Green Years ...

Friday, February 18, 2005

Reformist’s Struggle in Iran

Since 1997 that Khatami was elected as the president in Iran by the incredible vote of above 70% (among above 90% of people who actually voted), the hope for lots of changes began to grow inside and outside Iran for political changes and increasing freedom. After Khatami’s interview with CNN in 1997, where he called U.S. people to open a friendly dialog, the hope in West increased that the disastrous U.S.-Iran relationship was going to be solved very soon.

Today after passing 7 years, the situation is not what it was expected, but worse. You may wonder why and how Khatami was ineffective?

I believe that to see the struggle, there are different reasons:

When Khatami was elected in 1997, he and his allies, which consisted of ordinary people and some semi-party political groups, were not actually ready to win the election. They didn’t believe that they were going to win Iran’s election by that historic results. They were saying in their interviews before and after election, that they wanted to prevent the hardliners to get the whole 100% power in the country. It was about 10-14 days before election day that everything was changing in Khatami’s favor.

In Iran, there was no real political party. It has a historic reason, because of a long run of kingdom since more than 2000 years ago, the need for actively participating in political process was not practiced long enough. More importantly, while some brave people during the last 50 years were active in the politics, they were always ended to be killed including the 1953’s coup, the 1953-1979 kingdom of Pahlavi, 1979-revolution, ....

Right after revolution, there were hundreds of different political parties growing very fast, but unfortunately this situation didn’t last, because of, I believe, nature of revolution. Some people who were kind of key in revolution were killed by some of the others. (Like French revolution that the first revolutionists were killed by some of the others). The Constitution of the country was made after months of thinking, discussing, and finally voting by the people. Except some of the principles, most of the Constitution was still progressively and open-mindedly written.

Then the US-backed attack of Iraq under Saddam Hussein to Iran happened in 1981, an unfortunate event that helped government in Iran to completely shut every political freedom in the name of security. The 1981-89 terrible Iran-Iraq war basically damaged every political process for growing freedom in Iran. After the war, Khomeini died in 1990, and then there was a hidden step-by-step change in the key elements of power in the country.

Some of the very conservative, superficially religious, and very powerful groups started to gain the power in every aspect in the country. They were among those conservatives that Khomeini did not let them to grow till he was alive, who were later became famous as hardliner conservatives. They changed the Constitution in 1990 and added some other parts into it, that later it showed its effect in every aspect of the country. They basically increased the power of Supreme Leader and decreased the power of President.

In the first Constitution, the Supreme Leader was controlled by an elected Experts Assembly who could even force him to resign. After selecting a Supreme Leader that was among themselves (Khamenei), they made another law that the candidates for membership in the Experts Assembly would be allowed to participate its election, if they could pass a 12-member Guardian Council, who was cyclically selected by the Supreme Leader. Some of the lawyers and reformists, at the time, complained about this cycles in power, but the hardliners had the Supreme Leader and other powers in their side and just shut those voices.

In 1997, when Khatami was elected, after 2-3 years, Iranian public could deeply feel the effects of those changes made in the Constitution, the very high power of the Supreme Leader.

Khatami came to the power with the hope of gradual change of this situation. But in spite of his thoughtful and careful steps, the power and control of the hardliners over military, economic charities (as a financial source for hardliners), main media, and Judiciary system, that was indeed based on the 1990’s constitution helped the hardliners to be able to resist Khatami and his 70% allies of people.

There was still hope that this situation could be changed if this step-by-step change could be helped by the outsider world. In the Clinton’s period, the help to reformists in Iran was verbally and diplomatically great and smart. Madeline Albright’s statement, that apologized for 1953’s coup in Iran and Clinton's different positive messages that were mostly responded positively by Iranian reformist counterparts, were helping reformists against hardliners in Iran. But the US situation didn’t last, and in 2001 election, Republicans grabbed the power. Furthermore, after 9/11, the situation became worse for reformists in Iran. Because of military environment around Iran, hardliners had enough excuse to shut down every small political freedom that existed over there, in the name of security.

So in some sense, the 9/11 in the US, had helped the hardliners to be more powerful in Iran and be able to harden the political process again. I believe if Democrats were in power in the US in 2001 election, the US-Iran relationship had been solved by now.

Anyhow, now the situation is worse than ever. I still believe that military action just delays the political process in Iran. After a possible war, some other non-democratic, and probably non-religious groups would finally get the power, and the process of demanding political freedom just will delay.

On the other hand, if US could use the diplomatic language and pressure to force the hardliners to give more freedom to people, it would be great for the sake of reform in Iran. The thing that is very unlikely to happen, because whoever that believes in freedom would be able to do such things but current US administration, I don’t think, really believes so.

But let’s be optimistic and hope that the situation gets somewhat that it will happen.


At 1:08 AM, Blogger Ottawa Dude said...

The struggle is simple to understand.

There are bad men who want to do things their way , and if you don't like it they will kill you.

The people hate this , but they don't hate it enough to rise up and change things.

Change is always dangerous. The Cost of change is always blood. It's never free. And it's something that cannot be handed to you on a silver platter.

When you look at Iraq in this light, you see the primrary problem faced by the USA is not Freeing the Iraqi people, but making them stand up and free themselves.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Green Mind said...

Ottawa dude:

What I was going to say is that the way to proceed to a stable democratic country does not go through neither war nor blood, but cultural change, informational revolutionary. Then without any blood, the change will happen.

Cultural revolutionary is deeper and more stable than simply some actional form of revolution.

You said: "but they don't hate it enough to rise up and change things", I think what people are more afraid than blood is the result. Because during the last 50 years there was a lot of war, revolution, and actional change, but after each of them, since the cultural preparation had not been happened yet, came back to some sort of non-democratic government, with different face. Like as an example, the 1979 revolution was a revolution, as many people don't know, to to build a free country, becuase of one-party non-democratic kingdom of Pahlavi, but after revoultion, some part of the winner took it over, and many think that the reason was people wanted an Islamic country. But Freedom was and is one of the first priority since 1903 revolution in Iran.

At 1:53 PM, Blogger Ottawa Dude said...

I think what you fail to understand is that the people in power will not give up power willingly. They never do. "Cultural Change", or any kind of "Hate the people in power, but don't fight them" works for them, not against them.

Because now they get to repeat Tiamin Square (executing peaceful protesters and then making up stories about it all) ,or impose their religous law that says it's ok to kill those not of their relgion's, etc.

The people in power will kill to protect their power. Without hesitation. And think nothing of executing "the common man". Only in a western democracy is "the common man" granted any dignity. In Most middle eastern countries they are nothing but "cannon fodder" to be used and abused and killed at will.

Peaceful revolution doesn't work when the powers that be will round up the "peaceful rebels" accuse them of false crimes , put up fake stories on the newspapers and televlisions, and then execute them.


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