Society

Nostalgia inside Iran for pre-revolution days

By Hassan al-Obeidi in Baghdad

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An Iranian woman walks past an artistic mural in Tehran on November 19th. More than 40 years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iranians have yet to see the positive changes they were promised. [Atta Kenare/AFP]

More than 40 years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought the current Iranian regime to power, the country's people have yet to see the positive changes they were promised, analysts told Al-Mashareq.

The Iran of today is isolated and impoverished, they said -- testaments of its failed domestic policies and cronyism, with a whole class of people who profit from proximity to the regime or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

In this current climate, which has seen protests against the economy, many Iranians are feeling nostalgic for the pre-1979 era and its greater individual freedoms, decent economy, internal stability and good external relations.

Iranian dissident Sohran Belani, a researcher who resides in Austria, told Al-Mashareq he recalls the early days after then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini came to Tehran from Paris.

"Everything started to decline in Iran when people gave mandate to the doctrine of Wilayat al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist) to manage all aspects of their lives, including the economy, politics, security and society," Belani said.

"Laws and Islamic codes were issued to limit individual freedoms," he said, noting that "such strict codes created a conflict" and even led to the execution of dissidents who opposed the regime's repressive and dictatorial policies.

'Economy of Resistance'

Current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently coined the slogan, "Economy of Resistance" to describe Iran's attempt to endure and circumvent international sanctions imposed on it, Belani said.

"In reality, however, enduring the hardship of global sanctions only applies to the ordinary people," he noted. "Those who are affiliated with the regime and defend its policies have accumulated wealth and enjoy their status."

Meanwhile, "the ordinary people have plunged into poverty".

"Iran is currently going through its worst economic crisis, one that could mark the beginning of an economic collapse, as the regime has not found a remedy for rampant corruption, unemployment and poverty," Belani said.

"The regime is clearly floundering and the Iranian people are paying the price for its reckless policies," National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) member Behzad Safari told Al-Mashareq.

"It has riled the entire world and expects that by feeding violence and supporting its affiliated militias it can elevate its global status," Safari said.

"Things are headed for the worst for the people, who now yearn for the past and remember it fondly," he added, noting that new generations of Iranians are fully aware that their peers in other countries have better opportunities.

"The regime depleted Iran's wealth and energy resources."

It squandered Iran's resources "to threaten others and antagonize the world under the notion of 'exporting the revolution', which has essentially failed to achieve anything for the Iranians", he added.

'Unable to revive the economy'

Faced with an array of US sanctions, "the regime is unable to revive its economic abilities" and is in denial about this fact, Middle East affairs researcher Ahmed al-Hamdani told Al-Mashareq.

"The ruling clerics invoke the IRGC to protect themselves, and suppress those among the people who dissent or raise their voices," he said.

"Even within the army itself, there are commanders and officers who are not content with the regime, its policies and the extreme favoritism is bestows upon the IRGC," al-Hamdani noted.

"Between 1963 and 1979, Iran ranked high in the Middle East and Asia in general in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), per capita income, health care, education level, individual freedoms, arts, culture and tourism," he said.

"Now, however, there is no comparison," he said, as Iran has not only seen its rankings drop, but has dropped out of the running altogether.

The blame for this "certainly does not lie with the people, but with the regime", he said.

"Will the regime be able to abandon its expansionist ambitions and let the countries of the region live in peace without interference?" he asked.

"Can the regime devote itself to fixing the internal shortcomings and allocate funds to building schools, hospitals, streets and bridges for Iranians instead of creating militias and sending weapons abroad?"

"The Iranian people are tired of the regime's wrongdoings, and their only concern is to come up with money to buy food and ensure the well-being of their children," Amina Akbar, an Iranian who lives in Turkey, told Al-Mashareq.

"We do not know how long it will be before Khamenei abandons his dream of controlling the region and pursues instead the dream of providing a decent life for the Iranian people, but I do not think that is likely to happen," she said.

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