No matter how intense, the heat of summer yields to the
moderating breezes of its successor season. Brutal governments that scourge
their own inevitably face movements that hold out the promise of liberation and
peace. The passage of 40 years, time enough to span three generations, tests
the ability of the suffering people of Iran to endure the inhumanity of their
radical Iranian regime.
It was on Jan. 16, 1979, that the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, was driven into exile after a year of protests against his monarchy. A fortnight later, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the mastermind of the revolt, arrived from exile in France and exploited the fighting in the streets to become the “supreme leader” of the revolution. His subsequent anti-Western theocracy has spent the succeeding decades establishing a vile fundamentalism and attempting to export it beyond Iran’s borders.
The world the ayatollah left with his death in 1989 has continued to turn and grind. Now a new Khomeini, the grandson of the original, is taking exception to his forebear’s authoritarianism: “Communities are built on the basis of consensus,” said Hassan Khomeini in a Dec. 29 speech. “Dividing society constantly and spreading hatred and hypocrisy constantly, forces individuals into dual personality, pushing them away from honesty, [and] all these indicate that unpleasant consequences await governments.”
Words with a ring of truth lodge in the human conscience and ignite a passion for freedom not easily extinguished. There is ample evidence that Iranians yearn to live in a kinder, more compassionate society, one that doesn’t massacre demonstrators in the street, beat women not “properly” covered in public, behead dissenters or hang drug offenders from construction cranes.
Iranian television programs beamed past government censors cast the pre-revolutionary days of a Westernizing Iran in a nostalgic light. Moreover, the dead Shah’s 58-year-old son, Reza Pahlavi, has used the Trump administration’s imposition of new economic sanctions on the Tehran regime to urge Washington and its allies to encourage a return to secular democracy in Iran: “Envision an Iran that works closely with its Arab neighbors to stamp out terrorism and extremism in the region, that welcomes Israeli scientists to help with its water crisis, that embraces American and European investment in the boundless potential of its economy,” Mr. Pahlavi said in a December speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Exiled members of the Iranian diaspora implore European leaders to follow the US lead in sanctioning Iranian commerce as punishment for the regime’s relentless underwriting of global terrorism. In a 50-city, video-linked conference in December, Iranian resistance leader Maryam Rajavi warned Europe that refusing to condemn Iran’s terror proliferation won’t protect them from its ravages: “We say to EU leaders that if you don’t want to stand alongside Iranian people, at least don’t put your own citizens’ lives at risk.”
The June arrest of two Iranian operatives attempting to smuggle an explosive device into a gathering of Iranian expatriates in Paris, and the October apprehension of another in Denmark accused of plotting to assassinate opposition leaders living in Europe underscore the malign nature of a regime convinced that murder and mayhem are condoned when conducted on behalf of a perverted religion.
United Nations resolutions, like the one issued Dec. 17 citing Iran’s “ongoing severe limitations and restrictions on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, restrictions on the establishment of places of worship, attacks against places of worship and burial and other human rights violations,” add to a dismal human rights record.
Considering its complicity in the deaths or injuries of thousands of US and allied troops during 1980s-era bombings in Beirut, its more recent deployment of improvised explosive devices in Iraq, and its threats to unleash nuclear weapons on its supposed enemies, Iran has been treated with uncommon restraint and even respect by some in the Western world.
Iran’s mullahcracy may feel besieged by the community of nations for opposing its harsh brand of polity, and if so, that’s a good thing. But the Iranian people should not count the United States as a permanent enemy. America extended the hand of friendship to Japan after World War II and would do the same now for redeemed Iran. Iranians who deplore the prospect of their grandchildren inheriting their leaders’ destructive prejudices should say 40 years of hatred is long enough, and work for the liberation of their country.