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Des Palais du Chah aux prisons de la revolution.

WRITTEN BY one of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi's trusted confidantes this book sets out to explain exactly what the last shah of Iran was doing during the last fateful weeks of his rule in 1978-79, when the forces of the Islamic revolution were gathering strength, whipping up the winds of change that would wipe out his regime. The full impact of what was happening appears to have eluded him for some considerable time. He was, we are told, spending time chatting to visitors at his palace, asking them fairly naive questions about the religious leaders who were attracting a growing number of followers to the cause of Khomeini.

Between 23 September 1978 and 14 January 1979, the last shah had eight long meetings, some of more than eight hours duration, with the author of this work, Ehsan Naraghi, who was not by any means an important player on the stage of Iranian politics. He held the position of director of a social research institute in the 1960s before a fear that the hated secret police, Savak, were about to arrest him, driving him into exile in 1969.

Naraghi's last meeting with the shah took place only 48 hours before Mohammed Reza's departure from Iran for ever. But this forms only the first part of a thoroughly captivating book. After visiting the Imperial palaces, the author was to go on to spend time in Khomeini's jails, and his notes about the daily life of an Iranian intellectual in Evin prison should be read by all students of Iranian politics. Naraghi was to suffer three terms of imprisonment. During the first, which began in April 1979, his companions in jail were discredited generals and former ministers of the Shah's regime. His last term in prison stretched from July 1981 to September 1983. By this time the time for political debate over a cup of tea had long since passed. One of the most difficult periods in the history of the Islamic Republic -- Radjavi's partisans were involved in an undeclared civil war against Khomeini. The repression was at its peak and the author's fellow prisoners on this occasion were young "Marxist-Islamist" militants, most of whom belonged to Radjavi's movement of the "Mujahidins".

The final part of Naraghi's book is packed with revealing details of life in Evin, the pervasive "smell of death" which impregnated the jail at a time when as many as 80 prisoners a night were executed. The author's descriptions of judges, guards and prisoners make remarkable vignettes.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Middle East
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:416
Previous Article:Education and the Making of Modern Iran.
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