October 30, 1974 — The Stanford Daily (guest column)
An anonymous guest column published on the Opinion page of The Stanford Daily, the student newspaper of Stanford University in Northern California. Aside from some annotations, it has not been fact-checked and is presented here for historical purposes.
The Iranian People Live In Poverty
The Palo Alto Cultural Center recently presented a program about Iran emphasizing the arts and cultural achievements of the Iranian people.
Listed on their program was a talk on “Iran Today,” supposedly sponsored by the Stanford Iranian students — none of whom had been consulted. The program was later canceled. I would therefore like to respond to the irresponsible actions of the Palo Alto Cultural Center and also to offer a picture of everyday life in Iran.
Because of widespread poverty, most Iranians live in small mud huts which easily succumb to earthquakes and torrential rains. This situation has led to thousands of deaths in the past decade.
In contrast, the concentration of the vital economic and political powers in the hands of a few comprador bourgeoisie has generated an immense waste of national wealth. “Iran’s beau monde frolic in striking splendor. One Iranian industrialist built himself a replica of Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon [Newsweek, Oct. 14, 1974].”
The agricultural situation is also unnecessarily bleak. Today 80 percent of Iran’s food imports are in the following categories: beef, mutton, poultry, eggs, feed grain, wheat and rice. Iran was previously self-sufficient in all of these categories. [New Republic, Sept. 21, 1974].
In 1952, production levels were so high that the export of agricultural products sufficed to balance the foreign exchange during the Western and Russian boycott of the newly nationalized Iranian oil. [Only Britain boycotted] Later, Premier Mossadegh, the leader of the National Front, was overthrown by the CIA-backed coup on Aug. 23, 1953. [Aug. 19, 1953]
After the coup, by successive five-year plans, the national agricultural product was unmistakably and purposefully given a change in direction from self-sufficiency to absolute dependency upon the West. The success of these plans can be evidenced through the Iranian economy’s thirst for vital oil export revenues, in the absence of which it would collapse in a few days.
Need To Appease
The current dependency is so far-reaching that even if a national movement were to succeed in germinating and unfolding, its efforts to bring about social changes would be effectively thwarted (at least initially) by the need to appease the West, thereby maintaining its market for oil and staving off the ever-present threat of starvation.
Daily wages in the Tehran area range from $1.75 to $3.60 and daily farm wages range from $1.50 to $2.50. Yet the prices in Tehran are as high as those in New York City and are continually climbing. Last year the rate of inflation was 50 percent.
Because of the inability of parents to provide for necessary subsistence, children become wage-earners as early as seven years of age. In fact, half of all Iranian children between the ages of seven and 14 are wage earners. Most work in the carpet factories for 12 hours a day because only their tiny fingers can make the millions of small knots necessary for the famous Persian carpets. Working in small, poorly lit rooms and squatting for hours without rest, they soon become blind and crippled.
Persons from all walks of life have been persecuted because of their attempts to rectify these and other problems. For instance, during a demonstration protesting the arrest of the Iranian religious leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, thousands of people were shot and killed in two days. Others, such as Meftahi, [Abbas Meftahi] Meshghin-fan [Rasoul Meshkinfam] and Golsorkhi [Khosrow Golsorki] who are representative of the various political persuasions in Iran, were shot or died under torture for their efforts to end the injustice and repression in Iran.
In addition, the Shah has built an extensive and pervasive secret police network operating under the tutelage of the CIA. “... people really do just disappear. Just how many disappear is unknown, but Iran has 20,000 political prisoners in jail, and Amnesty International maintains that a large number of Iranians have been secretly executed for political opposition to the regime [Newsweek, Oct. 14, 1974].”
In a country as rich in natural resources as Iran, why must people live such miserable lives? Certainly, there is enough wealth in oil alone to provide a plentiful life for all Iranian people. Instead oil revenues pour back into the Western capitalist countries in the form of arms purchases, thereby helping to alleviate the threat of recession in the West by supplying an outlet for western waste products and in general, propping up otherwise faulty economies.
Last year alone, Iran spent $4 billion for U.S. weaponry. She has also given $1 billion to the World Bank of which $300 million was transferred to the Chilean Junta. Currently, Iran is negotiating to purchase $4 billion in communication equipment from the Pentagon — equipment that they say will be used primarily for “nonmilitary purposes [Newsweek, Oct. 14,1974].”
(The writer, an Iranian, asked that his name be withheld for fear of arrest upon his return to Iran.)
Protesters shut down screening of Shah propaganda film (1973)
Anti-Shah letters to Florida State University newspaper (1978)
Anonymous letter to University of Illinois paper on oppression in Iran (1969)
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”