By Syma Sayyah, Tehran
Those who grow up in center of Tehran in 60's and 70's must remember the name Nazi-Abbad. It was an area in south of Tehran. You may well ask why would I go back to all that! The truth is that many of those who have been moving the elements of change and pushing for a more civil society are Kids from Nazi-Abbad.
The parents of these middle-aged well-known names, including Messrs Ganji, Hajarian and Baghi had an urban outlook, although their means did not match their aspirations. They were hard working lot and many were government employees. They read their newspapers regularly, and were interested in the social and political events that took place in a mild way. They may be considered the first social-political class that rose from the masses. Their off-springs carried on the flag, and some of these lads, were more religious or militant or both compared to their parents. They may have chosen this path in order to maintain their identity and sense of pride as young meaningful member of society.
In early 70s, oil money brought too many things to the nova riche, which resulted in a serious cultural shock. I remember coming from England for a holiday, after several years, and I was quite taken back to see the signs of serious dangers lurking round the corner within the society. I was not a magician; Essex had thought me well.
The sad recipe of Huntington and those who agreed with him, had brought about the land reform program to places like Iran, with unbelievably devastating results.
Thousands of former peasants came to cities seeking work and means of livelihood. They were mesmerized with the city lights and all the goodies that they could not have. In those days, money was rolling and the economy was prospering, what the Afghans did years later, these former peasants did in those days and especially in construction sector. However, the boom did not last; inflation took over and economy faced serious challenges. In the second half of 70s, Mr. Amouzegar's was out in charge, and his recipe to combat inflation, the formula of imposed recession, resulted in a large group of population, who did not have a steady income and were not salary based, to be completely crushed.
Many of those who had come from rural areas had no where to go back to, and they were losing themselves, 'az inn ja mandeh va az annja randeh'. In order to bear or overcome or even share their pains, many took refuge in the only place that they knew from their roots. In their past they had come across three groups, the Khan- the landowner, the Zhandarm- rural police and yes the Akhound- mullah from the masque. They went back to the mosques, in order to save their morality, sanity or themselves through what was familiar and comforting; religion. At the same time, the educated, westernized and middle class Iranians carried on enjoying their new gains, new gadgets, swimming pools, wearing mini skirts, playing tennis, going to night clubs and yes, sending their children to study at the best universities around the globe.
The society grew more apart and real cracks started to appear, but not many saw it, or if they did notice them, they didn't try to do anything about it. Some say that Ehsan Naraghi tried to tell Shah about the cultural disparity within the society, to no avail of course
The new middle class heavily relied on the handouts of the government of the day. Most of them were white-collar employees; and in order to retain their 'good life' if they noted something unpleasant, they mostly turned the other way and ignored it. This did not completely apply to their children, when they came back after finishing their studies, or even while they were at it in different parts of the world.
The disadvantaged were two groups now, those who were left out of the 'good life,' the lower middle and educated working class, and those who had no jobs and had no where to return to. The two groups got together, started to search for a ways to survive in every respect; their venue were city mosques.
The events on Day 9th in Qom followed by Bahman 29th in Tabriz as well as the Namaz Ayed Feter in 1356 (1978) and the Shabe-Sher (poetry reading evening) in Khaneh Javannan held by Kanoun-e Nevisandegan (Iran Pen Club) started the whole chain of events in 1356. Nevertheless, it may come to many as a terrible surprise that events in 79 mostly took place by those who had their roots in rural areas and not mainly by the educated elites. Majority of those who took part in most of the demonstrations could just about read and write. The reasons were mainly a sense of being left out by some and feeling alienated about what was happening by others, but also an economical issue for most which the political side of it just added fuel to and pushed it forward. The country had a terrible indigestion and had to throw up!
We as a nation had an experience. Experiences may be hard, easy, fun or bitter. This one for many was a terrible and a bitter one no doubt, but I genuinely believe that for the nation as a whole, it has not been terrible, IN HISTORICAL TERMS. Please remember that the Europeans went through similar experiences many centuries ago, it is just that we are a little late with ours. Without this costly experience, we as a nation would always be obsessed with the role of religion and meaning of good and bad Muslims. The problem with Velayat Faghih (VF) does not come from Islam; it is within the customs of our nation. But secularization is around the corner, and many within the system are calling for it. The recent events in the parliament have brought about many surprises. Why have so many known names been disqualified because fundamentally they have questioned the role of VF as it is practiced? Mr. Ansari, the head of Parliament's 90 Committee- the committee that citizens can take their complaints about anyone including government to- who has been disqualified to run in the next election, in his last speech at the parliament said, "Imam Ali said if anyone has any complaints about me they should come and tell me about it, I do not wish to hear those who have flattering words for me." And then referring the recent events he asks the leader "is this his Ali's justice?!"
The fractures are widening, and we are moving, slowly, towards a secular state, a society where everybody does what they were trained to do, as a profession, including the clergy. Some say that we are always a few decades behind Turkey; so, things are changing, and the time will come. There are many signs, if we be patient. Do not expect real democracy to come overnight.
The serious debates that are taking place in reformist, moderate or even conservative newspapers, as well as those that are taking place among the Islamic intellectuals, are so interesting, encouraging and even exciting. They are all, in different platforms, beginning to question things that were beyond questions not that long ago, including themselves, their values and their stands. With each question they get a little closer to our side of the line. Some ask and some try to explain; there are so many debates taking place, so many questions asked everywhere. We may know the end result, but they don't. One thing is for sure, this will bring about a grass root change, a deep and lasting one, in Iran. When this happens, it will be spring for a long time! This could not happen if it came from above or from the outside.
I receive letters from readers, inside and outside Iran, who do not see the points that I have tried to press. The fact is that the democratic process is not ONLY for us educated, westernized Iranians. There are millions who for many different reasons have different time scales. We must use our patience so that the rest join us at the spring of freedom; the day will come but it is not here yet. I just hope we all have the courage to see what is good for the country as a whole, despite shortcomings for ourselves personally. When the time comes and the change happens, the masses can identify with it better and easier, as they trust those who came from their side. What we must try to understand is that human intuition is very strong. People need to feel that they are the ones who choose and that they are truly part of a democratic process.
 The fact that you are reading this piece means that you are not among the masses that I am referring to. You have access to computers; you know English and are most probably university educated, middle class and westernized.
... Payvand News - 2/18/04 ... --