A Revolution Decayed: The Revolution No Longer Exists In Iran Just Another Repressive Regime
17 February 2015
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Every year since 1980, Iranians have held an annual celebration of Ayatollah
Khomeini's 1979 revolution. However, with the passage of time the number of
Iranians who reject the revolution and believe it was the worst historical
setback in the history of their country has increased. Year after year, more
politicians and intellectuals who were involved in the revolution or
supported it are re-evaluating the experience within the context of restoring
consciousness—an act which usually follows revolutions or failed changes.
Today, as the Iranian Islamic Republic celebrates the 36th anniversary of
toppling the Shah, another prominent Iranian figure has joined the ranks of
those who speak out against the revolution: Mohsen Sazegara, who participated
in establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which were and still
are the military elite of the revolution and remain the most powerful and
influential force in the country. Sazegara said, regretfully, that if he had
the chance go back in time he would not have participated in the revolution,
adding that toppling the Shah's regime was a mistake which Iranians have paid
too high a price for. Most of those who have changed their minds about the
revolution are like Sazegara—retirees no longer seeking high-ranking posts
and who are not part of the current political struggle. They are simply
mature individuals who can observe the entire scene and evaluate it based on
their experience and according to the end result of Iran's current situation.
Any fair-minded historian will certainly agree that there were many defects
and failures during the Shah's rule. But the Shah—until the collapse of his
regime in the 1970s—managed to turn Iran into one of the most developed and
successful countries in the Middle East—compared to the Gulf, Egypt, and
Turkey, for example. He transformed the country into an industrial and
military power and a top regional scientific hub, making other countries in
the Middle East regard Tehran with both envy and admiration. However,
revolutionary zealots, from the leftist movement to extremist Islamists,
deleted most of this history and rewrote it like Chairman Mao did in China
and the Bolsheviks in Russia.
To confront this growing nostalgia for the Shah's era, those who believe in
the revolution and seek to defend it no longer try to forge recent history.
This no longer works, because people's memories of have been revived and
millions of people who lived through the Shah's era are actually still alive.
Their only option is thus to concoct excuses for the failures of the past 36
years in numerous areas including development, living conditions and
individual freedoms. The remaining revolutionaries blame the West and the
''hypocrites''—that is, the opposition—for their own failure.
But these excuses are no longer convincing. At the same time the regime seeks
to reassure its audience at home of its negotiations with the West and that
it is about to reconcile with some of its longtime rivals, many in the
country will remember how a more secure livelihood and independence from the
West—alongside calls for freedom and democracy—were the main slogans chanted
by protesters calling for the downfall of the Shah in Tehran and its public
Today, three and a half decades on, none of these demands have been met. The
circumstances of Iranians today are actually worse than they were during the
Shah's reign. The margin of political freedom has decreased and social
restrictions predominate. Parliamentary and presidential elections have been
limited to Islamists, rivals have been jailed, and the only parties active
are those affiliated with the regime. The situation is thus worse than it was
when the Shah was around. Living standards have declined, misery reigns, and
Tehran and the rest of Iran's major cities have deteriorated into mere
shadows of their former resplendent selves during the time of the Shah. After
a long time on the revolutionary path, the political regime of the velayat-e
faqih (Rule by an Islamic jurist) has turned its back on all its
revolutionary slogans by seeking relations with its main enemy the United
States. Not only that, the regime wants the US Treasury to allow it to
exchange Iranian rials for US dollars, to allow people to remit money to
Iran, and for the US Congress to allow Iran to acquire new technology for oil
exploration and production.
Practically speaking, the revolution no longer exists in Iran. In its place
we have just another repressive regime, with a political system and security
services much crueler than the Shah's. The only hope which the government and
the Iranians have left is to achieve reconciliation with the West and become
open to the world, just like Vietnam, Cuba, China and Russia did before them.
Al Rashed is the general manager of
Al -Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-
Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a
senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a
US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on many
TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.