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Thursday, August 07, 2003

Dr. Azar Nafisi author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, in her interview with the Atlantic Monthly:

“The most devoted and most committed in the reform movement, the ones who made it possible for Mr. Khatami to come to power, are now in jail. And many others, mainly secular, but many committed religious dissidents too, are now dead. The journals that helped Mr. Khatami to come to power are now extinct…. I know that this country is going to change. But I'm not pinning my hope on Mr. Khatami. I think that we pay every time we become carelessly hopeful or optimistic.

The most notable reformist prisoners that Dr Nafisi talks about are Akbar Ganji, the fearless journalist who dared to shed light on the criminal activities of the high ranking clerics; Abdollah Noori, Khatami’s Interior Minister who was one of his few ministers who seemed to believe in the reforms that Khatami was promising. He offered a challenging defense in the court that was prosecuting him for what he published in his reformist newspaper “Khordad” and got convicted to 5 years in prison (he was later “pardoned” by the supreme leader), and Abbas Abdi one of the strategists of the reform movement who published poll results showing Iranian public’s desire to have normal relations with America and the rest of the world.
And the list goes on and on...

Monday, August 04, 2003

Why is Iran important

Why is Iran an important country? Why should the rest of the world care about its fate? Why is it not just an ordinary country which the rest of the word can easily ignore and go on with its life?

Iran is a big country. It’s 17th in the both lists of the world’s largest and most populous countries. Larger and almost more populated than all European countries. Its strategic location occupying the whole northern coast of the Persian Gulf has a direct effect on security of the world’s biggest energy source.

It can proudly trace back its unique identity to 2600 years ago, when the great Persian Empire was founded by Cyrus the Great. A national identity that has been strong enough to survive scores of devastating foreign attacks: Alexander the Great, Muslim Arabs, various Turkish tribes and Mongols. Iran has lost its national sovereignty in all of these military defeats but has managed the keep its identity, language and culture.

In the modern times, it has passed through periods of weakness but it never became a colony of a foreign power. Its first modern revolution (the constitutional revolution) in 1906 gave it a fairly democratic constitution at a time when very few independent countries existed in the whole Asia let alone the Middle East.

But Iran’s importance to the today’s world comes from something more important: Its popular democratic movement. Secular Iranians are struggling to finish the 100-year-old fight for democracy and independence, while devoted Iranian Muslims are trying to introduce a modern interpretation of Islam which embraces democracy. It can have a far reaching impact on 1 billion Muslims around the world.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Nearly a month ago I was contacted by a journalist working for the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo. Apparently they were preparing a report on the current situation in Iran and specially the impact of the Iranian bloggers on the recent events. This is my answer to their question about the last month’s unrests in Iranian cities

The Iranian people are utterly fed up with the current affairs in Iran. They are dissatisfied with the hybrid system of half-democracy half-theocracy that runs the country. This regime has systematically violated human rights, imposed a closed economy, isolation from the rest of the world poverty and lack of development.

In this Iranian system you can elect a president and a parliament who are second hand powers in the country, supervised by the appointed institutions representing the religious establishment. The real power in the country is the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. He controls the armed forces, security and intelligence organizations, judiciary system and various councils that can veto the parliament’s decisions.

The public desire for change, led to the popular support for president Khatami and the reformist Parliament. Khatami got elected with more than two-third of the votes in 1997 and 2001. People believed that Khatami and the Parliament could use their public support to bring about "gradual changes" in the system (Khatami was hoped to be the "Iranian Gorbachev": It’s right; he is one of “them”, but he seems to be willing to change the system for the better). They were believed to be able to put pressure on the religious appointed institutions and force them to gradually give up their powers.

The reform movement’s basic demands were democracy, free election for really powerful institutions and greater social and political liberties. It is note-worthy that Iran is probably the only Muslim country that has such a popular democracy movement. (And as a reminder, Iranians are not Arabs. They are Persians and usually get offended by being confused with Arabs). Democracy doesn't seem to be a public demand in any other Muslim country. The experience of trying to offer a democratic interpretation of Islam is new in the Islamic world and it's now being done in Iran.

However after 6 years of fierce resistance by the detested conservatives it is now clear that they will not give up any of their powers and they do not tolerate any reform at all. Therefore the strategy of the reform movement has changed to "civil disobedience" with the goal of changing the constitution for removing all the unelected powers including the post of “supreme leadership” currently being held by Ayatollah Khamenei. Recent protests in Iranian cities are clear signs of this changing strategy and everybody expects that they will get bigger and bigger.

The goal of these protests are not trying to "improve" the system any more since it has proved to be unchangeable. The goal is now to remove this corrupt regime (the so called "Islamic Republic") which has impoverisged the country and made it look bad in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Monday, July 28, 2003

How a Totalitarian Government Works: A Classic Example.

A government that is oppressing its citizens, denying their civil rights and has shown utmost disregard to its citizens’ safety in foreign countries, has suddenly become sensitive to the death of one of its “citizens” in Canada: A Canadian citizen with Iranian origin has died in a fight with the local police. 10 days later and after the Canadian government called its ambassador in Iran as a sign of protest to the death of Zahra Kazemi, the Foreign Ministry of the “Reformist Administration” has all of a sudden become interested in that event.

This is a classical example of how worthless people’s lives are in an authoritarian government. They are just “bargaining chips” for you to do your business.

Ask Mr. Khatami and he will be happy to give you a 2-hour speech about how totalitarianism is bad and Islam respects human rights; and this is how his government teams up with the killers of Zahra Kazemi to reduce the impact of her death.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

This article in the Christian Science Monitor has been one of the most informative articles I have seen about the current situation in Iran. Most articles in the mainstream media are at best a description of the current affairs, this one clarifies the correct strategies that the democracy movement should apply.

Monday, July 21, 2003

This is a courageous declaration made by the Student Association of Amir Kabir University (formerly Tehran Polytechnic). The Student Associations throughout the country are still being called “Islamic Associations” a reminder of the fact that they have been the old supporters of the religious establishment and the sole survivors of the 1980 raid to the universities which was called the “Cultural Revolution”.
Ironically they are now in the front line of democratic movement in Iran and constantly under attack.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

This part of Tony Blair’s speech in the Congress makes much sense:

“And how risible would be the claims that these were wars on Muslims, if the world could see these Muslim nations still Muslim but Muslims with some hope for the future not shackled by brutal regimes whose principal victims were the very Muslims they pretended to protect?”

Here is an example for what Mr. Blair says:
The Iran-Iraq war was prolonged for 6 more bloody years after the Iranian Army succeeded in kicking out the Iraqis in 1982. The war that ayatollah Khomeini called “The War of Islam and Infidelity” and thus supported its continuation even after the Iranian territory was completely liberated killed more Muslims (Iranian and Iraqis alike) than any non-Muslim power has ever killed.

Nearly one million people (guess what: Muslims) were killed in 8 years of this meaningless war (I never heard of any exact data). The American invasion of Iraq killed a few thousand. How disgusting is it to see Islamic Republic officials mourning the death of “our Muslim Iraqi brothers and sisters” in the hands of American imperialists? Oh yes, at that time you didn’t know that both Iranians and Iraqis were Muslims.

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