Kapuściński: The Iranian Students

From Ryszard Kapuscinski’s book Shah of Shahs (about the last Shah of Iran):

This essay is on the Shah’s frantic push towards modernization:

From a logical point of view, anyone who sets out to create a Great Civilization ought to begin with people, with training cadres of experts in order to form a native intelligentsia. But it was precisely that kind of thinking that was unacceptable. Open new universities and polytechnics, everyone a hornets’ nest, every student a rebel, a good-for-nothing, a freethinker? Is it any wonder the Shah didn’t want to braid the whip that would flay his own skin? The monarch had a better way — he kept the majority of his students far from home. From this point of view the country was unique. More than a hundred thousand young Iranians were studying in Europe and America. This policy cost much more than it would have taken to create national universities. But it guaranteed the regime a degree of calm and security.

The majority of these young people never returned. Today more Iranian doctors practice in San Francisco or Hamburg than in Tebriz or Meshed. They did not return even for the generous salaries the Shah offered. They feared Savak and didn’t want to go back to kissing anyone’s shoes. An Iranian at home could not read the books of the country’s best writers (because they came out only abroad), could not see the films of its outstanding directors (because they were not allowed to be shown in Iran), could not listen to the voices of its intellectuals (because they were condemned to silence).

The Shah left people a choice between Savak and the mullahs. And they chose the mullahs.

This entry was posted in Books and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *