Iran’s 1979 Revolution 43 Years On
The Editorial Board
File photo: A banner advertising the events marking Khomeini’s return to Iran and carrying his picture and that of his successor Ali Khamenei, being torched by the defiant youth.
February 11 marks the 43rd anniversary of Iran’s anti-monarchical revolution. Tired of decades of corruption and oppression, Iranians toppled the Pahlavi regime. But the spring of democracy and freedom in Iran was short-lived. Ruhollah Khomeini and his ilk hijacked people’s revolution, and the “Islamic Republic” winter started. Now, 43 years later, Khomeini and his disciples have brought Iran to total ruin.
In his first address to the Iranian people in 1979 at the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, Khomeini spoke of freedom and democracy and how Muhammad Reza Pahlavi “ruined our nation and filled our cemeteries.”
But he soon showed his true colors and completed Shah’s task of oppressing freedom by imposing a reign of terror. Since 1979, tens of thousands of freedom-loving Iranians have been sent to the gallows. Khomeini prolonged the Iran-Iraq war, leaving millions of dead and dozens of destroyed cities on both sides. Once forced to accept a ceasefire with Iraq, Khomeini ordered the mass execution of political prisoners, primarily members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
Khomeini’s successors have perpetuated his evil legacy as Iran under the mullahs’ regime is the world’s leading per capita executioner of its own citizens. In November 2019, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) gunned down over 1,500 peaceful protesters. By pursuing a criminal policy centered on deception and inaction, the regime sent Iranians to the Covid-19 minefield, killing over half a million citizens.
Despite their role in crimes against humanity, regime officials like the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and his president Ebrahim Raisi, who served as a member of Tehran’s “Death Commission” during the 1988 genocide, enjoy impunity and continue their atrocities. There have been at least 50 executions in 2022 alone, and independent sources confirm at least 365 prisoners were hanged in Iran in 2021.
Upon his arrival, Khomeini promised “Free electricity, water supplies, and free transportation and bus services” and that Iranians will be paid based on the oil revenue. Yet, the ruling theocracy has been squandering people’s wealth on its malign ambitions, such as funding its terrorist proxy groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Houthis, and continuing its clandestine missile and nuclear programs.
According to the state-run Arman daily on December 4, 2021, “It is estimated that the cost of the nuclear program should be between 1.5 to 2 trillion dollars. It seems that the initial assessment by the Budget and Planning Organization’s expert was not far from reality.”
Besides, the regime’s institutionalized corruption and ineptitude have increased Iran’s wretched economic crisis. On January 3, 2022, Morteza Afghe, one of the regime’s economists, acknowledged that “According to the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare, about 60 million people are eligible for government support, which means that 60 million people are below the poverty line.” Meanwhile, regime officials and their relatives enjoy luxurious lives. “We are not just speaking of some officials and their children lavish lives. We should consider the widespread aristocracy, which stands in stark contrast with the revolution’s ideals,” the state-run Jomhouri-Eslami daily wrote on January 7.
It is safe to say that Iran’s current economic crunch is due to the mullahs’ corruption and mismanagement. Khomeini hijacked people’s revolution with the promise of economic prosperity and social justice. He did not deliver on any of them.
Considering the atrocities the clerics ruling in Tehran have committed in the last four decades, some question whether Iran was better off during the Shah’s reign. However well-intentioned, these voices are ignorant of what brought about the Iranian revolution and why it turned out the way it did.
While the Iranian people want to see the ruling theocracy overthrown, they do not want to return to the past, evident in one of the popular chants in different protests in the past three years, “down with oppressor, whether the Shah or the Leader (Khamenei).
In truth, Khomeini was the rightful heir to the Shah. Half of a century of absolute repression under the Pahlavis destroyed any chance of democracy taking shape in Iran. Democratic movements and organizations were decimated by the Shah’s notorious secret police, SAVAK. Thousands of dissidents languished in prisons under torture. So, when the Shah was overthrown, Khomeini and the mullahs stepped into a power vacuum. The crown was replaced with the turban.
Needless to say, except for a handful of progressive clerics, whom the security forces persecuted or imprisoned, the clerical establishment and pro-Khomeini elements, which monopolized power in post-revolution Iran, colluded with the Shah’s regime and sought to depoliticize the public, especially the younger generation.
Now, 43 years after the anti-monarchical revolution, millions of Iranians grapple with poverty and the Covid-19 pandemic. But has the courageous spirit that led to that glorious revolution diminished? The continuing and expanding protests in every corner of the country make it clear that the opposite is the case.
As Thomas Jefferson once said, “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty,” and this is precisely the story of the Iranian nation. Nowadays, the MEK’s Resistance Units act as trailblazers of the fight against ruling theocracy and keep the spirit of the 1979 revolution alive by their activities and efforts to break the wall of repression and foment an organized nationwide uprising that will bring an end to the nightmarish rule of the mullahs.