- Author, Ali Hamedani
- Role, bbc persian
45 years ago he fought for a change that completely transformed Iran, taking part in the movement that led to the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Today they reflect on what they experienced at that time and the significance of their actions in the present.
Some regret it, others firmly believe it was the right thing to do.
Sadegh Zibakalam says, “45 years ago, none of the revolutionaries imagined that the day would come when people would see them as criminals.”
he was one of Millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest against the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.The emperor who led the country with absolute power for more than 37 years.
Mass demonstrations succeeded in overthrowing the regime of the proclaimed “King of Kings”, but now, 45 years later, many young people question the current Iranian leaders, the revolution and those who support it.
freedom and democracy
Died in 2022 Mahsa Amini, 22, After being arrested by the so-called morality police, he sparked a wave of massive protests against the ruling class.
Human rights violations, restrictions on social freedoms and the state of the Iranian economy have also contributed to discontent, with inflation at 43% in the 12 months to January.
On the other side are sanctions imposed by the West for Iran’s nuclear activities and US strikes against groups in the region supported by Iran.
Some members of the younger generation blame the revolutionaries for the direction Iran took and wonder whether that is what they really fought for.
Zibakalam says, “I am saying this neither out of stubbornness, nor out of hatred, nor out of pride and prejudice, but if I had to go back to 1979, I would do the same thing again and participate in the revolution.” Who spent his university years in the United Kingdom.
He said, “What did we want? We wanted free elections, no political prisoners and no one running the country to do whatever he wanted.”
and the mistake of Iranian leaders face current problems facing the countryNot for the revolution itself.
“The mistake I and people like me made was that instead of pursuing the goals of the revolution, which were freedom and democracy, we started with slogans like ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘We will destroy.’ Followed the anti-imperialist slogan. Israel.’ ,
He says that despite losing his job as a political science professor at the University of Tehran last year after protesting against the brutal repression of the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement, he still believes in the same principles for which he stood for He fought in the 1970s. “by country.
He points out that 45 years ago, Freedom was what was repeatedly promised by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini To him and his revolutionary comrades.
Khomeini, in a speech given during his exile in France in 1978, said, “Freedom is the right of the people. Freedom of a country is the right of everyone. You should not imprison a person and prevent him from speaking freely “
Hearing these words now makes many people, especially the generation that never lived through the Khomeini era, think about the current conflict between the workers and the Communist Party of China. Establishment,
Role of Khomeini and Shah in the revolution
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ruled as the emperor of Iran for more than 37 years.
Under his leadership, the country experienced a period of Westernization and economic growth, and a concerted effort was made to instill national pride in Iran’s ancient heritage and pre-Islamic history.
In the 1960s, women gained the right to vote and received equal rights as men.
Tehran, for its part, was known as a party city with nightclubs and cabarets, and the country exported Persian wine around the world.
However, despite these social freedoms, Shah faced criticism for his autocratic style and lack of democracy.
Shia Muslim clerics often accused him of weakening Islamic values, while leftist groups influenced by the then Soviet Union, bordering Iran in the north, called for greater equality within the country.
Until mid-1978, few could imagine a revolution capable of completely transforming Iran, but when it came, it included leftist, nationalist, secularist, and Islamist intellectuals.
As the year progressed, anti-shah protesters increased their demands in religious terms.
In late 1978, Islamist rhetoric came to dominate the streets.
Khomeini skillfully presented himself as the only person capable of uniting the various streams of Islamic government.
Millions of people regarded him as a holy man attempting to transform Iran into the promised Islamic society described in the holy book of the Quran.
Khomeini also assumed the title of Imam, the head of the Muslim community.
Television reports from 1979 show an outpouring of emotion on the streets of Tehran Millions of people gathered to welcome Khomeini after 15 years in exile.,
The video shows the crowd stopping the car carrying him and throwing pieces of cloth at him in the hope of blessings.
Before his arrival, a rumor spread throughout the country that if people looked at the night sky at 10:00 pm on a certain day, they would see Khomeini’s face on the moon, symbolizing his success. Many people followed this instruction.
“We were stunned, wondering why people believed such things.”says Farah Pahlavi, Iran’s former empress who now lives in exile.
With her husband, the Shah, and their three children, she left Iran in early 1979 to take “vacations” and never returned.
Recalling the weeks before the revolution, she says that “after all the efforts she had made for her country, it was extremely disappointing to see those events” for her husband, who died in exile in 1980.
He points out that the participants in the demonstrations were mainly university students and intellectuals.
“We kept wondering what kind of organized groups were able to indoctrinate people like that and bring them to the streets,” he said.
Among the leftist and anti-religious groups that supported Khomeini was Iran’s communist Tudeh Party. Shahran Tabari, who now lives in London, was a member of the party and his uncle was its leader. Now he questions the decision to overthrow Shah.
“We don’t understand what democracy is”, he admitted. He says that some members of the opposition did not agree with what was happening, but remained silent.
“Everyone wanted Shah to disappear at any cost,” he says, recalling, “It is difficult to understand how it happened. It was as if we were brainwashed and manipulated.” Has been done.”
“The end justifies the means”
Someone who agreed with him was Homa Nattagh, who was a professor at the University of Tehran during the revolution. Nateigh, who died in 2016, also felt personally responsible.
Known as one of the leftist minds of the revolution, she translated and wrote books and articles in support of the movement.
A few months after the revolutionary regime came to power, Nateagh became disillusioned with the religious authorities and fled to France, where he reflected on his role.
“My crime may be bigger than others”“Since the revolution I have played the roles of both a teacher and a researcher,” he wrote in an article in the 90s.
“Unfortunately, I got carried away with enthusiasm, abandoned reservations and knowledge and joined the crowd on the streets, and associated myself with the ignorance of the people.”
Around the same time he also gave several interviews to the BBC, in which he acknowledged that his work had incited people to overthrow the Shah, but that he disagreed with much of what he had written later in the 1970s.
He commented, “The end justifies the means.”
“We shouted for freedom, but we hardly understood its true meaning. Neither I nor anyone who talked about freedom understood its essence; we interpreted it in the way that suited our interests.”
But Sadegh Zibakalam refutes the idea that people were tricked and brainwashed.
He says, “It was not like that at all. Just look at the pictures.” ,It cannot be said that they were all ignorant. Who were the revolutionaries? He was a university student and professor. “It is outrageous to suggest that they were influenced by publicity.”
Although many leftist groups were banned after the revolution and their members and some key revolutionary figures who had helped Khomeini establish the Islamic Republic were hanged, Zibakalam believes that criticism The origins “lie in the people’s dissatisfaction with the regime.” present.
For Iranian leaders, the revolution freed Iran from foreign domination, especially the United States and Western powers.
They point to the creation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and a national arms industry as evidence of the country having a self-reliant defense capability.
And he takes credit for improvements in health care and education, especially for the poor.
“I don’t want to carry bitterness with me”
But more than four decades after the revolution that ended Pahlavi rule, the Islamic Republic faces a new problem, as some protesters chant slogans in favor of the monarchy and the deposed kings.
“Pray Shah, may your soul be blessed.” And “Iran is no good without a king”These are some of the songs that have been sung.
In addition, the former empress assured, there are also former revolutionaries who have apologized.
Farah Pahlavi told the BBC, “It is very encouraging that despite years of propaganda people now understand what the king did for Iran.”
“Many people send me emails to tell me that they participated in the revolution but now regret it. They ask me to forgive them.”
“will you do that?” I asked him.
“Of course!” He replies, “Because I don’t want to carry bitterness with me.”
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