SAVAK was founded in 1957 with the assistance of the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Its mission was to place opponents of the Shah's regime under surveillance and to repress dissident movements through intimidation, exile, imprisonment, assassination, and torture. Though estimates vary widely, it was likely responsible for thousands of deaths.
Universities, labor unions and peasant organizations, amongst others, were all subjected to intense surveillance by the Savak agents and paid informants.
The SAVAK Censorship Office was established to monitor journalists, literary figures and academics throughout the country. It took appropriate measures against those who fell out of the regime's line.
[Lord Elgin] was Grand Master Mason of Scotland between 1961 and 1965 and is still Provincial Grand Master of Fife and head of the Royal Order of Scotland, a position that allows him to travel the world promoting Scotland and the contribution he believes has been made by the unique Scottish rite of Freemasonry.
He is passionate about Masonry and, in an interview with Freemasonry Today, confronted head on allegations of improper influence and secrecy. For him, neither of these attributes should have a central role in Freemasonry. He was critical of the "type of mason" who "unfortunately believes that because they've taken the oath, there is no way they are going to divulge any information, for it might cause them to be chopped up."
Lord Elgin's aristocratic credentials are enough to secure him any introduction he might want without the assistance of fellow masons. But he has travelled the world on their behalf and has enjoyed adventures which, if not quite the equivalent of being held prisoner by Napoleon, seem to meet the standards of previous generations of Elgin adventurers.
The Shah of Iran once concluded that, if his country was to become a modern state, it must have its own branch of Freemasonry. He invited Lord Elgin to explain Masonry to him. Elgin describes meeting him as a "special memory" He says "We covered every possible subject and I think he knew very well what Masonry was all about, but at the same time he was constantly looking over both shoulders, guarding himself against some form of conspiracy, which might come into Iran under the modernising ideas of the west."
The meeting lasted twice as long as the Shah's staff had allocated. Lord Elgin explains "It was the most extraordinary meeting with a crown head I've ever had. Normally, in a meeting with the Queen, she presses a button, the door opens, and you're out. When we finally got out into the street, our Iranian friends were sitting there trembling with fear. They thought we'd been done away with."
The Independent, January 17, 2004
'Lord Elgin - Defender of aristocratic adventure and national treasures'
Pre-1979 Iran Masonic Lodge Banner - 'Lodge Light of Iran Aryans'