For an account of what it was like growing up during the Iranian revolution, please read Marjane Satrapi's PERSEPOLIS (it's a graphic novel that reminds me of Art Spiegelman's MAUS, very powerful).
Also, if you want to learn something more about Iran other than how evil and terrible it is, read SEARCHING FOR HASSAN, by Terence Ward, an American who actually grew up in Iran (but had to leave, with his family, when things got bad, then came back years later to look for an old friend). I'll never love Iran, but it's fascinating and more complex than we'd give it credit for being.
The young generation in Iran has been agitating for change for years now, before Dubya even knew where Iran was on the map.
Let's not forget that 24 years ago, it was the protests of Iranian students that led to the fall of the Shah and the rise of the Islamic Republic. This is just the same pattern repeating itself, but in the other direction.
A lot of people I've talked to since September 2001 don't appear to remember anything about the Iranian revolution. For some reason, it was an intense experience for me -- at 12 (almost 13) in 1980, I began to figure out that *gasp* the rest of the world didn't much like the USA, but having our people held hostage for so long really brought out my nationalism. I also knew a bunch of Middle Eastern students during that time, and had to balance my anger with my wanting to learn about them. I bet that my saying that will cause some strange person to say "What nice company you keep!"
But let's not forget -- those students 24 years ago wanted to get rid of a brutal, tyrannical regime (which we supported) and replace it with something that represented the interests of the people. But things got out of control and, like probably 95% of all revolutions, it ultimately just replaced one ideological basis for tyranny with another, without making anything better for the people.
I was kind of struck speechless when a politically-involved young guy at work said to me "But the Ayatollah Khomeini was much better than the Shah, wasn't he?" The depth of ignorance in that comment just left me unable to say anything. Yes, yes, of course, Khomeini was a wonderful guy... what with executions, and saying that the highest duty for a Muslim was to die for Islam, and the Iran/Iraq war, and stirring hatred for America... yes, he was sunshine.
So let's not be so quick to assume this is a step toward the end of despotism.
Indeed. I want to hear something beyond the party line of "the Bush Doctrine coming true".
I just hope that these Iranian protestors don't have an incident like China's Tiananmen Square, if anyone even remembers that now. (Well, I do... and so does my former history teacher mother... and when I told her I'd just read a book by a Chinese writer about the T.Square incident [SONS OF HEAVEN by Terrence Cheng] and commented "If you remember that...", she was a bit annoyed by my doubt. But as I said, I never know if anyone remembers anything these days...)
"The dew has fallen with a particularly sickening thud this morning."
- Marvin the Paranoid Android, "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy"
Rules for Surviving an Autocracy
Rule#1: Believe the Autocrat.
Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
Rule#5: Don't make compromises.
Rule#6: Remember the future.
- Masha Gessen