by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

The American people were shocked when militant students seized the American embassy in Tehran and held 50 Americans hostage. But if the mass media had accurately portrayed what had been happening in Iran and America’s involvement in that country, the events which transpired might not have been so surprising.

Recent reports suggest that the national revolt of the Iranian people against the Shah and the subsequent takeover of the embassy was based on historical precedent.

Nationalist opposition to end domination of Iran by foreigners first surfaced more than a hundred years ago. In 1872, the reigning Shah granted a concession to Baron Julius de Reuter, founder of the news service. The concession, which would have enabled Reuter to build railroads, exploit mines, and establish a bank, was cancelled because of massive protest by Iranians. Since that time, nationalists have repeatedly struggled to curb the power of both foreign investors and the Iranian monarchy itself.

However, as late as the summer of 1978, prestigious U.S. newspapers like the New York Times were informing Americans that the Shah had a “broad base of popular support” and were portraying him as a modernizing, reform-oriented leader.

But in that same year, there was an unprecedented general strike and several other protests in which an estimated 10,000 Iranians were gunned down by the Shah’s security forces. The response of the U.S. government, an avowed defender of human rights, was to send riot-control equipment, advisers, trainers, and more than $ 2.5 billion in weapons.

Amnesty International, an association with no political affiliations, has described the Shah’s regime as the “world’s worst violator of human rights.”

Over the years, a coalition of religious leaders, middle class liberals, students, peasants, and working people have galvanized into an increasingly powerful force (although unperceived by the CIA). While these national­ists have had some success in curbing foreign control of Iran, Shah Pahlavi’s strong ties to the United States through Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller served to inflame those nationalists to fever pitch.

The media’s failure to report both the inhumanity of the Shah’s regime and the official U.S. support of that regime qualifies this story for nomination as one of the “best censored” stories of 1979.


Mother Jones, April 1979, “The Iranian Hundred Years’ War, by Eqbal Ahmad.