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LIFE's list of dictators: Who put the interns
in charge?

By Sheda Vasseghi

Mainstream media’s shameless audacity and direct attack on the general public’s intelligence has reached an all time high. LIFE magazine has published a list of the world’s worst dictators including the late Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1919-1980) as one of the nominees.


A definition for “dictator” or the method of selection for this list was not provided.

Clicking through the images of these individuals may or may not trigger one’s memories from World History class. But seeing the Shah on this list stands out as a sore thumb not only because his place among others is odd, but because the majority of his fellow countrymen view his legacy as the epitome of secularism, modernization and nationalism. As a matter of fact, with the Islamists toppling the Shah’s regime in taking control of the country in 1979, most Iranians and foreigners who had lived in Iran view the Shah’s era as the “golden” times.

Also In This Edition

Since LIFE did not provide its parameters for selecting the individuals on this list, one must look at sample nominees to find similarities and correlations among those chosen. In its list of worst dictators, LIFE includes the following:

Joseph Stalin of Russia, who killed more than 20 million people via needless starvation, political executions, work camps and imprisonment; Adolf Hitler, who was directly responsible for WWII resulting in more than 46 million deaths including the Jewish holocaust; Benito Mussolini of Italy, who killed approximately 430,000 people during WWII and occupation of Ethiopia; Francisco Franco of Spain, who killed tens to hundreds of thousands of people due to civil war and executions; and Saddam Hussein, who killed nearly 2 million people by triggering wars and political executions.

So for LIFE to throw the late Shah among history’s worst is an enigma given the Shah is not associated with any mass murders or wars resulting in tens of thousands let alone millions of deaths. Looking at realities of history it is important to address LIFE’s publication on this matter.

As a leader, the Shah made errors as any leader would in his situation. The Shah was authoritarian but not a dictator by any standards. His reign must be weighed against Iran’s place in its own history at that time.

LIFE should have noted on the eve of 9/11 memorial, the chaotic situations in the Arab world, the recent unprecedented attack on the Israeli embassy in Egypt, the disruption of relations between Turkey and Israel, and the overall dangerous imbalance in the region are as a direct result of the fall of Iran to fundamentalists. The world is witnessing a rapid rise and spread of political Islamism which stems from the events of 1979 in Iran.

Additionally, LIFE’s timing for such a clearly irresponsible political maneuver is considered hostile by the majority of Iranians, who have risen since June 2009 in opposition to the Islamist regime in Teheran, the world’s top supporter of terrorism responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iranians including a mass exodus and refugee crisis never experienced before.

The global community continues to witness the Islamic Republic’s cruel crackdown on civilians for demonstrating against an illegal regime while reports of mass rapes and torture in prisons overload the Internet. Yet, LIFE chose to sneak in a false and politically motivated portrayal of a leader who is respected by the majority of his people.

In his autobiography, Ronald Reagan writes “America has lost loyal allies in the Middle East, the shah of Iran and Anwar Sadat, at the hands of [Islamist] fanatics”; but according to LIFE, the late Shah should take his historical place next to Hitler! Even a flunky in World History would have done a better job on this report than the editors of LIFE.

Memo to LIFE and mainstream media: Stand with the people of Iran as such malicious and anti-Iranian publications will be remembered by a nation that is currently under economic, cultural and social genocide. In a world of instant global communication, LIFE should cease publishing damaging propaganda at the expense of innocent lives, and return to its journalistic moral and ethical duties.

Sheda Vasseghi is on the Board of Azadegan Foundation, and is a regular contributor to and on Iran’s affairs. Join The Official Site of Sheda Vasseghi on Facebook.


It's been years since anyone accused Time-Life Publications of being objective. They have always had a political agenda and their so called reporting reflects this Agenda. So what is the surprise?

El Magnifico      6:02 p.m. / Wednesday, September 14, 2011

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