Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iran's Revolution Competes with Hollywood, CNN 17 YEARS LATER

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iran's Revolution Competes with Hollywood, CNN 17 YEARS LATER

Article excerpt

Inside Iran's vast, golden "holy shrine," Islamic pilgrims crowd around the sarcophagus of the country's most significant spiritual leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

They are kept at bay by a protective metal cage but slip money through a slot that runs along an interior plastic shield.

Some worshippers settle onto nearby carpets and bow their obeisances toward Mecca. Others cling to the cage, crying for the Imam Khomeini or - forehead pressed to the bars - mouth their prayers with closed-eyed concentration. Children are lifted to the slot to contribute cash to bolster the Islamic Revolution - which under Khomeini's tutelage in 1979 swept away the pro-West regime of the Shah of Iran. But Iran's political landscape has altered since the mullahs, or clerics, swept into power. Although vilified by the US as a sponsor of terrorism and feared in Washington for its declared intent of exporting the revolution, Iran simmers with internal problems. The clerics are divided in their efforts to keep the obedience of Iranians, who have mixed views on the revolution's success. The debate is between conservative clerics - hard-liners in the government who view encroaching Western culture as poison - and a camp considered "moderate" led by President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has tried to roll back their influence. Mr. Rafsanjani's second term expires next year, and Iran's current spiritual leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, stated this weekend that the Constitution would not be amended to allow for a third term in office. Moderating the revolution Rafsanjani has been able to "broker the deals in the middle," according to one diplomatic source. Many reform-minded Iranians say that "everything depends" on a continuation of his policies, but few think that any other leader can do so. These divisions are complicating the recent easing of restrictions - such as those placed on women and on the few opposition leaders, who are now able to speak more openly. But a backlash to the easing has recently surfaced and reportedly spawned a group of hard-line vigilantes called Partisans of the Party of God. "The revolution happened to us, but our generation is not honest with itself," says a young professional woman, noting her peers' public support and private misgivings about the state of the revolution. "There are two cultures adjusting to one another all the time." If the clerics "push too hard, then like a tightly wound coil {angry Iranians} will suddenly explode." Still, hard-liners are pushing to regain the upper hand after conservative candidates suffered setbacks in parliamentary elections earlier this year. "Change is inevitable, whether they like it or not," says Ebrahim Yazdi, the head of the Freedom Movement of Iran, the only tolerated opposition group in the country. …

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