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Choices and changes
Discrepancy between the ideologies of the Islamic Republic and the people

Kathy Koupai
December 28, 2004

The Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic of Iran promote very different values and ideologies. These values and ideologies are rarely distinguished or elucidated in popular Western media culture. From the dominant media sources in the West, one would gather that the views of the Iranian people are the same as the views of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This would be equivalent to saying that all people in the U.S. support the policies of the U.S. government. Room for dissent and differing opinions are coated by an umbrella of hegemonic policy making that fails to account for the variety of opinion among the people themselves.

The purpose of this article is to give a glimpse into the diverse history of the people of Iran and to distinguish between the voices of the Iranian people and the policy of the government. People of Iranian stock are part of a 7000 year history of progressive civilization, which has influenced cultures of the East and the West. The religious diversity of the nation includes the faiths of Buddhism, Bahaism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, among many others. In the popular view of Iran, the Islamic faith takes precedence. However, this faith has dominated the land for only 1400 years, which is a pittance of time when set against the backdrop of a civilization that predates the dominance of the Greeks in the West.

The Holy Bible of the Christian faith, which is about 2000 years old, states:

Cyrus, King of Persia, said: The Lord of Heaven had given me all
Kingdoms of Earth to bring peace and happiness to mankind.

Cyrus' decree and proclamation was discovered by European researchers and archeologists years ago, and is maintained in the British museum in London today. The decree was issued in 539 B.C., when Iran was part of a vast region known as the Persian Empire, stretching from the Indus River in the East to the Mediterranean in the West, from the Oral Mountains in the North to the Sea of Yemen in the South. Cyrus issued his declaration when he entered Babylon and established peace there.

The leadership of Cyrus the Great exhibited tolerance, kindness and a value for the diversity of people and their respective faiths. His empire is often revered as an ideal democracy. After the fall of the Persian Empire, many things changed. In the 7th century, the Iranian people were forced to convert to Islam. This was the result of the invasion of Iran by nomadic Arab tribes. Six hundred years of war between the Roman Empire and other invaders had pushed the country to the verge of bankruptcy, producing an opportune time for change. War resulted in the manifestation of greed, prejudice and the killing of innocent civilians. The homes of Persians were ransacked and looted, their wives and daughters were raped, and young natives of the land were captured and sold as slaves in Arab lands.

The emergence of the Islamic faith as the dominant faith in Iran, was also affecting other nations on the international scene. Nations such as Egypt, Syria and Lebanon also accepted the Islamic faith and the Arabic language and alphabet, losing much of their established identities. While Iran accepted the Islamic faith, the Persian language and alphabet retained much of its own identity, and remains a unique language to this day.

In 1979, an astute yet obscure religious leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini overtook Iran, with the support of many nations of the West. Since then, the Iranian people have sunk deeper into economic and spiritual depression and poverty. Once a beacon of light, in terms of democracy and freedom, the nation of Iran slowly morphed into a vision of dictatorial oppression and global abuse of power.

Many promises to the Iranian people from this new government proved to be false. These included promises for political freedom, free public services, free education, and real democracy under Islam. The country quickly plunged into a full war with Iraq in 1980, causing the deaths of 2 million Iranian youth, and the disintegration of both Iraqi and Iranian infrastructures. The devastating effects of the eight year long Iran-Iraq war continue to run deep and necessitate years of reparations.

The discrepancy between the ideologies of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the people of Iran may partially explain the grand exodus of Iranians from their homeland to other nations, including the U.S., Canada, and France, in search of a better life. There are many Iranians who are willing to give up all they have for this opportunity to recreate a life in a psychologically and emotionally healthier environment. These people are self-proclaimed exiles. There is a constant yearning for home, yet these expatriates have chosen, by necessity or circumstance, to cultivate new homes in foreign lands as foreigners. The people of Iran are the first to desire better opportunities and more freedom within their own country.

Decades of abuse and oppression have made the statement, "Chaareh nadaaram," ("I have no choice.") a national mantra amongst the people, even those who are expatriates. We are a people who have been beaten into silence and who regularly accept bad situations as our national destiny. But within each of us is the knowledge and the hope for something more and something better for the future. The 70 million Iranians at home and the 4 million expatriates outside Iran deserve better, and we know it.

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