Four decades ago, in the months leading up to the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini made many promises. He spoke about respecting the rights of minorities, democracy and equality for women.
Western intellectuals like the late French philosopher Michel Foucault praised Khomeini’s vision. In Iran, liberals and communists were happy to join with his followers to topple the corrupt regime of the shah. The charismatic Khomeini was saying what they wanted to hear
Or, to put it another way: He was lying. Khomeini “was not locked into everything he had said” then, according to Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the country’s first president after the revolution. Speaking in an interview this month, the former president said that Khomeini described the promises he made before he came to power as “convenient.”
To this day, state television broadcasts coerced confessions. It was just last summer that Maedeh Hojabri, a teenaged gymnast, confessed to the crime of posting videos of herself on Instagram dancing without the required hijab.
The cruelty extends to Iranians living abroad. The regime has been known to send assassins to Europe to murder opposition leaders; former Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar, who briefly led a reformist government in the last months of the shah’s regime, was stabbed multiple times the chest in his Paris apartment in 1991. Just last week, Iran’s justice minister announced he would begin prosecuting the U.S.-based journalist and activist Masih Alinejad after she met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. She, too, stands accused of encouraging Iranian women to share videos of themselves taking off their hijab.
The good news is that millions of Iranians no longer believe anything this regime says. They have endured the terror, deprivation and cruelty unleashed by the Islamic Revolution 40 years ago. The least Americans and Europeans can do is defend and support them and their struggle for a democratic revolution.
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