Iran went through several revolutions in the 19th and 20th centuries, starting with the Tobacco Revolt in 1891, when the whole country stopped smoking following a Fatwa (religious decree) issued in response to a monopoly given to the British on the Iranian tobacco market. Subsequent revolutions similarly resulted from Iranian resentment of foreign involvement in their country, and were led or at least strongly supported by the Shi’ite clergy. The clergy, however, remained true to the principle postulated by the 6th Shi’ite Imam Ja’far, and never took the government into their own hands.
We heard about unrest and demonstrations against Mohammad Reza Shah too, but nobody anticipated the outcome of the Islamic Revolution. On 16 January 1979 the Shah left Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini came to Iran on 1 February after a decade and a half of exile, and on 11 February the Shah’s palace was taken over by the angry Iranian demonstrators, and the revolution was completed. Soon after, the Islamists took the government! This, of course, created a crisis situation between Iran and the West, which affected our family ﬁnancially and in other ways.
Gollar: The fall of the Shah didn’t affect us physically, but it was a lethal blow to my father’s business. Our family was already out of Iran, but we still had family property in Iran, which was all conﬁscated. And we couldn’t export dried fruit from Iran. My father tried to buy some dried fruit from California, but it was more expensive and complicated, in addition to being unfamiliar. My father’s business stopped completely.
At that time, we only had Iranian passports, which were one of the best passports in the world, a magic door-opener to every country… until the revolution. After the 1979 revolution it became difficult: Iranians needed a visa for every country, and I was the only person who could get Sasson a visa, not a secretary. Sasson was traveling a lot, and I visited different consulates three times a week.