I was in college at Bellevue (then) Community College during the 1978-79 school year and had many Iranian classmates. It was amazing to watch the news at night and talk to them during the day as the Iranian Revolution unfolded. Technology in the form of the cassette tape fueled the Revolution as Khomeini’s sermons had been smuggled into Iran from France. Everyone had high hopes that when the Shah left Iran it was the end of an era of greed and savagery. Thirty years later we know that the story took on new characters, but largely the same story.
Iran suffered a brain drain as many “Westernized” and Western Educated Iranians fled for the United States and Europe. Many who were here stayed anyway they could. Some died in the attempt to get here. Not long after the Revolution one Iranian ex-pat went to Iran to marry his sweetheart. When they could not get a visa for her to the United States they hatched an ill-conceived plan to smuggle her into the country in a suitcase on his return flight. When he picked up the case at baggage claim he discovered that she had succumbed during the flight. Leaving the suitcase behind he drove to his university where he shot himself once in the head. People were literally dying to get out of Iran back in the 1980s.
This week it has been exciting to watch the Iranian people to once again demand a voice in their government. Once again, technology, in the form of email, blogs, and twitter, is fueling the protests. I am holding my breath because how the West reacts can influence the power of the clerics. If the opposition is seen as some sort of tool for the United States their chances of success will be materially damaged as will our chances of meaningful negotiations with the present government.
If you are interested here is a blog from Iran. You can see what is happening and leave a message of support if you want.