Tunisia could benefit from bitter lessons of Iran’s clumsy '79 revolution


Tunisia could benefit from bitter lessons of Iran’s clumsy '79 revolution
by Darius Kadivar

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme." - Mark Twain 

Carter's infamous "Island of Stability" Speech in Tehran toast the Shah of Iran at Niavaran Palace:

President Ben Ali admonished on lack of democracy by then US President George W. Bush:



Unrests in Tunisia and the passionate reactions it has triggered in a nation often hailed as an “Island of Stability” in the Maghreb could benefit from the bitter lessons of Iran's clumsy "Islamic" revolution in it's legitimate struggle for Democracy.   

See Related News Here )

Ironically just like in Iran 30 years ago In Iran with the Cinema Rex Tragedy what triggered the protests in Tunisia was an isolated incident which symbolically concentrated the nation's discontent towards it's leaders that of of a graduate who set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid over lack of jobs. The clashes and violent incidents to date have led to dozens of deaths ( however tragic although fairly limited given the violent circumstances).

Ironically Tunisia just like Imperial Iran is largely a Secular Society deemed an "Island of Stability" in the Maghreb which despite an Authoritarian regime enjoys social progress and particularly emancipation and equal rights for wormen as no where else in the Muslim world apart from maybe Turkey.

A Report on the Situation of Women in Tunisia ( English Subtitles):

The major difference in the current unrest with the revolution in Iran 30 years ago is that for the time being the Tunisians are lucky not to have a mad Ayatollah leading the opposition to the regime. There may be a less dramatic outcome to this "revolution" than was the case for our unfortunate country.

Opening scene of Ferid Boughedir's Film Un été à la Goulette:

With Cameo Roles with Claudia Cardinal and Michel Boujnah

French Tunisian Comic Actor /Director Michel Boujnah Jokes about Tunisians on French TV:

But there I am merely being cautiously optimistic.

Only time will say if the departure of President Ben Ali and the announcement of a provisionary government by the Prime Minister will lead to a more constructive outcome for a people legitimately struggling for Democracy within an Authoritarian ( yet hardly Tyrannical ) environment.

For indeed history often tragically illustrates that far more difficult than the task of toppling an Authoritarian or dictatorial Regime, the Greatest Challenge for a Nation is to construct and maintain a democratic one. 

May the Tunisian People overcome the challenge of succeeding their Democratic Transition in a constructive way and without giving in the destructive temptations of vengeance which often characterizes national upheavals and often dooms the legitimate hopes of a nation when at crossroads in it's history.


My thoughts are with the Tunisian People and Friends of that Beautiful country in these challenging times.



Jan 14th, 2011 

Paris, FRANCE 


Recommended Photo Essay:

Golden Blue by shahireh sharif (Iranian.com)


******************************************************************** ********************************************************************


Miscellaneous Footage as a Comparative Study 





Shah of Iran in London say's People will not revolt in Iran (1963 or 1965 ?):   An overconfident Shah shortly after a failed Assassination attempt on his life speaks to the international press and diplomats. During this period Iran faced unrests triggered by an unknown Ayatollah Khomeiny protesting against the Shah's White Revolution and Land Reforms. 

British ITV Report on Shah faced with the early uprisings against his regime in 1979:

(NOTE: To Watch Double Click Here)

  Shah of Iran's Last Public Speech the nation:   Shah Speech acknowledges Voice of the Revolution butrefuses to abdicate and promises to Respect the Constitution once Calm andOrder is Restored.

Pro Bakhtiar demonstrations in Support of the 1906 Constitution:
Tunisia's President Ben Ali's last speech:

Anti-government protests continue despite Ben Ali's promise to stand down
Thousands of people took to the streets of Tunis Friday to protest the rule of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. This despite his promise Thursday not to seek another term and his orders that police stop using real bullets on protesters. 

Flights continue to Tunisia despite unrest:

Iran's IRI's Press TV coverage of Tunisia's Unrest:

French Coverage of Tunisian Revolution:

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more from Darius Kadivar
G. Rahmanian

Next Is Iran!

by G. Rahmanian on

فشار تحريم هاي اقتصادي، تورم، نا رضايتي مردم از مشكلات روزمره و عدم وجود ازاديهاي دمكراتيك بالاخره دولت جمهوري اسلامي را از قدرت ساقط خواهد كرد!  باميد ايران ازاد!

Darius Kadivar

I beg your Pardon ? ;0)

by Darius Kadivar on

Showing the parrallels is precisely the subject of my blog ... 

You simply are offering your anti thesis which is respectable in it's own right but don't highjack my conclusions.

I am suggesting that REVOLUTIONS are NOT always the SOLUTION to a Nation's Ills.

You seem to suggest that they ARE !

Les inconnus - La révolution


Which is not a surprise to me anyway given that I am familiar with your stance anyhow ...

Tu veux ou tu veux pas - with subtitles




Guadeloupe syndrome

by comrade on

Are we anticipating an Islamic takeover in Tunisia?

Never increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.



I'm suggestion Islamic Republic of Tunisia?


How did you figure that out? I'm just showing the parallels between 79 and Tunisia's dictator.

Tunisia should not repeat the mistakes we did. Tunisia should listen to the Bakhtiars of Tunisia. the voice of moderation.




Darius Kadivar

Hmm... I see so you conclude by overlooking the 30 years Gap

by Darius Kadivar on

between 1979 and 2009 as a necessary price to pay by a nation and a sacrificed generation in order to achieve a "hypothetical" democratic transition in a  more or less "hypothetical" distant future which in our case has not been achieved even "hypothetically"? ...

"Iran(i.e: IRI) was not like the French revolutionary republic, which really did become a model over time for much of Europe. It was an odd man out." -Juan Cole (Informed Comment)


So if I understood correctly you therefore suggest to the Tunisians to apply to the letter the recipe (i.e: Revolution) which for us at least failed to fulfill it's promises 30 years on ...

The Third Man - Cuckoo clock speech with subtitles


Interesting ...

Best Bob Hope movie line






Ben Ali and Mohammad Reza Shah compared


But its hard to not to compare the two...


"It's hard to envy the position Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was in these last few weeks: There just aren't many good answers available to despots who are faced with popular uprisings. Still, he should have known better than to settle on Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi's 1978-1979 playbook for quelling incipient revolutions.
Indeed, Ben Ali seemed intent on compressing the shah's yearlong series vacillations into a tidy one-week time frame. First, a show of denial: The shah started 1978 by denouncing street protests as conspiracies directed from abroad, while Ben Ali started this week by declaring mass demonstrations to be "terrorist acts." Next a halfhearted show of force to restore law and order: In the autumn of 1978, the shah declared martial law and organized a military government; Ben Ali, for his part, imposed a nationwide curfew this week and presumably instructed security forces to use deadly force against continued protests. Then a hasty series of concessions that are inevitably interpreted as too little, too late: Late in the game, each leader tried to shuffle his cabinet into a more liberal arrangement. That's followed by a transparently cynical, and frankly depressing, declaration of sympathy for the protests: The shah went on television in November to announce, "I have heard the voice of your revolution"; Ben Ali went on television on Thursday to tell his restive populace, "I have understood you." Finally, there's the retreat into exile -- the shah fled to Egypt in January 1979, while Ben Ali is now reported to be in Malta, France, or Saudi Arabia. (The aftermath is unlikely to get any rosier for Ben Ali, judging from the shah's experience: He shuttled around the world -- from Morocco, to Mexico, to the Bahamas, to the United States to Switzerland -- in search of an offer of residence that was more than temporary, until he finally died in 1980.)
The shah's unsteady strategy was already discredited in the eyes of the current regime in Iran, which came into power after his departure -- hence, the Iranian leadership's unremitting hard-line crackdown when it was faced with mass protests in the wake of the country's 2009 presidential election. Tunisia's current revolution may well be seen in Tehran, and perhaps in other regional capitals, less as a reminder of the power of popular action than as confirmation of Ben Ali's personal weakness in refusing to pick a position and stick with it. If any other governments threaten to collapse in the wake of Tunisia's successful revolution, you can expect that the protests will be met with either an outstretched hand or a clenched fist, but certainly not both.