My generation

In his photo essay entitled “Bacheh enghelaabi” (Revolutionary child) Jahanshah Javid says: ..”many Iranian youths today commonly turn to their parents and say: ‘We are suffering because YOU made a revolution… Maybe it’s time to give a sincere reply and explain why we did what we did.”

Though I was living in the US when the Revolution happened, unlike many others in a similar situation, I don’t wash my hands off the Iranian Revolution and the changes that happened in Iran, disavowing knowledge or admission of contributing to the cause, because whether or not I was participating in them on Tehran streets, that was still my generation who was demonstrating on the streets. It was still my generation who went to War. It was my generation who came to power, or was executed. I belong to the generation those kids may be criticizing. I write this piece, heeding Jahanshah’s call, but really in response to a question my own kids might ask me someday.

All generations have something for which to blame the previous generation. We did it so well to our parents, and we must grin and bear it while our children do it to us. Compared to all the blame we receive and to which we subject ourselves all our lives, the blame from our children is a lot more palatable, as we do truly love our critics in this case, and we won’t harbor ill feelings for them if they question, criticize, or blame us, no matter how harshly or how unfairly.

Our generation was lost and confused. Within a few short months in 1978, our generation went from feeling powerless and timid to feeling powerful and invincible, almost every single citizen a “knowing” revolutionary. In their effort to understand and make sense of themselves, others, and events that were shaping up, our generation was polarized, some turned super religious, some turned red hot communists, some others turned conservative, and many others just tried to keep their heads above the water, to make sense of it, making the best of it. None of us had mentors, teachers, role models, or leaders. Nobody was trained to know what to do.

It was our generation that was captured and imprisoned, summarily dismissed from jobs, and tortured and executed. Our generation was kicked out of their classrooms and told they couldn’t pursue their education, at least not for many years to come. Our generation was promised the heaven and walked the minefields. Our generation delved into the new era, its women bereft of many rights, and its men bereft of their dignity, whether they were aware of it or not.

Our generation could still remember what it had seen before, and was defiant in accepting what it was seeing now, and was alternately fearful and ignorant of what it will see soon. Our generation had also decided to have fewer children and to ensure those children’s safety, education, prosperity, and a better life than that of their parents at any cost.

Our generation paid with its blood, with its hopes, with its dignity, with its rights, and with its life for the decisions it had hastily made during those few feverish months in 1978-1979. Yes, we are probably to blame. We weren’t like our parents and we didn’t conform. We had seen more joy and prosperity than our parents had seen or our children have seen. We are the generation that saw Iran’s economic heyday, loved Iran, and gave up so much for Iran. That means that our generation probably suffered more, too.

To my children who might say “we are suffering because YOU made a revolution,” I would say: My generation beat you in the “suffering game” hands down! Those are people from our generation sleeping in those nameless graves in Iran. Those are people from our generation who have been missing, maimed, or put to rest in the Martyrs Graveyards across Iran. Those are people from our generation, displaced and exiled to faraway places of the world, seeing Iran again just a huge dream in their hearts.

Those are people from our generation driving those mini-cabs in Tehran and telling anyone who would listen, that they are actually engineers who were dismissed from work, never again able to be employed, because of their political convictions. Those are people from our generation working two-and three-shift jobs to pay for their children’s rent, food, tutors, music lessons, clothes, and university tuitions. Those are people from our generation waiting outside police stations and Vozara Complex, trying to get their kids out of jail because they attended a party or went for a drive with their date, putting up with the insults and humiliating treatment of their jail keepers, just so they won’t further jeopardize their children.

Those are people from our generation still remembering the names and faces and smiles and looks of friends and family who were among those who died in the War, or among those hauled en masse to be executed one night. Ironically, those are people from our generation who continue to manage what is left of Iranian industry and trade, the last of a generation of experienced technocrats who were taught well in Iranian universities.

Yes, perhaps our generation is to blame for a lot, and we always receive such blame a lot more easily from our children than from anyone else. But as we face their blame, just like all the others we have faced before it, we also have to look fearfully to our children’s future after us, where they can blame their by then deceased parents all they want, but they would still have to be the ones to pick up the pieces, build their country again, raise their children, and maintain hope.

The new generation of Iran must take responsibility for all of that, when our generation has finally ran out of time. Once the blame game has come to an end, will they be ready for that challenge? That’s what I would tell my children.


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