“… Back when women who wore heels and lipstick regarded their chador-clad sisters in the religious cities and the countryside as backward, Iran was supposed to be on course to becoming a reliable ally of the West,” writes Mary Dejeevsky for The Independent.
It is this very sense of modernism – this western assumption that Freedom is found in objectification and religious dissonance, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rose up against as he called for the fall of the Shah’s regime all those decades ago.
It is puzzlying still to see how one’s sense of modernity, or rather advancement since it is really the inferred point of contention, remains forever tied to fashion … one could argue that if indeed clothes define modernism, than modernism is no more than a fad left to the mercy of a trend – hardly the case for civilisation.
In any case Iran, whether pre or post revolution, has always bene more than its people’s collective sense of fashion.
Beyond the affirmation of Iran’s democratic ambitions, which ambitions Washington sought to disappear in 1953 coup against then-Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, it is a people’s tradition, faith, culture, history and sovereign identity 1979 Islamic Revolution came to reassert.
Arguably … and most likely to the dismay of many westerns intellectuals, Iran’s new system of governance (Governance of the Jurist), that which Imam Khomeini conceptualised as a mean of emancipation and empowerment, survived in the face of unprecedented pressure. More pertinently still, for every storm western capitals ever unleashed onto Iran’s Islamic Republic, for every manipulation, and every coercion nations imagined against Tehran, more voices joined in Resistance – echoing of the sacrifices so many gave, so that injustice would be opposed.
As Imam Khomeini often reminded his followers, there is power to be found in the blood of martyrs … Iran gave too many of its sons and daughters for their memory to de defiled in cowardice. Iran’s Revolution was ultimately that of its people.
And while it may have been born on the lips of one of its most accomplished religious scholar, its inception was made possible through a struggle which saw fall tens of thousands of men and women. Iranians paid a heavy price for their collective freedom. It would be folly to imagine that such an expression of popular will could be disappeared to threats of war, political isolation and economic sanctions.
One may argue that Iran found itself in the many struggles it faced. It is maybe because of such struggles that Iranians came to associate their sense of national freedom to their system of governance.
And though historians have worked to rationalise Iran’s Islamic Revolution by arguing socio-economic discontent, blaming the former regime’s oppression for the insurrection which followed the return of Ayatollah Khomeini, there was always more to 1979 than regime change. 1979 marked a grand redistribution of power in that it affirmed the return of a socio-political model which, for over a thousand years had laid dormant: Shia political Islam. But unlike other political religious model, the Governance of the Jurist did not assert itself a reactionary power, but rather a pluralist framework, on the basis of justice and equality.
It is such sense of justice and such affirmation of a nation’s sovereignty that made Iran’s Revolution a model to be followed, an inspiration to be emulated, an example to be cited … It is certainly because many failed to recognise the universality of its formulation and the inherent humanity of its message that Iran’s Islamic Revolution was reduced in the West to another dotted line on History’s pages.
Iranians I’m certain would posit that their revolution marked the beginning of their story. History we will soon learn will refer to Iran’s Revolution as a turning point in our collective political history as it marked the return to an ethic of power we thought lost.
Iran’s Revolution opened a door onto a profoundly revolutionary way of thinking as it moved away from the western democratic model – based on the separation of the religious and the state, to firmly sit God as the ultimate source of socio-political guidance.
Imam Khomeini said: “The fundamental difference between Islamic government, on the one hand, and constitutional monarchy and republics, on the other, is this: whereas the representatives of the people or the monarch in such regimes engage in legislation, in Islam the legislative power and competence to establish laws belong exclusively to God Almighty.”
I believe the essence of the Islamic Revolution exists within those lines.
And: “When anyone studies a little or pays a little attention to the rules of Islamic government, Islamic politics, Islamic society and Islamic economy he will realize that Islam is a very political religion. Anyone who will say that religion is separate from politics is a fool; he does not know Islam or politics.”
Decades on Iran has overcome more than it fair share of obstacles. Decades on, Iran succeeded in existing outside the sphere of western politics and western capitalism by architecting Resistance as a political and socio-economic model. Such a feat is not to be dismissed if we consider the length western capitals went to, to lay waste Iran’s system of governance so that its territories could be returned to the fold of globalism.
The revolution so very few thought possible has transcended time and space to rise a model of governance and an inspiration for those who recognise in western capitalism the dark shadow of imperialism.
Today it is as a free and independent nation that Iran sits at the world’s table – strong of a tradition which allowed for the defeat of radicalism, arguably the greatest threat to our world security.
1979 forever marks the victory of the oppressed over injustice – a grand cry of freedom one Imam – strong of a tradition that stretches over centuries and the voices of millions, let out so that a way would be carved.
No revolution remains more relevant to our modern-day struggle than Iran’s Islamic Revolution. No movement has inspired more passions than 1979 either … its echo lives, just as the voice of the man who carried it before it could become a tangible reality.
“Islamic state means a state based on justice and democracy and structured upon Islamic rules and laws.” Imam Khomeini.
Catherine Shakdam is the Director of Programs of the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies and a political analyst specializing in radical movements, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.