Khomeini's revolution: the fervor is fading
* "1979 -- the year of the victory of ignorance over injustice." -- banner at Tehran University, promptly torn down by Muslim militants.m * "I said from the start that this revolution was like having a first child. The parents are ready and anxious for the birth, but there are bound to be a lot of sleepless nights afterward." -- Ibrahim Yazdi, aide to Ayatollah Khomeini and former foreign minister.mSkip to next paragraph
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* "They're still up on the rooftops shouting praise to Allah, and I'm driving a cab." -- former translator at a foreign company in Tehran, during a recent demonstration.m
Snow blankets much of Iran in the revolution's first winter of discontent. Millions are cold, hungry, bitter, or just plain tired of politics.
The flower of one of the century's great popular upheavals is wilting. As in George Orwell's "Animal Farm," new autocrats have replaced old -- new corruption , new grievances, new violence.
Mr. Yazdi argues that problems are inevitable. This is, after all, a revolution. "It is not easy," he told the Monitor, "to transform a society from absolute dictatorship to a more diffused kind of organization."
He says he is "not happy" with every aspect of that transformation. "But I am a pragmatist."
If the revolution still thrives, and for the time being it does, this is due more than anything to the white-bearded Muslim who guided it. Millions have voiced anger or disillusionment with the new regime by fighting, shouting, or simply by abstaining in the successive national polls since the ouster of the Shah 11 months ago.
Yet almost no one openly attacks Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He carries the aura of Allah. He mirrors his compatriots' simplicity and their latent nationalism. And he still is credited with a distinctly secular "miracle" -- the toppling of a seemingly impregnable dictatorship, one that many Iranians regard as having been backed by the United States.
It is the people around Ayatollah Khomeini, so the popular wisdom goes, who have soured the Iranian revolution. People such as the provincial mullahs (Muslim teachers) and pro-Khomeini "committeemen" who have gained money and power under him. And people such as Hajitolislam Sadeq Khalkhali, who as chief revolutionary judge sent hundreds to the firing squad on charges ranging from treachery to homosexuality.
Some Iranians argue that every revolution needs a Khalkhali. Yet he also has become a prime target of Iranian gallows humor. Ayatollah Attila, some call him. Asked by one interviewer how many people he had sentenced to death, Hajitolislam Khalkhali said that, frankly, he had forgotten. "But it's at least four times as many as all the other revolutionary judges together," he added.
Ayatollah Khomeini himself seems to suspect his charisma cannot power a revolution forever. He has replaced Ayatollah Khalkhali. He has tried to compromise with Kurdish separatists, in the vanguard of growing provincial unrest. He has acknowledged that many Iranians are simply paying lip service to his regime, as they did to the deposed Shah, while actually "waiting to see which way the wind blows."
For the immediate future, most diplomats here feel, Ayatollah Khomeini is safe. Iranians are used to poverty and disillusionment. With barely a bat of the eye, many seem resigned to greasing a new set of palms, playing a new black market, accepting a new government line. Those Tehranis who bridle under the Islamic interdictions of the new regime still manage to eat, drink, and be merry in their own diverse (if necessarily discreet) fashion.
Militant opponents of the new regime often seem divided among themselves, and they still are outgunned and outnumbered by Khomeini supporters. More articulate civil libertarians, such as former Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, seem no immediate match for the steely, single-minded Ayatollah Khomeini.