Shah of Iran - Last Interview, during exile in Panama (1980)

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Shah of Iran - Last Interview, during exile in Panama (1980)

One year after his exile, and 74 days into the Iran hostage crisis, Mohammad Reza Shah sat down for an exclusive interview with British journalist David Frost. The interview was featured on ABC News’ 20/20 program. It was his very last interview, taking place with the former ruler in exile in Panama. He did not receive any money for the interview and died a few months later.

Regardless, Reza Shah was not worried about dying of cancer soon, positive in his faith in God and hopeful for new medicines.

Reza Shah was the last shah of Iran before the forming of the Islamic Republic, living in Latin America and dying of cancer. He seemed emotional and paranoid of international conspiracies. Still, he is confident throughout the interview that the politics of Ayatollah Khomeini and his government were much worse than his.

Frost, the current focus of the brilliant film Frost/Nixon by Director Ron Howard, does a good job of bringing up all the allegations against Reza Shah, but I would have liked to ask him specifically about the article planted about Khomeini. It was that article that led to the killings in Qom, which in so many ways was the fuse of the 1979 revolution.

Frost pulls all the punches asking Reza Shah some very hard questions, but the ex-shah refuses to answer many of them. One of the allegations against Reza Shah is that he stole millions of dollars from the Iranian people. Reza Shah refused to answer this question, saying that there are many millionaires in the USA and that Frost should interview them. He said he has less money than most American millionaires.

Asked if he wished that SAVAK had never been formed, Reza Shah said all countries of the world have intelligent agencies. He instead points the finger at the CIA, KGB, and the new Islamic government. “Where is the freedom of the press now?” said Reza Shah. “We have never seen such a repression in the whole history of the country.”

He does not deny the use of torture. He said it is just a human reaction to the way a prisoner was acting. He said it would be masochistic of him to claim responsibility for tortures he claims that he didn’t know were going on – despite the fact he was the king. He claimed torture had stopped completely in 1976.

The hand of the British shows up in the interview. Reza Shah said much of the lost money probably ended up going to the British. He called Ayatollah Khomeini’s allegations of him stealing money, “Nazi-like propaganda.”

Reza Shah said he would refuse to abdicate the throne because something like that is not in his vocabulary. He said the new Iranian government has no right to claim the throne because they reject the United Nations and the world public opinion, are massacring people and have no respect for law. He accused the new government as not true to Islam because of their alleged killings.

“My country has fallen to pieces,” said Reza Shah.

He recommended that the U.N. not give into the terrorist’s demands that were currently holding American’s hostage. “Then terrorism [will] prevail in the world,” Reza Shah said.

Khomeini’s government accused Reza Shah of killing over 100,000 people in Iran during his reign. “They don’t know how to count,” he said. He claimed the number was below 1,000. During the riots, he said he had to kill people because they were burning things and destroying libraries and hotels so he “couldn’t just stand and look at it.” He thinks more people have probably died under Khomeini’s reign in one year than his whole 37 years as king.

Reza Shah said he had never heard of Khomeini until he traveled to Qom to meet with Mullahs during Khomeini’s Parisian media blitz. “He was not a very important person,” Reza Shah said. He said he never considering executing Khomeini – but instead wanted to exile him, which he considers the best policy for religious people.

Reza Shah calls the revolution a “vast orchestrated conspiracy.” He claimed he knew Libya had given thousands of dollars to revolutionaries, and had trained several of them. Reza Shah believed Khomeini had Western support in the revolution, including America and the USSR.

Reza Shah said he was surprised by the freedom that Khomeini had in Paris to speak out. But, he also felt that no matter where Khomeini was in Europe he would have the possibility to speak to the media.

When he left Iran, he said he was so "terribly shocked" that he was speechless, unable to take in the moment.

Reza Shah might have given his answer to history by trying to absolve himself of blame in the current Iranian government, but it was very much his actions that primed the country for revolution. His allegiance to foreign powers, creation and use of the violent SAVAK, the killings in Qom (and their memorials), and persecution of opposition made him a very hated man. In fact, if it were not for his heavy persecution of leftist groups, it would not have allowed for such as strong revolutionary religious movement. He holds as much blame for what happened in Iran as anyone.


Shah Reza Pahlavi


by Encyclopaedia Britannica

shah of Iran, also spelled Riza Shah Pahlevi, original name Reza Khan

born March 16, 1878, Alasht, Mazanderan province, Iran died July 26, 1944, Johannesburg

Reza Shah Pahlavi

Iranian army officer who rose through army ranks to become shah of Iran (1925–41) and began the regeneration of his country.

Early career.

Reza Khan was of a family of chiefs of a clan named Pahlevan. After the death of his father, Col. Abbas Ali Khan, Reza’s mother took him to TehrÄ


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