Last month, Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi of Iran held his first town hall meeting since 1979, at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Social media had announced the event earlier. Millions inside Iran gathered with families to watch it. The Crown Prince is not just a name from the past: He is Iran’s best hope for a more positive future.
Iranians first chanted the 58-year-old Reza’s name during the December 2017 protests that took place throughout the country. This move was no coincidence. Though he has lived in the United States of America since the age of 18 — not by choice — he has never stopped fighting for Iran. His message resonates with everything the younger generation in Iran yearns to achieve. He is an educated, young, and attractive leader. He embodies liberal thoughts, speaks multiple languages fluently, and cares deeply about Iran and its people. He represents what Iranians do not currently have, but wish for in their future.
Reza is a harsh critic of the current system in Iran because he does not want the country to become another Syria. He sees the Iranian government as the centerpiece of Iran’s grievances that are fracturing society and nudging the country toward civil war. The evidence is clear in the continuous protests of Iranian teachers, labor unions, and citizens who have lost their livelihoods.
The Iranian regime is thoroughly corrupt. According to watchdog groups, Iran’s rank of 78 in 2003, has plummeted to 130 in 2017, placing it on par with Russia. The regime is robbing the Iranian people of their money and looting the country’s natural resources. Iranians are protesting again and their slogans are dramatically different: “our enemy is here; it is a lie that it is America.” The Iranian regime can no longer deceive with anti-American propaganda.
Since 1979, the Iranian government has been suffocating the nation by forcing strict political Islam on Iranians. Iranian society is composed of ancient, pre-Islamic cultures mixed with the post-1979 culture ushered in after the revolution. It is a country of many traditions. During his town hall, Reza inspired Iranians when he said, “Iran should be a free country where any Iranian including women, homosexuals, different ethnic and religious groups can live or practice what they believe in.”
Immediately after the Crown Prince’s event, the Iranian government attacked him. It did not offer substantive criticism- just name calling- because of its own morally bankrupt record. Many in the West may question the capabilities of a fortunate son of a monarch who has not lived in Iran for many years. However, they must understand, as the Iranian people do, that the current government in Iran has failed to reform itself for forty years. The United States seeks peace and democracy for the Middle East; Iran seeks only death and disruption. America wants to protect Israel; Iran wants to target it with missiles. The current Iranian regime will never be America’s ally or friend; the Crown Prince offers hope and change.
Reza Pahlavi might be physically far from home, but his heart has never left. With forty years of suppression and destruction inside Iran, he has gained forty years of experience and wisdom outside it. He is not to blame for his father’s mistakes. He has no blood on his hands. He wants Iran to develop positive diplomatic and economic relationships with the rest of the world.
There is an alternative to Iran’s future that costs less than war and less than sanctions. Pahlavi’s social media pages have surged in popularity since the summer. It would be a mistake to overlook his political potential. Reza Pahlavi is not just some nostalgic figure from the past. He is Iran’s best hope for peace, stability and democracy – and its best hope for a more positive future.
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Shima Bozorgi is a graduate student international policy & practice at the Elliott School of International Affairs of the George Washington University, and alumni of Tehran University School of Law & Political Science.