The Iranian


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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


    May 28, 1999

    Revolution is maturing

Dear Mr. Sajjadi,

I read with great interest your letter in The Iranian about the death of 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, and justice.

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 Sajjadi's reply)

Laleh Khalili

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