There is a lot to consider in response to such
questions as Why we are here 25 years after the revolution and Why
we ended up with
a regime far worse than the Shah's
By Arash Kamangir
March 11, 2004
Your views are not unique among the
generation with which you grew up ["Hindsight"].
I am of the same generation and I have heard the same sentiments
from many members of our generation. Of course, I know of those
of our generation who were far more active in overthrowing the
Shah's regime than you were.
What gets lost in communication with the generation that grew
up after the revolution is that many of us did not wish an "Islamic
Republic" to replace the autocratic monarchy. And a great
many of us paid a very high price in trying to stop it from happening.
The 1979 Revolution did not begin with the article appearing in Kayhan attacking
Khomeini in January 1978 or the ensuing protest of the theological
students in Qum. Two months earlier, Iranian
students in United States had demonstrated against the Shah's visit
to the U.S.
and there were no slogans showing a desire for an Islamic
Republic or any form of clerical involvement in the politial arena
of the country.
Nor did anyone carry a poster of Khomeini at that
protest in Washington, D.C. The only posters of any clerics at
that protest were those of Ayatollah Saeedi (who had already died
while in Evin Prison), Ayatollah Taleghani and Ayatollah Montazeri.
The latter two had both criticized Khomeini's proposition of "Velayate
Faghih" at the time. Talghani never wavered from that position.
Montazeri, who has always been of a weak nature, swayed towards "Velayate
Faghih" after the 1979 revolution, only to recant in 1988.
In fact, most historians and analysts agree that the 1979 revolution
had its roots in 1953 coup against Mossadegh. The desire and goal
of all of those who were politically-active against the Shah's
regime was a secular democratic rule. Yes, there were a fringe
of clerics and theology students who became active against the
Shah only after Shah's reforms titled "White Revolution." These
were reactionary in nature, Khomeini included.
Let's not forget
that many ideas espoused in the Shah's White Revolution were
borrowed from what the Shah's progressive opposition had long
advocated. Some of us still have pamphlets published by the Confederation
Iranian Students, printed in Germany, in 1958, which advocates
of a Literacy Corps and Land Reform. Thus, it is clear, that
the progressive forces opposing the Shah and the reactionary forces
such as Khomeini did not belong to the same camp.
Most also agree that the sudden appearance of an anti-Khomeini
article in Keyhan in January 1978 was quite strange and its timing
totally curious and out of place. Prior to that, though the university
students in Iran had remained politically active, the theological
schools and clerical leaders had largely followed a policy of "non-involvement" and "non-interference" in
politics which Ayatollahs Boroujerdi, Khorasani and others had
The 10,000 strong protest of Iranian students against the Shah
in Washington, D.C., the largest demonstration held there since
the Vietnam War, was a wake-up call. The West quickly realized
that they could no longer rely on the Shah to provide stability
in Iran and the region. It was certain that the Shah would soon
be removed from Iran's political scene either via popular unrest,
a military coup, foreign intervention or a combination of these.
What was uncertain was what would replace the Shah's regime and
among all possible options, the home-spawn secular democratic
regime was not a desirable one.
Just imagine what would have pursued
Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, UAE, Kuwait, Saudi
Arabia,... in all 22 Arab countries and most other Islamic nations,
one Muslim nation, such as Iran, with vast oil and natural
gas resources, would achieve a secular popular democratic regime
after the Shah had been removed from power... The chain effect
demand in all the Middle East countries as well as Islamic
nations for similar rights and government would undermine so
foreign interest in the world that it would totally change
the geopolitical map of the world.
The solution was: "it is better to have to deal with the
devil which you know than the one you do not know." And thus,
suddenly, that article in Kayhan appeared, followed by
a chain of events which we all know about. Does anyone wonder how,
when all media
were so well-controlled in the Shah's regime, such an article,
out of nowhere and with no prior cause, would appear in Kayhan?
Mr. Amir Taheri knows the reason and he should answer that question.
There were elements in the Shah's Iran whose ties to Western
interests were even stronger than the Shah himself.
Should it be a surprise that
after the revolution, Kayhan became the strongest mouthpiece
of the Islamic Republic and defender of Velayate Faghih? Does
anyone wonder why Saddam Hussein who had given refuge to Khomeini
15 years, suddenly decided to expel him from Iraq in 1978 and
why of all places, France gave Khomeini exile and allowed him to
freely politically active while he was there. Recall that France,
though it gave exile to Bakhtiar, Bani-Sadr and others but it
restricted their political freedom, advising them strongly that
activities threaten France's national interests, they would be
There is a lot to consider in response to such questions as Why
we are here 25 years after the revolution and Why we ended up with
a regime far worse than the Shah's. History, particularly that
of Iran, cannot be properly and adequately analyzed in a letter
like this, nor in a few articles. Even for those who were there
and heavily involved during the 1978-1979 revolution and have managed
to survive it, volumes of books would not suffice to tell the full
story of what went on just in those two years.
Mr. Bani-Sadr should
easily recall, from student leaders, to national figures (such
as Dr. Karim Sanjabi), to representatives of various
political groups who met with Khomeini in France, for how many
of us, the first question we asked Khomeini was what would be the
nature of involvement by clerics in a future Iranian government?
And to each of us, Khomeini in a calm and what appeared as a sincere
tone, said, "We'll all return to the hozehs (theological
schools)." The trend after the revolution was the exact contrary.