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Reza Pahlavi
Reza Pahlavi
DAVID FROST:
Afghanistan's neighbour Iran has been crucial in the war against terrorism, it did condemn the September the 11th attacks and now the interim government of Afghanistan is said to be looking to Iran for continued support. Iran is currently ruled by President Mohamed Khatami but he's finding it hard to deliver reform in the face of opposition from the senior supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeni who still wields that greater power. In 1979 the Islamic Revolution overthrew the ruling Shah and just as some in Afghanistan have been calling for the return of their former monarch, there have been moves to support the son of the late Shah of Iran and ask him to return from exile. I'm joined in the studio now by, by him, by Reza Pahlavi the son of the late Shah, welcome.

REZA PAHLAVI:
Good morning Sir David.

DAVID FROST:
I want to talk about what happens next but it must be sometimes, when we just see those pictures there and so on, do you sometimes think what if things had gone differently and you'd be now, not Reza Pahlavi but the¿but the Shah¿or whatever, do you, you must sometimes¿

REZA PAHLAVI:
My focus has always been on the future and when I think of the fact that half of Iran's population was not even born at the time and when you look at the circumstances of Iran today and the unmet desires and aspirations of my compatriots mostly because I've been faced with an archaic system of theocracy that simply cannot be compatible with the true meaning of a democratic government and a chance that we hear in Iran today, about secular democracy and a move beyond Khatamiult of the dead end that this regime has faced is indicative of the fact that the Iranian people are going to demand more and more for their rights to be met and my campaign is precisely about that, the right for the Iranian people have self-determination.

DAVID FROST:
So your campaign is for a democracy but not necessarily a constitutional monarchy?

REZA PAHLAVI:
I think that the choice of future government should be left to the Iranian people to decide in a free election. What form it ultimately take is up to them, the issue, the essential point for me is that there is no way that we can achieve the aspirations that we have as a nation unless we have the separation of church and state and under the current regime clearly we don't have that, therefore the only way to establish the situation where we can enjoy our country's long-lasting traditions as well as our religious, if you will, beliefs and at the same time enjoy democracy in a secular sense, there has to be that part and I think when we are faced with this experience of 23 years we clearly can see where it is that the obstacles exist and why is it that we have to move beyond¿

DAVID FROST:
But how, how practical is it with the, with the strength of the Mullah's and the strength of the belief in the faith and so on, how possible is it to get a secular state in Iran and secondly how, with no, with no great tradition ever really of democracy, to get democracy, are those not two almost impossible targets?

REZA PAHLAVI:
I don't think it's impossible, in fact I think that in terms of awareness if one follows clearly and precisely what the people of Iran say today, especially the young generation, their awareness about this concept, about their understanding of democracy, about the fabrics of modern societies is quite tangible. Now on the issue of secularism, I must tell you that unlike what many people in the outside world, in the western world in particular might believe one of the strongest proponents of secularism today and a return to a state of separation of ¿from State¿ happened to be the clergy itself and I'm not talking about the traditional clergy who from the beginning opposed the concept of the¿the system that exists in Iran today, the supreme leader if you will. But even revolutionary clerics with whom I'm in touch regularly today say to me in no uncertain terms that they realise the amount of damage that has been done to our religion and to the clerics themselves as a result of direct interference into politics. And I think in terms of what the world has witnessed as we saw the Kremlin come down at the hand of the Russians, when we saw the, the Berlin Wall fall at the hand of the East Germans, when we saw Milosevic and his house fall, so would the theocratic regime at the hand of the Iranian people.

DAVID FROST:
And is it practical, we heard the thought that people are saying maybe you should return to Iran, I mean is it, is it possible for you to go back, it would be too dangerous presumably?

REZA PAHLAVI:
Well currently it would be, what I state to my compatriots is of course I stand to serve them in whatever capacity that they choose but my mission in life, from the day I started 21 years ago and I haven't said anything different that what I started saying 21 years ago, remains the same, my goal is to reach a stage when the Iranian people can go to a national referendum and vote their conscience and vote for their future. That day, the day the Iranians go to the poll is the end of my mission in life and what they want to do afterwards is entirely up to them and I stand ready to serve them in whatever capacity that they see fit.

DAVID FROST:
And what about the current regime, just because Mr Khatami is more liberal or less strict constructionist than other people, do you think the West tends to over-estimate how liberal Mr Khatami might be?

REZA PAHLAVI:
I think the West in particular has to understand that this good cop, bad cop game was a carefully designed tactic by the Islamic regime to confuse the outside world into some kind of an appeasement. There is no such thing as a moderate in this system, we saw it under the Nazis, some people were arguing that¿was more moderate than Himmler but they were Nazis at the end. In that sense Mr Khatami loyalty is to the regime, his allegiance is to the constitution, the only written constitution in the world that rejects popular sovereignty, we see under this so-called moderate system parliamentary members being incarcerated. We see under this so-called reformist system, liberal system, most of the Iranian newspapers shut down, we see people in prison, we see political prisoners, that simply means that this rhetoric is really aimed at confusing the outside world. It is the very same situation we face even in the period of the old Soviet empire where some elements within the system were considered to be less harsh, or the doves versus the hawks so to speak. The, the struggle in Iran today is not about the moderate camp versus the radical camp, rather it pits the forces of state despotism and religious fundamentalism against a nation that demands democracy, rejects militant fundamentals and repudiate the concept of a supreme leader that rules over other divine law.

DAVID FROST:
So would you say that the West should regard Iran today as more of an enemy than a potential friend?

REZA PAHLAVI:
You know it's interesting, I should say that some people have forgotten that in many cases we have seen in the Middle East a sentiment that might have been demonstrated as negative towards the West, why their respective governments have been friendly, Iran happens to be the only country in the area where the majority of the people show sympathy to the West but the regime is hostile to it - isn't that strange? Now when you come to think of it it is important for the world to separate the Iranian people from its unpopular ruling regime, to some extent we can say the same thing in the case of Iraq or while the Taliban was in Kabul and we immediately saw as the Taliban left Kabul, or the same way where the, the East German government fell or the Soviet system fell, what was the true sentiment of that nation and you will see that in Iran, as a matter of fact we see it today.

DAVID FROST:
Thank you very much indeed for being with us.

REZA PAHLAVI:
Thank you for the time.

DAVID FROST:
Given us such a cogent report, thank you very much indeed.

REZA PAHLAVI:
Thank you very much.


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