officer who came to rule Persia after forcing out the previous Qajar dynasty with the backing of the British. He re-named his nation "Iran" and ordered foreign diplomats to cease using the name Persia.

Iran’s strong trade ties with Germany, and Western fears of possible Nazi control of the Iranian oil fields led to a Russian-British invasion of the country in 1941. At the insistence of the occupying British forces, Reza Shah abdicated in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Reza Pahlavi was a very ambitious leader who attempted to drag Iran into the 20th century. Modern western styles were forced upon the Iranians under the Shah who did a great deal of window dressing to gain military and economic support from the West. Along with Western styles can public drinking, nudity in movies, and an influx of foreign nationals on such a large scale that housing and food costs became impossible for most Iranians. The Shah demanded that women not wear the chador. Older women refused to appear in public because for them this was an issue of modesty. The religious conservatives greatly resented the imposition of Western style and values. They also opposed the shah granting suffrage to women and his opening of private universities.

I lived in the city of Isfahan and felt the growing resentment. I left 1 year before the 1979 Islamic revolution and the capture of hostages in Tehran.

Nomadic peoples did not fare much better under the Shah. The Bahktiari were pressured to give up migration and the men were to wear western suit jackets. The Shah imprisoned and executed some of their leaders. The Shah's government was troubled by their semi-autonomy and their agreement with the British to protect the oil pipelines and share in the profits of the Anglo Iranian Oil Company. The Bakhtiaris were ordered to surrender their weapons and some were rounded up for conscription duties away from their territory. 

Qashqai women and children in Southern Iran

The Qashqai are another nomadic people who suffered under the Shah. The Qashgais revolted during 1962–1964 due to the land reforms of the White Revolution that endangered their herds. Most of their tribal leaders were exiled. After the 1979 Revolution their leader, Khosrow Khan Qashqai, returned to Iran from exile in the United States and Germany.

There has been growing interest in Iran since General Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force was killed on January 3 in Baghdad, Iraq. He was a responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations and suspected of proving aid to terrorists groups in Asia and Africa.

In 2011, Soleimani's men recruited a drug dealer named Manssor Arbabsiar to attempt to assassinate Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, DC because Al-Jubeir had publicly decried Soleimani's terror ties.

After the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad and Soleimani's assassination, some fear that the Iranians and Iraqis will join forces against the United States, seeking retaliation. That may be so, but historically, the Iranians and the Iraqis are not natural allies. They are culturally and ethnically very different and do not share the same religious beliefs. Iranians are Indo-Europeans and Iraqis are Arabs. Iranians adhere to Shia Islam and Iraqis to Sunni Islam. The two groups hate each other.

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