We had hope
Khomeini promised clerics would return to theological schools
By Sam Miller
November 14, 2001
In his article, titled "Correction"
Ahmad Javan writes:
"This revolution is not about Reza Pahlavi or anybody else. It
is not about monarchy or communism. We are sick of these labels and these
discussions about individuals (which were prevalent in your generation's
time). It is about something that the previous revolution neglected: DEMOCRACY."
I am 40-years old. My insight into Iran's sociopolitical life began in
my teenage years while in high school. I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr.
James Egan, the Director of Isfahan's Iran-America Society, who first introduced
me, during those years, to the concept of Western democracy, democratic
ideals, the writings of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, U.S. history,
the ideals of American democracy as delineated in the preamble and the body
of U.S. Constitution and its amendments.
Naturally, such influences, combined with the apparent sociopolitical
and socioeconomic environment of Iran in mid-70s, raised my political consciousness
along with a strong desire to continue my education in the United States,
the frontier of science and technology and the birthplace of modern democracy
(though according to most the latter title belongs to France, and rightfully
I was very much saddened then by the backwardness of my country, a land
and people that more than once had enjoyed most sophisticated civilizations
to which the first monetary system, the first codes of civil, labor, trade,
military and international laws, the first codes of human rights, the first
structured governing bodies (i.e. satraps,), and many other "firsts"
were attributed and credited. I very much wanted then to contribute to the
best of my potential to the technological advancement of my nation. A strong
desire for peaceful political change grew in me as I realized that no matter
how great a scientist I become, my efforts as well as those of similar-minded
compatriots would not achieve an Iran on par with Western Europe and even
more so with United States.
Thus, I became politically active in my late teens and then after completing
high school, I left Iran at the age of 16 to follow my higher education
in the United States though I could have easily followed my academic interest
in Iran but I thirsted for freedom, to be able to express myself and my
thoughts without the fear of persecution. In United States, I joined the
Confederation of Iranian Students (CIS) and wrote, under various nom de
plum, for its monthly journals "Daneshjoo" and "Resistance".
Though academically successful, I sacrificed then what would have surely
been stellar academic achievements and scholarship while organizing other
Iranian students in northeastern United States. Since then I have often
reflected back and questioned if that had been a wise choice on my part.
Then came the mass movement for political change in Iran and I hoped that
it would result in a secular Western-style democratic system of government
Like many other student leaders in CIS and ISA, I was weary of Khomeini
and his leadership. Though he professed that he had changed many of his
anachronistic positions, such as his opposition to women's voting rights
and land distribution, declared in 1963; yet there was a big question regarding
the sincerity and depth of understanding of how erroneous and anachronistic
views he espoused in 1963 were.
We met with him in Neuphle le Chateau in late November 1978, and he assured
us among other things that strides made in women rights not only would not
be curtailed but they would be given far more wider access to and support
for participation in sociopolitical and economic life of the country. He
also reassured us repeatedly that after the revolution, he and, under his
leadership, other clerics would return to theological schools and would
not interfere in the political life of the country. Other Iranian national
figures such as late Dr. Sanjabi, had similar apprehensions and reservations
as we did, on joining a united front under Khomeini. Yet, we acquiesced
because of fear that if we did not form a united front, we would be doomed
to repeat the tragic events of 1953.
Even after the 1979 revolution, I still did not return to Iran. I was
still suspicious of Khomeini's grand promises given while in France. I remained
in the United States so I could again participate in a renewed political
campaign against the new regime. I had remained politically inactive and
focused merely on my academics from late January to mid-August 1979. But
by August 1979, the short spring of freedom had withered into the winter
of suppression. It became apparent that neither Khomeini nor the clerics
organized in the Islamic Republican Party had any intention to either withdraw
to theological school or to share power in a democratic state.
First, the voice of those still loyal to the monarchy, whether in its
absolute form or its constitutional form, was suppressed. Then, the protest
of professional women was squelched and attacked by IRP-hired and orchestrated
goons while former SAVAK agents and employees, now retired and laid off,
open and freely demonstrated demanding pay and return to their jobs.
The gradual trend of suppression continued, as Mojahedin and Fadaii meetings,
offices, members and supporters, were attacked while the newly drafted constitution
was being modified and rushed through a hastily elected parliament with
the Velayat-e Faghih clause to ensure the dictatorial ascension of the clerics.
Then the IRI and the clerics began attacking their loyal opposition, Nehzat-e
Azadi (Iran's Freedom Movement) and Tudeh Party. Not even the now impotent
Jebhe Melli (National Front) was spared.
Contrary to Mr. Javan's presumptions, our generation, and WE did not
"neglect" democracy, prior, during and after the 1979 revolution.
We fought for it with every morsel of our being. We put our lives on line
and many of us lost our lives for it. Many were the cream of the crop of
Iranian youth, students and graduates of such prestigious schools as UC
Berkeley, Aryamehr Technological University, Shiraz University, Sorbonne,
University of Michigan, Stanford, Cambridge, Oxford, Darmstadt Technical
Hochschule, MIT, Harvard, and Yale. They could have chosen a very comfortable,
successful, promising and long life, if not in Iran, anywhere abroad. Yet,
their devotion to Iran, to democracy, to freedom and their love of their
compatriots were so strong that they sacrificed all they had in the hope
of a democratic, free, progressive Iran.
Much like its predecessors, the IRI regime has worked hard to re-write
Iran's history to its advantage and to conceal the true revolutionary efforts
of many Iranians over the course of past 80+ years to bring about a system
and government of the people, for the people and by the people. The true
heroes of Iran's history are not those for whom Iran's streets, universities
and monument are named after today. The true heroes of our nation have often
And we would have had a democratic, pluralistic political system and
government in Iran today had we not been a nation of idol-worshippers, not
in its religious sense but in its true and literal meaning. Each time, we
put some one on the pedestal for a few good qualities and accomplishments,
which he may have had or we perceived he had. And we extend to them absolute
power, relinquishing our own responsibility. We comfortably and readily
ignore their human and other shortcomings. We conveniently forget their
history and past the moment we find ourselves temporarily in agreement with
them. We have done this with many, be it Reza Shah, Mossadegh, Mohammad
Reza Shah, Reza Pahlavi II, Ali Shariati, Mehdi Bazargan, Abdolkarim Soroush,
and Mohammad Khatami.
For example, Abdolkarim Soroush, is an opportunist who played a major
role in Khomeini's Cultural Revolution, was one of its ideologues, and destroyed
Iran's superior system of higher education, forced the best and most capable
minds and intellectuals of Iran into self-exile life either in abroad or
at home. Then suddenly, in mid-90s, he was hailed as the "leader"
of "new thought" (andishe-ye no or degar-andishi)
movement as hoards of youth, who were only children at the time of Cultural
Revolution, rallied to him. Dr. Soroush has suddenly discovered "democracy"
and more surprisingly so, discovered it in Islam and among the verses of
Quran, nonetheless. On Mohammad Khatami, read the article/letter titled
"Belderchin o Barzegar".
Today, the stench of corruption in IRI has reached so high that some
of its functionaries who are intelligent enough to see their own survival
is at risk have now flared the flag of "reform," hoping that it
would save them in the flood of discontent that will awash the dirt of conservative
clerics from the plateau of Iran. Now, even people like Kamal Kharrazi and
Molla Khalkhali (the "hanging judge") have become "reformist"
politicians and torch-bearers of "reform." Now, they loudly proclaim
support for democracy and human rights.
Everyone remembers when Kamal Kharrazi as a staff of IRI's mission to
the U.N. repeatedly stated that "Western concept of human rights is
not compatible with Islamic norms and values. Islam has its own concepts
of human rights." When challenged by a Western reporter that U.N. Declaration
of Human Rights was inspired by an edict issued by Cyrus the Great, Kharrazi
had responded: "That is exactly why the monarchy who took pride in
Cyrus the Great was overthrown in 1979 by Islamic Republic." Enough