Houshang Asadi: The Day the Shah Left

Mr. Asadi is an Iranian journalist living in France. He is the winner of the 2011 Human Rights Book Award for Letters to My Torturer: Love, Revolution, and Imprisonment in Iran. He spent time imprisoned in Iran both before and after the 1979 revolution.

Only a few newspaper headlines become iconic, a story in their own right. The headline "Shah Raft"—"The Shah Has Left" in Farsi—is one of those. It was printed on the front page of Iran's two main daily newspapers, Kayhan and Ettelaat, on Jan. 16, 1979, after Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left Tehran for good.
"Shah Raft" captured the victory of the Revolution. It encapsulated history in the making. It ran in bold Persian letters, in size 84 font, across the top of the page. Over a million copies were printed.
In Iranian journalism circles, the headline has sparked years of debate: Who wrote it? Who picked it? How did it come about?
This month marks 34 years since "Shah Raft" hit the press. I was a deputy editor at Kayhan at that time. Here is what I remember from the newsroom in Tehran that night...

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