Cyrus Reza II Pahlavi, the head of Iran’s deposed House of Pahlavi, visited Georgetown to discuss misconceptions regarding the recent nuclear deal in light of the evolving political situation in Iran in the Intercultural Center on Wednesday.
The International Relations Club sponsored the lecture, titled “American-Iranian Relations Following the Nuclear Agreement.” The lecture came at a time of international media attention on United States-Iran relations after Iran reached an agreement with the United Nations Security Council and the European Union on its nuclear program in July.
Terrence Boyle (SFS ’63), an alumni leader of the Delta Phi Epsilon Fraternity and a former attorney, helped organize Pahlavi’s visit to campus. Boyle said that Pahlavi’s visit would draw attention to the increasingly important role Iran will hold in the near future.
“The evolving situation with Iran and its relationship with the [United States] will affect all our lives down the road,” Boyle said. “It is in our own interests, as Americans and Georgetown students, to understand and care about this evolving political situation.”
The speech was Pahlavi’s fourth address at Georgetown. Pahlavi, whose daughter graduated from Georgetown two years ago, was originally scheduled to only visit DPE members to celebrate the fraternity’s 75th anniversary, although IRC later chose to secure a larger space for the general public.
Pahlavi has remained in exile from Iran for more than 35 years. Though he was only 18 when the Islamic Revolution took place, his exile has only empowered his activity in Iranian politics and affairs. In his discussions on the media, Pahlavi continues to push for a secular, democratic Iran, and his motivations have helped inspire the formation of the National Council of Iran, a government in exile comprised of 40 parties and associations dedicated to influencing Iran’s political climate.
In his speech, Pahlavi focused primarily on Iran’s civilian population and how it is silenced by the government. He consistently spoke about the need to bring a nonviolent, concrete change in the region.
“If change is to occur in Iran, it has to occur by means of civil disobedience and nonviolence,” Pahlavi said. “All these years my position has been to encourage change driven by the Iranian people themselves. They are the only ones who can shift the balance of power.”
Pahlavi also argued how even in light of successful U.S.-Iran negotiations, the situation has not improved for Iran’s civilians. Pahlavi highlighted the United Nations Journal of Human Rights, which estimates that the regime currently imprisons and executes more citizens on an annual basis than during any other era.
“Despite all the hardships and difficulties, Iranians have become far more resilient in their civil disobedience against the regime,” Pahlavi said. “The population has become more organized and continues to protest much of the actions of the regime in power.”
Pahlavi also criticized the strategy of U.S. policy makers and diplomats. He argued that much of the dialogue between both Iran and the United States focuses only on the regime of Iran and its demands. Pahlavi said the majority of the population is often left out in the common discourse, which is not conducive to actual progress against the regime.
“In my 35 years in politics, any dialogue with Iran and the outside world is limited to the regime’s representatives,” Pahlavi said. “I’ve met no U.S. government official who has themselves attempted to interact with any Iranian civilians, and only by interacting with the country’s true representatives can we all gain a greater understanding of their situation.”
Toward the end of his remarks, Pahlavi made a final call for the end of the current Iranian regime. He said that the current struggle is hardly one of religion, but of values. According to Pahlavi, the only way to ensure the success of democracy, liberty and equality is through the empowerment of Iranians who continue to suffer every day.
“This struggle is a question of values,” Pahlavi said. “When we stand for the values that have fueled our own human progress, and when we bring the needs of [Iranians] to the forefront … then we are taking the right steps to destroy this regime.”
While Pahlavi highlighted the importance of empowering democratic activists and parties within Iran, some students said that they wished he had focused more on the specifics of those groups, how successful they have been and whether there is hope for their continued empowerment.
IRC Director for Academic Programming Matthew Ellison (SFS ’18), who moderated the conversation with Pahlavi, said that he believes the significance of the Shah’s visit lies in the outside perspective Pahlavi brings to discourse on Iran and its complex political climate.
“He is bringing a perspective on Iran that we don’t hear very often, especially from the media,” Ellison said. “You don’t always hear elite Iranian voices that talk about democracy and reform, and that alternative narrative made His Excellency’s visit very exciting.”
Zoe Sun (SFS ’18), who attended the event, said that she also wanted to hear more from Pahlavi on how democracy might be realized in Iran.
“I wish he touched more upon the groups within the country trying to take power and institute democracy,” Sun said. “If there is going to be a democracy in Iran one day, or even a large scale political movement, which groups within the country are working towards that goal now? Who should we be paying attention to? Those are the questions he should’ve tried to address.”
Correction: An earlier version of the article stated that DPE co-sponsored the event. DPE hosted an event with Pahlavi following the speech.
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