BYH: To the ECU Leaders. Alcohol Beverages at a football game. You are asking for trouble. Drunks at the game already...

Not everyone in Iran is celebrating anniversary

Georgie Ann Geyer

Georgie Anne Geyer


Friday, February 8, 2019

When I traveled to a small town outside Paris that early winter morning to interview the Iranian Shiite leader, the mysterious Ayatollah Khomeini, a veil of historic disaster was already hanging over the Middle East. But who was this man? Very few outside Iran seemed to know.

The small French summer house where I found him in December 1978 was buzzing with activity, but also with an undercurrent of threat. Would I be "respectful" of the Great Man? Of course. Would I wear the abaya, the head-to-toe black covering of religious women? If I had to.

Then they bundled me up in robes from head to toe and placed me (and, thankfully, my pen and notebook) on a Persian rug inside an empty room.

I remember mostly the ayatollah's eyes. They were like great black burning coals. With his large black turban and angry white beard, he reminded me as he entered of nothing so much as an ancient biblical prophet, and I felt waves of evil surrounding his figure.

Because the regime of the American-supported modernizer, the cancer-ridden Shah of Iran, was already teetering on collapse, I first asked the ayatollah what kind of Iran he would build, if he became the nation's leader? Oh, a democratic one where all were equal, was the reply. And what would be a woman's place? Women would be free to go to the university, to do anything!

Anyone who knew even a little bit about the ayatollah's highly conservative form of Islam would realize the early Persians learned how to "dissimulate" or lie to strategically protect the faith from invaders. So I did not take any of this very seriously. And I was surely right.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of Khomeini's Islamic revolution, and it did indeed shake the entire Middle East — immeasurably, irrevocably, inexorably — like an existential earthquake. Countries from Egypt to Jordan to Tunisia to the Gulf States feared their unemployed youth would turn to fervent Islamic fanaticism or even terrorism, and many did.

On this painful anniversary, it might help us to look upon Iran, historical Persia, with new eyes. We know that Khomeini's closed, regressive and often cruel regime has supported destructive forces across the region. But also note that the highly reliable Financial Times led off a full-page analysis of Iran this week by quoting as typical a "child of the revolution," who now says, "It was a mistake to topple the shah's regime." This new sympathy for the old rule of the shah is a stunning development.

Still other young Iranians told the paper they were "fed up" with the current regime's "hypocrisy" and with the "exploitation of Islam for political purposes." They often angrily compare their impoverished Iran with developed and rich South Korea.

As Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council wrote this week in The Washington Times, since 1979, Iran's economy has dropped from 17th to 27th place in the world, "one of the steepest declines in modern history. ... Iranian citizens are now 30 percent poorer than they were in 1979."

All of this makes me remember that, soon after Khomeini came to power in February 1979, I interviewed Yasser Arafat, then leader of the PLO, in his hideaway in Beirut. This usually inscrutable and often incoherent man was almost delirious with joy that night.

"I sat up there, I sat up there," he kept saying, "with him! We reviewed the troops together!” Translated that means he had just been in Tehran with the ayatollah and they had been together, up on the reviewing stand, overseeing the marching, shouting, fanaticized troops of the Islamic revolution.

But a too-often ignored rule of history that these men never seem to learn is that the ego gratification and demagogic fervor of reviewing troops does not a nation build.

There have been great liberal Muslim societies across history. The great universities of ancient times, from Damascus to Baghdad, saved the universal works of Greece for all of us. Today you could add Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Dubai and especially Oman to an imperfect but impressive modern list of Islamic countries that choose moderate, step-by-step development over reviewing troops.

President Trump is obsessed with the repressive Revolutionary Guard parts of Iran, but as we can see this February, 40 years later, much of Iran is yearning and burning from within for transformation. That is the Iran we should be helping to realize itself.

Georgie Anne Geyer has been a foreign correspondent and commentator on international affairs for more than 40 years.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

March 20, 2019

According to CNN Business, "Facebook, YouTube and Twitter struggle to deal with New Zealand shooting video."

"Deal with" is code for "censor on demand by governments and activist organizations who oppose public access to information that hasn't first been thoroughly vetted for conformity to their…


March 19, 2019

It was one of the deadliest years in the history of North Carolina’s prison system. Five prison employees were killed in two incidents at state prisons in 2017. Given the way our prisons were staffed and the guards were trained and equipped, we should have seen it coming.

The two incidents…

March 19, 2019

"America is addicted to political contempt."

I'm not sure I've ever read a more accurate diagnosis of what we're looking at in the United States right now.

I'm quoting from a new book by Arthur C. Brooks, "Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt." I had…


March 19, 2019

The N.C. House has taken a long overdue step toward transparency, voting unanimously to add online video streaming of its sessions — so North Carolinians across the state can watch their government in action without driving to Raleigh.

The legislature currently offers online audio streams of…

Colin Campbell

March 18, 2019

American states and localities are, on the whole, administered more responsibly than the federal government is. Their superiority has nothing to do with the qualities of individuals involved. Indeed, many federal politicians were once state or local politicians.

The difference is institutional.…

john hood.jpg

March 17, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's, D-Calif., announcement that she is "not for impeachment" has caused resistance on the left. Pelosi is not trying to protect President Trump. She is trying to protect the Democratic Party from its lunatic fringe. It's an increasingly difficult challenge.

Pelosi is the…


March 17, 2019

On Feb. 12, Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka "El Chapo," was convicted of multiple crimes related to running the Sinaloa drug cartel, Mexico's largest. Thirteen days before his conviction, authorities seized enough of the synthetic opioid called fentanyl for 100 million lethal doses. It was hidden in a…

George Will

March 17, 2019

When President Trump signed the tax cut bill around the end of 2017, the most significant pro-growth legislation since the 1980s, the U.S. economy took off like an Atlas rocket.

Employment rose, unemployment sank, consumer spending surged, the stock market shot up, and the U.S. economy was back in…


March 16, 2019

The Washington Post

The best that can be said for President Trump’s $4.75 trillion budget plan for fiscal 2020 is that it has no chance of becoming law. This is almost always true of presidential budgets, because ultimately Congress does the nitty-gritty work on spending legislation. Even by…

March 16, 2019

For a "progressive" presidential candidate, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is remarkably, well, conservative. Her proposals are neither new nor of the "democratic socialist" variety. In fact, her aim is, as Matthew Yglesias puts it at Vox, "to save capitalism" with stock proposals…

290 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 29
        Next Page»   Last Page»