PART II: If you want the ultimate pleasure step on a landmine

By 1981, the war was entering a new phase. Every day we heard about the conflicts between President Bani-Sadr, who believed in strengthening the Iranian Army and limiting the power of the unorganized army of the Revolutionary Guard, and Khamenei, Rafsanjani, Beheshti and Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Rajaii, who insisted on the inadequacy of conventional military strategy and the need for the full participation of the Guard. On the other hand, the leaders of the People’s Mujahideen were beginning to question the increasing power and authority of Khomeini and the other clerics. The war would make little progress with so much internal division.

Khomeini was openly critical of Bani-Sadr’s strategy and preferred to support the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij rather than the Iranian Army. Bani-Sadr obviously opposed this stand, and that was the beginning of his downfall. Khomeini officially ordered Bani-Sadr to support the Revolutionary Guard. Bani Sadr was politically isolated. Although he attempted to join forces with the People’s Mujahideen, it was too late.

We children really thought that we had a say in all this. We were divided into two groups: those who supported Bani-Sadr; and those who supported Rajaii. None of us really knew why we had chosen one or the other: we had no idea about the real source of this conflict. But it was exciting to ‘play’ politics. During our breaks, our groups took up position on opposite sides of the yard and screamed slogans in support of our preferred leader. I didn’t know which one to support, so I moved between the two groups and my vote could easily be bought with a bit of candy or half a sandwich. This proved to be lucrative business as each group tried hard to recruit more supporters. Instead of supporting our favourite football teams, we supported our favourite politicians. The supporters of Rajaii said he was a true believer in Imam Khomeini and the ideals of the Islamic Republic and that Bani-Sadr was a traitor and a coward. The advocates of Bani-Sadr shouted that he had the votes of the people and 11 million votes meant he had the right to rule the country.

I ate a lot of free sandwiches at that time but then the headmaster forbade political demonstrations in school and I went back to bringing my own sandwiches.

In June 1981, Khomeini reclaimed the power of Commander-in-Chief. This was the signal for Bani-Sadr’s opponents to attack. Bani-Sadr escaped the police who had come to arrest him on a charge of treason. After a few days, he was impeached and disqualified in the Islamic Parliament in his absence. After a month of living in hiding, Bani-Sadr and Rajavi, the leader of the People’s Mujahideen, fled the country and ended up in Paris. It was only later that Rajavi settled in Iraq with his supporters.

This was the final bullet in the head of our dying democracy and the official launch of the reign of terror: the government outlawed all political parties except its own, the Islamic Republic Party.