Currently, I'm reading Iran Erupts: Independence, News and Analysis of the Iranian National Movement
[Iran-America Documentation Group: Dec. 1978], a compilation of various articles written by famous Iranian experts as well as exclusive interviews with Ayatollah Khomeini, all produced during the period leading up to the revolution. I found this jewel, while rummaging through my mom's old college books back in the States. It's interesting how views from 27 years ago can be strikingly different, today.
For instance, the works in this read champion the Islamic Revolution, with the editor, Ali Reza Nobari, stating in the acknowledgements:
We felt it our duty to try to demystify the treatment of the anti-Shah movement in the Western media, which claimed the upheaval was the work of a band of "religious extremists" opposed to the "modernization drive" of the Shah, who appears in most accounts as a "well intentioned" monarch who wanted to go "too far, too fast." We hope this collection will bear witness to the contrary.
And in the preface, he writes:
The intent of this collection is to help explain the economic, political, social and cultural roots of the Iranian revolutionary movement. The long stifled anger of a nation crushed for centuries by foreign invaders and internal tyranny has finally burst into the open. The shouts of Allah-o-Akbar, God is Great, which have echoed in the streets for over a year now, have crumbled the palaces of the pitiless tyrants who presumed to act as earthly gods. The sheer strength of human will revealed by the clashes of barehands with machine guns and tanks have been grounded in a new found faith in the unity fo the Iranian people. The walls of fear--fear of the police, of prison and torture, of neighbors, parents and friends--have disintegrated. Iranians have rid themselves of the SAVAK informer mentality, the psychological legacy of decades of violent and arbitrary rule....
(Does the name "Nobari" sound familiar to any of you Iranian-Americans out there??)
A man, in his mid-40s, who was a teenager during the movement to overthrow the Shah, and went on to fight in the Iran-Iraq War, saw me reading this book, and asked me who some of the authors of the articles were. When I mentioned Abol-Hassan Banisadr, I got the most fascinating bio.
Apparently, Mr. Banisadr was the first elected president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A doctor of economics, and former professor at a French university, he sailed into Iran during the height of the revolution, at Khomeini's side. Since the Ayatollah had explicitly rejected the idea of a holy man as president, he supported Banisadr's ambitions to take the position. Since the economics expert was well-spoken, smart, and charismatic, the people voted him into office. But all was not peachy, especially on that fateful day when Iraq sent 100 planes into Iran to shower the country with bombs. The next day, Ayatollah Khomeini returned the gesture with 170 planes, all of which came back. That night, the war began.
As the story goes, Imam Khomeini had wanted to give Banisadr the full authority to act as Commander in Chief, to lead Iran in its national defense. However, Khomeini began to realize Banisadr threatened Iran's security because of his failure to meet force with force. Khomeini, and Iranians alike, were becoming impatient with Banisadr's attempts to forge diplomatic responses to Iraq's invasion--words, instead of guns. In the meantime, the enemy was quickly advancing.
Ayatollah Khomeini saw Abol-Hassan Banisadr as an intellectual trying to fight a war against Saddam Hussein, an uneducated gangster; the supreme leader believed that Iraq, by coming in with force, would only leave with force, because that's the only language it could understand. Furthermore, the majlis, at the time, wanted to impeach Banisadr because of his inability to order force against an invader. As a result, Khomeini never gave Banisadr the authority to conduct Iran's role in the war.
When the president caught wind of his unpopularity among the majlis, supreme leader, and a growing majority of Iranians, he fled the country a day before his impeachment was scheduled.
Here's the kicker: Abol-Hassan Banisadr snuck out of Iran, undetected, because of a brilliant disguise--he dressed up in women's clothes, threaded his face, plucked his eyebrows, and painted his eyes and lips with makeup, posing as a female Iranian journalist.... What a way to go!
Also, he escaped to France with his buddy, Massoud Rajavi, who was the head of Mujahideen e Khalq (MKO), an organization that still remains on Iran, UK, and America's list of terrorists. MKO was to Iran what the Soviets were to the U.S. Moreover, Banisadr marries off his daughter to his country's greatest enemy, but is humiliated further when Rajavi divorces his daughter, in order to marry the head of MKO's women's division--a political union, at best.
Meanwhile, Dr. Banisadr
, Abol-Hassan's brother, is a highly respected cardiologist in Iran who maintains no discernable affection for his runaway sibling.
True story, one which came to me by accident, all because I happened to be reading an old book. This is exactly what I like about Iran. I may never have learned about President Drag Queen and his terrorist son-in-law without getting the untold tale from the mouth of someone who watched the whole drama unfold.