Photo by Jassem Ghazban-pour
Evolution not Revolution
By Abbas Soltani
July 17, 1998
I was never interested in the Islamic Republic and the optimism of those who thought things would get better. Iran, to me, had become a stagnant country at a time that it needed to evolve faster than ever. My Iran was the country that I left in 1985 at the age of 15. The long queues, rations, demonstrations, parades, martyrs, and everything else that were part of normal every day life in the 80s' Iran. The country was in need of a fair revolutionary force which would take her on a journey of freedom and tolerance. However, the question had always been: "Who would be the force of freedom and tolerance?"
I read as many books as I could and watched as many documentaries as possible but couldn't yet find out who could lead Iran on the road to prosperity. Many Iranians always talk of how the Islamic Republic should be overthrown but not many know of a replacement. After all, the fall of the Shah was followed by a period in which the country didn't seem to have a hub other than the person of Ayatollah Khomeini. As a result, the victors fought amongst themselves and eventually the Islamic Republic was formed. I was sure that I could not ask for the overthrow of the current regime without knowing that there was a democratic force waiting behind the door.
Finally, a couple of years ago, I was introduced to an online bulletin board for Iranians by the name of Soroush (no relation to Abdolkarim). When I logged on the first time, I was overjoyed to find that I could chat with Iranians living in the motherland, in real-time. This was a perfect chance for me to speak to my countrymen and understand their experiences and opinions about living conditions in Iran. I shall forever be thankful to the Internet and in particular Soroush for opening this door to me. I also learned much from Iranians who traveled to Iran after the borders were finally re-opened. The information of the returning Iranians was priceless since they could compare the Iran of today to that of the 60's, 70's and 80's. I was very impressed by what I was hearing. Then there was the election of the new president, Mohammad Khatami.
You may pause right now and say to yourself that this man is completely out of line. You may say that I don't seem to know that there are many in jails or facing firing squads because of their political beliefs. You may say that I am completely ignorant of realities of what people are suffering. You may say that I have fallen for the government's public relations.
But the government of today is different from the forces that swept through the country after the revolution. The president is no longer chanting "Death to America." Iran's soccer team was finally good enough to make it to the World Cup. There is finally alternatives when it comes to choosing a president even though both major candidates were from the clergy. There is finally an open border and an open arm extended to the Iranians abroad to go back and visit the motherland. There seems to be an air of optimism in the air. One can finally sense a degree of honesty, no matter how minimal, to what the government is saying.
I fully agree with you that this government is not what we deserve and that its acts are far short of what we should be seeing. However, would you agree with me that the Iranian presidency of 1998 has come along way from 1988? Would you agree with me that some aspects of life in Iran, no matter how few and far in between, have improved? The point that I am trying to make is that the Islamic Republic has evolved and taken on a different shape than what it was immediately after the revolution. The point that I am trying to make is that Iran and Iranians will only be in peace if they evolve and not revolt.
Everything around us has evolved from an initial form to what it is today. Transportation evolved from man on foot to horses, to carriages, to cars, to trains, to planes, to spaceships, to ... This is the road that the Islamic Republic is going right now and fortunately the only way is forward.
Let us assume another revolution. Such an event would surely follow up by a period of revenge, executions and power struggles. Then it will be followed by a period of cultural reform which would basically undo the doings of the current regime. Then this will be followed by many thousands of Iranians leaving the country in search of a better place to live. This would be followed by... Do we really want to go the route that we have been crossing for the past 20 years?
I say, let's give the Islamic Republic a chance. Let's give the current presidency a chance to evolve into something better. Let us think of evolution and not revolution. Western style democracy that we see today didn't happen as a result of an over-night revolution. It is a product of decades of evolution. Who knows? Maybe our children and their childrenwould live to see an a country in which feminists, environmentalists, the Moujahedin, monarchists, Communists, democrats, conservatives, liberals, Islamists and others can co-exist in a tolerant and free environment.
As an evolving Iranian, I want you to know that I respect your beliefs and would fight for your right to disagree with me. Challenge my beliefs and present your point of view so I can realize if I am naive or on the path of discovery. But what if I am right?
We are all Iranians and Iran belongs to all of us. Let us listen to the government's ministers rather than egging them. Let us listen to what others say rather than bombing them. Let us listen to the opposition rather than executing them, Let us allow men and women to decide how they want to live and conduct their personal lives. Let us not become the puppets of foreign powers. Let us not permit others to take advantage of our differences. Let us be Iranians first and Iranians last.