Published: February 7 2009 00:19 Last updated: February 7 2009 00:19
As late as 1978, US security officials were lauding the stability of Iran, their Gulf ally. The oil-rich state had a highly sophisticated army and ruthlessly effective secret police. It was also bulging with US-supplied arms. And yet a year later, it imploded in the face of mass civil disobedience and public demonstrations. How – and why?
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What is the legacy of that old man’s return three decades ago? “Make no mistake, the Islamic revolution was the greatest calamity of Iranian history since the Mongol invasion,” says Homayoun. Reza Pahlavi agrees: “Iran gave the world its first human rights declaration under Cyrus the Great. Now it has become a synonym for repression.” Sazegara, who grew disaffected with the republic and, no longer bound by personal loyalty to Khomeini when the Ayatollah died in 1989, turned against it, is gloomy: “We thought we were bringing society something new. But we were wrong. If you want to bring something new to the world, you have to co-operate with it.” But Iran is changing. Two-thirds of the population is under 25. There are an estimated 75,000 bloggers in the country and despite state restrictions, satellite TV and natural curiosity make for an engaged population. And people are fighting the regime, not least on a cultural level, as cinema and the arts continue to flourish in the shade of the state’s hungry censure. Will the Islamic Republic last another 30 years? Farrokh Negahdar is hopeful for change: “After the revolution a popular slogan was ‘Democracy and Patriotism are Illusions’. Today, the youth believes that democracy and patriotism are the very things to fight for.”