Over the past two weeks there have been a number of celebrations throughout Iran commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic.  Here’s a round-up of how some groups are marking the occasion:

  • Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejahd spoke at a large rally commemorating the surrender of the Shah’s army on February 10th, 1979 at Azadi Square in Tehran.  His speech was full of the usual rhetoric and verbal posturing as he declared that Iran has achieved superpower status and as he announced that the “era of domination, force and mistreatment [by foreign powers] has come to an end”.  He did indicate that Iran would be open to talks with the United States, provided that they were based on “mutual respect”.  All in all, however, the tone of his presentation did not differ from his usual script of berating the West and asserting Iran’s power.  I have to wonder how he really couldn’t come up with anything more original to say on such an important occasion.
  • The blog, Iran Human Rights Voice, offers a different take on the 30th anniversary of the return of Ayatollah Khomeini to Iran after his years of exile.  They note that it only took Khomeini a month of being in power for him to declare: “Don’t listen to those who speak of democracy. They all are against Islam.”.  They remind us that while the Revolution did dispose of the tyrannical Shah, the current regime has proved to be equally hostile to dissenting opinions.
  • Amnesty International has created a video chronicling their work studying human rights violations in Iran.  They report that widespread human rights violations continue in the form of the arrests and harassment of political dissenters, women’s rights activist, labor organizers, and minority activists, and inhumane forms of punishment such as stoning and the execution of minors.  Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, observes, “Thirty years on, some of the worst abuses of the Shah’s time – torture, executions and the suppression of legitimate dissent – are still being replicated in Iran, despite the efforts of the country’s growing and valiant community of human rights defenders,”.
  • Reformers within Iran have also stated that the Revolution has not lived up to its potential and its promises.  One reformist politician, Rajabali Mazrouei argued, “We have achieved political independence. But two basic goals of the revolution — that is to say freedom and justice — have not yet been achieved nor have we achieved the economic development we had been promised,”.

It is clear that the legacy of the Iranian Revolution is a complex and conflicted one.  Most can agree that the overthrow of the Shah was an important and necessary revolt; but many argue that Iran has simply traded one form of tyranny for another since many of the Shah’s most repressive tactics are still being used against Iranian citizens.  Many of the participants of the Revolution are still waiting for the ideals which they acted on thirty years ago to become realities.  I only hope that they won’t have to wait another thirty years to see these dreams achieved.