A new spring of freedom?

I believe that in this Majlis all groups must be allowed to participate. This is our lesson; it is our school of thought, to listen to the words of righteousness. This is the way every good human being should be, to listen to the other person, to hear the opposing view and to find the best amongst him or her. In our parliament, opposition should be able to enter. And even if they don't, we must invite them to do so and to express their views. We should not be afraid of other groups or their views. A true parliament is one that has the vote of the majority and everyone can express their views and can vote accordingly.   — From a speech at the first Friday Prayer in 1979 by Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Talleghani

With the impending parliamentary elections, and at the onset of another anniversary of a stolen revolution, I recall the days almost 25 years ago, when hope and freedom were in the air. What was once a country on the rise, and aspiring to build democratic institutions, is now a nation of lost dreams and diminished faith. 

In the spring of 1979, people were coming out of their homes, sweeping their alleys, and getting ready for Noruz celebrations and for a new dawn in Iran. Students and ordinary citizens would get together in the corners of the streets, in the universities, or in the headquarters of different political organizations, exchanging ideas.

Never had Iran witnessed such amazing show of political participation in its streets. Radio and television would broadcast discussions full of energy and individuals expressing their different ideologies; music was on and singers would sing not of sorrow but of joy. Alas, that the spring of freedom was short lived.

I remember the days after the revolution; I was staying with my father in Shiraz. He had been appointed by the newly elected government to head Fars province as its governor general. It was a splendid time. It seemed we were all back in our country in the hope of making a difference, to plant the seeds for democracy.

It was then and there that the forces of ignorance started to proceed with their plan. It was a time when the now deceased Sheikh Sadegh Khalkhali declared Persepolis as a symbol of decadence and ordered his henchmen to destroy it. And then, as the governor ordered the military to stop them, my father said, “you will destroy Persepolis over my dead body.” With that, he saved the ancient treasure, but resigned from his post only one month later. 

But these thugs did not stop; they went on their rampage; without holding trials, and against the orders of the late Prime Minister Bazargan, they killed the old regime's generals and close associates. It was only the beginning.

Later came more deaths. They killed those who had once helped them in realizing the revolution. Some of the best sons and daughters of this land were put to death in kangaroo courts. Some of our best friends, some of the gems of Iran were taken away from us, so that the new rulers would face no objection to the rule of their Velayat Faghih; the same Velayat which is now the bastion of staggering unemployment, drug addiction, prostitution, cruelty, corruption and injustice. Words were silenced one by one, day by day. Freedom of choice was no more. Ignorance prevailed over wisdom.

Bakhtiar left, Bazargan resigned and the Imam ruled. Women were forced to wear the hejab and faced persecution of unspeakable magnitude. Children were separated by gender in schools only to learn the teachings of a new version of their Islam; minorities were punished because they held another belief. Men of literature were taken from their homes, forced to make false confessions, and then viciously silenced. A poet was taken from his wedding ceremony and shot in the early morning.  Others were kidnapped and then their bodies surfaced a few days or weeks later, strangled, leaving countless relatives in mourning.

Rafsanjani came as an element of modernity but he was an impostor he was a fake. He accumulated wealth at the expense of the people and became the leader of the new mafia and then sent his men abroad on a killing spree. Indictments came against the rulers in absentia.

A President was elected by a margin of 78% by the women and the youth who saw a different future for themselves in the smiles of the new President. He spoke of dialogue of civilizations and a civil society. Yet, newspapers closed and then resurfaced with a new name; journalists were put in prison; editors were tortured. Lawyers and clients shared the same cells. And human right activists, both male and female, were incarcerated during his tenure.

A new election came and went; the people's real representatives were all brushed aside. Those chosen only by the evil Guardian Council could be elected. The President got another term, but this one didn't produce much. It was another disappointment. Reform was the talk of the town, as if corruption can be reformed. Many winters and springs went by and people waited, exhausted in anticipation.

And Tir/July 1999 came like a storm and became an arrow in the eyes of the rulers. Yet, the young flourished under all the harsh conditions, despite a cultural revolution and bloodied dormitories.

Young Iranians, who never witnessed the revolution, are now grown and educated, but facing an uncertain future. They carry a big burden on their shoulders: they will have to offer hope and prospects of a better and freer life for all citizens. They will have to take the lead and bring a new kind of revolution, one without blood and tears.

Once again, Bahman/February is here. A new parliamentary election will be taking place. Most political and student organizations have boycotted these bogus elections. The same people who voted for Khatami are now either abstaining or will use a blank vote to show their opposition. Sooner or later, there is only once choice left.

For twenty-five years people have heard death to so-and-so. Instead the real slogan should be :”Zendeh bad Azadi”, the one chanted decades ago. Freedom and referendum to determine a new Republic is the only choice. Finally, a new Bahareh Azadi might be on the horizon…

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