Page last updated at 08:11 GMT, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Iranian views on the revolution

Two Iranians from different generations give their thoughts on the Islamic revolution 30 years ago, which toppled the western-backed Shah and brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. Nourin, who took part in the revolution, expresses disappointment. Ramin, who was born in 1979, praises its achievements.

NOURIN, 51, Tehran

We thought the Shah was at the root of every problem, so that by getting rid of his regime, we'd get rid of all our problems.

I see now that things I took for granted at the time, such as my free education, were privileges. I grew up in a poor, rural family but I still ended up going to university.

I was a student at Tehran University in 1979 and I was active in the revolution. I didn't support the Islamic way of looking at things, I supported the leftist groups.

We were on the streets most of the time, demonstrating and chanting slogans. We were very curious to see what would happen. Our hopes of freedom and justice were very vague, I don't think I had a clear idea of what they really meant.

The changes came suddenly. Very soon we realised the old regime had gone and the new one had arrived. They started sacking some of the professors and making the university run to Islamic rules.

Then, in 1980, they closed the universities. Me and most of my friends were expelled - they told me I didn't have the right to study.

When they opened again two years later, I was on the black list, with many others. They arrested me and I ended up spending a year in Evin prison.

I feel great sadness and regret when I look back to the revolution, for all the years we lost

I have very bad memories, so even after 24 years it's not easy to talk about.

They released me because they didn't have anything against me. I could see some people were totally destroyed by the experience, I mean totally destroyed. Their feelings, their personality.

I was readmitted to university in 1988. Life was hard then, because of the war with Iraq. All in all, it took me 15 years to get my electrical engineering degree.

More than 70% of my closest friends have all left the country.

I feel great sadness and regret when I look back to the revolution, for all the years we lost. Had the Shah not been so intolerant of criticism, I think the nation might have gone another way.

If the current system doesn't change, I am afraid we will face another situation, with grave consequences.

Ramin, 29, in Tehran

I think what will remain in the history of the Iranian revolution, is not the devastation, the pain and how many were killed, but rather its achievements: independence, self reliance and self-sufficiency.

Iran has taken huge leaps forward. Thirty years ago no-one would have thought we could have launched a satellite into space, or have access to nuclear technology. It's hard to be Iranian and not feel proud about the satellite.

Iran is one of the most independent, self-reliant and self-sufficient countries on the planet

There have also been huge improvements in human development over the past 30 years: access to clean water and life expectancy have gone up.

I know my parents' generation are less satisfied with the results. They saw a golden age in Iran in the 1970s, when oil money was injected into the Iranian economy and the standards of living were improving.

In their minds, I think they have seen Iran deteriorate over the past 30 years.

But my generation grew up during eight years of war with Iraq and then reconstruction. So for me, Iran has always been improving. I think that largely explains the contrast in attitudes.

It doesn't mean I'm happy with everything here, for example the social restrictions, or the mismanagement of social areas. I don't think governments should interfere in people's private lives.

It's also true that corruption is widespread. However, this is an historic problem, it's been here for past 200 years.

There are opportunities here that don't exist in more developed places. I am an investment banker and in Europe I would have to be in my 50s to have the level of job I have here.

I have lived and studied abroad, and with some international experience you can progress much faster.

Iran today, is one of the most independent, self-reliant and self-sufficient countries on the planet. After centuries of being a pushover, this is something to be truly proud of today.

I'm not one of those who say that the Islamic state will soon disappear, but I think that for it to be sustainable, it has to learn to coexist with social and political freedoms.

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