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Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi


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(b. 26 Oct. 1919, d. 27 July 1980).

Shah of Iran 1941–79 Born in Tehran, he succeeded his deposed father on 17 September 1941, and was subsequently anxious to avoid his predecessor's mistake of having been too reserved toward UK and US influence. Unfortunately, he ultimately went too far in this endeavour, when he came to rely predominantly on US aid against internal popular opposition to his secular reforms. Thus, he resisted the coup by Mussadeq and, after a brief period in exile (1953), returned to speed up a programme of comprehensive social, economic, and cultural reform. Known as the ‘White Revolution’, his measures redistributed some land, and sought to diversify industry through a generally ill‐conceived attempt at industrialization. These changes were designed less to bring about social peace, than to buttress the regime's corrupt allies in the military and among powerful landowners and other owners of capital. Hence, his reforms increased further domestic opposition, such as that led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Pahlavi murdered thousands of political opponents each year, while tens of thousands suffered imprisonment and torture. He was finally unable to contain the unrest that had built up against him for so long, and was forced to flee the country on 16 January 1979. He ultimately settled in Egypt, comforted by his enormous wealth, amassed at the expense of his own people and kept secure in foreign bank accounts.

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