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December 03, 2003

How Iran Can be Saved
Guest Author: Eswin Oakman

thoreau and civil disobedience The heated debate arising from the recent contribution of Hossein Derakhshan can be considered a wake-up call for those who still try to apply post-23 of May Frameworks to the realities of politics in Iran. The present inquiry would present that the controversy over Derakhshan's analysis is closely related to his "perception" of "reality" and his proposed way of "dealing with it". His vision to achieve a strong Iran is premised upon the inevitability of a conservative take-over of the Executive and Legislative branches. Accordingly, it is better to embrace "Neo-Conservatives" since inevitably "Some Conservatives" are posed to win anyways, and "hope" they, whom Derakhshan poorly define their new-conservative brand, will save Iran. That is why his question is: "Can Neo-Conservatives save Iran?" However, if the basic premise of a vision for a strong Iran would be based upon democratization and achievement of a responsible government, perhaps, the question would be presented differently: "How Iran can be saved?" rather than "Can Neo-Conservatives save Iran?"

The question of "How Iran can be saved?" is directly connected to two questions. How the dynamics of the Conservatives' hegemony preservation have worked and how such methods should be confronted?

Two major hegemony preservations strategies used throughout the past fifteen years are of note: development of "constantly adjusting survivalist patterns", and taking advantage of "renewing high-expectations and new-expectations promoting schemes".

From the second year of Khatami’s first administration, a new pattern of confrontation and control began to emerge. Keeping the leadership of the reform movement hostage, through the arrest of the major troublemakers, many of them former allies of the present leadership in the early stages of the Islamic Republic themselves, caused the reformist movement irretrievable damages in strategy development and mobilization.

Civil disobedience never became a strong and fundamental strategy of the reformists and they invested much of their hope in being able to reform the government through elections and capturing the seat of government. The grassroots' tier of the democratization, the student movement, was thus never used as a pressure tool to demand constitutional reforms. In fact, the reformists remained throughout hopeful that playing by the rules of the game will score them more popular support and the rationalization of the process will cause divisions in the ranks of the conservatives. They have been so far proven to be wrong on both counts.

First, as reforming the government received much resistance from the institutions controlled by the Conservatives, mainly the Judiciary and the Guardian Council, popular support for the reform plunged. People's frustration became quite evident as the low voter turnout won the Conservatives a landslide victory in the latest local municipality elections. Second, the resolve of the conservatives has been strengthened to put a more legitimate face on their politics by posing to win with a landslide, and perhaps a very low turnout, in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in the next two years.

The wheel of the reform is already being rolled back and this should be a cause for concern as corrupt patterns of administration, rentiering practices in governance, and legitimized repression will exponentially increase as each day passes, i.e. tightening the Conservatives' grip further and further.

Civil disobedience, active through demonstration or passive through boycotting is just one tactic in the grand scheme of a much needed strategy for resistance against an ever unfolding pattern of lack of peace, order, and good governance.

The flaw in Derakhshan’s analysis is that he attempts to keep his poorly defined "neo-conservative" politics variable constant from other conservatives. His analysis is at best a victim of wishful thinking for a change of heart amongst those who used to be regarded as hard-liners. If conservatives (or the new ones) were conservative enough according to the Western definitions, as opposed to adventurist and revolutionary, Iran had already started the path of development through, for example, establishing "full" diplomatic relationship with the US; a process that took the Communist China almost ten years to complete without needing to fundamentally change its power apparatus.

Here, the New-Conservative alternative, which can be either proposed by Laridjani or even possibly by the former Revolutionary Guard Commander Gen. Rezai, as possible Presidential candidates, accords with another survival scheme developed by the regime. This scheme is what I have alluded to in the above as Renewing High-Expectations/New-Expectations Promoting Schemes. People are encouraged to lend their hope to yet another "change of guard", this time however to no avail. After the bankruptcy of the Reform enterprise, it is highly unlikely that the New-Conservatives' promises can be substantial enough and/or have the capacity of being translatable to any further opening of the public space.

In fact, their agenda has been always the reverse. From the economic perspective, their most viable economic schemes may receive the blessing of those who once ran on a platform of "Development through Commerce" and have the latter introduced in a new disguise. The Neo-Conservatives will not be able to remain aloof to the pressures of the "supremely" supported hard-line vigilantes (Dehnamaki-AllahKaram faction). This group, supported by other hard-line factions, i.e. Askar Oladi Group inc., indeed would like to see further crackdown on the freedoms achieved under Khatami; the long list of issues that the vigilante hard liners would like to see restored to pre-23 May 1997 include: scaling up censorship on artistic endeavors in filmmaking and theatre, authorship and journalism, as well as private engagements such as mixed male-female wedding celebrations. The list also includes scaling up screening the process of selection of professionals for any position in governmental organizations. A new pattern of migration of the intellectuals, technocrats, artists, and educated youth is naturally expected to develop.

Viewed from such a perspective, the hope for a sustainable development scheme for Iran under the conservatives does not offer a picture that would be very different from the one they already presented in the pre-Khatami era. Now, the question is whether those who are committed to the realization of political freedoms, a transparent and accountable system of government for all Iranians (an inclusive concept as per all Iranians inside and outside Iran regardless of their political orientation), can form a united front for the salvation of the Iranian state.

The question now, is not just courage, which is necessary; the question is the existence of resolve for collective action.

Eswin Oakman von Falkenhausen was born an orphan from a German, British, and Iranian background on 1971. He was raised in Iran and spent most of his childhood in North of Tehran. He later studied history in political science in England and is currently residing in Canada.
Comments
mason at December 3, 2003 07:14 PM [permalink]:

If Derakhshan can be considered a spokesperson for the Iranian youth, or at least a large segment of the Iranian youth (which he implicitly claims), then it becomes quite evident that Iranians lack both the "courage" and the "resolve" to better their situation.

hazhir at December 3, 2003 08:12 PM [permalink]:

I think Derakhshan's post is hinting the fact that many people see the dominance of some conservative faction inevitable. Therefore, one way to keep hope, make sense of situation, and maybe come up with acceptable alternatives is to outline a good scenario with his neo-conservatives.
Many will agree with the points Eswin raised in this posting to doubt about such prospect. However, considering the evidence and recent trends among Iranian population I think the hope for a grassroot, collective action to emerge is no less wishfull thinking than looking for a conservative savior!

blockhead at December 4, 2003 02:16 AM [permalink]:

mason:
> If Derakhshan can be considered a
> spokesperson for the Iranian youth

Are you trying to make up the funniest joke of the year?!

> or at least a large segment of the Iranian
> youth

Stop!.. pleeease... you are killing me of laughter...

> ... Iranians lack both the "courage" and
> the "resolve" to better their situation.

"courage", yes, they're loosing their courage, ...unfortunately.
But, the people, if they can find more than one alternatives, they can resolve between worse and the worst!

An Iranian Student (AIS) at December 4, 2003 02:22 AM [permalink]:

"Now, the question is whether those who are committed to the realization of political freedoms, a transparent and accountable system of government for all Iranians (an inclusive concept as per all Iranians inside and outside Iran regardless of their political orientation), can form a united front for the salvation of the Iranian state."


With all due respect, what are you talking about?
Saving WHAT state?! in what reality are you people living? There is only -and I mean only- one realistic and realizable solution to Iran's problem and that is the fall of this regime, and it won't happen through any kind of 'reform' or anything of that kind. If the Nazi Germany could have had reform, Islamic Mullahs will have one as well.
The only alternative is to help bring the situation to such an irreversible path that no foregin politcians would be willing to set any kind of hope on 'reform' or 'peaceful handling of the situation by giving compromises to the more moderate mullahs' strategy or any kind of security in letting the bastards alone and in power, and instead decide to get rid of this threat for good, before things get really, I mean REALLY, ugly.

The risks are getting higher and higher by the day for people in Iran. Here is what the 'real' world politics could become in near future:

http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/11/Threeconjectures.shtml

(I got the link from 'Setting the wolrd to Rights')

blockhead at December 4, 2003 02:24 AM [permalink]:

neo-conservatisim.... mmm.... it reminds me of something.... neo-fascism?... neo-nazism??... But what's the role of 'neo-'?? They've got nothing new at all!

Kaveh Kh. at December 4, 2003 09:53 AM [permalink]:

Actually Hossein uses the term "New-" not "Neo" which implies a differentiation between the bunch in Iran and those supposedly behind the US admin'.

Dear AIS, there is another scenario and a very plausible one, which Eswin has not mentioned, but you almost gave it away...

I'm rather scared to write it under my real name though!

blockhead at December 4, 2003 11:17 AM [permalink]:

Never, nowhere, the US attack to a country has gave the people freedom and prosperity, since the US government has never done it for the welfare of the people, and won't do it for this reason in future. Remember the countries in Latin America, in which the power has alternatively handed between rather democratic governments and US-supported military regimes for a long time.

Nevertheless, I'm not against the United Nations helping the people of a country to get rid of a fascist regime, like Iran's.

Molla Loghati at December 4, 2003 11:50 AM [permalink]:

Just a punctuation point. ;)

From an English teacher's point of view, you should either remove the question mark at the end, or else switch the words "can" and "Iran" in the title.

Señor Græd at December 4, 2003 12:45 PM [permalink]:

Who is the guy in the picture?

Klik at December 4, 2003 01:49 PM [permalink]:

Click on the picture! It would be educational for you, Senior.

Señor Græd at December 4, 2003 07:00 PM [permalink]:

Right click, or left click, Klik? ;-)

So, this is the picture of Henry David Thoreau, the author of Walden and Civil Disobedience, that I have not yet read. The latter is actually on my to-read list, but I am waiting for another sign to start reading it! It's just like me. When I think highly of a book (or an essay), I keep postponing the reading of it to a time when I can give it all my attention, and I'm a slow reader.

Perhaps I shouldn't say anything before reading Thoreau's essay, but I can't resist saying this much: What do you think would be an instance of civil disobedience for the Iranian nation at this point? And why do you think that would work?

Señor Græd at December 4, 2003 07:41 PM [permalink]:

I disagree with AIS's (passionate) solution: "The only alternative is to help bring the situation to such an irreversible path that no foregin politcians would be willing to set any kind of hope on 'reform' or 'peaceful handling of the situation ..." This kind of reminds me of those who argued that for the arrival of our savior, the beloved Hidden Imam we should help fill the world with oppression, because he wouldn't come until the situation is bad enough to necessitate his re-appearance. :-) I'm not paticularly pro- or anti-mullah, but quite honestly I fail to see WHY after the collapse of the mullahs, the non-mullahs who would govern a secular Iran will be any better in term of, say, mismanagement, corruption, even freedoms, etc. I believe, notwithstanding all its shorcomings, one thing that the Islamic republic has achieved is an independence from foreign powers that did not exist in Pahlavis' era. And this, my friends, our secular rulers may easily give away...

Señor Græd at December 4, 2003 08:18 PM [permalink]:

Follow up: I would like to draw your attention to the fact that besides North American and Western European democracies (and maybe Japan) there are not many well-functioning democracies in the world. Look at Southern American countries, for example. Or even Eastern European countries wallow, if I can use this word negatively, in corruption and terrible economic situation, and surprisingly (for you!) they're not governed by the clergy. So how do we know a "democratic" Iran would have a brighter future under, well, whoever? :-)

Ordak D. Coward at December 4, 2003 09:00 PM [permalink]:

If it was not for the FreeThought's Editor's policy to post, I would have started an article on rational thinking in Iranian education.

Anyway, what Senior Grad fails to provide is to give us -- to make his comment a rational argument -- the countries that are while not democratically governed they are well-functioning. I am not attempting to argue with his judgement of which countries are democratic and which are not, neither which ones are well functioning and which not. Not, I am going to debate the relation of these two together. But to make his argument complete he needs to follow my advice.

Ordak D. Coward at December 4, 2003 09:02 PM [permalink]:

Oops, the firsst statement above should have included 'under the real name'

Señor Græd at December 5, 2003 09:21 AM [permalink]:

Could you rephrase your advice, Ordak D. Coward? I didn't get it the first time. Also, a debate on rational thinking in Iranian education would be great. You can write it as a long comment under one of Babak Seradjeh's essays which was about education, under your own name, that is, Ordak D. Coward. :-)

In any case, I guess what I was trying to say was it is simple-minded to think that by simply removing mullahs from power, Iran will be a free and prosperous (of course, I'm translating from Persian here) country. What matters most of all, may not be just whether you wear a turban or not, but having the integrity, and of course having the wisdom to lead a country towards, you know...

Senior Grad 2 at December 5, 2003 11:00 AM [permalink]:

Senior Grad, Don't you have other stuff to do in you life, except writing comments?!! Get a life baba!

Señor Græd at December 5, 2003 11:19 AM [permalink]:

My twin sister, Senior Grad 2:

Yes, I actually do have other stuff in my life to do, but I can't help writing comments. Trust me, I have tried to abandon FToI, but I have failed. I'll be better off without FToI, but I'm not yet convinced if the converse of this is true. :-)

blockhead at December 5, 2003 11:21 AM [permalink]:

Señor Græd:
> I believe, ... one thing that the Islamic
> republic has achieved is an independence
> from foreign powers ...

In more precise terms, "Islamic" republic claims that the independence has been achieved.... wow! What a great success!

Señor Græd at December 5, 2003 12:20 PM [permalink]:

Ordak D. Coward wrote"

Anyway, what Senior Grad fails to provide is to give us -- to make his comment a rational argument -- the countries that are while not democratically governed they are well-functioning."

Mullahs have a saying in Arabic that due to old age has been wiped out from my memory, but in modern terms you can put it this way: If P implies Q, then Q does not necessarily imply P.

Let's get it straight, then. Once and for all: I am all for democracy, even though I understand that my reasons may not be sufficient. So I am by no means claiming that there is a better way, or that at least *I* know a better way, for governing a country than doing it democratically. In simple terms, democracy yum yum; no democracy yikes.

What I am claiming is, to put it beautifully, Freedom Is Not Free. Democracy seems to be a rather fragile, rather than a robust, system. It needs to be nurtured constantly. Based on that I find it my duty to combat the ideas such as if and when all mullahs are removed from the power then we will be automatically better off.

This kind of attitude which very easily finds its staunch adherers among the ones who are looking for simple answers to difficult questions (Q: What caused all the havoc? A: Turban-wearing mullahs.) is especially supported by those who hunger for power and do not really care about what will happen to people inside Iran. (I am especially reminded here of some Iranians in LA who provoke Iranians to go to streets and get themselves killed so they can basically go back to Tehran and enjoy the rest of their interrupted party with oil's money. Recently, even Dariush sang a heroic song in that direction, which was pretty funny coming from a pathetic drug addict like him.)

"I am not attempting to argue with his judgement of which countries are democratic and which are not, neither which ones are well functioning and which not."

Why aren't you?! We're here to debate, after all, and thus shape our opinions based on the outcome of these debates, rather than taking it all personally. Let me furnish an example. Take Poland. The country has a (nominal?) democracy, but there's a lot of corruption going on. People are struggling with poverty, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, I don't know much about other democracies, but you may be able to find more countries with a democratic system that are not functioning all that well than the countries *with* democracy that *are* functioning well.

So I guess my point was simply this: even after we embrace democracy in words, after either all the "bad" mullahs are removed, or after a good number of influenctial mullahs accept democracy as *the* way to govern the country, we will still have a long long way to go. Don't you agree?

Señor Græd at December 5, 2003 12:45 PM [permalink]:

Senior Grad II wrote: "Get a life baba!"

I just went there to get a life, but they were out of it. So here I am again. Sorry, SG2.

I'm also sorry (not really) that I usually don't write things that fit in your conventional "intellectual" mind-frame, and as a result, more often than not, I have a hard time getting my points across. God, communicatiing with fellow human beings turned out to be harder, much harder indeed, than we all thought it was supposed to be.

I don't know how I can alleviate the frustration I sense in your words. Don't you think it's great that someone as original as yours truly, ahem, take you seriously enough to share with you his viewpoints that challenge you to re-think your much-cherished preconceptions? No?

shabang at December 5, 2003 01:00 PM [permalink]:

the writer who wrote

""""""
With all due respect, what are you talking about?
Saving WHAT state?! in what reality are you people living? There is only -and I mean only- one realistic and realizable solution to Iran's problem and that is the fall of this regime, and it won't happen through any kind of 'reform' or anything of that kind. If the Nazi Germany could have had reform, Islamic Mullahs will have one as well.
The only alternative is to help bring the situation to such an irreversible path that no foregin politcians would be willing to set any kind of hope on 'reform' or 'peaceful handling of the situation by giving compromises to the more moderate mullahs' strategy or any kind of security in letting the bastards alone and in power, and instead decide to get rid of this threat for good, before things get really, I mean REALLY, ugly.

The risks are getting higher and higher by the day for people in Iran. Here is what the 'real'
"""""

nailed it write.

Unless you have lived under mullah rule, you will have a hard time knowing what mullahs (the good the bad and the ugly of them all) are. Reform?? Please, in a system where a human being peceives him/herself as the sign of God to lead us all? reforsm with the mullah regime? that will never happen

Eswin Oakman von Falkenhausen at December 8, 2003 02:30 PM [permalink]:

Dear Freethoughts Visitors, the following is a summarized response to the comments posted concerning my article. I appreciate your feedback and you can email me if you would like to discuss them further. Unfortunately, I am on a field trip far away from Canada and I was not able to get to this earlier:

Fifty years ago, this week marked the first post-28 Mordad 1953 Coup in Iran.

This was perhaps the first largest civil protest mobilized and launched by university students. In fact, it can be called the day that students proved to the Pahlavi regime that they are a force to be reckoned with in their own right.

Looking at the pictures of the protests that were held for the celebration of this day in Tehran, http://www.nitv.tv/gallery/azar16, me a long pause.

As I mentioned in the previous posting (How Iran Can be Saved), Iranian students have shown a great deal of potential in influencing the political process in Iran. They seem to be an important actor whose activism and potentials has disturbed the Conservative Ruling Establishment for quite some time.

I am glad to see that their determination to stay the course is still there.

I also would like to note that I never suggested, in my article, that democracy should be preferred to fascism (I am using the term fascism to characterize any type of authoritarian regime whose major tool in governance is coercion and repression and is opposed to any of the 15 models of the Western European and North American liberal democratic systems as "they stand". My comments did not also go to the point as to whether fascists (clergy or non-clergy, Islamists, Stalinists or Nazis) are better in governing or worse.

My major point in the article was that civil disobedience never became a fundamental strategy for the reformists.

The second point was that I have no reason to believe that New Conservative who Derakshan considers a less worse "in the long run" will perform better than the reformists now. In fact, I argued that the New Conservatives will not be able to offer any new face from what they had pre-1997.

Third, I posed my suggestion for resorting to civil disobedience in the interrogative. I did not suggest that there is resolve for civil disobedience, I asked: we have to see if there is.

Finally, I did not suggest that I envision that any civil disobedience mobilization should ideally focus on reforming or it would be successful if it would do so. In fact, I treated the conclusion of such a possibility open-ended.

To reiterate my point, I would like to emphasize that it is for those who are concerned with the establishment of a "responsible government" inside and outside of Iran and of any "political orientation" to see if they can unite, i.e. to have the resolve, and to resort to civil disobedience.

As those who would one day mobilize en masse for disobedience engage in the process, I am confident, they will decide what the "conclusion should be".

Their courage and resolve, then, I will duly admire.

Eswin Oakman at December 8, 2003 02:46 PM [permalink]:

The website that I have cited does not include the latest pictures, and I posted it being under the impression that it was the latest one, as I was told. I am sorry about the confusion, but the organizers have promised to post the pictures soon.

I would dutifully cite the BBC for the time being:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/story/2003/12/031207_a_mb_iran_16azar.shtml

Also:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/story/2003/12/031208_a_mb_soroush.shtml

— Koorosh at February 10, 2004 02:47 AM [permalink]:
January 12, 2004, 9:07 a.m. Out of Misery, Hope An open letter to President George W. Bush. By Koorosh Afshar Dear Mr. President, I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. And while the year has gotten off to an unfortunate start for my fellow Iranians, I remain hopeful that this will be, at last, a year of peace and freedom for all the nations of the world. So far, my freedom-loving peers and I have, in our struggle to be heard, skipped over statesmen and governments and appealed directly to the people. We have done everything in our power to convince the world's ordinary citizens — people like us — to lend a hand in freeing our homeland from the reign of a small and corrupt, but armed, mob. Yet we have finally decided to make one exception: We have decided to write to you. I write on behalf of my beloved friends — the ones abducted months ago who are still missing; the ones shackled in the theocratic regime's torture cells; the girls raped and tortured on the nights before their executions by Islamic thugs; the ones buried in mass graves. Yet I write most of all on behalf of all of us who aspire to a free and democratic Iran. Mr. President, we appreciate the generosity of your resolve in helping the Iranian nation heal one of its many wounds. We treasure this kindness, which we consider an example of America's compassionate attitude toward the Iranian people. Thank you very much, Mr. President; and thank you, all the American people! You have soothed and calmed the pain of this most recent suffering, and we drew strength as we saw that you were, once again, there to support us. But amid all the scenes of misery, you may have missed something. You may not have noticed that the disaster in Bam was like a final shot in the skull of a moribund people, for whom life (as most in the West know it) ceased decades before the earthquake. Like millions of other Iranians, they never had the chance to experience that sacred trio of rights: to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness. Most knew nothing but misery, and liberty was the stuff of dreams. Now, thanks to the earthquake, they can no longer claim even life. Mr. President, we may be able to rebuild the ancient citadel of Bam. But how can we ever hope to rebuild the devastated minds and spirits of those children who have lost their parents, or their siblings, to the darkness of bloodthirsty tyrants? How can we buy back the totally ruined lives of the Iranian teenage girls sold to neighboring countries? Please understand our anguish, and our frustration: Iranian lives matter little to some of your European counterparts, and even to some of your opponents in America. Sir, please remind Secretary Powell that even the thought of negotiating with the mullahs is absolutely futile. Khatami and Khamenei are both against the Iranian people. And consider another example of political corruption that might be useful to your administration — look at what happened in Bam. President Rafsanjani had constructed a gigantic complex there called Arg-e-Jadid-e-Bam, meaning "The Modern Citadel of Bam," for the workers and foreign staff of one of his many factories in Iran. Of course, the "Modern Citadel" was not destroyed in the earthquake; not one person was injured there. It's too bad Mr. Rafsanjani couldn't be bothered to ensure such modern, rigorous building codes for the rest of Bam: Tens of thousands of died; one out of every two people in the c ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Wessie at February 10, 2004 11:41 AM [permalink]:

Many of your compatriots on this website tell us to "Leave you alone," Koorosh. They feel American interference is not wanted. The U.S. has been damned around the world for interfering in Iraq. We have unleashed more Islamic terrorists as a result of the poorly planned Iraqi action.

Besides, we cannot afford, literally, to free every country in the world. Even the U.S. is not that wealthy. It is my opinion that Iranians themselves must do more to stand up to the mullahtocracy. They cannot murder every single Iranian. If the people moved en masse things would change.

The West can only guide you and be an example; we cannot make a revolution for you.

Wishing you much luck.

Wessie