(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)
Winter is over (officially) and the first day of spring also marks the most important day in the Persian calendar, Nowruz, or Persian New Year.
Nowruz ushers in the start of a new year, filled with hope and optimism for the year ahead.
For Persians around the world, and especially those suffering under the cruel and heavy-handed regime in Iran, let us hope this Nowruz brings an end to the mullahs' reign of terror.
There are approximately 300,000 Persians living in Canada, many of whom left Iran following the Islamic Revolution in 1979. An Islamist insurgency overthrew the Shah, the King of Iran, and imposed a theocratic regime with strict Sharia Law.
Under the Islamic Republic of Iran, religious and ethnic minorities have been purged and displaced, political dissidents and gays have been systematically massacred and women’s rights have been brutally diminished.
Many fled Iran out of necessity following the revolution, including once large Jewish and Christian communities that have now been all but erased. Members of the Baha’i faith continue to be persecuted and tormented by the mullahs in Iran.
Even Muslims who do not abide by the strict Sharia code, enforced by religious police, can find themselves in jail facing long imprisonment, torture and even death.
Today, Iran is among the world’s most tyrannical places. There is no freedom, and many of its people are poor, hungry and dying.
But Iran was not always an impoverished dystopia. Prior to the mullahs and their theocratic rule, Iran was one of the world’s great civilizations.
Long before Islam, the Persian empire was an early beacon of freedom and individual rights. It is said that Cyrus the Great, Iran’s ruler in 6th century BC, brought in the world’s first written charter of rights.
Long before there was an Israel, Cyrus ordered for a Jewish temple to be re-built in Jerusalem as a home for the Jewish people.
The Persian empire offered many contributions to Western civilization, including early iterations of mathematics, chemistry, medicine, music and poetry.
Iran was once a secular, free country. Today’s Iran bears little resemblance to the Iran before the Islamic Revolution.
Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iranian women marched through the streets of Tehran to protest Islamic laws and the hijab. Today, unfortunately, these women are forced to cover their hair and shoulders while in public. They do not have the same legal standing as men.
The theocratic dictatorship transformed a great civilization into an impoverished and reclusive hellhole.
And yet, hope is not lost.
Iran remains a country of well-educated and literate people. Public opinion polls show that many Iranians hold pro-Western values and attitudes.
Many believe it is only a matter of time before Iran’s liberal citizens overthrow their despotic rulers.
The last time they tried, in June 2009...(READ MORE)