Editor’s Pick

01 May 2017
central press / getty images mohammad

MOHAMMAD REZA PAHLAVI, then the shah of Iran, holidays at a luxury ski resort with his wife and three children in February 1969. Almost exactly a decade later, political revolution forced them to leave Iran, and the monarchy was formally abolished.

Mohammad Reza ruled for 38 years, from 1941 to 1979. Educated in Switzerland, and trained as a professional pilot, Mohammad Reza intended to consolidate his rule by implementing policies that would “westernise” Iran and shift power to the disenfranchised—in particular, to the peasantry and the working class. These policies were collectively termed the White Revolution.

The White Revolution’s reforms, combined with Mohammad Reza’s secular ideology, brought him into direct conflict with Iran’s landed elites and Shia clergy. Following a year of demonstrations and strikes by students and religious groups led by the then-exiled religious leader Ruhollah Khomeini, the shah was forced to leave the country with his family, and the monarchy was replaced with an Islamic republic. This brought an end to more than 2,500 years of continuous monarchy in the region.

Following his exile, Iran’s Central Revolutionary Court declared on 13 May 1979 that Mohammad Reza, his supporters and his family had been sentenced to death. He never returned to Iran, and died in exile in Egypt, where he was granted asylum by the then president Anwar El-Sadat.