Iran's Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi 'Iran Is My True and Only Home'
Reza Pahlavi, son of the late shah of Iran, has lived in exile in the United States since 1979. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, he reveals how he has aided the recent opposition protests, why he believes Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has lost his legitimacy as supreme leader and his hopes of returning home.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Pahlavi, are you still politically active?
Pahlavi: I have been politically active in opposition to the clerical regime in Iran for the past 29 years. Throughout these years, I have maintained broad-based contact with a variety of Iranian groups within the diaspora.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "The supreme leader has lost his theocratic claim to legitimacy just as his favorite president has lost his claim to popular legitimacy."
Pahlavi: Yes, I am. I spend most of my time communicating with people in Iran -- not just reformers and protestors, but also with ordinary Iranians who suffer quietly under injustice, social and economic decline. Their concerns are of utmost importance to me.
Pahlavi: The movement born on June 12 has generated an unprecedented and broadest support of Iranians of all walks of life. I have done my share to support this movement of the people and to help them voice their cry for freedom.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What is the latest news you're hearing from inside Iran?
Pahlavi: What is new is the clarity with which the most senior religious leaders are speaking out against (Ayatollah Ali)Khamenei. These are the most respected leaders of the faith, not only because of their high religious status, knowledge and rectitude but also because of their independence from government.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you see a split among the clerics in Iran?
Pahlavi: Absolutely. Government clerics who enter the holy city of Ghom and its seminaries backed by money and not-so-hidden coercive powers of the state are a thorn in the side of independent clerics who are more interested in faith and morality than power. In the younger, more popular days of this theocracy the schism was not obvious. Now, with masses of people on the streets, crushed by the orders of the head government cleric, the rift is wide open. The grand ayatollahs can no longer keep quiet about rape and torture in jails in the name of Islam. Unlike government mullahs, these senior clerics get their support from the people, so they can never be far away from popular feelings.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are we experiencing a sea change?
Pahlavi: It's now plain for the world to see how the supreme leader and his fellow power-hungry, mid-level clerics have been abusing the peoples' faith to maintain the big lie that they derive their legitimacy from Islam. Gone is the delusion that one man, Mr. Khamenei, can appropriate the powers of state in the name of God. So the supreme leader has lost his theocratic claim to legitimacy just as his favorite president has lost his claim to popular legitimacy. Because many in the armed forces and Revolutionary Guards are followers of religious leaders who question Mr. Khamenei, he cannot even count on presiding over a typical military dictatorship for long.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: But the regime appears to be prevailing.
Pahlavi: Stalemate is the best way to describe the political state of affairs in Iran.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What do you make of the roles of former Iranian presidents Mohammad Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani? Do you think their criticism of the regime will have an effect?
Pahlavi: It is not so much their impact as how they have been impacted by popular dissatisfaction and the criticism of the grand ayatollahs senior to them in religious hierarchy. But I am happy that they realize that today you either stand with the people or with Mr. Khamenei, and they are moving in the right direction.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Could they do more?
Pahlavi: I hope they will move faster and farther from their trademark ambiguity and say clearly what is wrong. This is not about Mr. Khamenei's decisions -- it's about a whole system in which one man selects six others directly and another six indirectly, and those 12 can decide who can be a candidate for president or parliament and who cannot. The same man also picks the heads of the armed forces, the judiciary, state radio and television as well as so many other positions of power.
- Part 1: 'Iran Is My True and Only Home'
- Part 2: 'Iran Has the Sovereign Right to a Civilian Nuclear Program'