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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Shah's Son Wants Democracy in Iran

Aired May 30, 2003 - 19:25   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, ANCHOR: An Iranian refugee who had his eyes, ears and mouths stitched shut has partially ended his protest. Nurses cut the stitches, but Abas Amini says he will continue his hunger strike until Britain eases its policy on those seeking asylum.
Now, as part of our closer look inside Iran, let's first look outside where one man is still hoping to change his homeland. The son of the late shah. Our State Department correspondent, Andrea Koppel, talked with him and has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESONDENT (voice-over): From the time Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi was a young boy, he was groomed to be king.

REZA PAHLAVI, IRAN'S CROWN PRINCE: All of a sudden this huge crowd would be cheering and calling my name and telling their feelings about me. I mean, that is special. I don't think the average 14- year-old would get that kind of a reaction.

KOPPEL: But as the oldest son of the shah of Iran, Reza was no average 14-year-old. He was heir to the thrown of the Pahlavi dynasty and says he often travel incognito around Iran to meet the people he hoped to one day rule.

PAHLAVI: I would go to villages, to towns, to mosques.

KOPPEL (on camera): And they didn't know who you were?

PAHLAVI: Sometimes they recognized me, sometimes they didn't. And the funny part is that whenever they would not recognize me they would turn to a couple of people who accompanied me and say it's so strange, but your son looks exactly like the crown prince.

KOPPEL (voice-over): But in 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution forced the shah, who was dying of cancer, and the royal family into exile, sending them to Egypt, Morocco, Mexico and the United States.

Eighteen-year-old Reza Pahlavi was already living in Texas, training to be a fighter pilot.

More than two decades later, now 42 years old, Pahlavi is still living in the United States, lobbying lawmakers in Washington and around the world.

PAHLAVI: My mission is not about the past or the monarchy or myself. It is about the right of the Iranian people to have self- determination.

KOPPEL: Pahlavi's goal, he says: to end Iran's theocracy and set the stage for a national referendum and eventually a secular democracy.

Privately, some U.S. officials say, Pahlavi is not a credible member of Iran's opposition and add they haven't met with him for years. They also say the shah was overthrown because he was a dictator with a harsh human rights record.

PAHLAVI: How do we want to get there? By methods of nonviolence and civility with civilians.

KOPPEL: But Pahlavi claims he has lots of support among Iran's 68 million people, some nostalgic for the monarchy. Most, however, too young to remember it and communicate with him through e-mails and faxes.

PAHLAVI: Every time I see it, Pahlavi (ph) says, remember one thing, you don't belong to yourself, you belong to us.

KOPPEL (on camera): That's a lot of pressure.

PAHLAVI: It is more than just pressure. It's almost like suggesting that you are not born a free man.

KOPPEL (voice-over): Andrea Koppel, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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