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No Revolution

14 Jul 2009 22:0418 Comments


A group of Iranian women in Tehran protesting forced hijab, or Islamic veiling, which was imposed shortly after the 1979 revolution.

By SETAREH SABETY in Nice, France | 14 July 2009

The palm of my hand has developed a callous where it rests on my PC. For more than a month now I have been following the election in Iran and its bloody aftermath as passionately as one can in front of a computer screen. In fact, for more than thirty years now I have been following events in Iran as much as I can.

I was a senior at Palo Alto High School in 1979 when the Shah left Iran and Khomeini installed an Islamic republic. The term, from the beginning, was an oxymoron for those of us who wanted a revolution but not one that would usher in the rule of Islam or Sharia.

I remember how my father and I celebrated the departure of the Shah by opening a bottle of champagne in the little house I had rented on Byron Street. Like many Iranians, giddy with having ousted the once almighty Shah, we did not realize the contradiction of drinking champagne to celebrate what would become an Islamic Revolution. Despite my mother's warnings that the mullahs hate women, we were filled with hope for an Iran that had been robbed of a chance for democracy in 1953, when a CIA coup removed the much loved and venerated father of our independence, Mohammad Mossadeq. But soon our elation would come to an abrupt end.

My father turned against the revolution when all his property was confiscated and relatives called to tell him to cancel his trip home. His name had been placed on the list of those wanted by Sadeq Khalkhali, the most callous of Khomeini's henchmen. To this day, after many attempts and trips back, I have not been given an official reason for the verdict against my family. My father was wealthy. He had inherited vast swathes of land in Khorasan, which he had cultivated, supposedly making him a so-called 'feudal lord'. But being a landowner is not a crime in Islam. The best explanation I was given, 'unofficially,' was that we shared a family name with the shah's head of secret police (Savak), and this tashaboh esmi, or name similarity, was what made them confiscate our worldly possessions in the first place. Later, when they did find out that we had nothing to do with Parviz Sabety; the considerable size of my father's wealth made them unwilling to part with it.

I was young at the time and this blacklisting of my father, and so even the confiscation of his wealth was not enough to turn me against the revolution I so admired. What turned me off was the imposition of hejab, or Islamic dress. That, I just could not stomach. For many women like myself, that was the turning point of the revolution. We had not gotten rid of the Shah to replace him with even more patriarchal rulers.

I was in Boston at the time and remember attending meetings of mostly leftist women who shared their outrage at what happened in Iran by reading Simone de Beauvoir in a classroom we had booked once a week at MIT. That began a thirty-year wait for the revolution to mature, change or die. It may seem like a small thing, the forced hejab, but to me it is the most significant and blatant symbol of how the revolution of '79 went wrong, how the dream that we shared of an independent and free Iran turned around and stuck its tongue at us. If before we were victims of American Imperialism, now we became victims of our own people's religious anachronism. The enforcement of hejab and the imposition of Islamic laws that took away most of what women had gained during the reign of the Shah, like the right to divorce and the right to be an equal witness in court, threw in the face of us secular-minded Iranians the impossibility to reconcile democratic ideals with Islamic laws.

We realized that we had been naive in believing Khomeini would allow for a secular democracy to take shape and retire to Qom to act as the benevolent hands-off leader of our great Revolution. Over the years, as I was living and studying in the United States, I felt more and more alienated from the people of Iran. It became clear to me that I was very far in mind, spirit and education from the masses who adored Khomeini.

Finding myself in poverty, I went back several times to try to claim my father's properties and wealth; this was after Khomeini died and relatives reported "a thawing in the judiciary." I enjoyed those trips to Iran even though much of my time there was spent waiting in the waiting room of Evin prison for the head of the Revolutionary Court to grant me an audience, or going to Qom or Mashhad to beg this or that Ayatollah to venture to help me in exchange for a promise to donate a big percentage of my wealth, once recuperated, to his favorite charity.

I did not get a single rial back, but I learned much about the byzantine workings of the Islamic Republic, which gave me more reason to regret the revolution. My Iran-loving father's property, which had nothing to do with the Shah or the Americans, had been confiscated, not to be given to the poor or the proletariat, but to fatten the belly of the worse kind of hypocrites and criminals, many in religious garb. What also became apparent was that unlike the Shahs centralized government, the IRI was deeply divided. The rivalry between the big religious charities, as well as the complicated way the power and the wealth was divided, betrayed this fissure amongst the elite.

So I came back from these trips feeling defeated and disillusioned. I started questioning my identity, and began to believe I was more Concord Avenue than Khiaboon Vali Asr. This apathy vanished, however, when in 1997 the reformist candidate Mohammad Khatami became the president of Iran in a landslide victory.

Like many, I saw in Khatami a liberator, a man who much like Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, had come from the ranks of the establishment but had the foresight to realize a change was badly in need. Khatami was our Napoleon, with a book in his hands instead of a sword. He represented our change from within, our indigenous voice of secularism that had risen from the ashes of an anachronistic and oppressive theocracy. In Khatami, we saw a man who was intelligent and open-minded, even if from under the burden of his turban. He symbolized the ability of traditional society to hold a conversation with its rebellious offspring. When he spoke of a need for 'dialogue among civilizations,' it was as if he spoke from the bottom of our hearts, and in our bilingual tongue. He spoke of a need to reconcile Iran to the West and to reconcile ourselves to ourselves, Iranians with Iranians. Because for us, Iranians of the Diaspora, a dialogue of civilizations was even more urgently needed; for our own self-growth we had to reconcile the many 'cultures' contained within our identity.

The first series of disappointments came during his first term. The students rose to protest the heavy hand of government that had the apparent backing of the president they helped vote to power. Khatami betrayed them however. We knew there and then that this Khatami was not going to risk his neck for any real and substantive change. All talk of "civil society" was just that, talk.

I moved back to Iran and lived there for most of the four years Khatami was president. But I never felt more alienated from Iran than living right there in the middle of Tehran. I realized that the revolution, the long war with Iraq, and most importantly, economic hardship, had turned Iranians or at least Tehranis rather callous. The bazaari (merchant) ethos pervaded in such a way that even your hostess might end up trying to sell you jewelry after serving you dinner. The Tehranis had become so cutthroat and materialistic they made New Yorkers look like lambs.

I left not having recuperated a penny of my inheritance and completely disillusioned with not only the theocratic regime but with my fellow countrymen. It was like finally finding a lost beloved and realizing that he has become a prostitute and now wants money for the love he bestows!

I shelved Iran and relegated her to the rank of writing 'material' -- until these recent elections, that is. The way the people pushed the campaign of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi to revolutionary proportions moved me. To a disillusioned soul, it gave me that most elusive of feelings: hope. I fell in love with Iran again, and with my fellow Iranians. The campaign slogans in of themselves were enough to move me to want to support those who came out and shouted them.

One slogan, shouted by Karroubi supporters, brings tears to my eyes every time I repeat it; it represents one of the biggest wish all of my adult life: "Hagh Zaneh Irani, Hejab Ekhtiari!" (Voluntary Hejab, every Iranian woman's right!) I threw doubt out the window and cheered the youth and the women who chanted my very heart's desire on the streets of Tehran. I thought this new found courage and turn of events was founded on two possibilities: Either Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, had seen the light and had decided to allow reform in order to assure the longevity of the regime, or the people had hijacked the elections and used the more open political space it provided in order to bring about change, the opening that was so badly needed. Either way, the prospect of a more moderate Iran was once again palpable.

The chance of the elections being rigged was so great and obvious that it too became a chant for Mousavi and Karoubi supporters long before Election Day. For a nation that has never really experienced free elections, the rigging came as no surprise. Yet no one expected that the government would cheat so blatantly, so audaciously. That is why so many were offended, hurt and angry. The Khamenei /Ahmadinejad camp seemed to be giving the finger to the entire nation and once again reminding us that they did not care one iota for public and international opinion. In fact, defying the opinion of the whole world has become the defining characteristic of hardliners from the very beginning of the Islamic Republic. From that day back when they stabbed women who came to protest the enforcement of hejab some twenty-nine years ago, the Islamic regime has demonstrated time and again that they pride themselves in their ascetic indifference to public and international opinion.

For more than a month now, I have been glued to this PC trying to follow and contribute in whatever way I can, from this far and with words in another language, to the uprising that followed the announcement of Amadinejad's victory giving him more than 60 percent of the votes.

Those first hours were exciting. News was slow coming out of Iran. As the electoral coup d'etat unfolded and showed its increasingly ruthless face, those of us on Twitter -- I started using my account to follow a journalist friend's updates on Election Day -- realized that the best and most up-to-date news was coming first to us. We soon became news gatherers and disseminators trying eagerly to decipher between what was rumor and what was truth. I found myself passing information on the use of proxies and first-aid for gun wounds. All of a sudden our cyber voyeurism turned into activism as we were encouraged by the international media and the protesters' use of our information. The revolution, we thought would be "Twitterized," in the words of one Twitterer.

A lot of what came through was hard to watch, yet it was morosely addictive. I remember watching the now famous video of Neda on June 20th, the day she was shot. It came on my Twitter page a good many hours before CNN aired it. My mom was having tea with me. I told her, "Come look, here is another video." It came with a warning that it was graphic. I was used to graphic clips and pictures since many had already died. But nothing could prepare me for that half minute video of a young woman dying from a gunshot wound right in front of our eyes. The way we saw the life go out of her, the speed of it, the meaningless and random cruelty of it shocked the world. I cried on and off every day for two weeks.

We realized that day that Khamenei's Friday prayer support of the election results and warning to protesters was not just rhetorical. The chance of this uprising being bloodless vanished even for the most optimistic of us. From that day on, I started questioning my right to even cheer the movement. I, who would never let any of my children out in those streets, felt like I had no right to cheer on other people's children. Mothers like me in their fortis are not revolutionaries. One step removed from that bloodless comfort zone and nothing, no country, no ideology, no religion is worth one drop of blood of anyone's child. As much as I want Iran to be free from tyranny, I do not want it enough to encourage anyone to risk their lives.

It was very hard to have our hopes die. Three million people poured into the streets of Tehran and still the hardliners managed to push them back and terrorize them down to a manageable size. Once again I found myself deeply disappointed with the leaders of this movement. Mousavi was never seen again after the first day of protests on June 14th , though those loyal to him say he is under house arrest. His wife, who was such a force during his campaign promoting gender equality and empowering women, never showed her face. Khatami was as absent this time around as he was ten years ago. Many of their aids and advisers were arrested. Hashemi Rafsanjani spoke after some weeks, voicing his discontent in a veiled Mullah legalese. Karoubi, the bravest of them, showed up here and there, but never really to lead. It became apparent to me that once again we were left sans leader. No Gandhi to lead our people, just a bunch of heroic kids and people coming out on the street again and again to be attacked and beaten savagely by vigilantes, the infamous basiji and security forces.

The world, particularly the United States, disappointed the Iranians on the street. For thirty years the U.S. administration has actively supported a regime change and now that Iranians too seem to want change and democracy, get no help. For the new regime in Washington, it must be easier to respect differences than to support democratic movements with little chance of survival. In his famous speech to the "Islamic World" Obama defended the right of Muslim women to wear Hejab, but did not mention her right to choose not to. Cultural relativism becomes dangerous when it keeps the world from voicing outrage at injustice. Obama justified his lukewarm response to the Iranian uprising by claiming that he did not want to be accused of meddling. Here he showed his naivete: the hardliners accused him of meddling anyway. Our own naivete was exposed when it became clear that the world would not actively support our cause.

There are those who hold on to hope, who claim that these things take time and that this movement is so big that it will certainly prevail in the end. "There is fire under the ashes," the optimists among us say, repeating this Persian maxim. But for a tired mother who has waited all of her adult life for a chance to see a free Iran, who has suffered injustice at the hands of the theocrats, for a tearful mother who prefers to advocate migration and exile rather than courage in the face of adversity, a great chance was lost. That day when we were three million on the streets of Tehran our leaders failed to stay with us and once again we lost a chance of historic proportions due to a lack of leadership and strategy.

The Mousavi camp knew the rigging and subsequent clampdown would take place. Where was their Plan B? If I were the mother of one of those kids dead or in jail, like my friend who is now catatonic upon her son's arrest, I would never forgive Khatami, Mousavi and Karoubi, not to mention Hashemi for having ignited this uprising only to sit back and announce the formation of a new party! It is not a new party that we need! It is leadership and strategy, rarities in Iranian politics that can save us now. I sincerely hope that my disappointment is unfounded and that the reformists who led us to this bloody juncture in our history will deliver us from it without much more bloodshed.

I have often been wrong about Iranian politics. I sincerely hope that I am once again. As I sit here far away in safety, still in love with those people who showed such courage, I pray the hesitant, clandestine prayer of an atheist in desperate need to cling on to hope. I hope what my mother, who went back yesterday, told me, as I was finishing this essay is true, that there is indeed "fire under these ashes."

Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau

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I feel your anger and pain and disappointment. And I can only imagine how exhausted you must be after putting out so much energy on behalf of what has been happening. That anger, pain, and frustration are, of course, shared with you by people worldwide.

While I'm old enough to have grown up in a largely patriarchal society which I have been working in my own ways to change for most of my adult life, I obviously have never been exposed to the kind of patriarchy that exists in your home land.

I agree with you that it is not our place to encourage anyone else to go on the streets and risk one's life. My way was to say, "Choose wisely. Make a conscious choice." I did not go into the South to register black voters in the 60's as I am very white, blonde, blue-eyed and female and that would have been a dangerous thing to do. I chose other ways to make a difference, as have you.

I do want to say three things, however.

First, I think Obama made the right choice for the right reasons. Just because the Iranian govt. said he was "meddling anyway" does not justify his meddling! I'm well aware the US and UK have meddled in the past. But this is NOW.

Secondly, to disparage the United States, which shelters you, btw, for not aggressively getting involved, when the American PEOPLE went overboard to assist the people on the street (and I was one of them) frankly hurts and angers me. It seems you missed that this was not about governments, this was about human beings supporting human beings. To not acknowledge that just seems wrong.

Lastly, to be disappointed or frustrated or angry that the current "leaders" in Iran don't have the requisite (fill in the blank--courage, inclination, skills, etc.) to take charge is simply futile. What's so is what's so. There is no blame or judgment. There apparently is NOT a leader YET who has emerged who can lead the Iranians out of this mire. Maybe it's not one person. Maybe what is most important here is the collective consciousness that has come of this grand collection of spirited human beings, with their hearts open that have done more good than you seem to understand at the moment. I would suggest long-term patience. I don't think it's possible to weigh or assess the seeds that were just sown. I think the challenge is to water those seeds. And this essay IMHO might better have been written and shelved and edited before publishing.

Thanks for all you did.

Kathryn / July 14, 2009 8:16 PM

Revolution maybe, but certainly no democracy for our poor full of oil and gold Iran which NO ONE can get the greedy hands of the governments mentioned above and some not mentioned too, off it's wounded body.

Hasti / July 14, 2009 9:54 PM

Kathryn, excellent comment I tend to agree with you although I feel the writers frustration. Keep hope alive and pray for those in the streets fighting for their freedom.

SF_Iranian / July 14, 2009 11:02 PM

So how did your father end up in palo alto? Was he, perchance, one of the many who took the scholarships of the "evil" Pahlavi "regime" so that he could educated in America? Even dogs have higher ethics than your kind. Your hand may have callouses, but at least it wasn't bitten off.

observer / July 15, 2009 12:46 AM

Mousavi has been out multiple times since June 14.

He was out on June 15 (Azadi) and June 17 (toopkhone), during the biggest protest. He went out to sohrab's family's house last night. He will be going to friday prayers this week too.

It's not fair to say he has left the protestors to fend for themselves.

Ali / July 15, 2009 3:51 AM

Dear Setareh,

Your story of hopes and continuous disappointment is very touching and so familiar. The revolution disappointed many and the subsequent events as you mentioned only opened the old wounds over and over again. You explained it so well and wrote about it eloquently.

It's not a surprise that people like us felt so energized by the high participation of the younger generation in the election and the uprising afterward. I also participated in every way I could from afar and what you described were all the emotions I felt during this short period too.

As a mother of a 22 yr old boy, I share the same sentiment about cheering on other people's kids. I just can't do it!

I definitely understand your frustration and your disappointment and I am hoping that you and your mom are right about the fire under the ashes. It's inevitable that such huge group of people having felt the liberating first few weeks that they were allowed to speak about their political views, when silenced so brutally and when witnessed the cruelty would not just go about their everyday life and business as usual. These kids who have not experienced what the older generations did and have not lived anywhere but under the strict laws of sharia. They rose on their own, Mousavi was at most an accidental leader, almost pushed into this role. But to be fair, he has done better than I expected. He is still speaking up, he's still showing up at the victim's house and still issuing statements. Nobody believed he would last this long nor take it this far.

Mousavi played the role he needed to, in order to give the crowds a focal point, who knows he might surprise us again.

The most important impact of these past few weeks in my opinion was the human face that was put on the people of Iran. This simple change might have saved them from an imminent foreign military attack. Even just for that, I am grateful.

Please don't lose hope. It may not happen this Friday, not even two months or a year from now. It took 10 years since Ahmad Batebi was arrested!! Change takes time, but our people are moving forward and now they know that they have people like you who despite the geographic distance are willing to spend all their time and effort to support them day and night and echo their voices throughout the world. People of Iran know that they are not alone in their fight, if not the foreign governments, their own hamvatans' hearts are still beating for them.

The IRI used the Iraq attack to establish itself. Maybe it's best that no foreign military got involved. The freedom that they want is not the type that would be "given" to them. They are earning it and they deserve to own it.

I read your story twice tonight. It felt like my best friend, my sister was speaking of our shared ordeals. Just wanted to let you know that you're not alone. We're not alone.

Mojgan / July 15, 2009 4:03 AM


Awesome reply, I just wanted to add something else.

1)US Meddling: Kathryn's right, Iran did accuse US of meddling, but they did it with lies and deception, they did it by undermining their own credibility, they did it by losing honest and hard working staff members from their PRESS TV station in London to the local news agencies across Iran. They did it in a way that can easily be exposed to Iranians who otherwise trusted what they saw and heard. Let's say the US gov't really wanted to help the people in the streets of Iran, what could they actually do besides just talking and making things worse? The only country's or organization's statements that would have actually done something would have been a statement from Hezbollah or Hamaas.

2)You're also underestimating Iran's cultivation of a significant population like-minded to Ahmadinejad. The basij is a good example of this group, for every Basij volunteer in the streets of Iran, there are at least 10 family members at home who deeply believe in the Islamic Republic in the same exact way that the Supreme Leader and Ahmadinejad do. In fact because of this significant population in Iran, I am far less confident in blatantly calling the elections rigged as you do. It is entirely possible that what we see and hear is from a huge educated and loud minority in Iran, and not the majority. Democracy or Freedom of Speech, assembly etc as you and I see it is completely different or irrelevant to the Iranians we do not hear from. This is the part that will take time, to have Iranians be aware of these concepts and how it would affect them.


Borhan / July 15, 2009 5:00 AM

Dear Setareh,

I enjoyed your very well written article immensely. Not only it took me through the political memory lane, also it was a vivid example of what we have been through and the obstacles that we had to face on individual basis.

The road ahead is rough and bumpy, and Iranian people have their work cut out for them. It is evident and inevitable that we need stronger leadership in order to succeed against the evil empire that has declared war against us. However, a bright outlook is ahead and the movement created by Iranian people has no choice but to triumph in spite of its shortcomings.

The role of U.S. and president Obama is very crucial at this point of time. We are not asking for military help or god forbid a similar state of affairs as 1953 CIA backed coup d'etat. What we are aiming for is Obama's partnership with U.N. and E.U. in boycotting the regime economically and efficiently.

Imagine a nuclear bomb in the hands of a regime that has no compassion for its own people!

The time is now!

Once again, I thank you for a moving and honest piece, and I don't think you need to shelve this article at all as someone suggested. Let's keep rolling my friend...

All the best to our motherland.

Nader Jahanfard / July 15, 2009 5:40 AM

Dear Setareh

I have read Your story with great interest and compassion.

Please do not despair regarding the current situation in Iran.

You should alway look at the bright side of life, and not let the darker side overshadow life and hope. You cannot fight darkness with a sword, but light destroys every darkness, be it physical or in the minds of people. If the Sea of Green would have had a defined, natural leader like Gandhi, he or she would probably be in Evin prison by now. These changes take time to find their proper course and development, but in the end, I am certain that one or several natural leaders will emerge from the opposition movement. As Kathryn wrote: "I think the challenge is to water those seeds." Every time You feel dispair and disillutioned, please think of those seeds. I will tell You what they are:

- They are the seeds of hope for a change in system and for the people of Iran

- They are the seeds of a new understanding between people of Iran and the people of the Western countries. One twitterer wrote "I never thought that I would engage in and support people in a Muslim country!"

- They are the seeds that within them bear the tree and the fruits of freedom and democracy, some of them sweet, others bitter

- They are the seeds of positive change and stability for the Middle East and thus, for the whole World.

- They are the seeds for the diminishing and ending of terrorist activities, in the region and around the World

- They are the seeds for a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict

As I am writing these lines to You, people in Iran and around the World are watering these seeds with their hope, their prayers and their tears. Alas even with their blood.

You may think that I am an unrealistic dreamer, but then I am in good company.

How realistic was it to believe that the Berlin wall would crumble and fall in 1989?

How realistic was it to believe that USA would have a coloured president by the name of Obama, with a muslim background?

Being a catholic, I know the power of the prayer. I works in mysterious ways, not the way we want it to, but in the way of God, the way of Allah. No man or woman, ever born, knows the way of God. But You should know that he loves us all, students, mothers, presidents an even Basijis.

Please continue to "pray the hesitant, clandestine prayer of an atheist"!

This gives us strength to continuosly believe in hope, even when the tides are as dark as ever. It is hope that makes man human, without hope we are nothing. We must fight to our last breath to stay human, to preserve and to nourish our hope.

I end my letter to You by stating that Your mother is completely right in saying: "there is indeed fire under these ashes".

Be well, have hope and may God look upon You, Your family and Iran.

With kindest regards

Jens Lumbye

Sea of Green devotee / July 15, 2009 6:06 AM

Thank you all for you comments. Just a word to the observer:my father was 75 at the time of the revolution and had come to the states where his brother was a heart surgeon because he had suffered a heart attack a year before and he was having problems again. He did not have a scholarship from the Shah's regime but even if he did it would not justify your venous attack. Kathryn and borhan I do not think standing up for people who are struggling for democracy and their civil rights is 'meddling.' I too voted for Obama but I do not idolize him. I believe as Shirin Ebadi does that more diplomatic pressure and sanctions should be placed against this illegitimate government and Obama can be more vocal in his support of the Iranian people. Nothing horrendous about such a simple request. Kathryn, I did not say anything about American people not being supportive. I was just talking about the 'lukewarm' official response. I am Iranian-American but I live in France so the comment about being sheltered by America is a bit off the mark. I always paid for whatever shelter I ever got regardless of where I lived. I think the comment is a bit patronizing to say the least. I as an American should have the right to criticize the President I voted for. No? Or should my coming from Iran make me shut up and just bless the lord for having given me American citizenship?

Again thank you to everyone for reading my piece,


Setareh Sabety / July 15, 2009 10:54 AM

To conquer a Society you must first destroy empathy.

Your description of the Bazarri Ethos is very telling. Obviously it did not affect everyone or the streets would not have filled as they did, but there was enough to fill the ranks of the Basiji and that is all they needed. The same forces are afoot in the US, but I hope we have turned the tide in time.

Unfortunately violence fills its own well of justification as Israel/Palestine make the most screaming example. There is a plan B but it is long hard and needs everyone to particiipate. When the Bazarri Ethos is gone Iran will be ungovernable. This happened in Poland most dramatically, but is the only way that such asymmetrical power can be defeated. A Gandhi in Iran today would just be crushed like a bug, but when even the maggots in Iran start to gag on the filth a Gandhi who arises will be untouchable.

Freedem, Orlando / July 15, 2009 12:34 PM


Great post. I agree 100% with what you said and I was saddened that US did not do more to help, that Obama did not condemn more strongly the government of Iran, that his words were so lukewarm.

As for patronizing attitude - that attitude goes not only for conservatives in US but for liberals, perhaps more for liberals than for others. Unfortunately.

ella / July 15, 2009 1:52 PM

Thanks for your great piece, Setareh.

The wonderful thing about this (temporarily semi-dormant) uprising is how little high level leadership it has required. That's what makes it ultra democratic.

Nonetheless, leadership will be required, and I hope it comes from someone who was never part of the Old Guard, because only a new person will be able to look far enough ahead.

As far as what world leaders choose to say, well, so long as they keep their sticky fingers off Iran, encouragement is fine. But look how useless sanctions have been in every instance they've ever been used. They are a recipe for corruption and freezing the political situation in place.

The huge rifts within the ruling elite as well as the non-ruling religious groups, make the who situation unstable and changeable. And plenty of people who did vote for Ahmadi-Nejad will have changed their minds since then.

Louise / July 15, 2009 2:57 PM

very moving article, I know of many who have had similar experiences. I would like to think/believe that this time Iranian people would not be deceived about next leader if any. I see hesitation in people, and AhmadiNejad's government will drag this until people get tired and give up. We need a strong leader that we can trust and who can stand up to mullahs. I don't see one.

fromknoxville / July 15, 2009 3:01 PM

I agree with everything you say. I too have waited 30 years so I can return to my home and live in peace, but that day will never come. I also believe that the US INaction in this particular case is exactly as US action was in the past. At least the result will be the same. After 30 years of pushing for regime change the US turned its back on Iranians and let them die in the streets. It will be at least another 30 years before Iranians even begin to trust the US again (probably more when the US administration legitimizes this regime by starting negotiations). I do not fully blame the current administration for this. The issue is that the US simply knows nothing about Iran. This we can blame on 30 years of failed foreign policy.

Daryoosh / July 15, 2009 4:34 PM

Thank you, Setareh. It's a wonderful perspective

Tammy / July 15, 2009 11:52 PM

This essay seems to me the result of a lack of leadership.

I wonder whether it may be time for the Tehran Bureau to propose an agenda for outsider action: for European nations, for the US government, for people of the world, for American citizens. Each have very different roles to play in this movement.

I tend to think that Obama was paralyzed by so many Iran experts telling us that American intervention would only make things worse for protesters. This held me back from acting. And I imagine it held many others back from acting as well.

Will strong rhetoric from those outside Iran help the cause? This is not clear to some of us who are obsessed about this issue. How about cyber attacks coming from citizens in the US? Will this look like a concerted US attack? In many ways it would be. Should the movement coalesce around the intellectuals leading the hunger strike? If so, I have heard about them nowhere but here. Perhaps this could become their principle organ.

The Tehran Bureau is in a position to lead it seems. What do you need? Money, people, attention? Many people have moved into great leadership roles from out of nowhere. I am confused by whose signals to follow. Many people will feel disheartened if it is not clear that there is a movement in the US. But few of us know enough about the situation in Iran to take any leadership.

Wherever you go with this, thanks for the leadership you have thus far provided.

Theo Horesh / July 17, 2009 12:46 AM


I enjoyed your essay very much.

In 1979 I watched history unfold from the safety of my dorm room in the southern coast of England and I have watched it 30 years on from my matchbox in LA. Whether it is the British upbringing or my inherent skepticism towards religion in general and Mollahs in particular; I for one never believed that Khomeini's intent was to let democracy take root in Iran; nor have I bought into a single word uttered by Khatami, Ahmadinejad, Moussavi, Karroubi et al. You could say I am a doubting Thomas. I was not a supporter of Shah's regime, though I would admit that were it not for the petro-dollars he secured, I would not have received the privileges that I did. Unlike you I am not politically inclined. I sense this whole thing is a show - a very elaborate one. I don't know the players, the acts, the intent or the objectives. It's a tragedy - a la Shakespeare's.

Iran to me resembles a rich orphan with a bunch of distant relatives and neighbors fighting over his possessions - the values of which he knows not. Would that the wells holding that sweet light crude dry up, so the orphan can grow up to make its own destiny.

Nasim / August 1, 2009 10:45 AM