Wouldn’t it be convenient if I told you that the root to all evil can be traced to one year. Like Pandora box which was opened and hell came out. You will probably think this is over melodramatic than reality can be. Well, ride on for the year of 1979.
The more I read about major events and turns into our arab recent history, I come and come again across 1979. The major cultural and social changes in all major countries had something “more than one thing actually” to do with 1979. You have to bear in mind the interacting/interconnected nature of major changes “and their influential power for that matter”, Meaning changes and upheavals in one place can “and will” start domino effect, a chain reaction if you will, of changes all over the Middle East region. Specially when you add to that mixture of changes the flavor of being religiously related + those changes taking place in most influencial countries.
I know it will be more vivid; for those who didn’t witness the era before those major event took place or those who aren’t acquainted with the recent history of our region, if I portrayed the era preceding that turbulent changes. Where our region was in totally different reality which is even hard to imagine now. We had more liberal open culture and mindset back then than we can ever hope for now. But this is another story that I may write about later on.
Now let’s dive deep into 1979; and note that events are not listed nor the story told chronologically:
I’d like to start the show with the cradle of islam, the land of the two holy mosques, ladies and gentlemen… Please take your seat:
Seizure of Mecca Grand mosque
The seizure was led by Juhaiman ibn Muhammad ibn Saif al Utaibi who with a group of 200 militants had opened fire on worshipers with automatic weapons occupying Mecca’s Grand Mosque., He declared his brother-in-law Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani to be the Mahdi “an awaited savior”, and it came in handy that Al-Qahtani’s name is the same as that of the prophet’s, and of course the attack date November 20, 1979, was the first day of the year 1400 in the Islamic calendar, which according to one Hadith, was the day that the Mahdi would be revealed. How convenient!
Juhaiman began advocating a return to the original ways of Islam, among other things; a repudiation of the West; an end of education of women; abolition of television and expulsion of non-Muslims.” He proclaimed that “the ruling Al-Saud dynasty had lost its legitimacy, because it was corrupt, ostentatious and had destroyed Saudi culture by an aggressive policy of Westernization.” now that’s something huge, to question the legitimacy of the royal dynasty which drove it’s legitimacy out of applying the Sharia “islamic law” and being the protector of the purest form of islam. That’s like taking the beating heart out of someone’s chest. That’s something Al-Saud won’t tolerate because it means the end of their reign.
The seizure shocked the Islamic world as hundreds of pilgrims present for the annual hajj “pilgrimage” were taken hostage, and hundreds of militants, security forces and hostages caught in crossfire were killed in the ensuing battles for control of the site. The siege ended two weeks after the takeover began with militants cleared from the mosque. They were driven out by French commandos (allowed into the city under these special circumstances despite being non-Muslims) after bloody fighting that leaves 250 people dead and 600 wounded.
Following the attack, the Saudi solution for preventing similar crisis form ever happening again, they reasoned they must be stricter than those threatening their reign by going heavy on enforcement of “Islamic code, thus demolishing any excuses for rebellion”. A decision will cause Saudi to pay dearly not that long after.
Now when I say that saudi arabia adopted & implemented a stricter enforcement of islamic code which is the Wahhabi interpretation of islam, that’s something more profound than I can explain in words, It’s falling from the sky mind blowing heart stopping serious &profound and more importantly influential. Simply for two reasons: first and foremost is that saudi arabia is the center of the islamic nation, where it all started and where all muslim look for guidance and an example to follow. Muslims allover the world regard it as the holiest and the most pure of all. And when they adopt this puritanical creed then it’s automatically the right thing to do for all the muslim out there. Bummer, ha. The other thing is the now oil rich saudi was the place to go for work for all the impoverished neighboring countries, “egypt, sudan, tunisia, Lebanon, jordan, syria, Palestine, india, pakistan, Bangladesh… You name it”. And when those poor expatriates went to work there they were proselytized to the Wahhabi creed of islam. The real bombs were to explode when they finally returned back home, they started preaching the same puritanical creed to their local society propagating the closed-minded ideology and spreading the Wahhabi virus. It’s painful even to write about it.
As if that wasn’t enough, grace yourself for…. Drums please:
2. The Return of Khomeini to Iran:
A little bit of a history is in order,
“Demonstrations against the Shah commenced in October 1977, developing into a campaign of civil resistance that was partly secular and partly religious, and intensified in January 1978. Strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the country. The Shah left Iran for exile in mid-January 1979, and in the resulting power vacuum two weeks later Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran to a greeting by several million Iranians. The royal regime collapsed shortly after on February 11 when guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting. Iran voted by national referendum to become an Islamic Republic on April 1, 1979. and to approve a new theocratic constitution whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country, in December 1979. replaced a modernizing monarchy with a theocracy based on Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (wilait alfaqeh)”
On November 5, 1979, Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, sacked its offices, and captured hostages. The next morning in Islamabad’s serene diplomatic quarter near the university, local Iranians draped their embassy with provocative banners denouncing the United States and calling for a global Islamic revolution against the superpowers. Kicking the American big dog was an easy way to unite Islamist believers and nonbelievers alike.
In my mind the Khomeini return was as significant as the Mecca seize because it gave way to the dream of establishing an islamic state. All the zealots out there thought “wow… It’s attainable”. his fire-breathing triumph jolted all the fanatics, igniting campuses in fevered agitation. Khomeini’s minority Shiite creed was anathema to many conservative Sunni Islamists, but his audacious achievements inspired “Muslims” everywhere.
3.Pakistan “the backdoor”
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (pakistani former prime minister) was sent to the gallows in April 1979 by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, (the pakistani president who overthrew ruling Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a bloodless coup on 5. July 1977. He initially ruled as Chief Martial Law Administrator, but later installed himself as the President of Pakistan in September 1978). Zia-ul-Haq canceled elections and tried to quell domestic dissent. Shunned abroad and shaky at home, he began to preach political religion fervently, in an effort to develop a grassroots political base in Pakistan. In the years to come,
On October 21, 1979, Zia announced that he intended to establish a genuine Islamic order in Pakistan. Earlier in the year he had approved Islamic punishments such as amputations for thieves and floggings for adulterers. Though they turned out to be largely symbolic announcements since the punishments were hardly ever implemented. Still, they signaled a new and forceful direction for Pakistan’s politics. Conveniently, since he had just aborted national polls, Zia noted that in Islam there is no provision for Western-type elections… It’s amazing how religious interpretation can and do come in handy with our pious beloved dictators.
Now, let’s connect the dots to demonstrate how interconnected and interacting those colossal changes were: a false radio reports from the Ayatollah Khomeini that the Americans had occupied the Grand Mosque in Mecca, lead to attacks on the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan by mobs and was set on fire, killing americans in the process. The same happened in Iran.
Also; Iran hostage crisis: Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini urges his people to demonstrate on November 4 and to expand attacks on United States and Israeli interests. Iran hostage crisis begins: 3,000 Iranian radicals, mostly students, invade the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and take 90 hostages (53 of whom are American). They demand that the United States send the former Shah of Iran back to stand trial.
4. Camp david
President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel signed a peace treaty that was denounced by all arab leaders at that time sending Egypt into a state of Isolation, but more importantly giving way to all egyptian islamic insurgents “like the islamic group of Omar Abdulrahaman, Al-jihad of Ayaman Alzawahri” to declare the Egyptian regime “and all Egyptian for that matter” as Infidels and apostates, backed by Said Kutob ideology who regarded governments that doesn’t implement the Sharia as infidel regime that must be violently abolished. That eventually led to the Sadat assassination by 1981.
5. Herat “Afghanistan”:
This is going to sound like history lesson… Well, that’s exactly what it is. But it’s crucial for understanding the development of events leading to where we stand now. So bear the ordeal with me:
“In the early spring of 1979 religious activists inspired by Khomeini’s triumphant return carried their defiant gospel across Iran’s open desert border with Afghanistan, particularly to Herat, an ancient crossroads on an open plain long bound to Iran by trade and politics. a pious city. Oblivious, Kabul’s communists and their Soviet advisers pressed secular reforms prescribed in Marxist texts. In addition to their literacy campaigns for girls they conscripted soldiers and seized lands previously controlled by tribal elders and Islamic scholars. They abolished Islamic lending systems, banned dowries for brides, legislated freedom of choice within marriages, and mandated universal education in Marxist dogma.
A charismatic Afghan army captain named Ismail Khan called for “jihad” against the communist usurpers that March and led his heavily armed Herat garrison into violent revolt. His followers hunted down and hacked to death more than a dozen Russian communist political advisers, as well as their wives and children. The rebels displayed Russian corpses on pikes along shaded city streets. Soviet-trained pilots flew bomber-jets out of Kabul in vengeful reply, pulverizing the town in remorseless waves of attack. By the time the raids were finished, on the eve of its first anniversary in power, the Afghan communist government had killed as many as twenty thousand of its own citizenry in Herat alone. Ismail Khan escaped and helped spread rebellion in the western countryside. Long story short… The marxist soviet union felt a threats “real and imaginary” to the young communist afghani government which he is backing. That lead to… Drums please… AGAIN
6. Soviet invasion to afghanistan
December 27- 1979 The Soviet Union seizes control of Afghanistan. This is not the place to count the atrocities committed by the soviet invading troops or the clandestine anti-soviet efforts and covert CIA/arab operation and military support to the arab and afghani Mujahidin “holy worriers”. But more to the point that it was a frank invasion that lead to:
7. The call for Jihad against the soviet invasion in Afghanistan :
Now that’s a moment in time Where the world as we knew it just flipped. This a moment where all zealots, fanatics and puritanical factions from all walks of life, all over the region found their sanctuary, found their true life purpose. At that moment the name Osama Bin laden became a sounding name in the region, at least amongst the fanatics back then, as philanthropist gathering Millions of $$ for the cause and giving away his own fortune. That moment in time was so crucial for the transformation of Jihad and militant Islam into “international Jihad” through scholars like Abdulah Azam. People started to pour into Afghanistan through pakistan to join the holly war against the infidel secular godless soviet invasion. This event is so profound on so many level; It gave a public appeal and acceptance to militant islam, after all it was against invasion of the anti-muslim, anti-christ type of guys. This appeal is still found nowadays in the arab society, you can feel it when Bin Laden was killed, they regarded him as a martyr. It also supplied means and resources to the militias and guerillas that after 1989 “soviet defeat” were used against the regimes that supplied them in the first place “how ironic”, you have to put in mind that those militias can’t be idle. God they can’t even if they wanted to, they are on the move for the next target. It also was the birthplace of Al-Qaeda.
8. Iraq and Saddam Hussein:
July 16 1979 – Iraqi President Hasan al-Bakr resigns and Vice President Saddam Hussein came to power. After which the iraq-iran war was launched. That lasted 8 years making it the longest conventional war of the twentieth century. discrimination and atrocities were committed against kurds & Shiites. what we see in Iraq right now “conspiracy theory put aside” is partly an act of retaliation against the wrong target. driving Iraq into a sectarian civil war.
Ladies and gentlemen, that was quite a ride. And unfortunately pandora’s box was opened. All our hopes right now in the midst of the new colossal shifts taking place in the middle east that the box will be closed again, and balance will be restored. I hope the freedom we aspire to in the arab spring will redeem us. I hope liberty will bring us logic and critical thinking back again, cleansing every trace of all sorts of totalitarian authoritative regimes.