The greatest achievement for a nation is to believe in itself

Mohammad Ali Kiani is well known to Sofia's cultural elite. Erudite and accurate, discreet and analytical, he has been giving his strength and energy to promoting the Iranian culture in the country for four years.

His entire professional career in Iran and around the world is linked to culture. Before coming here, in his homeland he was Deputy Director General of Cultural Affairs of the Iranians abroad, Advisor to the Deputy Minister for International Affairs at the Ministry of Culture of Iran, Director General for Administrative Affairs in the Organization for Islamic Culture and Relations, General Director of the Protocol in the same organization, adviser to the Deputy Director for political and international Affairs in the administration of the President. Outside the country he has been a cultural attaché at the Embassy of Iran in Kuwait, Deputy Advisor for Cultural Affairs at the Embassy in Syria, an expert on cultural affairs at the embassy in Karachi, Pakistan.

We met with him on the occasion of the national holiday of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to tell us more about the events of that time, for the modern achievements of his country and the activities of the cultural representation of IR Iran in Sofia, which works under his leadership.

- Mr. Kiani, on the 10th of February the Iranian nation marked the 38th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran. What does that date mean for your countrymen?

- First I want to congratulate on this happy occasion and illustrious day, all friends of Iranian culture and history, as well as the Iranian residents in Bulgaria.

On the 22nd Bachmann 1357 (11th of February 1979) the Iranian people rose up in revolution, which is considered one of the greatest evolutionary events of the twentieth century. In its uniqueness it is very different from all other world revolutions and it managed to amaze all mankind.

The Islamic revolution in Iran marked the beginning of a new section in the cultural and historical identity of the country, as it heralds a civilizational renewal covering the Islamic values and ideals and with them the fundamental culture of the Iranian nation. According to the evolutionary and historical interpretations, and according to the opinions of many researchers, the Islamic Revolution is something more than just a social phenomenon or a historical event.

In explaining the reasons for it and the rejection of the regime of Shah Pahlavi dynasty then you need to consider the following factors: the neglect of public voice, the suffocation and serious opposition to free-thinking; the relatedness of all state elements with the world's greatest powers and the lack of independence in making key government decisions; the backwardness of the country in the scientific, industrial and public work areas; the degradation and the fight of the ruling against the religion; the universal oppression and injustice in the country; the emergence of a leader with strength, majesty and sublime spiritual insight.

- You mean Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini?

- Exactly. The unique and wise leadership of Imam Khomeini, the special trust of people towards him, the specific religious and historical connection between spirituality and the people are essential for the emergence of the revolution, for the maturation of the social unrest, the spread of revolutionary ideals for the creation and promotion of revolutionary spirit and nationwide participation.

When Imam Khomeini rebelled against the actions of the government and started the fight upon societal illusions, given his charisma, deep faith of the people towards him, the built legitimacy and prestige in front of them, he managed to attract them and encourage according to the objectives of the revolution. He managed to recreate in front of the people the teachings of Islam, the meaning of the management and of the human, while explaining  the status quo - all truths that no one and no party from the then dictatorial rule have dared to clearly present, only he made it objectively, thus contributing to the awakening of the Iranian people.

Of course, this enlightening mission of Imam Khomeini was not without a price. The authoritarian regime sent him to prison, for many years he was in exile abroad. Yet the struggle of the people and of the leader of the revolution in Iran has continued.

Fifteen years were necessary to reach victory. Students and friends of the Imam, people and intellectuals in different parts of the country, gatherings and among various social strata were devoted to the enlightenment. Of course, thousands were the victims at this path, many people fell into prisons, where they were brutally tortured by the Shah's regime. Experiencing numerous difficulties and obstacles, imam Khomeini has been guiding the people’s uprising with leadership abilities, erudition and courage, and the people entering the battlefield were with such solidarity and determination, but also with bare hands and without support from other states, that no power have been  able to oppose them. In the end the Islamic Revolution won.

- You said that the revolution is unique. With what?

- During the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, world powers are in an era of detente tension and peaceful co-existence. Understanding has been reached for the construction of a bipolar block to preserve the status quo. Given the benefits that the Shah's regime gives the two great powers then, they defend it by any means until his last days. The apparent legitimacy of the Shah's rule in that period acquired such dimensions that the West defines Iran as "an island of stability". It is only natural that the battle with the dependent management, which is in its prime and enjoys the support of important global actors, is extremely difficult.

In such conditions the Islamic Revolution in Iran achieves success against the tyrannical political order with the smallest-scale bloodshed in the world’s revolutionary history and for the shortest time it achieved victory through widespread political participation and mobilization of millions of Iranians - without the intervention of political parties and only through repulsion of the armed forces of the regime by the unarmed masses.

The Islamic revolution is not of the classes, but in fully it is a revolution of the people, which was carried out without any support from outside, and despite the apparent resistance and joint efforts of the Western and the Eastern Bloc.

One of the biggest secrets of the success of our movement was that it relied on spirituality and treated all issues through spiritual views. As the fight to neutralize the class inequality is interpreted in Islamic teachings, but it is combined and accompanied by a deep spirituality. On the other hand, freedom-loving spirit is tangibly present in all Islamic tenets.

The Shia Islam is the element that inspires the revolutionaries and gives them the indomitable force for opposition to the Shah's regime. In the period of its revolution Iranians are looking for a fundamental transformation in individual and social life, in public and political life, in their thinking and their horizons. It is in Islam that they find the path to reform.

Given the faith of the revolutionary leaders in the willingness of the people and the valuation of the importance of democracy, three months after the victory of the revolution the new political rulers of the "Islamic Republic" scheduled a public referendum, which approved and legitimized them in front of the Iranian people by a majority vote of more than 98 %.

From the very beginning of its establishment, the Islamic Republic declared political neutrality with the East and the West, as well as independence from world powers. By a profound ideological change on a national scale an awakening, a movement forward and self-identification under the slogan "We can" is achieved. Despite the many difficulties through God's help and the nation’s support stability is established on the path of progress and development.

- What are the results?

- Islamic rule was established and the imposition of religious values, social justice is attained in its broadest and deepest sense in the fields of economy, politics, culture, justice and others. Class inequalities were eradicated, social discrimination was removed and conditions were created against the emergence of any tyranny and abuse of personality.

One of the sustainable pillars of the Islamic Revolution and naturally one of its main goals was freedom - so much so that one of the most important folk slogans then was "Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic". Freedom-loving is one of the hallmarks of Iranians. Therefore, regardless of all the stress and all the difficulties of the Iranian people in their history, the country has not come under foreign colonization. Naturally liberty is part of the Iranian people’s value frames. Given that inherently the revolution professes justice, fundamental obligation of government in the Islamic Republic is a reasonable respect for freedoms, creation of an open-minded society and preventing the occurrence of tyrannical environment. The constitution of the Islamic Republic has paid attention to this topic.

As a result of the revolution state independence, development and progress was achieved. Through the implementation of this mission scientific growth as well as flourishing of the individual and moral potential within the society is accomplished. The public works and the country's economy is also making progress.

- What is the bond between the Islamic revolution and the cultural achievements?

- Basically the Islamic revolution in Iran is purely cultural. Culture is one of the main pillars, to undergo significant change after the revolution. Various sections of the constitution contain interpretations on cultural objectives and achievements, positioned in front of the society.

The essence of culture in the Islamic revolution is of utmost importance, and its main manifestations can be seen with the establishment of a sense of national dignity. With the end of the Islamic Revolution and under the wise leadership of Imam Khomeini the sense of national dignity gained extra dimensions in Iranian society, particularly among the elite and youth in the areas of science, culture, sports and economy. The greatest achievement for a nation is to believe in itself and along with the positive attitude towards other countries, and using their experience, to trust in its own abilities.

The cultural policies of the governance in the Islamic Republic are aimed at: the Islamic worldview and anthropology, based on respect for human greatness; spirituality and the power of faith; goodwill; improvement; idealism; striving for independence; freedom and self-esteem.

Today the important matters that engage the universities, the laboratories, the research and industrial centers - especially in the fields of science, technology, but also in the cultural and social processes, include awareness of the own considerable national dignity conditions of which were created during the cultural revolution.

From this we can conclude that the Islamic Revolution paved the way for scientific and cultural progress, for raising the level of social science and knowledge and for establishing research and entrepreneurship among the Iranian society. Also in the context of the consolidation of a sense of self-confidence, belief and scientific boldness, removing the feeling of inferiority before foreign powers, the use of its own scientific potential, the imposition of a culture of independence and collectivism and eradication of  the culture of passivity, the Revolution gave importance to the diversification of cultural traditions, analytical foundations and cultural transformations. By the revival of major Iranian-Islamic values ​​it proceeded to reinforce cultural identity and national unity. It also launched a cultural policy based on initiative, creativity and responsibility, and through the rise of scientific achievements and knowledge of faith and spirituality, contributed to the strengthening of the prestige of Free Thinking, religion and innovation, to the removal of rigidity and prepared the ground for intellectual, cognitive and civic progress in the country.

According to the views of the Islamic revolution great emphasis is given on good relations with other countries for peaceful coexistence amid the established global security. The Islamic Republic has consistently valued friendly relations with other countries. As a country that personally touched tyranny and colonialism and during the years following the victory of the revolution it has been the target of terrorist attacks in the broadest sense, it never aspired to oppressive relationships and always opposed against any aggression, dictatorship and manifestation of terrorism. This is considered as the deepest foundation of the revolution.

At the same time, there are countries that historically have never worsened their relations with Iran, on the contrary – they have always maintained peaceful relations based on respect. Contacts with these countries are a priority for the management of the Islamic Republic.

Bulgaria is among the countries that intrinsically have positive relations with Iran. Of course, our common cultural past and current positive attitude of  the Bulgarian government and the people, additively form and contribute to our healthy interstate relations.

- We should note that our relations in the cultural field are good. The cultural representation of IR Iran in Sofia held a number of bright events in 2016...

- Yes, the past year has been eventful. Among the most important events I can point the "Week of Iranian Literature and Poetry", the meeting with Iranian and Bulgarian poets in the National Library "St. Cyril and St. Methodius", the participation of Bulgarian teachers in the International Book Fair in Iran. There was a "Week of Childhood Friendship" with children from Iran and Bulgaria. We participated in the festival "The Way of the Carpet". Iranian musical groups participated in international festivals in Bulgaria. Students majoring in Iranian studies at the Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" went on training in Iran.

The cultural representation participated in the film festivals, Sofia MENAR Film Festival and "Love is Folly", within which more than 11 Iranian films with Bulgarian subtitles were shown, as well as in the International Book Fair in Sofia. Last year we held a number of conferences and published many books.

- What can the Bulgarian society expect in 2017?

- During the new year it can expect as full a program, as we had in the past. In 2017 start the preparations for celebrating the 120th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Iran and Bulgaria. Moreover, a conference will be held,entitled "Cultural Dialogue between Iran and the Balkans". This year we will again participate in film festivals and charity bazaars.

- Forthcoming is your holiday Nowruz. How are you going to celebrate it?

- We will mark Nowruz with a celebration, which will be attended by Iranians living in Bulgaria, and friends of the Persian language and culture. For the holiday we have invited a musical group from Iran. Traditionally we will arrange the table and the so-called "Haft Seen" (The Seven "S"), on which seven dishes must be present whose names begin with the letter "s". They are a symbol of fertility, abundance, health and beauty.

If I may, I would like to thank warmly the Diplomatic Spectrum for their attention.


Photo: personal archive of Mr. Kiani