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December 09, 1979 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-12-09
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Page 4-Sunday, December 9, 1979-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Doily-Sunday, Deco

Iranians see the seige through history's le

ris

" WHEN THEY SHOT people in the
streets, 80 per cent were not
dead, but they would come,
throw them all in trucks, and
bury them with bulldozers. Yes, I saw people
buried alive like that."
Abdullah (not his real name) spoke in a sub-
dued voice, but his painful gaze transported the
listener to the brutal scene 16 years ago in his
small hometown in Iran. A University
engineering student, Abdullah was describing
one act in a larger drama, in which the Iranian
army crushed protests against the Shah's 1963
White (non-violent) Revolution. It was a drama
whose principal figures-Shah Mohammed.
Riza Pahlevi, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini,
and security forces organized and trained by
the United States-would have central roles in
the recent Iranian revolution.
Before this year, a large network of Iranian
governmental and quasi-governmental agen-
cies provided educational costs and living ex-
penses for students abroad. Many of these
sponsorships were dismantled after the Shah
was overthrown in January, including the
largest ones-the Pahlavi Foundation and
Atomic Energy Center. According to a
Washington-based expert on Iranian students in
the U.S., who asked not to be identified, an
estimated 11,000 Iranians lost their scholar-
ships. Officials at the University's Office of
Student Accounts say the number of students
receiving sponsorships here dropped from a
"conservative estimate" of at least 100 to 24.
Approximately 250 of the nation's estimated
50,000 Iranian students currently attend the
University. Despite differing views on the
recent revolution, the ten students interviewed
here all insist that one must look even further
back than 1963 to understand the current
hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
The students are irritated by what they see as
American ignorance of historical ex-
planations-although most of them condemn
the terrorist actions. "I feel sorry for the
hostages," says Ali (not his real name), "but
what can I do? What the people want is the
Shah, and for no reason this government had to
let him into this country. The U.S. government
is trying to put all the pressures on (Iranian)
students here."
Land reform was at the root of the Shah's
White Revolution ("Revolutionary people call
it the 'Black Revolution,"' says Abdullah),
which would have transferred the large land
holdings of Islamic clergy and absentee land-
owners to landless peasants. Khomeini,
already a prominent religious leader, led the
opposition to the plan that ended in hundreds of
deaths as the Shah's troops fired into groups of
anti-government rioters. The clergy (the
Jeffrey Wolff has covered Iranian students
for the Daily since the crisis in Tehran began.

"mullah") regarded the reforms as a pretext
for breaking their power and enhancing the
Shah's centralized authority. Khomeini was
jailed for a short time, then exiled to Iraq as a
consequence of his public tirades a year
later-tirades directed against a signed
agreement exempting American military per-
sonnel serving in Iran from the jurisdiction of
Iranian courts.
Sixteen years later, after the forced depar-
ture of the Shah on Jan. 17, 1979, Khomeini
returned from exile in Paris (he had been ex-
pelled from Iraq in 1978) to the exultant crowds
lining the streets of Tehran. In his first major
address, he reiterated the criticism he'd made
years before of U.S. military and political
domination, and of social and cultural Wester-
nization as practiced by the Shah.
Speaking of Iran-U.S. relations, the Univer-
sity Iranian students emphasize what they see
as a parallel between current and post-World
War II American foreign policy. "The Shah is
more a warning. It is not really the person of
the Shah (that's the issue), although we would
like the Shah punished," insists Sadri Khalessi,
a Ph.D. candidate in statistics. "Rather, what
might be behind bringing him is what really
worries Iranians. The U.S. already dumped one
nationalist revolution in Iran, and now it's
bringing the Shah in and supporting him
publicly and through the press and trying to
hide behind the pretext of humanitarian
reason. We see it as just another trick to stop
the revolution."_
During the early 1950s, Parliament, in an
atmosphere of increasing nationalism, forced
the Shah to appoint popular nationalist leader
Mohammed Mossadegh as prime minister. The
previous prime minister had been assassinated.
.by ultra-nationalists. Mossadegh, riding a
wave of popularity with his nationalist cries
against the British-controlled Anglo-Iranian
Oil Company, pressured the Shah into
nationalizing the company. The British with-
drew all their technicians from the oil fields
and led a boycott of Iranian oil. Iranian oil ex-
ports virtually ceased.
Mossadegh then turned to the U.S. for loans.
In the context of the nascent Cold War,
however, the U.S. government viewed the new
prime minister as a Soviet Communist puppet
and denied him aid. Mossadegh began to turn
for support to the Iranian Communist Party,
which had been outlawed in 1949.
In 1953 the Shah, with Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) backing, ordered Mossadegh's
resignation. Street riots ensued, troops refused
orders to fire on pro-Mossadegh crowds, and
the Shah fled to Rome. The next day, however,
soldiers and street demonstrators forced the
prime minister himself to flee. Many observers
said they saw CIA agents in the streets, ac-
tually engineering the coup. The Shah returned
to the throne he had assumed in 1941, telling

By Jeffrey Wolff

Kermit Roosevelt of the CIA, "I owe my throne
to God, my people, my army-and to you."
KHALESSI, WHO has been studying
at the University for five years,
summed up the sentiments of many
Iranians in a single sentence:
"(Holding the hostages) is not a mere grudge
against the United States, but an understan-

forces to "natural causes. Even beggars who
would come to your house-you would have
mercy on them and let them dine with you, and
even at that level they collect information from
you."
"We could never even talk in our house,
because we were afraid someone might be
listening. Your parents wouldn't let
you-they'd say 'shhhhh,"' says Maryam (not

(Holding

the

hostages) is not a
mere grudge

against

the

United States,
but an under-
standable reac-
tion to U.S. op-
pressing acts for
the.past 25 years. '
-Sandri Khalessi,
Ph.D. candidate
in Statistics

dable reaction to U.S. oppressing acts for the
past 25 years."
Back in power in 1953, the Shah proceeded to
abolish legitimate political parties' censor the
press, and transformed Parliament into a rub-
ber stamp for his policies. The major force
behind this increasingly personal rule was
Savak-the Shah's security police, established
and trained by the CIA in 1957. That dreaded
militant force, with its tight links to the U.S. in-
telligence community, permeated the lives of
millions of Iranians, including the ten students
interviewed.
"They (Savak) penetrated through every
sector of society," says Khalessi with the same
forced calmness that marks all the students
when they speak of the police repression.
Khalessi says a close relative who lived near a
police station would often see police trucks pull
in and unload officers dressed as clergy. "In
classes there were always people to report on
you. Professors were given lists of students to
report on." Khalessi says doctors often were
ordered to attribute murders by the security

her real name), putting a finger to her lips.
"Most people have never had this experien-
ce-a friend heing tortured. a father being
killed. Americans cannot realize this or under-
stand these protests."
Estimates of just how widespread such
repression, torture, and murder were vary
wildly but came under ,close scrutiny after
President Carter's dramatic human rights
declarations Amnesty International published
a study in 1976 which charged Iran with ar-
bitrary arrests, tortures, and unaccounted
deaths. That same year the International
Commission of Jurists stated, "There is abud-
dant evidence showing the systematic use of
impermissible torture of political suspects
during interrogration." The number of political
prisoners held by the Shah has been estimated
at from 25,000 to 100,000. The Shah's gover-
nment acknowledged it held 3,000 prisoners.
During the daily major riots in Iran's towns
in the last few years of the Shah's reign, the
army openly shot into the crowds. The number
of rioters killed over the years can only be
speculated at-Khomeini's officials claim
100,000, while Western intelligence sources say
it was several thousand.
"You shouldn't think about the (hostage
situation) as just a little point in history, but as
part of 40 years of what Shah has done and U.S.
done to support him," Abdullah replies at the
first mention of the hostages. "All we are
asking (is) why now expect humanity from
Iran. International law should protect
everyone the same. How come it didn't protect
Iranian people for 30 years? The world knew
and didn't say anything about it. Now there are
50, 60 hostages, they don'twant to talk about it.
How come still talk about World War II
criminals? What is difference between Hitler
and the Shah? Both tried to kill as much as they
could-except Hitler was not a friend of the
American government."
Despite their scattered calls for ending the
abuse of human rights by the Shah, the state
department and Carter continued their praise
for the Shah and his policies until just two
weeks before he left Iran. In 1977 the state
department's first detailed human rights
report during the Carter administration found

violations in Iran, but recommended its
military aid should still be continued. The In-
ternational League of Human Rights several
months later formally protested to Secretary of
State Cyrus Vance that his department's report
had been less than candid.
"The U.S. was always the symbol of support
for the Shah," says Khalessi. "On the one hand,
we had this thing as a way of life, and on the
other hand, we would hear constant statements
of support for the Shah (from the U.S.). Even
an outrageous act like holding hostages, a bad
act, can be explained in all this suffering.
"I can assure you that what the U.S. resem-
bled in Iran is miles away from what the
American people stand for. Living here five
years has helped me realize that," Khalessi
continues, echoing the oft-repeated distinction
between Americans and their government.
"Just step outside this continent and see what
image America is giving through these
Kissinger-type foreign policies."
The Shah pointed to the "economic miracle"
in Iran as justification for his government's
repressive tactics, which he acknowledged to
an extent. He claimed he was bringing Iran
from isolation to industrial regional suprem-
acy. The Iranian students bristle with bitter-
ness and anger at the Shah's statements,
at the American media's willingness to accept
them, and at the American public's belief in
them.
Watching the evening network news has
become the central ritual in the lives of the
University's Iranian students. But the students
say they are frustrated with omissions, distor-
tions, and biases they claim mar the reports.
"These networks present the view that Shah
tried to modernize Iran, but (the Americans
living in Iran) were being paid very well, with
beautiful houses, and drivers. (They) never
went down to Tehran," says Maryam. "So (the
networks) say Shah was trying to modernize
Iran and the rest of Iranians, Moslems, and
fanatics, so poor Shah got kicked out-that's
what they try to imply on the news. I'll never
agree with that. The Shah tried to make
benefits for himself or the people around him,
and tried to be a good ally of the United
States."..
The students use words such as "artificial,'
"showcase,' and "dependent" to describe the
Shah's form of Iranian industrialization.
"What the Shah accomplished was hasty
modernization that did not have enough depth.
He fought traditions thousands of years old
without offering any substitute that would fit an
industrialized world," said Sina E., currently a
Ph.D. candidate in Chemical Engineering.
"The Shah accomplished making my country
almost entirely dependent on foreign countries,
particularly the United States.. . . We always
had to buy anything we needed from the United
States-a big dishonesty to my nation."
U.S. arms sales to Iran-totalling over $18
billion in the last 20 years-form the linchpin,
as well as the most dramatic symbol of the
grandiosity, of both the Shah's dreams and his
dependency on the U.S. for their realization.
Over $10 billion in arms sales, which include
the most sophisticated of American fighter
planes and defense systems, were approved af-
ter 1972 as part of a major Nixon-Kissinger
foreign policy plan to build up Iran as the police
officer of the Middle East. This policy was
highlighted by President Richard Nixon's 1972
decision to "sell Iran virtually any conven-
tional weapons it wanted," according to a
Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee
report.
SUCH A ROLE as a regional superpower
was seized eagerly by the Shah, who
despite humble origins, had pro-
claimed himself "His Majesty, the
Shahenshah Aryamebr (King of Kings, Light
of the Aryans)," and was fast acquiring the-
label of megalomaniac from analysts all over
the world.
In this role, and sustained byhis own .visions

of Persian glory and destiny, the Shah con-
veniently served many U.S. concerns in the oil-
rich region he controlled. Iran pledged to
protect the Straits of Hormuz, through which
half the West's oil passes; sent more than
35,000 troops during the 1970s to fight a Com-
munist-supported rebellion in the Persian Gulf
state of Oman, continued to sell oil to Israel
during and after the 1973 oil boycott, endorsed
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's peace
initiative, and supplied arms to Somalia in its
war against Cuban-and Russian-supported
Ethiopia in 1977.
The U.S. shelled out $3.5 billion in 1977 to
Iran-mainly for oil-but received from that
country nearly $6 billion.
Heavy industry was similarly dependent on
U.S. technicians and managers, which explains
the roughly 32,000 American non-military per-
sonnel in Iran by 1978. The Shah made deals
with the governments and corporate giants of
other industrialized nations as well.
The 100,000 foreigners, primarily technicians
and managers, enjoyed a posh existence,
generally earning much more than their
Iranian counterparts and reaping the benefits
of U.S. tax breaks and company living
allowances. They clustered in luxurious nor-
thern Tehran, near the Shah's own Imperial
Palace. Commissions and under-the-table
payments were reportedly standard practices
in the competition for these lucrative foreign
contracts, and there were several American
congressional investigations into such allega-
tions : concerning the .major. U.S.. weapons .

developers. These pa:
only the surface of a
volved every level of th
"I don't call it it
Maryam. "The indu
Shah was not the basic
but was only artificial.
fancy equipment in
modernization. That is
people will never go th
a car factory, so now ti
in Tehran. I don't wa
transportation, so ever
forcing people to buy c
"People say Shah
dustrializing," says A
have one single factor
the help of the outsid
lines with Iranians as
nothing independent."
In addition, the
agriculture as the big
industrialization scher
an agricultural expor
the end of the Shah's
over half its rice, whea
the U.S. Sina E. sums1
Shah: "He should be
human rights of tens
killing them, ruining
making Iran the bigg(
world."
The Shah regarded 1
ds of Iranians studyir
nations as potential s
that could turn Ira
However, many stud
reject, or accept only
the industrial growth c
officials and Iranian
students attending tl
"goal-oriented" and s
than those at less prE
stitutions. John Heise
sity's International
Iranians at other Am
just to get out of Iran."
When asked how he
University in light of h
modernization"
acknowledges that h
computer engineering
"I'll have my degree f
to do farming for what
need is food," he says
.SSe IRAP

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