1979 things that went wrong
I was listening to old tapes of
Khomeini's famous speech...
February 3, 2005
The year was 1979. It was the year of change and reconciliation.
Yes, it was the year of change. A mullah came out of no where and
gave a series of promises to millions of people of no mans land and
then betrayed the same people who fought and helped him to come to
The mullah's name was Khomeini, the people were the Iranian
people and the country was Iran. I remember that time. I was
only 6 years old. I could see the happiness, confusion and some
of hope in people's eyes the first few days. My father used to
drive in his small beetle (ghoorbaghe-ee) and hand out Cigar
Shirazi to all soldiers and then grab their head and give kisses
Then suddenly that happiness turned to chaos right after
few months of
Khomeini's arrival. Entire streets turned to some sort of battleground.
You could see men at every street corner or valley with a baseball bat (chomaagh)
looking for opponents to the regime, mostly Tudehi or Mojahed, the same people
who gave their lives to bring the revolution. It seems like the story of
itself repeatedly and we do not learn from it.
The reason I am actually writing
this paper is, the other day I was listening to the old tapes of
Khomeini's speech [listen to excerpts (part1)
when he came to Beheshte Zahra (the grave yard of many Iranian teenagers
their lives for our mother land may god bless their
souls and punish those who killed them). My friend has six
tapes from Khomeini's speeches. In all his speeches, he just gave promises
after promises to the people.
You may say that is what all politicians do, but Khomeini was
not a politician. When you listen to those tapes, you are listening
to a con man. Khomeini
was someone who betrayed millions of people. In those tapes, he spoke of
freedom, free electricity and energy, free water and food to all
the people. He spoke
of equality and prosperity. He spoke of growth
Freedom, prosperity, happiness? Who was he kidding. None of this ever
happened in Iran. The first few months when he came to power thousands of
Iranians were executed, imprisoned or tortured.
What kind of freedom was he referring?
If you look at the Iranian economy today we are doing horrible even compared
to some of our neighbors in the region. Inflation and unemployment is at records
high. There is such a brain drain in our country that our top and brightest students
are going to countries such as India or Pakistan to work as help desk support.
Our heavy reliance on oil revenues has diminished our desire to grow and invest
in other sectors of economy, not to mention the ongoing corruption amongst the
clerics. The recent price hikes in oil prices has allowed Iran to increase its
revenues by three folds compared to last year, however, the current fiscal years
budget laid out by the president does not show
any signs of that oil revenue.
In the run-up to Iran's parliamentary elections, there is much interest
in the two-thirds of the country's population aged fewer than 30. The post-revolution
baby boom generation strongly backed President
Khatami's election in 1998, but the young are now considered widely disillusioned
with the pace of
change and many may not vote.
Cost of living
A large proportion of Iranians are employed by the state.
Inflation, about 16% last year, particularly hits those such as teachers and
civil servants whose wages are not driven by consumer prices. Unemployment
is a serious problem, with about 28% of 15-29 year olds out of work,
and high rents are a concern for the young.
The Rafsanjani cartel
He and his family control almost 60% of Iran's industry,
anywhere from the Iran Khodro car Industry to Iran's media and even the
condom factory, which is, ran by one of his brothers. Not to mention they
have a huge stake in Iran's Mostazafan account. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani,
who has been named an ayatollah, or religious leader. He was the speaker
parliament and Khomeini's right-hand man in the 1980s, president of Iran
from 1989 to 1997
and is now chairperson of the powerful Expediency Council, which resolves
disputes between the clerical establishment and parliament. Rafsanjani
has more or less
run the Islamic Republic for the past 24 years.
He played it smart, aligning himself in the 1960s with factions led by Ayatollah
Khomeini, then becoming the go-to person after the revolution. A hard-liner
ideologically, Rafsanjani nonetheless has a pragmatic streak. He convinced
Khomeini to end the Iran-Iraq war and broke Iran's international isolation
by establishing trade relations with the Soviet Union, China, Saudi Arabia
and the United Arab Emirates. In the 1990s, he restarted Iran's nuclear
program. He is also the father of Iran's "privatization" program.
his presidency the stock market was revived, some government companies
to insiders, foreign trade was liberalized and the oil sector was opened
up to private companies. Most of the good properties and contracts, say
dissident members of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, ended up in the hands of
associates and, not least, Rafsanjani own family, who rose from modest
origins as small-scale pistachio farmers.
"They were not rich people, so they worked hard and always tried to help
their relatives get ahead," remembers Reza, a historian who declines to
use his last name and who studied with one of Rafsanjani brothers at Tehran
in the early 1970s. "When they were in university, two brothers earned
money on the side tutoring theological students and preparing their exam
1979 revolution transformed the Rafsanjani clan into commercial pashas.
One brother headed the country's largest copper mine; another took control
of the state-owned TV network; a brother-in-law became governor of Kerman
province, while a cousin runs an outfit that dominates Iran's $400 million
export business; a nephew and one of Rafsanjani sons took key positions
in the Ministry of Oil; another son heads the Tehran Metro construction
(an estimated $700 million spent so far).
Today, operating through various
foundations and front companies, the family is also believed to control
one of Iran's biggest oil engineering companies, a plant assembling Daewoo
and Iran's best private airline (though the Rafsanjani insist they do not
own these assets).
None of this sits well with the populace, whose per capita
income is $1,800 a year. The gossip on the street, going well beyond the
observable facts, has
the Rafsanjani stashing billions of dollars in bank accounts in Switzerland
and Luxembourg; controlling huge swaths of waterfront in Iran's free economic
zones on the Persian Gulf; and owning whole vacation resorts on the idyllic
beaches of Dubai, Goa and Thailand.
However, not much of the criticism makes its way into print. One journalist
who dared to investigate Rafsanjani secret dealings and his alleged role
in extrajudicial killings of dissidents is now languishing in jail. He
is lucky. Iranian politics can be deadly. Five years ago, Tehran was rocked
of journalists and anticorruption activists; some were beheaded, others
mutilated. Some of the family's wealth is out there for all to see.
son, Yaser, owns a 30-acre horse farm in the super-fashionable Lavasan
neighborhood of north Tehran, where land goes for over $4 million an acre.
Just where did
Yaser get his money? A Belgian-educated businessman, he runs a large
export-import firm that includes baby food, bottled water and industrial
Who really controls Iran?
Certainly not Mohammad Khatami, the twice-elected moderate president,
or the reformist parliament. Not even the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
stridently anti-American but unremarkable cleric plucked from the religious
ranks 14 years ago to fill the shoes of his giant predecessor, Ayatollah Khomeini,
is fully in control. The real power is a handful of clerics and their associates
who be in charge behind the curtain and have gotten very rich in the process.
economy bears more than a little resemblance to the crony capitalism that
sprouted from the wreck of the Soviet Union. The 1979 revolution expropriated
the assets of foreign investors and the nation's wealthiest families; oil
long been nationalized, but the mullahs seized virtually everything else
of value--banks, hotels, car and chemical companies, makers of drugs and
goods. What distinguishes Iran is that many of these assets were given
Islamic charitable foundations, controlled by the clerics. According to
businesspersons and former foundation executives, the charities now serve
as slush funds
for the mullahs and their supporters.
The social structure
The 1979 revolution
was supposed to make everyone in Iran religious fundamentalist and abolish
corruption and acts of sins such as alcoholism and sex before marriage.
the 1979 revolution has turned Iran in to one of the most corrupt countries
in the world. The mullahs are at the top of corruption. Not to mention
that drug and alcoholism abuse amongst our young people has sky rocketed.
to the mullahs who control the drug cartel who smuggle hashish and heroin
from the Afghanistan and Pakistan border and then redistribute it amongst
According to one mullah, the drug use is high by affluent Iranians
and they deserve to die. Contrary to his statement, actually drug and
alcoholism abuse is high among poor Iranians who have no hope for their
would like one of you to take a walk in one of the Tehran's Park you
will see those young homeless teenagers at high numbers on the corners of
parks, streets and sidewalks. Girls flee home from their fathers or brothers
junkies who repeatedly rape or sell them for prostitution. Thanks to
the regime and it's Arab, style fundamentalism philosophy that has destroyed
pride and joy, which are our kids.
I cry and feel helpless whenever
I see these young boys and girls on the streets of Tehran, which are mostly
forced to prostitution and drug abuse.
|Percent under 25
|GDP per capita
Sources: U.S. Census
Department of Labor; Atieh Bahar Consulting; Forbes estimates.
Development Iran has invested heavily in healthcare and education, achieving
standards above the regional average. However, it ranks 106th on the
index of overall human development, well behind other oil producers Saudi
Arabia and Venezuela, as well as countries with much lower GDP per capita,
such as the Philippines and Uzbekistan.
Women The gap between male and female literacy has narrowed among the younger
generation. Women now make up an estimated 60% of students enrolling in higher
education, although the number of women working remains well below the number
of men. Women have had the vote since 1963, and there are currently 13 female
Communications Iran has more telephones and personal computers per 1,000
people than the regional average, but the spread of televisions and mobile
phones has been comparatively slow. There has also been rapid growth in internet
use, with one in 10 people now thought to have regular or occasional online
Oil Iran is the Middle East's second biggest producer of oil, relying
on oil and gas for more than 80% of export earnings. Nevertheless, with its
large population, state-dominated economy and the US's trade embargo, Iran's
GDP per head is much lower than that of other regional oil producers such
as Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE.
Economy Economic growth in Iran is heavily influenced by oil prices. The
economy is currently booming - high prices have pushed growth to 7% for the
past two years. This follows a slow-down when oil prices dipped in the late
1990s. Analysts say growth has also recently been strong in the non-oil sector.Meanwhile
the clerical elite has mismanaged the nation into senseless poverty.
9% of the world's oil and 15% of its natural gas, Iran should be a very
rich country. It has a young, educated population and a long tradition of
and international commerce. However, per capita income today is actually
7% below what it was before the revolution. Iranian economists estimate
capital flight (to Dubai and other safe havens) at up to $3 billion a year.
I ask myself did the 1979 revolution have a positive effect
on us? I would say yes or no. It did have a positive effect in a way that
the people of Iran managed to overthrow a tyranny that was long time over
but then we replaced it with another tyranny that brought upon on us more
destruction and sorrow. Moreover, the current regime has not only created
us but also for the rest of the world.
At least during the Pahlavi era outsiders
had a different image of Iran. An image of princesses, kingdom and a rich
oil country, but now the word Iran is synonymous with the word terrorism
Yes the revolution gave millions of people who were oppresses a voice a
sense of belonging and sense of pride but that all was short lived because
Khomeini's arrival thousands were executed and thrown into Evin prison.
The countries economy and infrastructure took a dive to self destruction.
People are still living in mud and brick houses today. Millions of Iranians
going hungry to bed. Practices such as arranged marriage, honor killing,
and Stone Age laws are still being carried out. Our courts and judiciary
obey the law practiced based on the holy book that was written 1000 years
ago and practiced by Arabs tribes' man.
Iran an oil rich country with abundant rich natural resources has GDP less
that some African nations. Our country needs a leader, a new leader with a
vision for the people and Iran's future. A leader that will think only
about the national interest of Iran and the Iranian people. One who will help
the people to see that we the people of Iran can also be prosperous, successful,
and be part of this ever-growing global economy.
* Economic numbers in this article are largely from forbes.com.