August 19th, 2003 marked the 50th anniversary of 1953 CIA coup in Iran. This event changed the lives of generations of Iranians. To me this event isn't some abstract historical occurrence. I grew up with stories about it, like so many other Iranians.
I was born many years after the coup. When I was a child in Iran, sometimes I would see posters in stores celebrating this event as a popular uprising against evildoers. I even remember the square in Tehran with a huge statue of a soldier slaying a dragon. The dragon represented communism.
History is usually written by the victors, and the Shah, the US and Britain, were the victors on that fateful day in 1953. That was the history that was fed to us in school. But, when I would come home from school I would hear the other version of history, the real history.
My parents, uncles, older cousins and grand parents were all involved, in some way, in the political events of late 1940's and 50's. I would hear stories from my dad who had spend three years in prison for his activities as a member of the Tudeh Party. I would hear stories from my mom — also a member of the Tudeh Party's youth organization — about how she and my dad met and fell in love. They were so young and, yes, they were communists.
Hearing their stories, I would picture an epic love against a backdrop of monumental historical events. Almost like a Hollywood epic. But, this was no movie.
They spoke of their comrades or other people who were shot by the Shah's troops, crushed under tanks, stabbed to death by the Shah's hired tugs, tortured, exiled, and executed. They would always talk about Vartan, Jahangir, Anousheh and many others who lost their lives in the struggle. I heard how my own father was tortured for days and almost got executed because he was a Tudeh communist.
How he and many others risked life and limb to distribute newspapers and books. How they organized the students, women and workers to demand their just rights. How they sacrificed years of their youth for the people of their homeland and for peace and justice in the world. Yes my father's crime was that he wanted to make Iran a better place for all and not just a handful of rich aristocrats and landowners who were bought by the British or the American governments.
My mom told me about how her family had to move frequently from one house to another because of my uncle's political activities; the police were looking for him. Yes he was a member of the Party too. At that time almost anybody who cared for the welfare of the Iranian people was a member or a supporter of the Party.
She told me about the time after the coup when my grandmother, on a visit to the military prison to see my uncle, was given his bloody and torn underpants. My grandmother thought her son had died under torture.
My mom told me about a day in the fall of 1954 when she went to visit my uncle in prison, and how she saw families of the first group of communist officers who were about to be executed the following morning. The families were crying and begging prison authorities for mercy.
My dad would tell me his prison stories. How he and his comrades resisted physical and mental torture. How they organized themselves in prison and formed communes. How non-political prisoners respected the young communists, because they were imprisoned for their beliefs, not for any crime.
These may be taboo subjects for many Iranians, because they have always heard the story from one side. The “Tudehie” side has rarely been told. The propaganda has always been that they were a bunch of rag tag Soviet agents. My parents and their comrades were never that. They have always been honest, compassionate, hardworking, selfless people. All of them were and are proud of the path they took. There were many flaws and mistakes. But, overall they feel they did good and they would do it again if they were to live again.
This is the forgotten history of that era. I call these people the forgotten generation, because no one speaks of their sacrifice. But I will and I hope many others will too. It does not matter if one agrees or not with the policies of the Tudeh Party. What matters is that we must recognize the huge sacrifices made by thousands of its memebers in their struggle for a better Iran and against the British and American intervention in our homeland.