I have been reading the fascinating study on Iran by Nikki R. Keddie, "Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution", Yale University Press, 2006. In it she outlines the dramatic modernizing policy of Iranian ruler Reza Shah (r. 1914-1941). In her chapter on Reza Shah, she describes a fairly autocratic leader who made great strides in improving certain aspects of Iran (notably in military capacity, public education, and transportation infrastructure) by adopting Western style reforms. While there seem to be obvious winners and losers in this process, with the former being landlords, industrialists, the class of civil servants and military officers, and to a lesser degree women in general; with the latter being the ulama (Muslim legal/religious scholars), peasants, trade unionists, socialists, and proletariat.
While Keddie provides a very thorough explanation of Reza Shah reforms on a macro level, her focus on the larger history of Iran leaves more in-depth questions unanswered. I am interested as to what the general population of Iran thought of the reforms. One particularly interesting clue comes from a lengthy quotation in Keddie's work from a professor in International Relations and History, Houchang Chehabi:
The forced unveiling of women...was, among all of Reza Shah's modernization policies, the one that contributed to most of his unpopularity among ordinary Iranians...while meant to unify the nation by eliminating visible class, status, and regional distinctions, in fact deepened another cleavage in Iranian society, i.e., that between westernizers...and the rest of society, which resented an intrusion in their private lives.
In many ways this sounds similar to a common compliant in the modern middle east, in which the justifiable outrage many feel over their exploitation at the hands of Western powers is most vocally expressed through real & perceived incursions into day-to-day life and customs. This seems to fit with this example as Iran had a long history of being exploited by the west, particularly by Great Britain and Russia. I'd be interested in knowing if this was indeed the most common complaint of the Iranian people at the time and if the aforementioned analysis is valid. Also, what were other reactions Iranians had at the time to the policies of Reza Shah?