The Islamic Revolution Through the Eyes of an Iranian-Australian Emigre

By Julie Ershadi

Decades have passed since the 1978-79 Islamic Revolution. Yet Iranians around the world are still busy telling their stories of upheaval, exile, and healing. Mehran Rafiei is one such Iranian. A computer engineer who left his homeland after the Revolution, he lives tens of thousands of miles away from it: in Australia, where he works for the state government of Queensland. Yet he hasn’t forgotten his roots. In fact, his hope is to share his story with the world.

Rafiei has just published “A Persian Odyssey“, a memoir of the journey that led him from Revolution and the beginnings of the Iran-Iraq war all the way to Oceania.

“I hope this book can provide some balanced information regarding Iran from someone who lived there before and after the Revolution,” he said in an interview with Kayhan Life, “someone who suffered from dictatorship at the time of the Shah and was disappointed with the outcome of regime change.”

As a lead-in to the events of the Revolution, the memoir shows Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh’s rise to prominence in the late 1940s, and his subsequent overthrow in the 1953 coup, which effectively concentrated power in the hands of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Rafiei’s work is no neutral account of history; it is a deeply personal and opinionated reflection of what happened.

While Rafiei was only a child at the time of these events, like millions of others, he would eventually come to feel their weight. The way he describes it in his book, the Shah’s policy of political suppression gave more and more influence to the only available dissident voice, that of the Ulama (or clerics). From exile, he writes, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini promised “justice, freedom, and free public services.” The Shah fled the country in January 1979, he concludes, and an “alien creature” was born: “the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

After toughing out the early years of the Revolution, Rafiei left Iran, and today has a family, a career, and a home to call his own. He’s a member of the sizable community of Iranian expatriates living in Australia, a group he describes as “one of the best in the world.”

Yet Rafiei says his memoir has actually gotten a bigger response from Westerners in Australia than from fellow Iranians. Although he may be disappointed in his fellow countrymen, he doesn’t sound surprised.

“The positive feedback I am receiving from the local Aussies is unbelievable: they love the book,” he told Kayhan Life. “But the ‘zero reaction’ from Iranian expats is quite believable. If we, including myself, were book readers, we would not have embraced Khomeini in 1978.”

Meanwhile, “A Persian Odyssey” has been picked up for inclusion in several public libraries, including the Brisbane City Council Library. Rafiei is hard at work promoting the title both locally and abroad – to Iranians, non-Iranians, and anyone who might benefit from hearing his message.

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