Today, life in Iran is wonderful! Everything is perfect and all of Iran's citizens are happy. The women are free to stay at home and bear children instead of being forced to attend useless schools of higher education which would only confuse and probably contaminate their tender little minds. Women in Iran are placed on a pedestal and if they know what's good for them that's where they'll stay!
The government of Iran is very supportive of the one thing that Iranians consider most important, above all else. So supportive in fact, that 30% of all government spending is devoted to this, Iran’s national pastime. No, not football! The state religion—Islam—is the lucky beneficiary of all that government largess. It's a demanding religion requiring prayer five times per day. Commerce and industry basically just shuts down five times a day for about ten to fifteen minutes each time.
In addition to the five daily prayers there is also the obligation to undertake other voluntary, lengthy, and arduous hardships. During the month long religious festival of Ramadan for instance, from the moment the sun rises until the moment the sun sets, devout Muslims let neither food nor drink pass through their lips. The economy basically shuts down for a month every year. Finally, there is the obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca. This costly obligation must certainly be an exciting journey for Muslim pilgrims, albeit also incredibly dangerous as well!
Once you get past all that fusty religious zealotry however, you'll discover that Iranians are just like everybody else. They too have their hopes dreams and fears. Just like those of us in the west, they too believe that hard work and excellence in education should be rewarded with higher paying jobs and more rewarding opportunities. That's why, upon graduation, the best and the brightest move on to bigger and better places with greater opportunities, and perhaps even freedom.
Those left behind in Iran are very excited to still be living...in a nation that will very soon become a member of a very select club, the nuclear club. Unfortunately their excitement is not shared by those countries who're already members of that club. Economic sanctions imposed by the international community—especially the United States—have caused significant hardship for the common Iranian citizens. Of particular concern to these common folk, is the stratospheric inflation rate which is nearing 50% annually.
Even though economic and military policies have been of particular concern of late, because Iran is a democracy and periodically has elections during which its leaders are elected, the Iranian people have chosen to stick with the devil they know rather than experiment with one that they don't. In the most recent election Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected with a stunning and overwhelming majority of the votes—62.6% of the votes cast, in spite of a variety of popular polls which indicated that the opposition had a commanding lead. In that election an incredible 85% of the voting age population cast ballots. We in the west can only dream of experiencing a voting participation rate so high!
Finally, as we in the west look on in amazement at the changing fortunes of this once mighty Persian Empire, there is one industry that Iran absolutely commands so dominantly that it practically holds a worldwide monopoly. That industry is of course terror. It's a dirty thankless job, but if they didn't do it, who would? For thirty-three years the highly trained, highly skilled professors of terrorology in Iran have toiled diligently and tirelessly to train and equip young men from all over the world, as they endeavor to instill heartbreak, fear, pain, and terror in the hearts and minds of those of us who live here in the western hemisphere. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these agents of terror from the swift completion of their appointed bombings.
That's the way it is in Iran now, but seeing the whole picture requires a long look back.
The last Shah of Iran—Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavī
I'm looking behind us now, across the count of time, down the long haul, into history back.
There was a time, a period of mere decades, when women in Iran were allowed to go to school, encouraged even. They were allowed to work at jobs and careers. They could even go to the beach in a swimsuit if they wanted to. They could go dancing and vote in elections. They were permitted to go to college, and they could get married or not, according to their own wishes. What terrible and awesome freedoms women once had before the Iranian Revolution of 1979. If you have an hour or so to kill, I urge you to watch the following ten videos which chronicle the downfall of the Shah of Iran. If you don't have that much time, my impression of the sequence of videos is written below.
Part 01 —— Part 02
Part 03 —— Part 04
Part 05 —— Part 06
Part 07 —— Part 08
Part 09 —— Part 10
The last Shah of Iran wasn't stupid. He spoke English, German, and Arabic at the very least, but he probably also had understanding or perhaps even fluency in several other languages. He understood the importance of capitalism, free trade, and education. He valued western art, music, and cuisine. He befriended Israel when the other regimes in the region remained Israel's implacable enemies. The Shah drank champagne with President Jimmy Carter and discussed with him current events in the world as well as other concepts relevant to the intelligentsia as well as the avant-guard.
Because of his apparent westernization and anglophilia, The Shah's detractors considered him weak and decadent. They were furious that he allowed women to vote and hold office or be represented in any area of government. The Shah took American money and with it he advanced Iran's military capabilities to the point where Iran was indisputably the big kid on this particular block. Nixon during his term was pleased to have Iran as a buffer which effectively checked the USSR's unremitting push to expand its territorial boundaries, and for a while it seemed as though Carter would continue this tradition.
Something happened less than a week after President Jimmy Carter's visit in December of 1977. It was something quite odd, when you think about it. It was this moment that the Shah made the biggest mistake of his life. Mustapha, the son of Ayatollah Khomeini had been mysteriously killed months earlier in late October of 1977 in the city of Najaf. He'd been found lying dead in his bed. The religion of Islam does not allow autopsies, and therefore the cause of death is still unknown to this day. The word on the street however, was that agents of SAVAK had killed him. So it is somewhat curious that only a few days after conferring with President Carter, the Shah decided to publish an article in Ettela'at which was the state news agency. The article was intended to rebut the common perception that SAVAK had killed Mustapha. Moreover it also went on to accuse Khomeini himself of being in actuality a British agent. [Watch video #5 at about the 2:50 minute mark.]
The people of Iran went berserk! As the BBC video describes it, the planted news article had an incendiary effect. The people rose up. They protested, and if you wonder what it was like, you've already seen the like lately in Egypt during what the press has dubbed "The Arab Spring." The similarities of the Egyptian revolution and the Iranian revolution are just too striking to dismiss with only the barest mention in a short article like this one is meant to be.
There are several mysteries which I'll just briefly mention in closing, although it may be that I'll be interested enough to explore these questions further, one day in the future:
1.) What was it that caused Mustapha's death? Was it murder? Who was it that put the word out that it was the Shah's own SAVAK agents who'd done the dirty deed, if indeed a dirty deed had been done?
2.) Why did the Shah decide to plant the ridiculous and defamatory article that he did, and this within only days of his meeting with President Carter? Could this have actually been Carter's idea? If it was Carter's idea—and I'm not saying it was but it is curious—what could have been Carter's intent? One thing is certain: When the Iranian people turned against the Shah, Carter wasted no time joining their ranks.
3.) The Iranian revolution was the first revolution where the battles were waged not on battlefields but in front of news cameras. It was arguably a news organization's article that started the revolution, and it was arguably the news industry and reporters who were the ones that exerted the pressure which finally ousted the Shah. I thought that reporters were supposed to only report the news, but here we see evidence that they were actually making the news. Again, the striking similarities found with this revolution and the Egyptian revolution are startling. The press has seemingly taken upon itself the mantle of agent of change. In both Iran and now in Egypt it was news stories which started both wars and then eventually ended both wars. Don't you find that a little bit troubling? It makes me wonder who's really running the show?