‘There is no door There is no road There is no moon Neither day Nor sun We are standing outside time With a bitter dagger Stuck in our spine No one talks to anyone For silence is speaking in a thousand tongues.’ (Ahmed Shamlu, Abraham in the Fire, 1973) If the authorities in Tehran think that they can forever bamboozle the people in the name of Islam, the day is not far when the brave and rebellious people of Iran will once again come out into the open for Jihad. Those days will be as bad for the Mullahs as the days of the January and February 1979 were for Raza Shah Pahlavi by Raza Naeem* On a cold and drizzly January evening 40 years ago – Iran’s dictator, the Shah of Iran Reza Shah Pahlavi decided to heed the advice of Ahmed Shamlu – modern Iran’s greatest poet — and end the unspeakable silence he had engulfed his fellow countrymen in for about four decades and boarded a flight for Egypt. Just a few hours earlier, the dying Shah, in a remarkable bout of probity had declared, ‘If America does not care whether an Islamic Republic or a Marxist state is established in Iran, then why should I draw my country into civil war.’ He did not have to wait long. On the February 1, Imam Khomeini, reached Tehran from Paris to a rapturous welcome of 10 million people. The Shah had enough armed men to crush the rebels. But the soldiers of the much-vaunted 400,000 strong army had no morale. Desertions had already begun to take place. The truth is that the revolution had more legitimacy than the old Shah ever did. By the time Khomeini flew into Teheran on February 1, Iran was with him. But the Shah had fled with the money and with him went the property owners and many highly-skilled professionals. In the final months leading up to the revolution, a 100 people had sent more than a million dollars outside Iran. These hundred people had exported $100 million within three months. In the same period, the royal family had transferred $400 million to foreign banks. Iran was left with its debt and with the tentacles of multinational corporations dug deep into its entrails, especially the oil industry. Khomeini’s forces had to pivot from a rebellion to building a state. Driven by the deep desire for equality, albeit couched in the language of Shiite Islam, the new government used what social wealth was available to enhance human potential. Nevertheless, disputes about the direction the revolution should take started soon after Khomeini consolidated power. Liberals, Islamic socialists and communists all had different ideas about what direction the country should take.. The US government did not directly try to oust Khomeini or attack Iran, but at the height of the confrontation between the progressive Islamists led by AbulhasanBani Sadr and the conservative faction, Saddam Hussein attacked Iran, greenlighted by Washington. That attack which morphed into a destructive and utterly pointless war between the two countries, led to the killing of some 3500 people during the blockade of Tehran alone. However, despite an offer of a truce from Hussein in 1982, the war raged on, and following a bloody stalemate, the revolutionary regime in Tehran survived. Khomeini died in 1989, at the age of 86, outliving that other great founder of one of the major revolutions of the 20th century, Mao Zedong, by thirteen years. The Iranian revolution also outlived millions of its naysayers. If the authorities in Tehran think that they can forever bamboozle the people in the name of Islam, the day is not far when the brave and rebellious people of Iran will once again come out into the open for Jihad. Those days will be as bad for the Mullahs as the days of the January and February 1979 were for Raza Shah Pahlavi The US remains pledged to overthrow the Iranian government, despite the support of former US president Barack Obama for the Iranian nuclear deal at Lausanne. US President Donald Trump has openly called for regime change in Tehran; an early sign was his decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, and something which Khomeini had pithily captured, soon after coming to power, as the US’s istikbar-e-jahani(global arrogance). Over four decades, the US, or its allies like Wahhabi Saudi Arabia and Zionist Israel, have tried to undermine the will of the Iranian people and continue to do so. After Trump and the likes of John Bolton dispense with Venezuela, they might look to Iran. Though unable to provoke a military invasion, they will do everything possible to undermine the government and to create internal problems, including greenlighting Israel or Saudi Arabia (or both) to attack Iran, as happened in the case of the Iraqi invasion of Iran back in 1980. Despite huge problems with democracy and human rights over the past 40 years, which coalesced together in the form of the Green Movement after a disputed presidential election in 2009, the most serious challenge to the Iranian government since 1979, Iran has upheld its sovereignty through the revolutionary process. It has been able to withstand indirect assault by the US; and its quest for nuclear weapons needs to be understood in that context. It is the only non-nuclear power in a neighbourhood armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons – Pakistan, India, China and Israel – with possibly Saudi Arabia and even Turkey in tow. Khomeini and some of his early allies — like the unfortunate Dr Ali Shariati, christened as the godfather of the Revolution, murdered by agents of the Shah two years before the Revolution itself, whose ideas have been safely consigned to the dustbin; and Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani, Khomeini’s comrade, who was likened by the latter for his devotion to progressive Islam to Abu Dhar al-Ghaffari, companion of Prophet Muhammad, and the great patron saint of Islamic socialists – had the correct attitude. It was infectious. One hopes it has infected the entire nation, whose destiny rests in its creative response – 40 years after the revolution – to the current crisis. The Iranian Revolution is a great event of our present time. This revolution not only led to the end of an oppressive monarchy but was also a massive setback to the influence of imperialist powers and changed the balance of power in the Middle East. Then as now, the eyes of the world are now fixed on Iran to see which direction the revolution adopts; whether democratic elements develop further and Iran moves forward or Mullahism strengthens its grip and the country moves backwards. Revolution is not a static phenomenon but is a dynamic reality. Similarly, the leadership of a revolution too is not the personal property of anyone. Therefore, the revolutionary leadership, however sacred and powerful it maybe, cannot be tolerated by the people for long if it does not fulfil the objectives and demands of the revolution. The same is happening in Iran these days. The expectations which the people had from the Revolution have not been fulfilled; in fact they are beginning to feel that they had gotten rid of a dictator after great sacrifices and now another dictatorship is being foisted again over them. It is true that democratic organisations have been rendered ineffective but no one can deprive the people of their democratic consciousness. Sooner or later their verdict will prevail. Every person who sympathizes with Iran wishes that the authorities in Iran will refrain from the exploitative path of the Shah and will try to solve the basic problems of society with the support of their compatriots rather than by spilling their blood. And if the authorities in Tehran think that they can forever bamboozle the people in the name of Islam, the day is not far when the brave and rebellious people of Iran will once again come out into the open for Jihad. Those days will be as bad for the Mullahs as the days of the January and February 1979 were for Raza Shah Pahlavi and his friends. As Shamlu exhorted his fellow countrymen in his poem Dar RazmZindagi (The War-Song of Life), which has been called the war-song of the new Iran, and in which he calls upon his compatriots to rise and participate in the struggle between life and death, existence and non-existence: ‘Below the arch of the sky and on the table-spread of the earth In light and darkness In being And nothingness Wherever fear, lust and extravagance lies hidden Wherever death lies hidden Wherever Man spends his days and nights in pain Wherever one has to plead to the rebellion of fate Wherever the direction of pain is towards Man Wherever life demands struggle from the living There the sword which has been made doubly sharp With your strength and weakness Draw it from the sheath’ Raza Naeem is a social scientist and an award-winning translator currently based in Lahore. He has been trained in Political Economy from the University of Leeds in the UK and in Middle Eastern History and Anthropology from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, USA. He has been engaged with the Middle East since the last two decades, travelling in, and writing and reporting on Egypt, Turkey and Yemen in various national and international publications. He is also the President of the Progressive Writers Association (PWA) in Lahore Published in Daily Times, February 16th 2019.