Former Diplomat, Student Recall Iran's Revolution It's been 30 years since the Islamic revolution in Iran. Two men recall their memories of the Revolution — and their very different fates. One man flew with Ayatollah Khomeini from Paris to Tehran in 1979. The other was a student and was swept up in the revolution.
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Former Diplomat, Student Recall Iran's Revolution

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Former Diplomat, Student Recall Iran's Revolution

Former Diplomat, Student Recall Iran's Revolution

Former Diplomat, Student Recall Iran's Revolution

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It's been 30 years since the Islamic revolution in Iran. Two men recall their memories of the Revolution — and their very different fates. One man flew with Ayatollah Khomeini from Paris to Tehran in 1979. The other was a student and was swept up in the revolution.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne in Washington.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Even as this happens, two very different men are recalling their revolution and their very different fates. They spoke with NPR's Mike Shuster.

MIKE SHUSTER: Unidentified Man: (Speaking foreign language)

SHUSTER: Ebrahim Yazdi was on that plane. Yazdi was a close advisor to Khomeini and became the new Iran's foreign minister. But he soon broke with Khomeini and for much of the past 30 years he has been banned from political activity. Nevertheless, Yazdi still believes in the revolution.

EBRAHIM YAZDI: It was unavoidable. It was necessary. It was anti-despotic, the regime of the Shah, and anti-foreign domination in our internal affairs. I don't have anything to regret of what I have done for the revolution. I'm proud of whatever I have done for my own country.

SHUSTER: Those days were chaotic, tumultuous and exhilarating for many. But once it was clear the old regime was gone and Iran was in the hands of the revolutionaries, then, says Yazdi, disagreements erupted.

YAZDI: We were united on what we didn't want. Very rarely and seldom we discussed and came to a common understanding on what we wanted.

SHUSTER: That's the way Ali Shamans Ardekani(ph) remembers it too. Ardekani was a student at the time, educated in the United States and then swept up in the revolution. For some years he was a diplomat. Now he is an economist and successful businessman.

ALI SHAMANS ARDEKANI: Really nobody was putting forward an economic platform or a socialist platform or any kind of well detained, well drawn economic position. It was people who just wanted to change the regime. And they did it.

SHUSTER: Ardekani had a notion in his mind of creating a democracy in Iran on a Western model.

SHAMANS ARDEKANI: I myself was one of the guys who said, look, the best thing is to keep the constitution. Wherever it says the king, you put the president. And then you combine the president's office with the prime minister and make a representative system similar to American system.

SHUSTER: Soon it became clear that Khomeini wanted a government that was controlled by the clerics, an Islamic Republic combining elements of Western democracy with theocratic institutions unique to Iran.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHUSTER: In Ardekani's eyes the state has been unable to realize the economic aspirations of Iran's people.

SHAMANS ARDEKANI: The government should become smaller. The current government should then become smarter. The government should have a smaller body, bigger head. And not now, it's a dinosaur, a small brain, a small head and big body.

SHUSTER: For Yazdi, despite the restrictions he and other reformers function under, democracy is still the goal.

YAZDI: It is going towards democracy. We see something, some treatment harsh, we continue to see some violation of the basic rights of our people, but overall down deep within the society everything moving toward that direction and it is unavoidable the future belongs to democracy in Iran.

SHUSTER: Mike Shuster, NPR News, Tehran.

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