Dragon Slaying in Tehran
The Daily Collegian — November 8, 1968
With resentment over the Shah’s increasingly autocratic rule bubbling underneath the surface for years, ostentatious displays such as his lavish 1967 coronation ceremony just added insult to injury to many Iranians.
In America, however, the Shah was glorified as a noble friend, while his various excesses were conveniently swept under the rug. In 1968, an Iranian-American student at Penn State wrote an editorial in the university newspaper to help enlighten people about Iran and the struggle for democracy in his homeland.
Symbolically conjuring the mythical Persian hero Rostam, from Ferdowsi’s 10th-century epic Shahnameh (Book of Kings), Ahmad Kamron Jabbari correctly foretold the demise of ‘the dragon’ – the Shah’s military dictatorship – which occurred eleven years later. Jabbari also familiarized his classmates with a contemporary Persian national hero, admiringly describing the late Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh as a “symbol of democracy” who once earned “massive support of the population” in Iran.
Jabbari would go on to earn his PhD, become a professor of economics and management in Kentucky, and also work for NASA. But it wasn’t until 1980 that he found his true calling, founding a publishing company (Mazda Publishers) focusing on scholarly books on Iranian history, art and culture, among other related studies. As seen in this essay, preserving the richness of Persian civilization was a passion of his ever since his youth.
Tragically the ‘dragon’ metaphor is just as apt today as it was 45 years ago. With any luck, when the Islamic regime is finally vanquished one day, the freedom fighters will remember this essential lesson: there’s no point in destroying one monster by siring another one.
Iran–Another Rustam To Fight the Dragon
By AHMAD JABBARI
The previous articles in The Daily Collegian by some international students
about their native lands forced me to pick up the pen and write a few words on behalf of more than 90 per cent of the people of my country, Iran, formally known as Persia.
Iran is not an Arab nation, though many people that I have met over the past 4½ years of my stay in the United States misunderstand this because Iran is a Muslim country, and above all located in the so-called Middle East.
A Comedy in Bad Taste
A few months ago the news agencies reported that the newest coronation had taken place in the country with the oldest known kingdom today. The story was true, unfortunately, that the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had coronated himself and his wife Empress Farah after 27 years of ruling with absolute power and terror. The reaction about this report was different among the people.
Foreigners laughed or perhaps ridiculed, when they heard the queen’s crown was designed in Paris, the carriage to carry the imperial couple was brought from Austria, the horses to pull the carriage were purchased from Hungary, the guards uniforms were brought from England, and many other costly details necessary to perform a traditional ceremony were as well obtained non-locally. The natives smiled to mislead the secret police, but cried when they realized it was they who had to pay more than $40-million for the comic show and its character they hated so much.
Actually the whole disaster started on August 18, 1953, [August 19, 1953] when the government of the late Dr. Mossadegh was overthrown by a group of reactionary Iranians related to the Shah’s court and by direct intervention of the United States government through the Central Intelligence Agency. Iran’s precious oil (13 per cent of the world’s oil reserve) was much more valuable for the West than the lives of the Iranian peasants. They wanted a basic human right, to have their own democratic government and to trade with any foreign country who paid the highest price for their oil, regardless of the type of government involved.
Thus the appearance of Dr. Mossadegh in Iran’s political scene was a long awaited wish that had finally been fulfilled. He became the prime minister through majority vote in parliament and massive support of the population, after his successful attempt to nationalize the petroleum industry through-out the land.
According to Western observers who in one way or another had become acquainted with his personality, he possessed an extremely brilliant mind and was a sincere and passionate nationalist. He was a symbol of democracy, because he chose long years of imprisonment rather than submission to the corrupt regime of Shah [Reza Shah Pahlavi] which he believed not to be found on the consent of the governed. The Mossadegh mystique was based on a life long period of unwavering service to the Iranian people and the tendency with which his political followers, namely the intellectuals, hold onto his legacy today is in effect a tribute to democracy and independence of Iran which he personified.
Fifteen years have passed since the overthrow of his democratic government, but the struggle still continues to restore democracy and freedom. Therefore at the time when the voice of the opposition has silenced in Iran, the means of communication are tightly controlled by the totalitarian government of the Shah. His secret police terrorize all political dissent and the “respectable” foreign press does not consider the true situation to be fit for print, it becomes a duty to all Iranians abroad to inform non-Iranians about the situations in the country. The recent coronation illustrated the confidence the Shah has gained through the support of his 250,000 man army and massive police force, larger than that of either West Germany or Japan.
The commander of the army and the police force felt fully capable of handling anything and everything. Then Senator Hubert H. Humphrey was quoted by Newsweek in May, 1961 as saying with a sense of shock, “Do you know what the head of the Iranian army told one of our people? He said the army was in good shape, thanks to U.S. aid – it was capable of coping with the civilian population. That army is not planning to fight the Russians, it is planning to fight the Iranian people.”
The huge army and police force have always been claimed by the Shah to be necessary for the defense of Iran from outside forces. This outside force may have been Russia which borders Iran on the north. But the recent economic and military agreements between the two governments disproves this old propaganda claim. For I am certain you will agree with me that the Russians are not that stupid to aid and supply a country with industrial and military aid if they are going to fight against it! The actual function of this vast collection of armed men is the protection of American and British oil refineries and pipelines against the internal uprising.
The Washington Post of last May 26 reports that the United States is considering granting to Iran, a request for $600-million in new and sophisticated weapons to be delivered over a period of six years. It should be mentioned that Shah has always wished to equip his army with supersonic fighters and has received two squadrons of Phantom F-4 jet fighters over the past two years. The dragon is now able to fly bringing more death and terror to his people, this time faster than the speed of sound. He is not a winged dragon.
But just as it is an Iranian folklore that the winged dragon was slain by legendary hero Rustam, there shall always be another Rustam, namely the determination of the Iranian people.
Shah Represents U.S. Corporate Interests, Says Florida State University Student (1978)
Author Iraj Pezeshkzad Reminisces About Mossadegh — The Iranian Uprising, May 15, 1986
University of Kentucky Dean Is Witness To Iranian Uprisings — October 30, 1953
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”