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Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

Shah of Iran

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was born in Tehran, Iran, on October 16, 1919, the son of Shah Reza Pahlavi. He attended a Swiss boarding school until 1935, and then a local military academy in Tehran, until 1938.

In 1941, fearing that Iran might ally itself with Nazi Germany, a preventive invasion was staged by Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Reza Shah was forced to abdicate, and Mohammad Reza was installed on the throne in his place, on September 16.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

Major Events During His Reign

1949 An assassination attempt on the Shah, attributed to the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party, resulted in the banning of that party and the expansion of the Shah's constitutional powers.

1951 The Iranian Parliament, under the leadership of the nationalist movement of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, voted unanimously to nationalize the oil industry. One month later, Mossadegh was named Prime Minister of Iran.

1953 The United States and Great Britain funded and led a coup d'etat to overthrow Prime Minister Mossadegh, with the help of military forces loyal to the Shah. The coup failed and the Shah fled Iran. After a brief exile in Italy, the Shah was returned to power, thanks to a second coup, which was successful. The deposed Mossadegh was arrested, tried, and sentenced to house arrest for life.

1962-1970 Pahlavi supported the Yemeni royalists against republican forces in the Yemen Civil War.

1963 The White Revolution, which included land reform, the extension of voting rights to women, and the elimination of illiteracy.

1967 Pahlavi crowned himself as King of the Kings (Emperor of Iran); his wife, Farah Diba, was crowned as Shahbanoo (Emperess of Iran).

1971 Iran assisted the Sultan of Oman in putting down a rebellion in Dhofar.

1971 The Shah held an extravagant celebration of 2,500 years of Persian monarchy.

1975 Iran and Iraq signed the Algiers Accord, which granted Iraq equal navigation rights on the Arvand/Shatt al-Arab River in return for the Shah's agreement to end his support for Kurdish rebels in Iraq.

1975 Pahlavi abolished the multi-party system of government and authorized the creation of SAVAK, the Iranian secret police.

1976 The Islamic calendar was replaced with an "imperial" calendar, which began with the foundation of the Persian Empire more than 2,500 years earlier.

His Downfall

By the mid-1970's the Shah reigned amidst widespread discontent caused by the repressiveness of his regime, socio-economic changes that benefited some classes at the expense of others, and the increasing gap between the ruling elite and the populace. Islamic leaders, particularly the exiled cleric Ayatollah Khomeini, were able to focus this discontent with a populist ideology tied to Islamic principles and calls for the overthrow of the Shah. The Shah's government collapsed following widespread uprisings in 1978-1979.

A mutilated photo of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi lies in a Tehran trash can.
mutilated photo of the Shah

His Death

Suffering from advanced cancer, Pahlavi left Iran on January 16, 1979 to begin a life in exile. He lived in Egypt, Morocco, the Bahamas, and Mexico before going to the United States for treatment of lymphatic cancer. His acceptance into the United States led to the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran and the taking of more than 50 hostages -- a crisis that would go on for 444 days.

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi died in Cairo, Egypt, on July 27, 1980.

Shortly after his overthrow, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi wrote an autobiographical memoir entitled Answer to History (1980).

His Wives and Children

Princess Fawzia of Egypt, daughter of King Faud I of Egypt -- 1939-1945 (divorced) -- one daughter, Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi (October 27, 1940).

Soraya Esfandiary, daughter of the Iranian Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany -- 1951-March 14, 1958 (divorced) -- no children.

Soraya, former Queen of Iraq, walks in Cologne, West Germany, shortly after being divorced from Shah Pahlavi.

Soraya and her brother set sail from Genoa, Italy, to visit America after her divorce from Shah Pahlavi.

Farah Diba, daughter of a Captain in the Imperial Iranian Army -- December 21, 1959-his death -- Crown Prince Reza Cyrus Pahlavi (October 31, 1960), Farahnaz Pahlavi (March 12, 1963), Ali Reza Pahlavi (April 28, 1966), Leila Pahlavi (March 27, 1970).

The Shah married 21-year-old Farah Diba in Tehran on December 21,1959.
the Shah marries Farah Diba

Happy Iranians cheer the news of the birth of a Crown Prince on October 31, 1960. The son, named Reza Cyrus Ali, was the first child of Queen Farah Diba and the first son of the Shah.
birth of an heir

Queen Farah Diba and Shah Pahlavi pose with Crown Prince Reza Cyrus Ali.
Queen Farah and Crown Prince Riza Cyrus Ali

Shah Pahlavi and Queen Farah introduce Crown Prince Reza to his first No Ruz (Iranian New Year) reception at the Royal Palace in Teheran in March 1962.
Crown Prince Reza

Shah Pahlavi poses with Princess Leila while on a vacation in August 1971.
Princess Leila

See Also

Great Britain
United States
Ayatollah Khomeini
Iranian Hostage Crisis

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The Robinson Library >> Iran (Persia)

This page was last updated on September 12, 2018.