National Geographic : 1975 Jan
still considered the statement valid in light of recent Middle East hostilities-among them, Iran's chronic border clashes with Iraq. After a pause he replied: "If men were in telligent, they would surely join forces against common evils. And if all nations would face the simple fact that no one's well-being can be purchased at the cost of another's, then I believe the statement will stand." Inevitably we spoke of oil and of Iran's progress in refining her own crude into its thousands of derivatives. During an inter view with a European visitor the Shah had summed it up: "In the future I will not sell you crude oil, I will sell you aspirin." When I mentioned the remark, His Majesty smiled. "That is true," he declared. "Your people in the West find it hard to believe us when we say that in ten years we will be another France or Germany. But I can assure you it is no exaggeration: Our young people will inherit a different country." When Does Criticism Become Treason? In fact a number of young Iranians are de manding a different country now, in terms of greater political freedom. A highly vocal group of students, especially those attending • universities abroad, have followed the ex ample of students the world over by criti cizing their home government for repression. By Western standards the students have a point: Iran's giant strides over the past two decades have been taken under what many Americans and Europeans view as a benevo lent but undemocratic system. In the Majlis, the lower house of parliament, opposition is confined to criticism of the majority party for failing to carry out the Shah's decrees-sel dom opposition to the decrees themselves. In Tehran and elsewhere there is still the occasional dreaded knock on the door by agents of SAVAK, the security police. "His Majesty," a student in Tehran com plained to me privately, "declares that there is plenty of room in our country for complete freedom, but no place for treason. The ques tion is, just who decides the difference?" A veteran Tehran news commentator puts it another way- "One thinks twice here before sitting down at the microphone." On the reverse side an overwhelming ma jority of Iranians approve their monarch's methods and his vision of their country as a powerful progressive force in the Middle East and the world beyond. "We're still in the process of peaceful revo lution," says a professor of Iranian history at Tehran University, "and look at the results so far-land reform, industrialization, vastly in creased income, and emancipation of women from the age-old tyranny of Islamic custom. Just recently the Shah decreed free education and medical care for all Iranians. My stu dents are simply too young to grasp the enormity of those changes. I tell them, 'Have patience-one revolution at a time.' " Nowhere is Iran's transformation more striking than in the military field. Virtually defenseless two decades ago, the country now boasts one of the most powerful armed forces in the (Continued on page 20) Airborne heir apparent: Fourteen-year-oldReza Pahlavi,enthroned in the cockpit of a single-engine Bonanza, preparesfor a flight. The youngster may one day become the third Pahlavi to ascend the Peacock Throne.