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Not so far fetched
The wonderful thing about the Velvet Revolution

By Cyrus Rasti
May 2, 2004

Recently I had arrived back stateside from a trip to the Czech Republic. There I had gone to unwind in this charming Central European country, which is smaller than my home state of Pennsylvania. I regard this up and coming nation of around 10 million as my second or third country and whether it is second or third really depends on my mood and various perceptions. Before I go into the gist of what I want to go into, I would like to provide the readers some background information on the Czech Republic.

Czech Republic is a land locked nation in Central Europe that is surrounded by Germany in the West, Poland in the East, and by both Austria and Slovakia in the south. It used to be known as Czechoslovakia until the two, Czech and Slovakia had separated into two distinct nations in January of 93.

The country was part of the Iron Curtain in which the Soviet Union was more or less calling the shots in the political and economic affairs of the country. The country was in the communist block of nations that were relatively isolated from the free world and were stagnating behind while their neighbors were growing and prospering.

But at last the Czech dream of ridding themselves of a hated regime and replacing it with a democratic one was realized in 1989 due to the efforts of a dissident playwright by the name of Vaclav Havel who had later become the president. One must also give credit to Michael Gorbachev who had set the conditions for the collapse of communism in Europe, various American presidential administrations and many other governments and institutions.

The wonderful thing about the Velvet Revolution as it was called, was that it was for the most part a non-violent revolt. In that time period the political dynamics in Eastern Europe had changed so much in so little time. It was a time of great happiness and optimism for the youth and uncertainty for the older generation.

For much of the 90's, the transition to a democratic nation with a free market economy was bumpy for a significant portion of the general public. The older generation had grown accustomed to all sorts of social benefits, which had gotten whittled down to conform to a more West European model. The Czechs also had a hard time opening up to new ideas and new people. This was evident in their relative racism, preconceived notion of foreigners and resistance to implementing needed changes.

From around forty years of communist rule till 1989 and then on to the 90's
and today, the nation has indeed gone along way. As of now the Czech Republic is a democratic nation, with a growing free market economy, freedom of the press and also is a member of NATO and a new member of the European Union. Through openness in trade and politics and travel, the dynamics of the Czech mentality is changing for the better. All of these positive developments took more than a decade in the making and it goes to show that a successful democracy takes many years of trial and error and is full of growing pains.

Now as to why I'm focusing on the Czech Republic and why it is close to my heart is that I had lived there for many years. I was a medical student there and over the years I had witnessed the changes in the country and in the people. I had gotten to know the language, the culture and tradition of the Czechs. But that is a different story, which I hope to share with the readers in the not too distant future!

The people of Iran are going through a very difficult period in their lives. Their experience is in parallel with what the Czechs had to deal with and that is they are living under a regime that is widely detested. The totalitarianism of the current religious theocracy has led to a stagnant economy, very little room for positive change from the leadership and a foreign policy that is contrary to Iran's national interests.

Hopefully the people of Iran can draw from the experience of the Czechs and really believe in themselves and that they themselves can bring about the changes that they really want. Iranians must no longer put faith in a military intervention from the United States or other kinds of assistance whether covert or overt from various governments. To put it simply, colonialism is over, England is an island and America isn't as omnipotent as Iranians like to believe.

It took the Czechs around forty years to rid themselves of communist rule. So far, the mullahs have been running Iran for a quarter century and they pretty much have a firm grip on the nation. They have powerful and repressive security forces like the volunteer basiji force, the Revolutionary Guards, Arab mercenaries and agents of the Information Ministry (yes it's actually called the Ministry of Information) to maintain order.

However they had lost the trust of the vast majority of the Iranian populace and more and more are becoming disillusioned and fed up with the religious oligarchy. So in these social, economic and political conditions it is only a matter of time before this regime will be overthrown as history has shown with other totalitarian regimes that used to rule Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and many other nations.

Ideally this government should be done away with in a non-violent manner. And Iranians must learn to be tolerant of others views and should not show their disagreements through intimidation or violent behavior as is seen today and through much of Iran's history. The new government must set up institutions that will bring about and nurture democracy. A free and independent media, a dynamic economy that isn't burdened by an all-powerful state and most important a secular and democratic government are necessary for an Iran that would be ideal in the eyes of the Iranian populace.

It isn't so far fetched that these things could happen to Iran and all the Iranian people have to do is look at the experience of the Czechs and the other nations of the former Iron Curtain. A day doesn't go by that I do not earnestly pray for our Velvet Revolution.

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By Cyrus Rasti


Book of the day

A History of Modern Iran Since 1921
The Pahlavis and After
By Ali Ansari

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