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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.

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