The 1979 Iranian revolution fulfilled three promises: social justice, freedom and democracy, and independence from great power tutelage.
Furthermore, the constitutionally-guaranteed right of freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religion are among the most remarkable intellectual achievements of the Islamic revolution.
Living under the shah’s dictatorship, Iranians used to only dream about their freedom, independence and the release of tens of thousands of political prisoners. Hence, today the majority of the Iranian nation deem themselves blessed to be watching their patriotic revolution reaching its zenith.
According to the available historical documents, the Pahlavi monarchy was indeed a despotic, totalitarian and repressive regime. So much so that even the last US ambassador to Iran, William Sullivan, describes the Pahlavi regime as a “brutal tyranny”. Moreover, the British emissary to Tehran, Sir Anthony Parsons, portrays the US-backed Shah’s government as a “regime that perpetuated terror”.
The utter lack of freedom of expression during the Shah’s reign encompassed disparate dimensions, including all political and media activities, to say nothing of the public sphere of civil society.
If we want to give a clear example of the deplorable situation of freedom of expression and speech during the Pahlavi regime we must look into Asadollah Alam’s memoirs.
Asadollah Alam, the powerful and shrewd minister of Pahlavi court and an intimate of the Shah of Iran, composed a meticulous account of the shah’s dictatorship, which he locked away in a secret Swiss bank. In his diaries, the court minister bemoaned the government’s arrogance toward the mass of Iranians and dared utter criticisms to his master—albeit wrapped in thick and courtly blandishments. In his will, Alam stipulated his diaries be published when he died. He passed away a year before the revolution.
“Shah ordered his guards to prevent Senator Abbas Massoudi, editor-in-chief of the flagship Ettela’at daily, from entering the imperial court because Ettela’at interviewed with a number of disgruntled taxi drivers who dared to criticize the Iranian Taxi Drivers’ Syndicate. The Shah did not tolerate taxi drivers criticizing their own syndicate! I [Alam] informed Senator Massoudi that he must write a letter, seeking His Royal Highness’ forgiveness. But Shah ignored Massoudi’s repenting letter and told me to inform the hapless Senator that “my Royal mercy depends on your future behaviour.” suffered a horrific injustice, Massoudi died from grief two weeks later,” Alam bitterly described that episode of lurid black comedy.