Roya tucks in her hair further under her head scarf as she moves to make room for the two new passengers on the back seat of the taxi. As they drive through the crowded streets of Vali Asr, the southern Tehrani taxi driver starts his speech of daily complaints. The passengers join in complaining about the traffic, the government, the price of food, the electricity fall-out, the ruthless ‘gashte ershad’(1) , everything. The taxi driver sighs, “we were stupid to start the revolution, things were so much better when the Shah (2) was still in power. Khoda rahmatesh kone!” (3) He hadn’t finished his words when one of the passengers yelled out “Eh!”
She pointed to a poster taped on a street sign. It was a picture of the late Shah’s son, the Prince in exile, Reza Pahlavi. Roya couldn’t believe it. As they drove by her eyes followed the poster. All the passengers were suddenly mute.
Could it really be?
After thirty year of suffering under an oppressive regime, Roya saw her people turning bitter year after year. After years of being deprived of equal chances, an accountable government or freedom of conscience the people of Iran have almost lost hope that things could ever change. “I only believe that change can happen if we all at once do something to claim it. But we’re all afraid. Nobody wants to get in trouble. We have to struggle to survive, just as it is.” Roya’s cheeks now glow while she takes a sip of her tea in our apartment in Frankfurt. She finally succeeded in her visa application and made it to come and see us after twenty years of being apart.
“Some others wait for a miracle, for an American invasion even!” But nothing good can come from that. Just take a look at Iraq.” Roya has an Economics degree, but works in the advertisement department of a newspaper. “I’m lucky that I even could find a job. Some of my friends weren’t that lucky!”
Iran’s economy made a plunge since the implementation of the unbalanced economic policy of the current administration. “Our country is so rich in natural resources, but our people are impoverished. Why?” Roya doesn’t expect an answer. She sits on our sofa and sips her tea, but in the meantime I know her thoughts linger somewhere on that street sign.
“Do you think he will return to Iran?” Roya looks at me with a shy smile feeling silly to ask me something of which she knows I can impossibly answer with certainty. “Do you think we can do something then, if he would?” I ask while thinking of Obama. “Yes, we can!” Roya’s eyes widened while she raised her voice with excitement. “Do you know just how much supporters he has in Iran? The old people love him because they experienced such better times under his fathers’ reign and the young people love him because he symbolizes an Iran they only know from their parents’ stories. They long to have a better Iran and the Prince is their only hope!” I was surprised. I didn’t expect young people to have an opinion in that area whatsoever.
“But there are still many people who have mixed feelings about the Pahlavi’s, you know,” I tried to settle down her enthusiasm a bit. “I know, but whatever it is that the old Shah did, it could never sum up to what this regime has done to its people!” I paused a little, drinking my tea while thinking of her story of the poster on the street sign. “But what should happen if he decides to return? Should he crown himself and become king?” Roya waited a little and answered “From my point of view he should, because it’s his birth given right, but for Iran it’d be better if he’d just be a leader, whatever name people want to give him.” I sat back on the sofa and tried to imagine how Iran would look like if the Prince would return and support the people to claim a new and different regime. “Harjo marj!”(4)
I remember watching the first public speech of the Prince right after the death of his father, on video. With tears in his eyes he promised the people of Iran that he’d take over the responsibility his father left him with. He used the words “harjo marj” to describe the state in which Iran was at the time. He will have to use those words again in his maiden speech as Iran’s new leader.
I sighed and looked at Roya who now was getting ready to leave again, “Next time you see that poster, make a picture for me, will you?” She smiled and answered teasingly: “You too think we can, don’t you?” “Can do what?” I asked her. “Yes, we can!” She nodded looking confident, and left.
(1) "Gashte ershad": The Iranian moral police. They foremostly bother people on the streets for not wearing proper clothing according to the Islamic codes.
(2) "Shah": "King" in Persian. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was Iran's Shah from 1941 to 1979
(3) "Khoda rahmatesh kone”: May peace be upon him
(4) "Harjo marj": Anarchy and chaos
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