A Pivotal Day In Iranian History—Cinema Rex fire: August 19, 1978


Thirty nine years ago on August 19, 1978, Islamist terrorists killed 470 Iranians by burning down a theater in Iran to cause hatred and anger against the Shah. This triggered Khomeini’s 1979 Islamic d/revolution.

Western Mainstream Media instantly and foolishly blamed the Shah’s spy agency ‘S.A.V.A.K.’ for the fire so the Brits, their American and French allies, together with their media would start assisting Ayatollah Khomeini with his hoax revolution.

August 19th is a significant date in Iranian history. In 1953, Iran saw the coup d’état, which gave the Shah increased power to rule more firmly as a monarch, and, in 1978, it was the date of the tragic Cinema Rex fire, in which over 470 citizens lost their lives, when the theater in Abadan, Southern Iran, was set on fire by Islamic terrorists during the screening of the controversial film, the Reindeer (Gavaznha in Persian), directed by Masoud Kimiai.

Burning cinemas in Iran became a symbol of the radical Islamic war against the Shah’s regime, leading to its overthrow in January 1979 and ending Iran’s centuries old monarchical dynasties.

On that fateful August day, Islamist terrorists barred the entrance doors of Abadan’s Cinema Rex and strategically placed flammable materials inside and around the building before setting it alight. They set fires on all four sides of the building to prevent rescue attempts. Flames and smoke swept through the movie hall around 10 p.m. while an audience of about 700 watched the controversial Iranian family film. Witnesses reported that many of the victims of the fire were women and children.

According to the press, the panic-stricken audience stampeded toward the building’s two emergency exits, which reportedly had been locked as an anti-terrorist measure. Half of the audience managed to get out with an estimated 100 escaping unhurt and 223 suffering burns or other injuries. The rest were trampled to death, asphyxiated, or burned alive. Fire-rescuers battled the blaze for six hours before bringing it under control. At first they were unable to get within 50 yards of the theater because of the searing heat, and when they eventually put out the flames nothing was left of the building but twisted and blackened steel girder and dead bodies in ashes.

The Shah’s late Prime Minister Jamshid Amouzegar called the fire a “national catastrophe” and the Shah sent his condolences to families of the victims.

In 2001, the Iranian newspaper Sobhe Emrooz revealed that the Cinema Rex fire was set by radical Islamic supporters; later those journalists were silenced when the newspaper was shut down by the Islamic government of Iran. And they have not ceased censorship among their citizens, arresting many truth speakers to this day.

The fire had been the work of four Islamic activists who had carried out the deadly mission as part of their allegiance to Khomeini and his Islamic Revolution. Only one of the arsonists had survived the fire. He had remained in hiding until he could stand his anonymity no more. He confessed to the crime because he could no longer sit and watch someone else receive the credit for what he saw as the ultimate act of sacrifice for the Islamic Revolution.

The Reindeer was a controversial and famous black and white political movie that depicted the story of a drug addict who had helped his homeboy, a participant of an armed uprising against the Shah’s regime, to escape. The Reindeer was particularly significant because it was the only movie that showed the main characters fighting against the Shah’s guards with guns. One can sense the careful planning of these arsonists and their identification with the main characters. But, one must wonder why they would prefer an Islamic and oppressive regime over the more palatable, liberating, and prosperous reign of the Shah.

In the days that followed the attack, flyers were passed around to the citizens full of propaganda blaming the Shah and his secret police for setting the fire. This information incensed the people as they believed it was true. “Mekosham, Mekosham aan keh baradaram kosht!” (I will kill whoever killed my brother!”) became the cry of the people and many went to war against the Shah, sacrificing their own lives for the cause.

It took 23 years to unveil that this horrifying arson terrorist attack was plotted by the Iranian radical Islamists; a master minded plan to create a tragedy and blame it on the Shah. Many were victims of the Islamist propaganda and many lost their lives because of the deception. Sadly, millions of Iranians participated in Khomeini’s hoax revolution and made the unforgivable mistake of bringing this terrorist regime to power —the West also standing guilty for promoting the lie.

This sounds eerily similar to a lot of what we are witnessing in the news today all over the world. We have to be wise, not gullible, not easily provoked. We must learn from history and learn how to discern the times as we cannot afford to make the same mistakes. Iran and Iranians have paid dearly! In other history millions have paid dearly! What will be our future?

We Never Forget and Never Forgive!

About the Author
Shabnam Assadollahi is an award-winning Canadian human rights advocate and freelance writer/journalist of Iranian origin. She has a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology and has worked extensively helping newcomers and refugees resettle in Canada and has distinguished herself as a broadcaster, writer and public speaker. Shabnam was arrested and imprisoned at age 16 for eighteen months in Iran's most notorious prison, Evin. Shabnam’s primary and heartfelt interest is to focus on the Iranian community and world events affecting women and minority communities.
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