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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 19:13 GMT
Looking back on Iran's revolution
As Iran marks the 25th anniversary of the revolution which saw the US-backed Shah ousted by supporters of the Islamic leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, two people with contrasting experiences describe how the event changed their lives.


Mashallah Shams-ol-vaezin, revolution supporter-turned-dissident

Mashallah Shams-ol-vaezin, born to a traditional religious family, was 19 when the Shah was ousted. On hearing the news, he returned to Iran from exile with excitement and optimism. More than two decades later, a prominent reformist editor, he found himself jailed by the ruling regime having seen several of his newspapers closed.

Former reformist newspaper editor Mahmoud Shamolvaezin
Shamolvaezin: 'The revolution devoured its children'
"I was in Karachi when the news broke out. A few months previously, I had fled Iran after fleeing the garrison where I was performing my compulsory national service.

"I decided to flee when Ayatollah Khomeini said that serving the Shah's government was prohibited by Sharia law. I did not want to face the people as a soldier. I was planning to go to France.

"But I returned to Iran after the revolution. I thought that the people's ideals were going to be made reality."

I thought democracy would emerge and bring about the emergence of a new social class.
"The revolution took place so quickly. I was wondering whether it would attain its goals - independence and freedom. But the tremendous and joyful victory left little room for any doubts. There was an inner sense of satisfaction."

A few years later, Mr Shams-ol-vaezin became the editor-in-chief of the country's leading newspaper at the time.

He became disillusioned when fighting for freedom of speech brought him into conflict with the ruling regime.

"When I was jailed in an Islamic Republic prison, I came to believe that revolutions devour their children.

"I also came to believe that the Islamic revolution was an exception. It not only devoured, but also chewed and crashed and digested its children.

"I am an example of such children. I was seriously distressed. I had committed no crime, I was loyal - but still I was imprisoned at the notorious Evin prison with a group of other innocent people."

On his release from prison last year, Mr Shams-ol-vaezin stopped working as a journalist.


Dariush Homayoun, information minister under the Shah

Former information minister and newspaper publisher Dariush Homayoun, now aged 70, was one of the Shah's key aides. In the dying days of the Shah's rule, about 20 top officials were sent to prison in the hope of staving off the regime's collapse. Mr Homayoun was one of them.

Anti-Shah protest in Tehran, 1979
Anti-Shah protests mounted until the regime collapsed
"I survived at the end only because I was in jail. We heard shots from outside the prison and then somebody said that it was over, the regime was gone and we were free.

"My first concern was my own security. I did not want to be arrested again. So I handpicked a few people to contact. Only my father and a friend of mine knew where I was after I escaped from the prison.

This is politics - you cannot be sorry about it
"I stayed in Iran for 15 months. Then my father was arrested and I feared that he might speak abut my whereabouts under pressure. So I left my hiding place. One week later, revolutionary guards stormed it.

"Then my friends helped me to get out of the country. On the way out, I came to understand my fellow countrymen once again and to find out what a great people they are. I owe a lot to the people who helped me."

"During the days I spent in my hideout, I was thinking about the future of my country. I feared that my worst nightmares would come true.

"I feared that the leftists and the Islamists would take over the country. I kept thinking about the reasons why all this had happened. How could the people become so unbelievingly backward?"

Homayoun still hopes to return to Iran, one day. He says he never thought he was going to stay abroad for such a long time. "But this is politics," he says. "You cannot be sorry about it."

These interviews were translated from the BBC World Service Persian Service.


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