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Islamic Revolution as a lesson for the whole world: 40 years of Iranian achievements

Imam Khomeini

At the beginning of February, millions of Iranians have started the 10-Day Dawn celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution, which overthrew the monarchy of the US-backed Pahlavi regime. The annual celebration is held between 1 and 11 February (22 Bahman); its beginning coincides with the date of Khomeini's return to the Iranian capital after 15 years of exile, and its ending with the final collapse of the old regime and revolutionary victory. The Islamic Revolution, under the leadership of Imam Khomeini, the late founder of the Islamic Republic, established a new political system based on Islamic values and democracy.

The nationwide ceremonies kicked off a week ago and a special ceremony was held at Khomeini's mausoleum in south Tehran, with a host of senior officials as well as thousands of people from all walks of life in attendance. Another ceremony was held at Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, also in south Tehran, where Imam Khomeini delivered his first speech after the exile, in an address to five million people. Ayatollah Khamenei paid respect to Imam Khomeini and Iranian martyrs, visited Khomeini's mausoleum where he offered his prayers and recited verses from the Holy Quran. Similar ceremonies are held across Iran and in other parts of the world, including the Balkan capitals, where the Iranian embassies organized gatherings.

The Islamic Revolution is still relatively unknown in the Balkans where Iranian studies have not been developed and among the scholars there was not too much interest in the recent history of that part of the world, and the history books are still repeating obsolete interpretations given by the two Cold War blocks. According to the first, offered by the Soviets and widespread in the East Bloc countries, the revolution was interpreted as Marxist in nature, supposedly stolen by religious groups. The Soviets had their own favorites and had hoped they would become the Revolution's victors, but such factions were negligible. Millions marched through the Iranian streets carrying the billboards with Khomeini's image, not communist symbols, and the vast majority of Iranians voted "yes" to an Islamic Republic in the referendum. Bizarre claims about the "hijacked" revolution can still be heard today by some contemporary advocates of communist ideology.

The second version is much more popular and comes from the United States, frustrated with the loss of a key ally in the region, which insists on the narrative that pre-1979 Iran was a modern and prosperous country, ruined by the Islamic Revolution. This lie has been repeated for decades and amongst ignorant Westerners and it has become a sort of common sense. In reality, their model of allegedly advanced Iran included the pro-US dictatorial puppet and a corrupt government, economy entirely based on oil production and technology imports, gold reserves kept in American vaults, and more than half of the illiterate and rural population. Due to the large amounts of imported arms, they even dared to call Iran as a power, no matter the military regime was unable to preserve even internal stability. Identical types of "powers" were seen in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya, all with similar outcomes.

Fortunately, today we are less dependent on news of biased mass media than in the decades of the past century, and the Iran's real face can easily be examined by its international rankings available online. In the course of the last forty years, Iran's population has increased from 38 to over 82 million, yet at the same time Human Development Index (HDI) rose from 0.443 to 0.798. Iran overall has enjoyed the greatest growth in the HDI of any country in the UN, and the current ranking places Iran on top of the high human development category, only one place below the highest category. Life expectancy has also improved dramatically, from 54 to 76 years, thus Iran ranks 7th globally in terms of growth. The country also ranks 11th globally in terms of reducing the children's mortality rate.

In the process of drafting the economic and social development of Iran, a special emphasis was given to education and higher education as an essential ingredient for economic growth. Before the revolution, the literacy rate for Iranian males was 59% and for females calamitous 35%, but according to latest statistics this rate increased to 97% among young adults (aged between 15 and 24) without any gender discrepancy. While the above-mentioned figures are comparable to Western countries, Iran's higher education statistics are most impressive and put the country even ahead. At present Iran has roughly 4.5 million students enrolled in universities, twice as many as France, and it ranks 7th internationally, ahead of Japan. Nearly half of Iran's students are women. With 1.6 million engineering students Iran ranks 1st in the world, ahead of Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom combined. Iran also leads the world in the number of female engineering students, having twice as many as the second-ranked United States.

Investment in education also reflected on Iran's scientific development. Over the past four decades, Iran's growth rate in scientific productivity was highest globally, eleven times faster than the world's average rate. In 1979 Iran indexed only 499 scientific articles, but in 2017 that number rocketed up to 54,388. This quantitative data puts Iran ahead of all African countries combined, as the 1st in the Middle East, the 5th in Asia, and the 16th in the world. The field of chemistry in Iran was the most prolific in terms of the number of publications, followed by engineering and clinical medicine. According to the 2018 statistics, Iran ranks 4th in publishing of nanotechnology-related articles, behind only China, the USA and India.

Iran's individual achievements in science and technology are equally remarkable. Iran is the 9th country to put a domestically-built satellite into orbit, and among a handful of countries in the world capable of developing satellite-related technologies, including satellite navigation systems. Iran is also the 6th country to send animals in space, as well as among six countries that are developing manned spacecraft program. Iran is the 11th country capable of cloning animals, the 8th country capable of manufacturing jet engines, and the 6th country capable of building an experimental nuclear fusion reactor.

Over the past five years, Iranian robotics teams won the most gold medals in the RoboCup. Iranian students won numerous gold medals at the International Mathematical Olympiad, the International Physics Olympiad, and International Chemistry Olympiad. Iranian mathematician Mirzakhani was honored with the Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics, becoming the first woman ever to be honored with the award.

Iran's abilities are not limited to science and energy, the Iranian culture and art are also among the important social capacities. In recent years the success of Iranian films at international festivals, winning hundreds of prestigious awards, including two Academy Awards, worldwide retrospectives of Iranian directors and popular screenings in many major capitals, has placed Iranian cinema firmly on the map. Many film critics from around the world have praised it as one of the world's most important artistic cinemas. Iran also continues its rich literary tradition, being the 8th country in terms of publishing book titles per annum.

With immense deposits of oil and gas, Iran is now truly a global energy superpower. Due to its political influence and military capabilities based on its own industry, Iran is commonly described as a dominant power in the Middle East, even as one of eight great powers on a global scale. The Iranian industry produces virtually all, from home appliances to cars and heavy machinery. Steel production rose to above 20 million tonnes and Iran ranks as world's 10th largest producer. According to the recent FAO data, with about 12 million tons of fresh fruits and 23 million tons vegetables Iran ranks as the eighth and fifth world producer, respectively. Iran also produces almost all the pharmaceuticals it needs domestically, and at the same times keeps the prices of medicines low.

When it comes to economy, the GDP per capita is approximately $21,000, thus placing Iran in the same group of large countries as Russia, Turkey, Mexico, and Brazil, or Balkan EU members. However, there is a drastic difference in relation to all the countries mentioned - the Iranian standard is not artificial. In other words, it is not based on loans and debts, nor dependent on trade with the US-led financial octopus. Some argue that Iran's economy will shrink by 3.6% this year due to the US sanctions, before ascending again in 2020. But in fact, the alleged recession will only remove the artificial growth created by the Rouhani government over the past three years, believing that joining the Western octopus offers fast and effective economic solutions. True growth is evident from all achievements above, and none of these occurred overnight.

Ivan Kesic

Ivan Kesić is a Croatia-based freelance contributor and independent geopolitical, military and socio-economic writer. As an open-source data analyst he contributed to various regional outlets and collaborated with several government agencies in previous years. He occasionally writes articles and helps to maintain a neutral point of view in other authors' articles.