Imagine where the U.S. economy would be today if John Jacob Astor, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie or any of the magnates who helped turn America into an industrialized society had been gunned down by a revolutionary firing squad. In 1979, that is what happened in Iran to my grandfather, Habib Elghanian, Iran’s most prominent Jewish industrialist and philanthropist. My grandfather’s execution was not only a personal loss but a turning point for Iran.
His execution and the subsequent fleeing of businessmen from Iran contributed to derailing the country’s chances of building a modern, diversified, export-based economy, and foreshadowed Iran’s neglect of its most valuable resource: its people. Since the revolution in 1979, a new generation of Iranians has been left to foot the hefty losses caused by the Islamic Republic’s hostility to independent businessmen, its fixation on oil, uranium and nuclear power and its cantankerous rhetoric against Israel.