Welcome to Beyond the Blue Domes, my personal blog. In earlier posts, I shared memories about growing up in Iran during the Shah's rule, fleeing the country at age thirty, raising a family in the United States, and facing the newness and challenges of American life. Lately I'm posting my thoughts on stories or news that have touched me. My theme is exploring social realities and the intersections within cultures, and preserving history. Thanks for stopping by.
Saturday, 7 January 2012
The Prosecutor Wants Death Sentence for Mubarak...
A prosecutor in Hosni Mubarak's trial has demanded the death sentence for the fallen Egyptian president, arguing that he had ordered the killings of anti-regime demonstrators. This statement steers emotions, knowing if the Shah of Iran had not left the country, he would have the same fate. You may want to read my reflective composition on how the Iranian Islamic Revolution came about. Here is my unvarnished and unfiltered emotions.
Hosni Mubarak – Egypt's toppled president
They called it “A Day of Rage” when on January 25 of 2011, an angry crowd filled Tahrir Square in Cairo and other major cities in Egypt, chanting, “Down with Mubarak!” Watching the sea of demonstrators on TV brought back memories of a similar day in Tehran 32 years ago.
I remember it very well: Sunday, November 5th, 1978. We had gathered at my parents' home for a late lunch, as we did every Sunday. (Sunday is not a “weekend” in Iran, but a regular work day.) Around noon, when I left home to pick up my daughter from nursery school, I didn’t notice anything unusual happening in the streets of Tehran. By the time I arrived at my parents' home at the outskirts of the city, the news was that thousands had taken to the streets, burning, looting and vandalizing businesses and public buildings. The mob demanded that the Shah step down from power.Although my parents' home was away from the center of the city, in the distance we could see the sky turning black with fires that had been set.
The day that came to be called “Black Sunday” was a turning point in the history of Iran. It marked the beginning of the end for the Shah. For us, it was a surprise and a revelation. Until that day, we had not realized the implications of what was happening around us. We had witnessed a few previews of opposition against the Shah, but the big picture still looked to us like the status quo.Our anxiety started running high, but even then we didn’t realize that we were on the cusp of a revolution.
Where did the rage come from? We ourselves had comfortable lives. Armenians, living in Iran for more than 400 years, were thriving. As an ethnic group, we had lived peacefully for centuries under a succession of rulers. We enjoyed freedom of religion and we had kept our language and culture by having our own schools and clergy. We didn’t have anything against the Shah.
My maternal grandfather had been a village boy. His family moved from a village from northern Iran to Tabriz when he was young. He excelled at school and later he was sent to Switzerland where he obtained a university degree in child development. When he returned to Iran, he became principal of an Armenian school and for many years to come was one of the most honored members of the community. I still meet people from Tabriz who recall my grandfather being their principal. My grandfather’s story is not unique. I could name about a dozen others from poor families who climbed higher on the social and economic ladder.
There was no caste system in Iran. No roadblocks or prejudice faced us. There were plenty of opportunities for everyone to succeed. Growing up, I had never heard of any inhuman treatment towards my family or my people, nor in my six degrees of separation of someone being tortured, whipped or hanged.
My husband, my four-year-old daughter and I left Iran 25 days after Black Sunday, on December 1, 1978. Leaving most of our possessions behind, we took only two suitcases, thinking that we were going to be back when the situation had stabilized. We did not know that it would be our last flight from Tehran, that the Shah would be ousted and that the West would stand behind Ayatollah Khomeini to bring about an Islamic Revolution.
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President Carter and the Shah
President Carter and the Shah toasting
When I look back, it seems like a bad dream. Unrest had been brewing since the beginning of 1978 or even earlier. We could feel a general sense of unease and whispers of discontent against the Shah, but we were not aware that we were witnessing a revolution.
We had a posh and carefree life. Oil money was gushing into the country and life was brimming with decadence. Vacationing in Europe, driving luxury cars, wearing designer's clothing were routine features of our young lives. Summers were spent by the poolside or at the Caspian Sea. The country was developing rapidly and gaining respect on the international stage.
Who would have imagined that the situation could change overnight? Who could have imagined that the Shah and his family would be forced to leave the country? Why did the Shah suddenly become so unpopular? He, who was once a tower of strength in the Middle East. He, who had created strong economic growth. He, who had started a great relationship with the East and the West. He, who had modernized and Westernized Iran. He, who had many more dreams to implement. Why? Why did he have to leave his job unfinished? I think, the fate was unkind to him.
Some historians and analysts attribute the fall of the Shah to President Jimmy Carter. They hold Carter responsible for allowing the Islamic Revolution to occur, but in my opinion the main culprit was American politics. They did it with the Shah. They did it with Saddam Hussein. They did it with Mubarak. Look closely to what has happened over the past 30 years to each of those rulers. Can you see common threads and an eerie resemblance of scenarios? I can definitely see these.
During late December 1977, President Carter visited Iran. The Shah threw a banquet in his honor that was televised, and on TV we saw both rulers toasting each other with wishes for a long relationship. (Picture above) President Carter called the Shah an “Island of Stability” in a troubled area of the Middle East, and he assured the backing of the United States. A year later, Carter asked the Shah to leave the country to avoid violence.
Here is a famous quote by Ronald Reagan: "WHAT WE DID TO THE SHAH IS ABLACK PAGE IN THE HISTORY OF AMERICA. Jimmy Carter is the father of the Islamic Revolution of 79 in Iran.”