Radical media, politics and culture.

Noble labour

from Kapucsinki's "Shah of Shahs", p134-137

The picture was clipped from a newspaper so carelessly the caption is missing. It shows a monument of a man on a horse, atop a tall granite pedestal. The rider, a figure of herculean build, is seated comfortably in the saddle, his left hand resting on its horn, his right pointing in something ahead (probably the future). A rope is tied around the neck of the rider, and a similar rope around that of his mount. In the square at the base of the monument stand groups of men pulling on the two fines. All this is taking place in a thronged plaza, with the crowd watching as the men tugging on the ropes strain against the resistance of the massive bronze statue. The photograph captures the very moment when the ropes are stretched light as piano wires and the rider and his mount are just tilting to the side-an instant before they crash to earth. We can't help wondering if these men pulling ropes with so much effort and self-denial will be able to jump out of the way, especially since the gawkers crowded into the plaza have left them little room. This photograph shows the pulling down of a monument to one of the Shahs (father or son) in Teheran or some other Iranian city. It is hard to be sure about the year the photograph was taken, since the monuments of both Pahlavis were pulled down several times, whenever the occasion presented itself to the people.

A reporter from the Teheran newspaper Kayhan interviewed a man who wrecks monuments to the Shah: -You've won a certain popularity in your neighbor- hood, Golam, as a man who pulls down monuments. You're even regarded as a sort of veteran in the field. -That's right. I first pulled down monuments in the time of the old Shah, that is the father of Mohammed Reza, when he abdicated in '41. I remember what great joy there was in the city when news got around the old Shah had stepped down Everybody rushed out to smash his monuments. I was just a young boy then, but I helped my lather and the neighbors pull down the monument that Reza Khan had se up to himself in our neighborhood. I could say that that was my baptism of fire.

-Were you persecuted for it? -Not on that occasion. -Do you remember 53? -Of course I remember. Wasn't that the most important year, when democracy ended and the regime began? In any case, I recall the radio saying that the Shah had escaped to Europe. When the people heard that, they went out into the street and started pulling down the monuments. And I have to say that the young Shah had been putting up monuments to himself and his father from the beginning, so over the years a lot accumulated that needed pulling down. My father was no longer alive then. but I was grown up and for the first time I brought them down on my own.

-So did you destroy all his monuments? -Yes. every last one. By the time the Shah came back, there wasn't a Pahiavi inonuinern left But he started right hack in, putting up monuments to himself and his father. - Does that mean that you would pull down, he would set up, then you would pull down what he had set up, and it kept going on like this? -That's right Many times we nearly threw in the towel. If we pulled one down, he set up three. If we pulled down three, he set up ten. There was no end in sight. -And when was the next time, after '53, that you wrecked them again? -We intended to go to work in '63, when the rebel- lion broke out after the Shah imprisoned Khomeini. But instead the Shah began such a massacre that, far from puffing down monuments, we had to hide our hawsers. -Am I to understand you had special hawsers for the job? -Yes indeed! We hid our stout sisal rope with a rope-seller at the bazaar. It was no joke. If the police had picked up our trail, we would have gone to the wall. We had everything prepared for the right moment, all thought out and practiced. During the last revolution, I mean in '79, all those disasters happened because a lot of amateurs were knocking down monuments, and there were accidents when they pulled the statues onto their own heads. It's not easy to pull down monuments. It takes experience, expertise. You have to know what they're made of, how much they weigh, how high they are, whether they're welded together or sunk in cement, where to hook the line on, which way to pull, and how to smash them once they're down. We were already working at pulling it down each time they set up a new monument to the Shah. That was the best chance to get a good look and see how it was built, whether the figure was hollow or solid, and, most important, how it was attached to the pedestal and how it was reinforced. -It must have taken up a lot of your time. -Right! More and more monuments were going up in the last few years. Everywhere-in the squares, in the streets, in the stations, by the road. And besides, there were others setting up monuments as well. Whoever wanted to get a jump on the competition for a good contract hurried to be the first one to put up a monument. That's why a lot of them were built cheaply and, when the time came, they were easy to bring down. But, I have to admit, there were times when I doubted we'd get them all. There were hundreds of them But we weren't afraid to work up a sweat. My hands were all blisters from the ropes. -So, Golam, you' had an interesting line of work. -It wasn't work. It was duty. I'm very proud to have been a wrecker of the Shah's monuments. I think that everyone who took part is proud to have done so. What we did is plain for all to see. All the pedestals are empty. And the figures of the Shahs have either been smashed or are lying in backyards somewhere.