1 February 1979: Khomeini, a political refugee, returned to Iran.
In a series of posts, we ask why have the Iranian diasporas failed to face and struggle with the ruthless Islamic Theocracy?
In 2019, the theocracy is shaken but still firmly in place. The Islamic Republic is irrigated with these bloods, our bloods.
In Iran we have hardly measured the seriousness and impact of a massive problem since the late 19th century: the multitudes of emigrants. The sociology of emigration from our country is primarily a sociology of exclusions and interdicts taught by the religious ideology and the cult of a Leader, be it a Shah or a Supreme Guide. It also relates to the reactionary collective behaviours, blatant historical revisionism by recycling the canards, domestic violence among families formatted by the inconsistencies of traditions, and the force of habits.
Historically, as long as a monarchy could shield the communities and its subjects from the most radical elements of Shiism without endangering its reign from their wrath, people could thrive in art, humanities and science. If the unbearable religiosity of haughty rulers gripped the society – often coupled with economic hardship – people left the country.
In 1970s, the imprudent overconfident monarch wanted to keep the Shiite hierarchy in check by a forced march toward secularisation and consumerism. It failed; the clerics clawed back power from him, wiped out the monarchy, and imposed the theocracy. But, despite their rhetoric, consumerism stayed amid a religiosity full of humbug, hypocrisy and denial.
Khomeini promised to bring justice, prosperity and independence to a victimised Iranian population. The Iranians lapped up his words, never giving a thought about how the promises might be implemented and the consequences of the Islamic justice would affect their lives. Ever since, the population have been the pawns in the game of Shiite politics, and are virtually prisoners in their homes, barred by fear of transgressing the traditions and religious interdicts, which leads to bloody punishments, bodily harms, or death.
We still need to understand how a nation, in the 20th century, turned against itself in a paroxysm of cruelty, abetted by the notions of justice for all, independence and the rejection of oppression. Then it bowed to injustice, subservience and the acceptation of enslavement to the religion. But, the answer for it lies in the future, in a time when our history may be written by fearless researchers free from censorship and self-censorship, using first-hand sources. The Iranian ministerial archives are tremendously rich in resources, able to shed light on our collective past, if one day they were to be researched. For now, the researchers are censored, and if the core of the thesis displeases the archivist, he buys them a one-way ticket to Evin Prison.
Thousands of Iranians have fled every year following the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They were incompatible with Triumphant Islamic Values that they were coerced into abiding. The total number of settled emigrants in the world is fewer than those who fled. The reasons for the discrepancy may well be relevant and need to be investigated in some future.
Presently, the Iranian diaspora is guesstimated at 5-6 million in the world, a conservative figure, since most studies focus on the emigration to the Western world. For the emigrants to the neighbouring countries, or Middle-Eastern regions, or to South-East Asia, statistics are unsatisfactory. In our view, anyone who leaves Iran and settles abroad is an emigrant. The means, legal (obtaining a visa) or illegal (using smugglers), and the motives, life threatening situations or the hope of a better life, give colours to the features of the diasporas.
The Sins of the Islamic Republic
If a despotic ruler deprives one from the land of one’s forefathers, they commit a sin. If they do it in the name of Allah and Mohammed, the despotic theocracy perpetrates a double crime; not only are they spitting on the sacred symbols of the people’s heart, but they are also perpetrating the offences that the very same religion wished to prevent.
Forty years ago, as the damned Islamic Republic was spreading a black shroud on the country, destroying the future of the coming generations, I stayed in the West and was soon joined by my schoolmates who were forced to flee as the campuses were institutionalised into Islamisation, and getting a job was conditioned by the extent of the knowledge of outdated Islam practices.
The females told us about being beaten and humiliated in public when they refused to wear the Islamic hijab or their Islamic outfit did not please a hezbollahi, as the fanatic Islamic moral enforcement agents were known at the time. This was the first sign of widespread violence, coercion and threats of being institutionalised step by step. More crimes were committed by the bigoted and the believers as they squared hateful practices with religious principles. When female protesters were arrested, since the religion forbids the execution of a virgin, they were systematically raped before being killed.
The Islamic rhetoric was used to fabricate a new national identity far from Western contamination and cleansed from its corruption, the clerics claimed and added: The Westoxified (غرب زده) Iranians have a disease similar to HIV, Black Death, gangrene… and should be banned before contaminating an irreproachable and pious society.
In the name of Allah, greed and power thirst have masked other vices: idolatry, and the most important, the exploitation of dormant social divisions in a paternalist and class-conscious population.
Ethnicities and religious beliefs were scrutinised and if they did not fit the mould of Persian Shiite, they were “declassified” and their members became second-rate citizens and persecuted. The Kurds rebelled. Khomeini, the new religious leader of Iran, declared a jihad and a fatwa against these enemies of the state. They were crushed.
- The wave of the first generation of emigrants was made of the elite of the previous regime, the minorities, and the disillusioned revolutionaries.
In 1978-1981, the members of the close circle and the relatives of the Shah were first to escape. Soon after the spring of 1979, the fleeing Iranians were ethnic minorities such as Kurds, and people other than Shiites, Christians, Bahá’is and Jews feared religious persecution. The Shiite neighbours, encouraged by the regime, wary of the difference between themselves and others, turned their back on them.
Those who believed in their innocence, stayed and were either lynched or executed. The Islamic justice produced Mohammed Sadeq Khalkhali.
Along with the visible migrants we mentioned, the Islamic Revolution devoured its own children in one of the many repressive periods in the recent history of Iran. More was to come. Political rivals or simple critics looking for a better life, political stability and healthy economic climate were smuggled out in a continuous stream that has swollen episodically but never dried up since.