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We had hope
Khomeini promised clerics would return to theological schools

By Sam Miller
November 14, 2001
The Iranian

In his article, titled "Correction" Ahmad Javan writes:

"This revolution is not about Reza Pahlavi or anybody else. It is not about monarchy or communism. We are sick of these labels and these discussions about individuals (which were prevalent in your generation's time). It is about something that the previous revolution neglected: DEMOCRACY."

I am 40-years old. My insight into Iran's sociopolitical life began in my teenage years while in high school. I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. James Egan, the Director of Isfahan's Iran-America Society, who first introduced me, during those years, to the concept of Western democracy, democratic ideals, the writings of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, U.S. history, the ideals of American democracy as delineated in the preamble and the body of U.S. Constitution and its amendments.

Naturally, such influences, combined with the apparent sociopolitical and socioeconomic environment of Iran in mid-70s, raised my political consciousness along with a strong desire to continue my education in the United States, the frontier of science and technology and the birthplace of modern democracy (though according to most the latter title belongs to France, and rightfully so.)

I was very much saddened then by the backwardness of my country, a land and people that more than once had enjoyed most sophisticated civilizations to which the first monetary system, the first codes of civil, labor, trade, military and international laws, the first codes of human rights, the first structured governing bodies (i.e. satraps,), and many other "firsts" were attributed and credited. I very much wanted then to contribute to the best of my potential to the technological advancement of my nation. A strong desire for peaceful political change grew in me as I realized that no matter how great a scientist I become, my efforts as well as those of similar-minded compatriots would not achieve an Iran on par with Western Europe and even more so with United States.

Thus, I became politically active in my late teens and then after completing high school, I left Iran at the age of 16 to follow my higher education in the United States though I could have easily followed my academic interest in Iran but I thirsted for freedom, to be able to express myself and my thoughts without the fear of persecution. In United States, I joined the Confederation of Iranian Students (CIS) and wrote, under various nom de plum, for its monthly journals "Daneshjoo" and "Resistance".

Though academically successful, I sacrificed then what would have surely been stellar academic achievements and scholarship while organizing other Iranian students in northeastern United States. Since then I have often reflected back and questioned if that had been a wise choice on my part. Then came the mass movement for political change in Iran and I hoped that it would result in a secular Western-style democratic system of government in Iran.

Like many other student leaders in CIS and ISA, I was weary of Khomeini and his leadership. Though he professed that he had changed many of his anachronistic positions, such as his opposition to women's voting rights and land distribution, declared in 1963; yet there was a big question regarding the sincerity and depth of understanding of how erroneous and anachronistic views he espoused in 1963 were.

We met with him in Neuphle le Chateau in late November 1978, and he assured us among other things that strides made in women rights not only would not be curtailed but they would be given far more wider access to and support for participation in sociopolitical and economic life of the country. He also reassured us repeatedly that after the revolution, he and, under his leadership, other clerics would return to theological schools and would not interfere in the political life of the country. Other Iranian national figures such as late Dr. Sanjabi, had similar apprehensions and reservations as we did, on joining a united front under Khomeini. Yet, we acquiesced because of fear that if we did not form a united front, we would be doomed to repeat the tragic events of 1953.

Even after the 1979 revolution, I still did not return to Iran. I was still suspicious of Khomeini's grand promises given while in France. I remained in the United States so I could again participate in a renewed political campaign against the new regime. I had remained politically inactive and focused merely on my academics from late January to mid-August 1979. But by August 1979, the short spring of freedom had withered into the winter of suppression. It became apparent that neither Khomeini nor the clerics organized in the Islamic Republican Party had any intention to either withdraw to theological school or to share power in a democratic state.

First, the voice of those still loyal to the monarchy, whether in its absolute form or its constitutional form, was suppressed. Then, the protest of professional women was squelched and attacked by IRP-hired and orchestrated goons while former SAVAK agents and employees, now retired and laid off, open and freely demonstrated demanding pay and return to their jobs.

The gradual trend of suppression continued, as Mojahedin and Fadaii meetings, offices, members and supporters, were attacked while the newly drafted constitution was being modified and rushed through a hastily elected parliament with the Velayat-e Faghih clause to ensure the dictatorial ascension of the clerics. Then the IRI and the clerics began attacking their loyal opposition, Nehzat-e Azadi (Iran's Freedom Movement) and Tudeh Party. Not even the now impotent Jebhe Melli (National Front) was spared.

Contrary to Mr. Javan's presumptions, our generation, and WE did not "neglect" democracy, prior, during and after the 1979 revolution. We fought for it with every morsel of our being. We put our lives on line and many of us lost our lives for it. Many were the cream of the crop of Iranian youth, students and graduates of such prestigious schools as UC Berkeley, Aryamehr Technological University, Shiraz University, Sorbonne, University of Michigan, Stanford, Cambridge, Oxford, Darmstadt Technical Hochschule, MIT, Harvard, and Yale. They could have chosen a very comfortable, successful, promising and long life, if not in Iran, anywhere abroad. Yet, their devotion to Iran, to democracy, to freedom and their love of their compatriots were so strong that they sacrificed all they had in the hope of a democratic, free, progressive Iran.

Much like its predecessors, the IRI regime has worked hard to re-write Iran's history to its advantage and to conceal the true revolutionary efforts of many Iranians over the course of past 80+ years to bring about a system and government of the people, for the people and by the people. The true heroes of Iran's history are not those for whom Iran's streets, universities and monument are named after today. The true heroes of our nation have often gone unknown.

And we would have had a democratic, pluralistic political system and government in Iran today had we not been a nation of idol-worshippers, not in its religious sense but in its true and literal meaning. Each time, we put some one on the pedestal for a few good qualities and accomplishments, which he may have had or we perceived he had. And we extend to them absolute power, relinquishing our own responsibility. We comfortably and readily ignore their human and other shortcomings. We conveniently forget their history and past the moment we find ourselves temporarily in agreement with them. We have done this with many, be it Reza Shah, Mossadegh, Mohammad Reza Shah, Reza Pahlavi II, Ali Shariati, Mehdi Bazargan, Abdolkarim Soroush, and Mohammad Khatami.

For example, Abdolkarim Soroush, is an opportunist who played a major role in Khomeini's Cultural Revolution, was one of its ideologues, and destroyed Iran's superior system of higher education, forced the best and most capable minds and intellectuals of Iran into self-exile life either in abroad or at home. Then suddenly, in mid-90s, he was hailed as the "leader" of "new thought" (andishe-ye no or degar-andishi) movement as hoards of youth, who were only children at the time of Cultural Revolution, rallied to him. Dr. Soroush has suddenly discovered "democracy" and more surprisingly so, discovered it in Islam and among the verses of Quran, nonetheless. On Mohammad Khatami, read the article/letter titled "Belderchin o Barzegar".

Today, the stench of corruption in IRI has reached so high that some of its functionaries who are intelligent enough to see their own survival is at risk have now flared the flag of "reform," hoping that it would save them in the flood of discontent that will awash the dirt of conservative clerics from the plateau of Iran. Now, even people like Kamal Kharrazi and Molla Khalkhali (the "hanging judge") have become "reformist" politicians and torch-bearers of "reform." Now, they loudly proclaim support for democracy and human rights.

Everyone remembers when Kamal Kharrazi as a staff of IRI's mission to the U.N. repeatedly stated that "Western concept of human rights is not compatible with Islamic norms and values. Islam has its own concepts of human rights." When challenged by a Western reporter that U.N. Declaration of Human Rights was inspired by an edict issued by Cyrus the Great, Kharrazi had responded: "That is exactly why the monarchy who took pride in Cyrus the Great was overthrown in 1979 by Islamic Republic." Enough said.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Sam Miller


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