Dear Mr. Sajjadi,
I read with great interest your letter in The Iranian about the
the revolution, and I just wanted to make a few small points in reply,
which I hope you accept as graciously as you have offered your opinions.
First off, I really don't think the revolution as an idea is dead, since
it obviously still occupies such vast tracts of the psyche of Iranians
inside Iran and outside. Revolutions are only similar to living organisms
in that they go through a lifecycle, and I believe that the Iranian Revolution
of 1977-1979 is in its maturity stage.
Like all other great revolutions, it experienced a period of great
terror; and twenty years on, injustice continues to be part and parcel
of the Iranian daily life. However, I don't think the various forms of
injustice observed in Iran (except for the outright and outrageous persecution
of religious minorities) are anything new to Iran, or that they are caused
by the revolution.
We have a nefarious history of injustices committed by just about every
government in Iran, going back thousands of years, which we choose to
ignore in favor of a notion of Iran as a mythical land of peace, harmony,
As for Khomeini's remarks on Iran and vatan-parasti, I would have to
say that most of his attacks were not necessarily on the idea of Iran
as a nation, or even on vatan-parasti, but -- very unjustly, of course
-- against Iran's Nationalists. I capitalize the word, because most of
those comments were made during the time that the Islamist factions were
consolidating their power, wresting it away from their rival Nationalists.
Khomeini himself -- though fluent in Arabic-- refused to speak it,
preferring Persian, and though notoriously, he stated that he felt "nothing"
upon his return to Iran after many years of exile, the populist ideology
he expounded fed greatly on a fundamental sense of patriotism and nationalism
(with small letters) in Iran.
Additionally, the schism that was created between Islam and the idea
of Iran as a nation actually goes back to the Pahlavi monarchs who glorified
Iran's pre-Islamic, imperial past at the expense of its Islamic history.
That this schism continue to be so prominent even now in the way we construct
our identities perhaps bespeaks of a conceptual conflict in the way we
define ourselves as individual or collective Iranians, not any real and
tangible diametric opposition between the two.
Finally, as Khatami has proven, the Islamic Republic is no longer the
monolithic, totalitarian, and zed-e-Iran regime it used to be. There
are fissures on its facade and at its core, and the emergence of many
patriotic and intelligent clerics and Islamists from within the establishment
may actually prove to be the necessary ingerdient for creation of true
and functional party politics in Iran for the first time in many decades.
It is too soon to determine whether the violent fringe (which has always
existed in Iran and other post-revolutionary societies) will have enough
popular support to effectively prevent such a democractic move. (Go to Ali