Free 12 Iranian Artists 1973
This set contains images of an undated Washington, DC demonstration by Iranian students protesting the Shah that took place in late 1973 or early 1974 and ended with a picket line near the Iranian Embassy at 3003-05 Massachusetts Avenue NW.

During the picket line a small delegation went to the Austrian Chancery located at 2343 Massachusetts Ave NW and delivered an appeal for those arrested and tortured by the Shah’s secret police.

The Shah was an Iranian monarch that had been briefly deposed in 1953 before being restored through efforts of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Protests with Iranian students and their supporters wearing masks were common place in DC at that time. The masks were to conceal the students’ identity from the Shah's secret police called SAVAK.

The protestor’s sign that read “Defend the Twelve Iranian Artists,” refers to the arrest of twelve writers, poets and filmakers October 1, 1973 for allegedly plotting to assassinate or kidnap the Shah and his family at a Tehran film festival scheduled for November of that year

The Shah staged the trial of the 12 on national TV. There was little evidence that the twelve even knew each other, but all were aware that the prosecution was asking for the death sentence and evidence later came out that many were tortured.

As a result, seven of the twelve gave confessions and asked the Shah for forgiveness. They received light sentences. The remaining five refused to admit guilt and evidence later came out that they were further tortured. Three of the five would not admit guilt, but asked the Shah for forgiveness and received life imprisonment.

Karamatollh Daneshian and Khosrow Golesorkhi instead defended revolution against the Shah during the televised trial.

They were sentenced to death. Golesorkhi and Daneshian signed their last will as "People's Fada'i" which could mean devotees of the people or could be an allusion to their sympathy for the Fadaiyan-e Khalq guerrillas, a Marxist Leninist group that was waging armed warfare against the Shah’s regime.

Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the two, or any other member of the group, had any actual connection to the guerrillas. The two were executed by firing squad February 17, 1974.

Massive demonstrations and strikes earlier in the year against the Shah had turned public opinion against the regime. The public trial and executions solidified that opposition.

In October 1977 renewed mass demonstrations developed into a campaign of civil resistance that was partly secular and partly religious. Between August and December 1978 strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the country.

The Shah left Iran for exile in mid-January 1979, and in the resulting power vacuum two weeks later Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran to a greeting by several million Iranians. The royal regime collapsed shortly after on February 11 when Marxist-oriented guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting.

While not the dominant force in ousting the Shah, Khomeini rapidly consolidated power. Iran voted by national referendum to become an Islamic Republic on April 1, 1979 and to approve a new theocratic constitution whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country, in December 1979.

Khomeini quickly moved to suppress other opposition groups, jailing and executing opponents. Armed and unarmed opposition continues today.

The former Iranian Embassy is now under US State Department control. In 1993, The Austrian government moved its embassy from the Massachusetts Ave address to larger quarters and sold the building and grounds to Croatia for use as an embassy.

This set of images was scanned from a contact print. Original negatives are apparently lost. Non-commercial use of photos on this site should be credited to Reading/Simpson unless otherwise noted. Commercial use of these items is prohibited without express permission.
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