Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Dawn of A New Trial

The ten days leading to the dawn of the Islamic Revolution in Iran are commmemorated each year. The period begins with the return of Imam Khomeini to Iran after years of exile in Iraq and later in France. From the day he came back events gained momentum until ten days later the Shah's apparatus collapsed and the monarcy practically fell apart. The Revolution was not a violent or armed struggle, on the contrary ,it came naturally through the will power and resilience of the nation. The Iranians stood up united against oppression and tyranny. In millions, they marched and chanted slogans demonstrating the strength of the masses when they move united and faithful. I can never forget those majestic scenes of collective strength and heroic resistance.

They called for independence , freedom and an Islamic Republic. Their message was sometimes improperly conveyed and misunderstood by an outer world overshadowed by the cold war era. On the other side, an idealistic approach and biased support for the Revolution from within did not allow for an objective assessment of the events. As time passes, we can see things in a more realistic light today. Can we learn from the gains and the losses of this important trial of Islam and democracy ?

Twenty-nine years later Iran has passed the test of time, pressures and sanctions. It is today a major player in regional development , a reliable partner in trade and investment and a sucessful example for developing countries particularly on indicators of human development.

That, not implying that we do not face challenges and unfinished work ahead. In fact, in spite of the great strides, Iran still has a long way ahead. The experiment of creating a religious democracy is one of the kind. Today 29 years later, the aspirations of the people should not be overlooked nor should one objective overshadow the others. The slogan Freedom ,Independence and Islamic Republic cannot be minimalized today. Freedom cannot be sacrificed for independence, and vice versa. Also democracy and Islam are delicately interwined in a sophisticated political system. Today there is a concern that certain factons may see their success in the weakness of democracy and the democratic process in Iran. The reformist discourse is still at the core of the debate.

The Dawn has arrived but there is still a long tedious day ahead of us . There is no going back, we need to move ahead.


Anonymous said...

I loved this blog, thank you for the eloquence with which you brought back those exciting and intoxicating memories of 1978-79!
I was not even 9 years old, but I still remember the incredibly inspiring feelings of those days!!!
Days like the "ashura" of 1978, or in our Iranian (solar) calendar, 1357, the year of the revolution.
In fact, I think that "ashura" was my first day of participating in "The Revolution", albeit it was an accident that I found myself in the middle of the revolution that day!!!

A note here to the readers of this comment who might not be Iranian and are not familiar with "ashura":

Ashura = Anniversary of Imam Hossein's Martyrdom in the battle of Karbala, some 700 years ago

Imam Hossein, Grandson of our Prophet Mohammed = One of Shiite Islam's most revered saints, as the ultimate symbol of "Courage" and "Sacrifice"

In Iran, for decades and centuries long, even in the pre-revolution era of Shah's monarchy - Iranians of all races religions and political persuasions, even those who were self-proclaimed as atheists and Godless - when it came to this particular religious day (ashura), everybody suddenly remembered that they were born Muslims, and not only Muslim, but Hossein loving Shiites!

For example, I'm the grand-daughter of a couple of old "Tudeh" activists. I had a socialist grandmother (no hejab), and a mother who hated anything political b/c of the hardships she endured as a child due to her parents' revolutionary ideas.
But even my upper-middle class, non-religious, intellectual family would take part in "shura"! My mom would take us to watch the "ashura" processions every year, and my cool "soosool" teenage brother would even join the "chest-beating" and "sign-carrying" droves of black-shirted men, most of whom would surely go back to their not-so-religious habits the next day!!!!

Anyway, that year as in every other year, my mom took us to this particular downtown "tekiyeh" (religious community center) where her uncle would always donate money for the costs of their neighborhood "ashura" events.
Outside that "tekiyeh", was where I noticed how the "feeling" and the atmosphere of the day was very different this year from the previous years! There was definitely something in the air!!!! It was so palpable that even an 8 year old kid like me could feel it!

I don't remember the name of the street but there was a huge bridge in the middle of it where all the protesters were marching on.
I remember witnessing a whole other kind of "ashura" that year! that year, even my 16 year old brother was no longer interested in impressing the cute girls in the audience and getting their phone numbers! He actually wanted to join the revolutionary activists who had replaced their traditional "chest-beating" practices with fearless chanting of anti-Shah slogans!
I remember my mom so scared she kept begging him to not go, but teenage boys are teenage boys, and he went inside the crowds! I remember I was kinda scared for his safety b/c my mom was, but at the same time, I was so incredibly moved and excited I had goosebumps all over my arms! It was an incredible feeling! Just indescribable!

That was it, from that day on, Tehran turned into a city of "Allah-o Akbar" at nights, and student marches and strikes in the days!
I remember how I was fascinated by all that passion and fervor, and became an even bigger nuisance to my big brother than I usually had been (being a silly little sister)!
I would follow him around, and at night (as was the directive from Imam Khomeini to all the revolutionaries), I used to go up on the rooftop of our house with him to scream those two magical words that brought down 2500 years of Imperialism in Iran!!!
The two words that every night, at a certain time (I think it was 9pm), all people, from all neighborhoods, man, woman, young, old, religious, secular, Muslim, Marxist, rich, poor, would all scream in unison! In UNISON!!!!
That was the magic of it!
I guess people took refuge in the darkness of night, feeling less worried about being recognized by Shah's secret agents who could be anywhere!!!
My mom had every reason to be worried though, those SAVAK agents could recognize voices too!!! But, she couldn't stop us, my brother had caught the revolutionary bug, and I, as his "sertegh" little sister was right three with him on the rooftop, screaming "Allah-o Akbar"!!!

Allah-o Akbar = God is Greater

I have other memories, memories of finding myself in the middle of the Revolution (again by accident), hearing slogans like:
"mardom chera neshastin? homafara ro koshtan",
hearing the sound of the gun, people being shot, seeing ambulances rushing to the scene of the massacre, ...
and then when we got back to my grandma's house Uptown (Niyavaran) safe and sound, away from all the dangers, I did something that now seems strange, but for an 8 year old kid, I guess it made sense at the time!!
I don't know why, perhaps it was so that I wouldn't forget what I had just witnessed, I don't know? But as soon as I got to grandma's house (I guess her house was safer than ours b/c Niyavaran was more up north than Seyyed-Khandan!!!?), what I did was I took my grandmother's lipstick that was on her night-stand, and started writing all those exciting slogans I had heard in the streets, but the crazy part is that I wrote them on all the mirrors and all the windows in the house!!! I turned my granda's house into a Revolutionry Headquarter!!!!
My grandma was cool though, she was an "avant-gard" revolutionary chick herself! In fact when she saw that, she just smiled at me, whereas any other day, she would have screamed my head off for doing such a stupid thing!!!

I don't know? Perhaps that was my way of showing my frustration and protest to my mom whom i saw as the uncool one, not letting me stay there in the scene of action that day, and be a revolutionary kid!!! I so desperately wished I could have fought alongside my brave brothers and sisters who were shouting those exciting slogans while facing gun shots and arrests!!!!! :-) I was only 8.5 years old!!!!!! but I saw myself as a female version of Che Guevara!!!! :-)

The worst part was that my brother was not there! Actually that's why we had accidentally found ourselves on that scene of action, in the first place!!! My mom, my pregnant aunt and I had gone downtown to a bank (I guess that was the only bank that had foreign exchange?!!!!?), we had gone there to buy some UK Pounds to send to my brother in Cambridge! Yes, by that time, only a few weeks after "ashura", my mom had succeeded in sending him off to a foreign land, in order to keep him safe and far away from the revolution!!!
Anyway, as we were coming back from the bank, my aunt saw a street vendor selling a certain Iranian delicacy (del o jigar), and she (being pregnant) just had to have some!!! So when my mom stopped the car to buy her some of that "viyarooneh", that was when we heard those slogans, and saw those people first marching and then running, and shortly after, we heard the shootings of police guns and the sirens of ambulances!!! ... It was my most "real" and up-close encounter with the Revolution!!!

I remember how my mom was angry at her little sister for not being able to resist her cravings, and was really giving her a hard time (criticizing her) for not hurrying up. And I remember how my silly silly aunt was laughing!!!! just laughing as she always does when she's either nervous or very very scared!!!! It was a surreal scene!!!! :-)

My best memory of those days though is that of the Referendum Day, Farvardin 12, 1358 (which was I think April 1, 1979)! The day Iran voted for the new name of "Islamic Republic of Iran" to be the official name of our country!!! The results? 99% of the Iranian population voted "Yes" to that name, and I was so disappointed that 9 year old kids were not allowed to vote!!!

To describe the amazingly inspired feelings and the incredibly HOPEFUL atmosphere of that day, itself is gonna take a lot more words here!!! I realize I have written quite enough already!!! So, perhaps I shall continue that story later, in another "comment"!

Anyway, thank you for reminding me of these old beautiful memories of my childhood! These days, kids don't even know what Revolution means, but back then, we were all much more mature than our age, and we believed!!!

Anna said...

Hello Dr. Ebtekar,
It's me again, the one who writes super-long comments!!! :-)

I just discovered (thanks to your blogsite) that I could create my own blog, and write all these memories or commentaries in my own Blogosphere!
That way, when I come here to read your blogs from time to time, and if I have something to say to you as a comment, I can just put a link here for you to my own blog address, and so we can start a real conversation "blog-to-blog"!!! :-)

I hope you might find the time to engage with me from time to time. I would love to share my thoughts with you from halfway across the world!
Here's my first ever blog on my own blogsite:

In it, I have explained the story behind the URL address I have chosen for myself. It says Mrs. Immanuel Kant, but just call me Anna!

Best Regards,
Anahita Zarreh