Lessons from a Theocratic State

This year is the 30th Anniversary of the Iranian revolution.

I have written an article on “How Iran became a Theocratic State”. The whole paper is quite long, about 7 pages of single spacing , and so I would not post it here. I would however write a summary and my conclusions in this post.

There is a saying that ‘history is a mirror”. From history we can learn a lot of lessons. In particular, how Iran became a theocratic state can be a valubale lesson to all of us in Malaysia.

Iran has more than 70 million population , 89% of them Muslims, mainly Shiite Muslims. It has a history dating back to as long as 5 thousands years ago. In 632 AD, when the Muslim army defeated the Persian Army (Iran was formerly known as Persia) at the Battle of Al Qadisiyah, it had slowly revolved into a Muslim State. There were many dynasties over the years, and at the turn of the 10th centruy , it was ruled by the Qajar Dynasty.

In 1905, after a series of defeats by the Imperial Russian Army and the British Army, coupled with a very corrupt rule by the Qajar Shah, there was a massive revolt and protest by the people. The Qajar Shah had to give up his power of rule to save his throne and establish a Parliament and Iran became a Constitutional Monarchy…

In 1921, an army general Reza Shah ( the father of the last Shah of Iran) staged a coup detat and seized the power of the government, and became the Commander in Chief. He became the power behind the throne. In 1925, he overthrew the Qajar Shah, and became the Shah of a new Dynasty, Pahlavi Dynasty.. (** Note Mao’s famous saying: power comes from the barrels of the guns). Iran , however, remain a Constutional Monarchy.

In 1941, Reza Shah had to abdicate after British and USSR invaded Iran as Iran was siding the Nazis. Reza’s son, Mohammad Reza , became the Shah ..(The last Shah of Iran)..

In 1951, a new Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadeq was elected as head of government. He immediately nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, a British company mainly, and incurred the wrath of both the USA and Britain. Meanwhile, the Last Shah and the PM clasehed over appointment of a minister of War. The PM turned to the people and there was a massive show of support from the people.

In the end, the last Shah had to back down. But in cohort with the CIA, they planned a coup and overthrew the government of Mossadeq….

After overthrowing the elected govenrment, The Shah suspended Parliament and Iran became a autocratic state with the Shah ruled with the help of his ministers…

Under the rule of the Last Shah, there were repressive laws and detention of dissidents without trials. There were wide spread corruptions, and the oil money and policies benefited only about a thousand families, and Iran was effectively a oligarchy..

There were suppression of the clerics, and Ayatollay Khomeni was exiled in 1964 after being put under house arrest in 1963.

The Shah also implemented certain rules that were not popular with the muslims population, such as allowing women the right to votes; a husband had to obtain permission fromt he wife before taking the second wife; and legal matter involving families were transfered to the juridiction of the civil court and not the religious court.

Because of the oil money and mismanagement of the economy, Iran had a run away Inflation, and people simply had  no money to buy things… There were massive demonstraions in Teheran and elsewhere, to which the Shah used not only tear gas, but live bullets. Army and police were ordered to shoot into the crowd.

Those around my age would recall the massive demonstrations of a few million people in Teheran and elsewhere in Iran late 1978 and January 1979. They made newspaper headlines for many days in a row, as far as I can recall..In December 1998, 3 millions were in the streets , and refused to move. The soldiers had by then refused to obey the shooting order, and many became part of the demonstrating crowd.

In the end, the SHah went on National radio to apologise and promise a new rule. But it was too late. He had no choice but leave Iran on the 6th of January 1979. Khomeini returned in February and establish a theocratic government , in which the president is subjected to the highest religious council called the Council of the Guardians, which became the most powerful council overseeing the President and the council of ministers. The Grand Ayatollah became the most powerful man and his word is the final law…

In conclusion, the reasons why the Shah was overthrown as I have analysed it would be posted below.. This can serve as a lesson to all of us in Malaysia that no matter how powerful you are and how much control you have of government apparatus, ultimately an unpopular government will be overthrown. These are my conclusions:

  • Unpopular autocratic rule. Since the coup de’tat supported by covert operation of CIA in 1953, the Shah had ruled as an absolute monarchy in a land that was a Constitutional Monarchy for many decades before. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely; the Shah’s rule led to abuses and corruption.
  • Suppression and Brutality. There was a total suppression of any dissent and dissidents were arrested without trials; many were killed at the hands of the secret intelligence service SAVAK. Demonstrations were brutally put down with army and police personnel asked to shoot into crowds. The populace came to regard the Shah as a tyrant and any resistance to this tyrannical rule was deemed to be better than the autocratic rule.
  • Poor economic management. Despite the fact that Iran was having an oil boom, few in the populace benefited from the boom. In fact, inflation was in double digits and people simply could not cope with their meager pay. On top of that, unemployment was increasing and a hungry person was always willing to go against the establishment. The Shah’s regime was in fact viewed as an oligarchy, with the economic advances benefited only a selected few, around a thousand families.Huge amount of money was spent on arms at a time when people were suffering from high inflation and unemployment. The widening gap between the few rich and the poor populace fueled more discontent. Shortages of food and necessities were commonly experienced by the masses, whereas the rich led a lifestyle of extravagance
  • The rise of the clerics. Because of the unpopular rule and the introduction of policies that were seemed contrary to the teachings of Islam, the mostly Muslim populace (89% of Iranians were Muslims) turned increasing to the clerics for direction and guidance. Those who died at the hands of the Shah were viewed as martyrs. The Shah’s suppression and attempt at modernization of the social fabric of Iran created the opposite effects of fuelling the conservative Islamic revival.
  • Foreign intervention. Iran before 1953 was a constitutional monarchy. It was overthrown through the cooperation of the Shah and the CIA via Operation Ajax, following the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company by the then Prime Minister. The toppling of a democratically elected government effectively stifled the rule of laws and Iran became a classic case of ‘rule by man’ with the resultant abuses. The presence of foreign workers and more than 50,000 Americans in Iranian soil added to the anger and hatred towards the Shah.


23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Myxzyden
    Mar 17, 2009 @ 14:57:51

    thanks for the little history lesson.

    Dear doctor, maybe you can introduce such educational article more often…. would once a week be too taxing to your busy schedule?


  2. monsterball
    Mar 17, 2009 @ 15:22:27

    Yes….Nice history lesson.
    Our government is so unpopular…and have stayed ….much too long in power. UMNO really thinks..Malaysia belongs to them now….so much so…….they do as they like..with few mongrel lapdogs…grouping up as BN party…to support the politics of…of race and religion….divide to rule …with jungle laws. ..to protect them.This out-dated type of governing keeps going on and on.
    Yes…..it will be an absolute nightmare…. to see them get elected again…next GE.


  3. Dr Hsu
    Mar 17, 2009 @ 15:52:57

    Dear readers, including Monsterball,

    I almost forgot something that i wish to warn you all…

    when you comment, please do not use names or implicate anyone without proof…

    I foresee a change to a more stringent clamp-down on dissenting opinion.

    In IT world, the Big brother has a way to detect your IP addresses as long as you go through the local Internet service provider, such as streamxys and tmnet…. Do not be like those few bloggers that were being charged…


  4. Dr Hsu
    Mar 17, 2009 @ 16:10:00


    I will certainly try to write more of these articles, and let all of us learn from history…

    I hope that those at the top and those around them can have some time to reflect on history…

    I will try but maybe not as often as a weekly basis, since i am wearing too many hats as of now…Maybe i will have more time if I quit politics…hahaha.. and that may be soon , who knows…hahaha


  5. Kenny Gan
    Mar 17, 2009 @ 17:43:13

    From Malaysian Insider, “BN has no more second chances”.

    “The people can assist and encourage the BN to change by giving BN support in the by-elections. This will give those of us in BN more support and strength to continue the process of reform from within.” – Koh Tsu Koon.

    Is KTK for real? Umno has not changed in the least and has not heeded the cries for change, yet KTK is asking us to support BN more. What logic is this? The nerve of the guy!


  6. anun
    Mar 17, 2009 @ 17:47:58

    Dr Hsu

    Right on the dot . Big brother has a way to detect your IP addresses as long as you go through the local Internet service provider, such as streamxys and tmnet…

    Not only that all outgoing and incoming calls of listed bloggers are being monitored by a separate branch of the SB , and so are sms . That’s how they locate one of the Bali bombers in Indonesia . All they need is just for you to switch on and off your hp and they will be able to even pin point your location . At any time , more than 50,000 calls are being monitored thru their upgraded system . Thats all I can say .


  7. Nick
    Mar 17, 2009 @ 17:56:06

    When I was in Form 4 & 5 preparing for the MCE, history was my favorite subject. I was most fascinated with Genghiz Khan and the invasion into Europe. I agree with Dr. Hsu that history does teach us many lessons. I used to have a boss whom I looked up to and he was an Iranian. The smartest, most intellectual man that I have had the privilege to work for. He was my Audit Manager and there was so many occasions when I was able to pick up things from him. I will not be surprised if this Nation attain nuclear status soon. Btw, the Iranians consider themselves above everyone else in the Middle East amongst the Arabs. They have history, culture, arts, civilization, religion, everything going for them. Have you ever own a Persian silk rug? Best in the world.


  8. ganselmi
    Mar 17, 2009 @ 21:28:51


    I was born Iran, but moved to the US when I was a teenager. I’ve lived under the IRI and still have family back there. Let me tell you life under a theocratic state is simply hellish.

    But I will say this: there are a lot of distortions and misunderstandings about the late Shah. He wasn’t nearly as brutal as his enemies made him sound. Today, many Iranians – including those born after the revolution like me – long for the day s of the Shah: we made so much progress during his reign, and I’m convinced if he’d had the chance to fully realize his dreams of developing Iran into a strong, independent, economically-advanced country, Iranians and the world would be much better off.

    If you feel like it, please visit my site http://www.iranianfreedom.wordpress.com to learn more about my views.


  9. Dr Hsu
    Mar 17, 2009 @ 21:48:44

    Ironically, the Shah sent thousands of Iranians to the States for tertiary education. In the seventies, they formed tha largest group of foreign students in USA. Many of these came back to Iran and became part of the intelligensia that brought about the Shah’s downfall…

    In the last days of the Shah, people were so fed up that even if they were asked to choose between devils and the Shah, many would choose the devils..

    I sense a almost similar sentiments here… Some of the urbanites are so fed up with BN that they would not mind to vote for religious party and they even do not mind the hudud, not knowing that under a theocratic state, the people have very little say, and the clergy will be the one determining all the laws and regulations…

    I do not mind hudud but I do mind a theocratic state.


  10. monsterball
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 07:17:30

    Doc…thanks for your warning.
    Right now…I am experiencing much difficulties in getting into few blogs.
    I hope it is streamxys useless services and not the govt. smart way to control freedom of speeches in internet.
    Well… Bill Gates became the richest man in the world by creating anti bugs..then suspected to be bug creator…to come out with new anti bug….on and on.
    Now all his sins are forgiven giving so much charities.
    Maybe someone here can give advises…how to program to counter fight controls..by govt.
    One way…is to completely change nick and email address….correct?
    But I hold dear to one nick…and will not change…at all.


  11. petestop
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 11:08:22


    Selangor folks, your water board almost bankrupt, with billion dollar debts.

    Yet, their CEO is getting paid RM425,000 in 2007 which worked out to RM16,346 per day or RM35 per minute.

    Basically getting paid well for incompetence.

    I’m sure that folks like pohwatchdog will try to pin the blame on PR instead of acknowledging their own incompetency of being part of the BeEnd govt.


  12. monsterball
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 12:16:08

    Doc…..I have decided to speak my mind out as usual…..no change.
    Just look at how UMNO keep favouring their own kind.
    CM of .. proven giving bribes through his assistants…found guilty..yet still CM of …….with Naji saying it is OK.
    This braggart said…”UMNO will rule forever”
    I wonder which country in the world have a minister talk like that..yet hero worshiped and respected by few UMNO members.
    Such twists and turns…always after the Oppositions with so much nonsensical charges….and be punished to the extreme.
    Look at Gobind…just uttering word in Parliament…on behalf of Malaysians….look how they punished him.
    If speaking till I drop dead..as advised by you…..to speak from my heart…..not afraid of a corrupted low down government…..bullying others….let it be so…whatever will be will be.
    After all..I was near death ..treated like an animal with tear gas. My contributions to young Malaysians… not completed yet….until GE.
    Once one commentator balls shrink and get frightened…what about others?
    No…we will practice non violence and disobedient….to an unfair..unjust…dictatorial government.
    No Sireee….no need proves…as long as UMNO also cannot prove what we wrote are wrong.
    If they can prove that….the 12th election would completely wiped out Oppositions.
    They can use the law… ISA..threats…use everything under their control…I have seen enough…of UMNO…..and since “UMNO BARU” took over….it is entirely different from the original UMNO.
    Out of love for the name UMNO…many stayed back as members…but some UMNO members are feeling shameful. That’s good sign.
    If they dare not arrest Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen saying….”UMNO is corrupted to the core” ….asking for proves….let them practice the double standards…..if they so wish.
    If they dare not arrest Mahathir…confronting the royalty…taking the powers away…when he was PM…and now give Karpal so much trouble…uttering on behalf of Malaysians…..let them continue..and see what will be the result of coming 13th GE.

    (Editor, I have to delete the name to protect my commentators as well as this blog.. If a commentator have no ulterior motive, say from a certain Branch, they should follow the rules of the blog…(but i am sure everyone understands even with the names deleted..)


  13. klm
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 12:59:57

    If you want to write exciting comments, do it from Starbucks and other places that offer free wifi. Rotate the venues.


  14. anon
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 14:50:10


    TOP secret contingency plans have been drawn up to counter the threat posed by a “summer of discontent” in Britain….



  15. Kenny
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 15:27:02

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think your IP address can be detected by a third party without the co-operation of the site you’re posting in.

    Those 8 charged for insulting the Perak Sultan were all posting comments in the Royal website.


  16. Kenny
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 15:29:18

    By the way, Zaid Ibrahim’s full speech calling on the Agung not to appoint Najib as PM is at malaysiakini. Definitely worth reading. If you haven’t got a subscription, get one. At only RM15 a month you should be ashamed of yourself if this trivial amount is holding you back.


  17. petestop
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 15:35:30

    Correction… the Syabas CEO is paid
    RM425,000 A MONTH! in 2007 or RM5.1 million per annum.


  18. Dr Hsu
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 15:43:02


    if your computer is using local ISP, then it can detect your IP address.

    klm has a good point.. or if you can also subscribe to a SIngapore mobile account and use their ISP, in which case, Singapore authorites will know your IP…

    anun should know. He is knowledgeable in most matters, … If he is whom i think he is

    Zaid speech –youcan oso go to TMI..malaysianinsider….foc


  19. anun
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 19:55:16

    Dr Hsu

    Thank you for the compliments ………


  20. anonymous
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 20:58:43

    8228 – KTK
    3558 -THN
    anun – TCY?


  21. anun
    Mar 19, 2009 @ 19:17:52

    anonymous 8:58 pm

    I’ll recommend you to Scotland Yard , Cheers !!

    As to your posting , No Comment


  22. klm
    Mar 20, 2009 @ 00:35:27

    Is Malaysia coming to be like Iran in the day of the Shah? In those days, the Shah’s hand was everywhere. Even in the selection of the President of the chamber of commerce. There was no place for dissent. The Shah’s Savak was spying every and on everything.

    Looks like we are coming close to it.

    Our Savak is everywhere now, listening to everything.


  23. Atila
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 01:32:32

    Good Dr Hsu.

    You have it all right when i was writing to you back then.

    It is not a piece of history like some thinks in this blog. Iran is the best country to model for Malaysia in terms of how Malaysian govt is baking/cooking. The country Turkey isnt appropriate…for now.

    Currently, Malaysia Govt BN=Bee End fit into
    the criteria that you have laid in your write up.

    BN will fall, just at par Shah Iran’s.

    When are we coming with a revolution?

    Its sick that Khairy Jamaluddin now in
    top Pemuda post. Lets see…uuummm another
    3-4 terms for Presidency=PM??


    Rakyat must change the Govt either in ballot boxes or a revolution. Not condemn just on our notebooks or PCs.

    Do we have the guts to do so?


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