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No leaders, no change
When have student riots ever changed a regime?

July 12, 2003
The Iranian

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 seem 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 brothers 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 feel the 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 nation". If 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 is 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 resistance movement.

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 engineering.

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 relief valve.

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 strike 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 Islamic Monarchy.

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 Regime is 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

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