In a few months, I’ll be visiting my uncle. The tyranny of distance doesn’t allow us to see each other enough. He is my favourite uncle and I don’t think I could have made it through life in one piece without his input and influence.
Uncle is a monarchist. We don’t talk about politics much when we see each other but instead go for long walks or sit in a cafe and drink tea or coffee and talk about our family history. What grandpa was like, what grandma really thought of him, who were the black sheep in the family and what mischiefs they got into. Or his pop idols, Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Ebi who are still in the showbiz after all these years.
Every now and then politics creeps into our discussions and I tend to listen to him quietly. He believes the only reason the revolution succeeded was because Shah went all soft and mushy and didn’t confront the problem head on. Otherwise, he is always full of praise for the royal family. But I also remember my mother once told me that her brother was a staunch Mossadegh supporter in his younger days. She told me the day Ali Reza Pahlavi died in a flying accident she wore a black ribbon on her school uniform to show her sympathy for the sudden death of the Shah’s brother but my uncle told her to take it off. He said that he wished the whole family was on the plane. But it all changed when he got a job with the government and slowly moved up the ranks.
After the 1979 revolution uncle had to flee from the IRI thugs and take refuge in Europe with his family. I followed him a few years after. He was reduced to nobody and lost everything that he had. He has been in denial about the root causes of the revolution. The blame has always been on Islamists and the stupidity of people. What about the royalists and their responsibility for their side of the fiasco I asked him once. He doesn’t want to see the other side. Hardly anyone does. Most Iranians have only made stronger fortification around their political ideals, allowing not much critical evaluation or introspection.
Many years ago, by accident, I met a few former Iranian ministers who worked under the Shah. One person in particular who had an important portfolio said in an honest roundtable discussion that it was not possible to work under Shah because he overruled any decision that he didn’t like. And his cronies told him he was always right even when he wasn’t.
Only on a few occasions I have been able to talk to my uncle about the Pahlavis and why he became so loyal to them. He always uses the examples of the communists and the Islamists, saying that they were trying to take over the country and Shah did his best to stop them. For me, this argument does not hold water because it is a scare mongering tactic and usually violence becomes a way of eradicating the ‘enemies’ of the state. A government cannot simply give a mandate to itself to do whatever it wants unless people have given the mandate to the government by electing them to power.
Modern democracy is complex, exhausting and sometimes even produce disappointing results. However, until something else comes along that works better that’s all we have. Still is far better than many other systems, especially better than theocracy and dictatorship when an entire country is run only by one person or a group of religious men with a mandate from their monster god. There is no transparency or accountability and it prevents people from taking responsibilities for themselves or be engaged in the process and usually corruption begins to eat away at its core.
I remember my uncle when I was a child. He was my role model. I looked up to him and knew he would be there for me when I needed him and he always was. During the revolution, I witnessed him and his family hide in various households until he was smuggled out of the country. It was very difficult to see him suffer like that. And I wished one day there will be a government in Iran when good people didn’t have to hide and be scared for their lives or get overruled and humiliated by an egomaniac leader who thinks he knows everything. Only a robust political system can ensure people are treated equally and given a fair chance in life.
IRI was and is an evil government. Any government that does not have the same rule for all its citizens must be challenged. It’s my personal belief that a sign of a good government is to make a good citizen out of a no-hoper. IRI has been doing exactly the opposite for the last forty odd years by making bad citizens out of good people through systematic discrimination on the basis of gender, sexuality, race, politics, religion etc…
I would like to have at least one more discussion with my uncle (who is in his twilight years) about politics. I know if I tell him that a good political system is first of all elected by the majority of people (every 3 or 4 years) and would provide the same opportunities to all citizens to contribute and participate in the democratic process and gives everyone the same rights and ensure that the weak and the vulnerable and the elderly are looked after he would nod his head while taking a long drag from his cigarette and looking at me sideways. Maybe this time he does more and verbalise his agreement with me. Because he is a good man and wants the best for people and his country.