Badge of honor
A nation used to being navigated is about to find it's own
By Amirali Baniasadi
June 26, 2001
The year was 1981. We were in the sixth grade. Hatred was everywhere.
Slogans were just a symbol. I still remember the bitter taste. Death was
the code. Harsh words never ended. Friday prayers were a hatred symposium.
They had always been calling for it. First it was the Shah, whose death
was supposed to solve the problems. But then they went after the rich, followed
by the leftist groups. The label was "anti-revolution." Labels
replaced thoughts. They made judgment easy. One word and you had explained
it all. Now it was our turn, the liberals. Eventually we had become the
problem. "They" thought that eliminating us would fix their problem.
As for me, a 12-year-old kid, school was nothing but hell. I remember
the awful moments I experienced. Like other schools, we used to line up
for the morning ceremony. This, of course, was nothing but repetition of
the same official slogans. We were forced to listen to the chanting. For
a year we had to stand there and hear others call for the death of our beloved
liberals. We had no choice but to continue our silence.
It was strange to see others' gratification tied to our torture. It looked
like others wouldn't have smiled unless they saw a tear or two. Despite
all differences, teachers and students had one thing in common, the joy
of hatred. As a 12-year-old kid there was no way to change a harsh society.
School was no exception. Time passed and so did childhood.
The year was 1990. Now we were in college. Third year, engineering school.
Old slogans had passed their expiration date. We had survived. Liberalism
was still an accusation. The war had ended and things were supposed to ease
up. Hate was less popular. People had started to realize some facts. Liberals
were now popular, although not among officials. Change was around the corner.
High rises and highways were built. Yet civil rights was still an unknown
concept. Modernism was coming, but modernity was still behind the door.
One warm night in June 1990, "they" again arrived. They even
looked different. Faces you normally don't see. Before the next morning
they had arrested many liberals. The ex-president didn't like criticism.
In reality, monarchy never left the land.
I remember watching them take my father. He had his
usual smile. Before leaving, he said, "God decides how long we live."
Later when he was released, he told me that the most interesting experience
had been looking death in the eye. Their arrest was supposed to solve the
system's problems. It never did. As usual they accused them of conspiracy.
The case was never taken to court. Later they released everyone. Again we
The year is 2001. I am in graduate school. Living a student life in America.
Back in Iran, even taxi drivers talk about civil society. A nation used
to being navigated is about to find it's own map. Now, everyone wears liberalism
as a badge of honor. Every time they touch one, he becomes a hero. Hardliners
have never been in such deep trouble. Conservatives have lost every single
election. They have lost offices one by one. The public has spoken, loud
and clear. "Their" time has ended.
Power is blind and so are the rulers. Kings still don't like criticism.
Liberals are arrested again. Same people, now 11 years older. My father
is again among them. Accusations are the same, repeated yet shallow. Now
even the kids do not believe them. Internet is everywhere, information flies.
Times have changed; hard-liners have not.
In the only country where a president leads the opposition, progress
is harder than ever. Just like climbing, the higher you reach, the harder
breathing becomes. The struggle continues, and so does our hopes. The final
outcome has yet to arrive. My heart is with my beloved ones who are spending
time in small solitary cells.
Long ago my father told me that tragedies appear when solutions disappear.
Roaming somewhere between tragedies and solutions, I wonder what the color
of the future will be?
Dr. Mohammad Hossein Baniasadi was arrested on April 7th by Iran's
revolutionary court. He is a member of Nehzat-e Azadi-e Iran (Freedom Movement
of Iran). He served as Iran's deputy prime minister and minister in Mehdi
Bazargan's cabinet. He is the CEO of Iran Industrial Foundation. Baniasadi
received his Ph.D from the Warton School in Social System Sciences.