“Our time as a region has finally come,” says Prince Reza Pahlavi, the son of the Shah of Iran.
“The people (in Tehran) are now fighting tooth and nail to defend their freedom, totally unarmed, totally underequipped, under a regime that is criminally repressive. The least we could do, from the point of view of the free world, is to stand by them, tell them that they are not alone, that their voices have been heard, and my job here is to convey that message to everybody in the outside world.”
I conducted an exclusive Fox News interview with Prince Reza, pointing out the past few weeks must have been poignant for him. His father was forced from power in 1979, but the similar popular forces that sparked the uprising in Egypt having failed, so far, to dislodged the Islamic regime in Tehran. But the prince, whose website RezaPahlavi.org is dedicated to his mission, remains undeterred and is confident that his goals of democracy and freedom will be realized in Iran, despite the crackdown on protests since 2009.
“My compatriots want to have their Tehran moment, as Egyptians had their Cairo moment,” he declares. “It’s an era of people’s power, it’s the people who have the ultimate voice and it’s the people who have to ultimately decide. We have to think in terms of empowerment,” he says.
“I am a firm believer in democracy and human rights, I believe in self-determination, and what we are facing today in my country is a regime that has been extremely repressive… Are we going to say it is time to endorse and support the demands of people who simply ask to be heard and have a choice? If Ahmadinejad or the current regime are going to continue cracking down, then the question becomes, what will the military in Iran, what will the Revolutionary Guards do? Will they stand against their own people, or ultimately let go of their hold on power to allow for a transition in Iran as well?”
I pointed out that in Cairo, the Egyptian military turned the turrets of their tanks away from the protestors, and in many cases embraced and supported the demonstrators. Prince Reza believes the same can happen in Tehran.
“The big question mark is, has this regime managed to ideologize its military or para-military forces? And to what extent would an ideological army be more difficult to convince not to side with the regime and stand with the people?
“In the last years alone, in most cases, the Iranian armed forces and military have refused to intervene, to be used as a tool to repress people. In fact, they told the regime that ‘we are not going to do your dirty job for you,’ which means that the regime had to find recourse elsewhere, even import foreign nationals, from Lebanon, from Palestine, to come and crack down on people and they came up with the Basij as a unit that is simply doing the dirty work for the regime.”
He says that he finds it very difficult to believe “that the same Revolutionary Guard commander, who fought in the Iran-Iraq war, to protect the lives of the parents of today’s generation, who are in the streets demanding freedom, (will) ask their troops to turn their arms against their children. That simply doesn’t make sense.”
He is calling for “a very disciplined campaign of non-violence disobedience,” in Iran, that would “rely on the help from the international community of free countries that are going to change their overall strategy of unique dialogue with the regime, to one of endorsement and empowerment of the people.”
Prince Reza is philosophical, and notes that the weight of history is on his side.
“Apartheid ended because the world no longer could tolerate the continuation of it. Dictatorships in Latin America fell because democracy had to prevail. The eastern bloc countries were liberated, with Lech Walesa, and Vaclav Havel and the rest, just because it was no longer tenable to live behind the Iron Curtain.”
He is confident that it is just a matter of time before the same will occur in Iran.