The last thing Iran needs
Do people of
need a foreigner to bring democracy?
June 17, 2003
In the nearly quarter of century ensuing
the Iranian revolution of 1979, millions of Iranians have become
part of the new age Iranian
Diaspora. In this condition, they have been forced to try to integrate
with their respective societies, shape their lives and those of
their children with one burdensome question always on their mind:
What about Iran?
The Iranian condition in Diaspora is difficult
to summarize, but nonetheless worthy of examination. The population
living outside Iran, especially the first generation immigrants
live with the constant reminder that the Iran they left behind
is no longer.
In this condition, the hope remains of returning
home one day with their children and grandchildren so that they
may grasp the Iran whose heritage they were robbed of, through
no fault of their own. This raises the question of under what condition
are we ready to return. Can we return? And under what circumstances
will be welcomed home?
In this effort, many organizations outside Iran,
comprised of the very immigrants spoken of here, have tried to
efforts in order to facilitate
change and progress in Iran. What ever the political alliances hope to achieve,
they all share the common goal of bringing to Iran the freedoms they have lavishly
enjoyed on foreign soil.
One of such causes and perhaps the loudest is one
promoted by Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Iran. It
is now well known within
the Iranian community, and indeed beyond, that he is the strongest -- at least
in alliances -- oppositional force in exile.
In a community where politics
and patriotism is dinner conversation, Reza Pahlavi has the advantage of
a historical lineage, and a name, which is well recognized by even
the novice of Iranian history.
For this reason, he has been favoured by many as the agent of change whom
anyone, is most likely to succeed in applying external pressure.
But is the
investment of this hope in Reza Pahlavi ill-founded? In applying
critical thought to Reza
Pahlavi’s ideology one must be braced with as much information as possible,
not just about him but about the history of Iran and the greater Middle East.
the starting point of this critical analysis should focus on Reza Pahlavi
from a personal standpoint. Now forty-something,
he lives in he U.S.,
being away from the very country he hopes to change for nearly a quarter
of a century.
In a country whose living conditions, economics,
politics, and social structure is different from one month to the
twenty-five-year absence should
entirely rule one out from any right to make claims about the way things
ought to be. Even when he did reside in Iran, he lived in a palace,
with chefs, chauffeurs, private guards, private tutors, and an
fit for true royalty.
So the question that arises is what does he
really know about Iran, about the
people lived, their struggles, their hopes, dreams, fears, and priorities?
people of Iran succeeded in bringing a half century of dictatorship
hands of his ancestors to an end, and even though were later disillusioned
can not simply forget that at the end of the day even this Reza is a
Pahlavi, and in the absence of this elders can, and in the eyes
of many Iranians
should be held somewhat accountable to answer to his fellow people.
That is a responsibility entirely forgotten by Reza himself and
the umbrella of aiding Iranians
is a predicament he hopes to avoid.
In his recent book Winds
of Change, Reza
publicized his goal as one aimed at bringing free elections to
elections so that the people
to elect a government they see fit.
One should in this strive remember
that Iran has not had a democratically elected government since 1953,
election of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. To return to the focus, it is
necessary to consider
whether free elections can be imported at all. Isn’t the entire
idea of democracy based in an organic evolution of society?
need an Ahmad Chelabi of their own and a foreigner to bring democracy?
Indeed, it is the last thing they need, and the last thing they
want. The people of our
country will forever have the right to question the sincerity of
help from outside, especially from someone who has not lived in
of a period.
They also have the right to question his motives.
Despite his outright
claim that he does not want to be king, Reza Pahlavi too was robbed
of his future.
He was heir to an empire, a country, whose wealth from natural
resources, and whose strength from a military standpoint would
him a kind of life,
and power unimaginable to the average Iranian. This places considerable
amount of leverage on the sincerity of his motives. After all,
he too is human and must
despite his denials face his personal loss.
It is indeed a frustrating position to be in, not
just for Reza Pahlavi but for all of us millions of people who
must stare our
in the face
wonder about its lost glory. Though we are hopeful and eager to
see her prosper and regain her past splendour, we must understand
first generation immigrants, who have come here in hopes
of a better life and
future for our children. We are those children who are at crossroads
not really knowing where we belong, not sure how to be Iranians
when the only
know is those of our parents, their memories, their politics, and
their economics. We have not been given the
see things the way
Our parents explain that we are children of Iran
with 3000 years of history and try to connect us with historical
Cyrus and Anushiarvan.
They tell us about Ferdosi, Hafiz, and Sa'adi, hoping we will
grasp the richness of their culture. Through no fault of their
connect us to something that is simply very foreign.
We are also
lawyers, poets, writers, artists, and students who have left everything
behind in order to find freedom and success. We wonder -- and indeed
-- about what the future holds for us. What if one day we can and
do return to Iran? Will we be able to reintegrate ourselves into
the society? Will we be able prove ourselves
as responsible citizens, and fellow Iranians? Will we be able to
explain where we have been until now?
And indeed the Iranians of
too, have the
right to question us as well as people like Reza Pahlavi. They
have the right to ask where we have been until now. Why we were
went to war, when they collected ration coupons for oil, chicken,
and the very basic
components of life. They have a right to be bitter about the freedoms
-- although highly fabricated -- that we have supposedly enjoyed.
They have the responsibility of asking why we removed ourselves
form politics and
the economy of the country.
In the same manner they have the right to ask us to return to them,
what we packed and took with us.
The final and only way for us
to have hope is to be as critical of ourselves as we are of life
in Iran. We must
see the blood of
youth on our
hands as much as we see it on the hands of the regime. We need
to acknowledge that we
too have made mistakes, and that Iranians living in Iran will hold
The bottom line is that neither Reza Pahlavi or any
other such character can
be our saviour, if they are not willing to take of their power
suits and trade their BMW’s for work boots, and tools then
we must. If we are not willing to do this much, we should forfeit
our rights to interfere
with the future of
Iran and its people.
Larijani is a Specialist in Middle Eastern Studies at the University
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