FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Iran’s Growing Reform Movement

by NORMAN SOLOMON

Iran’s most repressive clerics and the USA’s most militaristic neocons share a common interest: They’re very eager to see the failure of Iranian activism for democracy and human rights.

On the surface, no outlook could be farther from Washington’s reigning mentality than the ayatollah-led chant of “Death to America” that I heard at a big prayer service in Tehran last Friday. But the hardliners in both countries need each other. Theirs is a perverse, mutual dependency that dares not speak its name.

In Iranian politics, extreme anti-American rhetoric is part of a theocratic package that seeks to affirm and boost repression in Iran. The more hostility that the Bush administration expresses toward Iran, in word and deed, the more the reactionary clerics like it. And “Death to America” chants — as well as reports of human rights violations in Iran — are music to the ears of the Bush neocons, who are working hard to foreclose any kind of détente between Washington and Tehran.

For their own reasons, the rulers in both countries refuse to acknowledge the vital significance of support for presidential candidate Mostafa Moin, now the most prominent voice for democracy and human rights in Iranian politics. The Moin campaign drew 10,000 people to a rally at a Tehran stadium Tuesday night. A number of speakers emphasized that the campaign is aiming to lay groundwork for a movement — and this election is just the beginning.

“You are supporters of democracy,” a coordinator of the Moin campaign said at the rally. Mostly, he was speaking to young people. In fact, the average age in the stadium was probably somewhere in the mid-20s. In a country where more than two-thirds of the population is under 30 and the voting age is 15, the sands of repression could slip away beneath the aging feet of Koran-thumping autocrats.

Those autocrats may be rescued by American neocons. “As long as Iran fears America’s intentions, and the United States vilifies the Islamic Republic, Iran’s authoritarian leaders will have an excuse to suppress dissent and to label reformers as traitors,” says Christopher de Bellaigue, a correspondent for The Economist who has lived in Iran for several years. Writing in the current issue of Foreign Policy, he predicts that “a new generation of Iranians will spur further reform.”

Members of that generation energized the rally in Tehran on Tuesday — a fact that helps to explain why the youth-driven Moin campaign has major implications far beyond the June 17 presidential election. “Some 70 percent of Iran’s 70 million citizens are under the age of 30, and young Iranians are more reform-minded than older groups,” De Bellaigue points out. Even Iran’s official Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has acknowledged as much with survey data.

The Moin rally included a call for “a democratic interpretation of Islam.” Referring to the Islamic Republic of Iran, prominent activist Ebrahim Yazdi said: “We want to take a step to institutionalize the ‘republic’ part of the regime.”

While, for understandable reasons, many Iranians who’ve been disappointed at the slow pace of change are planning to boycott this election, Yazdi cautioned that not voting would play into the hands of “totalitarian” forces: “Your participation is voting for democracy and human rights.” And: “After the election, the reform movement will begin.”

A gathering of 10,000 Iranian people openly backing extensive democratization as part of an established electoral process would surprise anyone who accepts overall U.S. media depictions of Iran. And I was struck by the energetic determination and clarity of democratic purpose that infused the rally. But the democracy movement in Iran is not on a roll. Campaign rallies for Iran’s incumbent reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, were much larger four years ago. The drop-off reflects deep disappointment that clerical establishment rulers have been able to largely thwart Khatami’s efforts.

Moin, an educator and medical doctor, has taken the baton from a supportive Khatami. Nearing the end of a steeply uphill race for Iran’s presidency, Moin has been speaking around the country. On the day of the rally, the Tehran Times reported Wednesday, the outspoken Moin “referred to the upcoming establishment of a Democracy and Human Rights Front in Iran to defend the rights of all Iran’s religious and ethnic groups, the youth, academicians, women, and political opposition groups whose rights are often neglected.”

And there’s more. The newspaper added: “Due to Iran’s patriarchal culture over the course of history, women’s rights have always been violated by men, he observed, adding that it is quite obvious that women should enjoy equal rights with men.”

In a country where political imprisonment and torture continue, such public statements are emblematic of a courageous movement struggling to emerge from the shadows of the Islamic Republic. Progress for that movement is a nightmare for theocrats and neocons who share deep commitments to violence and fear.

NORMAN SOLOMON’s new book is War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

 

More articles by:

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail