The revolution of Iran is something that not only affected me and thousands of other Iranians, but the demise of the Shah and his authoritarian government had unbelieve ripple effects on the entire world. In an interview that took place before the fall of his power, the Shah warned that if he and his government are overthrown, the middle east would become a danger zone like no other. And how true that has been for Israel, The US and the rest of the world in regards to Iran for the past 40 or so years.
In the late 70s thousands of Iranian citizens took to the streets, enticed by the words of the Mullahs. They raised their fists in anger and begged for a freedom that would soon prove to be merely an illusion. Muslim and Jew alike took the streets, believing that they were united towards the same goal, fighting for the same utopian society. Students as young as thirteen years old were dazzled by the prospect of getting rid of the Shah. Everywhere, people frustrated by The Shah’s greed and need for total power fought for a more egalitarian leader.
But something was amiss.
The innocent citizens who truly wanted freedom from the Shah’s totalitarian ways, were fighting alongside a savvier, more dangerous group of zealots. This group did not care for a leader who would bring equality to all, nor did they have a leader in mind who would cast peace across the land. Thousands participated in the marches, looting and rioting, because they felt empowered to be a part of something important, something that would bring about change. Their shortsightedness cost them not only their country, but their family, their livelihood and their peace.
As soon as the Ayatollah came into power, all Jewish lives were in danger. Some Jews who had seen the writing on the wall, fled the county prior to the revolution. Others, stayed, hoping against hope for the best. The hard truth was that all lives were in danger. Anyone who did not comply with The State, the religion, or the ideals set forth by the religious clergy, was severely punished, or worst Suddenly, there was a government that did not care about keeping face in the world and was led by a group of extremists that pulled out all the stops. Their hate for everyone that did not see eye-to-eye with them blanketed the country, and a web of fear was cast out across the land.
They believed that the government The Shah had run had been corrupt. They believed the west was corrupt. They believed that their way was the only way to live and the only way to govern. They had the monopoly on religion, actions and beliefs. They strived to censor all thoughts.
Under the movement of The Shah people were punished for not honoring the ruler. But under the new regime, people were brutally punished for “Conspiracy against God” …if that sounds like a mouthful to you, it’s because it was. People were executed daily, and their families, filled with worry and angst, would hear of their executions during the daily morning radio announcement. Hundreds, if not thousands of people who were against the new regime were taken care of in this manner. Countless Jewish men and women were falsie accused of being spies for The State of Israel, kidnapped from their homes and businesses and shot in the dead of night.
It was the Islamic regime’s way, or death. It was the Islamic ideology, or else. It was the laws of the Koran and its teachings or hanging. Period.
The new regime was the judge, the jury and the executer, all rolled into one. Justice lost all its meaning. Freedom of speech died. Dreams vanished.
The young and foolish who had hoped for a utopian society were no match for what they faced. Thousands of Jews, fearing their lives, left everything behind and fled to the West or Israel. Families were scattered all across the world, their lives a mere reflection of what it had once been. In story after story, everything that they had worked so hard for had to be left behind, including homes, cars, and businesses.
This is the story of the Mizrahi Jews across the Middle East time and time again. The loss and trauma that the Jews of Iran faced is one that is shared by all our middle eastern counterparts. The crimes that the regime of Iran has committed against the Jews of Iran should not go unnoticed and forgotten. These are crimes against humanity, for which the government of Iran should be held accountable for.