February 11 marks the 35 anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Revolution, a popular uprising that sought to achieve democracy for Iranians by changing the country’s system of governance from monarchy to republic.

Thirty-five years ago, unusually in the turbulent Middle East, the Iranian people enjoyed the benefits of a progressive government. But they had failed by all peaceful means to reform the Shah’s regime into a democratic one.

So, when the right national and international factors arose, they united with the aim of overthrowing the monarchy. Yet instead of achieving democracy for its people, the Revolution has brought near complete destruction as a result of decades-long rule of the most bloodstained, corrupt and tyrannical regime in Iran’s long history.

The Pahlavi dynasty, in the words of the former Shah himself, heard the cry of the Iranian people for freedom too late and, like all other dictatorial regimes in history, could not last in power in the face of the popular revolt of 35 years ago.

However, the people’s celebrations were short lived. The new religious leaders who crept into power on the back of the millions of freedom-seeking Iranians soon put up their gallows and firing squads to extirpate the very ideal of democracy from the outset of their rule. And the story that has since unfolded under the whip of the clerical regime has been one of a country being driven back to the darkest medieval days, as religious tyranny and repression have torn – almost to shreds – the social fabric of Iran.

Almost overnight a group of reactionary clerics and their gun-slinging thug supporters, with no experience of running a government or managing the complicated social, cultural and economic affairs of a fast developing and strategically important country, arrogated to themselves the accolade of being ‘revolutionaries’ of all Iran’s civil and military institutions.

They were assisted in their abuse of power by many young and idealistic left-wingers and naïve religious activists. These well intentioned individuals became the victims of a bloody wave of purges, launched the moment the new despots had secured their political and military powers.

No sector of Iranian society has escaped the debilitating and cynical policies of the Shia clerics who have ruled since 1979.

Iran’s economy, once the envy of many developing countries, is now in tatters thanks to decades of mis- management and corruption, and the trade sanctions imposed on its despotic regime.

Billions of dollars of oil and gas revenues, Iran’s economic lifeline, have been wasted by the regime to sustain its adventurist and expansionist regional policies, fund- ing and training radical and terrorist groups to wreak havoc. Billions more have been squandered to secure the position of the clerics at home by hosing cash at members of the repressive state apparatus, such as the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij militias.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of educated Iranians, the cream of the manpower needed to run a country and provide its people with hope and prosperity, and to guide upcoming generations to a better future, have fled Iran.

Branded by the regime as “the fifth column of the corrupt western powers” or “the stooges of the old regime and American imperialism”, thousands upon thousands of patriotic and educated Iranian men and women have been purged by the officials of the Islamic Republic from their governmental, managerial, educational and industrial posts since 1979, simply because they had not surrendered to the reactionary policies they saw as damaging the interests of their fellow Iranians.

Many migrated to different industrialised and advanced countries where their expertise in scientific, medical and engineering fields has yielded excellent rewards for themselves and their host communities. Many of them underwent horrific experiences crossing the most dangerous terrains with their families to reach the safety of neighbouring countries, rather than try to survive a hellish life in their own motherland.

The intellectuals, industrialists, artists and professionals who stayed behind have either been executed, jailed or, at best, purged from their jobs and former positions. It is the price many Iranians have been forced to pay for their relentless opposition to a regime that has taken their country hostage.

While the Islamic Republic’s tyrannical rule has bankrupted the nation, it has pumped wealth and prosperity into the economies of many of its neighbours, who have benefited hugely from Iran’s political and economic isolation over the last three and a half decades.

As a result, some of those countries have developed into the commercial hubs of the Middle East, while others have become the regional economic and political partners of western democracies. Many more have taken over Iran’s foreign trade by conspiring with corrupt officials in Tehran to make billions of dollars out of sanctions-busting crimes.

A fraction of the full extent of the corruption that has engulfed the “Islamic” regime was recently exposed when the billionaire Babak Zanjani – an associate of the Ahmadinejad government and with close links to the Revolutionary Guard – was arrested and charged with money-laundering and the embezzlement of billions of dollars of oil revenue.

The former chairman of Iran’s National Bank, Mohammad Reza Khavari, is still a fugitive after fleeing the country in 2011 when it was revealed that in association with high-raking officials, he had embezzled more than $3.2bn from various government loan schemes for housing and export projects.

In a country whose sadistic and medieval judiciary chops off the fingers of a petty thief for stealing a loaf of bread to survive, fraudsters and embezzlers with links to Iran’s top officials and centres of power can operate with ease, for they are all branches of one tree: the ‘household’ of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Backed by the Revolutionary Guard and an army of Basij militias and informers, the Ayatollah’s household has a vice-like grip on billions of dollars of Iran’s oil, gas, petrochemical and precious metal revenues, making it the true powerhouse that determines the Iranian government’s domestic and foreign policies.

This fraudulent, tyrannical dynasty has now agreed to dispatch some of its subordinates to negotiate with world powers with the aim of reaching a settlement over its disastrous nuclear programme that has brought nothing but misery and calamity to the Iranian people. Yet at the same time, behind the scenes, working to pursue its malign aim of making sure any such settlement will inevitably fail.

In this respect, last week Khamenei’s cronies in the Majlis press ganged a number of MPs to join Iran’s nu- clear negotiating team. These MPs will monitor details of all discussions with world powers, in an attempt to derail any accord that might curb the influence of the Islamists in Iran’s politics – an agenda the Rouhani administration is following with the full consent of a majority of the Iranians who desire only peace and an opportunity to enjoy some semblance of normality.

Despite the fact that President Rouhani was the only choice the Iranian people had between ‘bad’ and ‘worse’ in the June 2013 presidential election, he still carries a mandate from the people to effect fundamental change in the country’s domestic and foreign policies.

Internally, he must realise his pledges of returning to Iranians their long-denied and suppressed human rights and civil liberties. Externally, his government must improve Iran’s relations with the international community and remove the distrust that many years of Khamenei’s cynical ill governance has created between Iran and the West.

Nothing but the total dismantling of the tyranni- cal Khamenei regime, which rules Iran from its own household, could achieve these two goals and deliver to Iranians the freedom, justice and prosperity that were deceitfully promised them 35 years ago.

Dr Behrooz Behbudi

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