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IRAN: 30 years later, a family again takes to the streets

July 5, 2009 |  1:20 pm

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Three decades ago Mina, an 18-year-old who had recently graduated from high school, took to the streets with her family to protest the injustice and tyranny of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in demonstrations that led to his overthrow.

Last month, the 48-year-old professor of physiology again took to the streets, again her with family, to oppose the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad amid allegations of massive vote fraud.

At the time of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, "the military were in the streets but they were just soldiers," she recalled. "They were just doing their duty because of orders from their commander. Most of the time they came and told people to run and not to stay, because they were afraid of their commanders."

But now, she said, it's different. The pro-government Basiji militiamen on the streets "really beat people and they want to kill people," she said in an interview, asking that her last name not be published for fear of retribution. 

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In 1979, so long as you didn't leave your neighborhood you were safe. But now the fighting has spread to all parts of the capital. "In our streets, two or three young people were killed" in recent days, she said.

Mina said she and her family went into the streets 1979 because they opposed the Shah's autocratic rule. "Our family were in a good economic situation, better than now," she said. "But at that time we thought, 'We want a change of regime for justice.' We wanted a new system in the framework of justice. We thought,  'The foreigners plunder our oil and money.' We did not have independence in our foreign policy. We thought the distance between rich people and poor people was too much."

Even up to two years after the revolution, Mina says her family was satisfied with the changes wrought by the new clerical rulers. "We thought we were on our golden way," she recalled. "We were very happy for the revolution."

Still, she admits that when she and her family cast votes for the Islamic Republic, they didn't really understand what they were after. People wanted these things called democracy, freedom and independence, but weren't sure what they meant."

When the Iran-Iraq war started in 1980, it only strengthened their support. "We said that they forced the war on us, and OK, now we are in a war situation, and we should have patience. And the government just told us, 'Be silent! We are at war.'"

But after war the ended in 1988, they waited for positive change and got nothing. 

"We wanted corruption to decrease. We could no longer accept the government's claim that 'we are in a special situation.'  And we started to think that we are far away from the goals we had in the revolution. Now we want to return to those days. We want the good thing we wished for our country back."

Still, she said she and her family don't long for another revolution. They want the system to slowly change, to reform. 

"We know that, with a real revolution, you cannot be sure that you will arrive at your goal," she said.

-- Los Angeles Times

Photos: Above, demonstration preceding the 1979 Islamic revolution.Credit: Wikepedia Commons. Below, 2009 demonstration in support of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Credit: Associated Press.

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