No leaders, no change
When have student riots ever changed a regime?
July 12, 2003
Once again we hear from Tehran about attacks on college students.
While it's hard not to get excited over the rekindling of
the dying flame of hope, and the possibility that perhaps the
Arab invaders may be on their way out, somehow it does not
fair for Iranians abroad to be cheerleaders while they have
nothing at stake.
In other words if we were in Iran we would not encourage our younger
sisters to go out and make a barricade on the street and force
a government change. At the same time to encourage other young
and sisters to put their youth, future and
their lives in jeopardy is inhumane and insane.
Hasn't Iran lost enough innocent lives in the regime's
prisons because of these kinds of unwise encouragements by back-seat
drivers? If 12,000 miles away in the comfort of their seat one
wants to advocate and encourage
innocent and desperate college kids in Iran to
accomplish what a nation of 65 million has to achieve, then I suggest
such a person should set an example and go in front of the White
House and start a hunger strike to show his or her support and
pain before advising others.
We feed the flames but we have no extinguishers -- just
in case. We are only hoping that riots, burning tires and
overturning cars by students can topple
a regime that has been the best friend of nations such as England,
France, China, Russia and many others in the past two decades.
That is why I once described Iranians as a "Chaos-loving
you are looking for a bloodbath then encourage the youth to go
out on the street -- and they will. But if you want to build anti-establishment
resistance, then first find a few trusted leaders who can sit behind
a conference table and organize a movement. And we all know how
difficult that has proved to be among Iranians.
Our problem is not that student riots do not go far enough. Our
problem is that we have no trusted national figure willing
to sit with other political leaders abroad and discuss issues
openly. The few who had the valor, their
throats were cut with the regime's sharp knives and others were
not given enough chances to voice their solutions. This
the disaster that is surrounding a nation of 66 million: not having
even ten opposition leaders who would be willing to sit and compromise
to see what it would take to organize a national
I have to tell you the student riots remind me of
Uncle Majid, a
distant acquaintance. I recall once during high school we were
at home trying to study. Uncle Majid yelled at us: "Hey
boys! Don't waste your time on school books and homework; you aren't
going to get anywhere by studying."
To which we responded, "but uncle Majid, we are studying
because we want to go to university someday."
In return the
wise man of Sarcheshmeh said, "Bullshit! You don't need
to study in order to go to a university. In order to go to a university
just climb up the wall, jump into the campus and then you can say
for the rest of your life 'I went to the University'." His
words of wisdom still amaze me!
I mean look at how the Islamic Republic partially resolves
youth unemployment. They took land from those
who fled the country during Arab Invasion II (post 1979), then
built two-story office buildings in various cities. They called
them colleges, universities, institutes of this and that, to persuade
unemployed, desperate youths to sell family assets to pay the
hefty tuition needed to fulfill the dream of going to a "university".
Then these kids are entertained for four years while the oil revenue
gets siphoned off to banks in Switzerland, Dubai and London.
If obtaining a college degree
is the objective, then Uncle Majid had a solution. Years before
the regime changed, he made it to America and was the first
who came up with the novel idea of going back home from America
with auto repair and oil change receipts, laminating them and
claiming he had a degree in mechanical
So every few years university dormitories become centers
of uprising and spark of hope for the comfortable
mass of Iranians abroad. They dream about Dr. Mossadegh's resurrection
to save the planet from the grip of mullahs. And if he does not
come back, perhaps Mr. Pahlavi with his
ubiquitous smile would go back and Googoosh would become Speaker
of Parliament and American football would replace soccer and students
would free the country from Arab invaders
and we would rock and roll.
Show me one revolution that took place
as a result of student unrest and riots and I will buy you two
tickets to Sammy Sosa's baseball seminars on how to cork a baseball
bat and get away with it. Every few years we hear about student
dormitories attacked by fanatics in Tehran.
This is what I mean by pressure
Students in general are the only organized group governments
can safely abuse and manipulate when they want to measure dissatisfaction
among the masses, create scapegoats for other ulterior motives,
or simply relieve the stress among the restless population.
Obviously any government in the world would prefer students
to go on
instead of garbage collectors, fire fighters or the police. That
is why students are always the first layer of political manipulation.
If another change of government is to happen, it will most likely
initiate as the result of dissatisfaction among the well-fed layer
of the population, like the bazaar merchants and
oil industry workers. When they feel the pain, then things will
start to happen. At the same time as long as the government
keeps those two groups satisfied,
very little could be expected. To succeed, Khomeini encouraged
oil industry and power plant workers, as well as shopkeepers,
to go on strike. They did and it worked. But punching holes
in dormitory walls will not disinfect the country from the
Uncle Majid was right! If there were no jobs to support the educated
mass, would it not be better to keep them uneducated? For example
increase the mandatory military service to ten years and that
would reduce the unemployment substantially. But the Islamic
smarter than that. It realizes that an angry student is far less
dangerous than a hungry soldier.
Next week we will discuss how reading Rumi and smoking opium
were NOT what Gandhi prescribed when he advocated passive resistance
against a well-trenched regime.
Farrokh A. Ashtiani is the founder of PersianParadise.com
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