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January 12, 2004

Reform Project: 1997-2004
Kaveh Khodjasteh  [info|posts]

vote.jpgIt is becoming clear now, very clear. Iran's most democratic government in the last 50 years[1] is going down the drain. Could anyone have found a funnier caricature of democracy in the modern world?

What makes Iran so unique in this respect is the juxtaposition of hope, apathy, diplomatic activism, internal unrest, conflicts in the region, economic waves of oil price fluctuation, a tragic earthquake out of nowhere and a sad but skilled display of power by the organic parts of the Iranian government. The recent mass-rejection of the parliament candidates[2], of which many of the current members have been a victim, might be the coup de grace for the dreams of a young and ever-hopeful generation of Iranians who besides being genuinely patriotic, were also subject to an idealism that finally proved unworthy of realization. The next thing will probably be mass rejection of voters based on their looks, sex, ethnicity, religion or whatever they seem to be unfit.

I dare to compare the outcome of this mass-rejection of candidates, to the bombardment of the Iranian parliament less than a 100 years ago, by the Russian Cossacks Brigade under the command of the ruling despot, Mohammad-e-Ghajar, who simply did not like the idea of people having a part in the conception of their destiny. The overwhelming public uprising against the king at that time, coordinated by the educated Iranian elite (with known connections to the British, at that time a rival of the Russians in meddling in the Iranian affairs) led to finalizing of the Constitutional Revolution that made Iran, at least in theory, along with Turkey, one of the first democracies in the Middle East. Unfortunately that will not be repeated. To borrow from a recent conversation with Eswin, the popular support for the Constitutional Revolution came from the long years of famine and hardship in the "Protected States of Iran"[3], that had brought many people on the edge of their existence, so that they would give anything for a change.

Now the situation is not so dire for Iranians. Before the Earthquake came, the middle class residents of the big cities were enjoying a transparent dream of prosperity and economic growth. To them, health care seems to be cheap and convenient[4], the poor and the elderly are supposedly taken care of by the Islamic charity foundations and there are excellent private schools and universities[5] for their kids to follow the path to greatness. There is virtually no tax to be paid unless you work for the government and the credit system in the mercantilistic economy is based only on "trust." So eat as much as you can and don't worry: there is always more. [All said in this paragraph is the alleged dream of the majority of the middle class Iranians in big cities! Sorry for overemphasis!]

The Bam earthquake, for some, was a wake up call. Does the house that many have built themselves under the freshly blended mix of tradition and Modernity, withstand a political earthquake, and its aftershocks? Is there a hope for what shall remain of the Iranian civilization, one of the oldest still claiming to exist?

[0] I have already talked about these things but well, have your say too!
[1] Relatively, loosely, hopefully and sadly speaking.
[2] Google News Compilation. Also mentioned here and here.
[3] Official Name of Iran at the time, now Islamic Republic of Iran.
[4] It is indeed cheaper than many places in Europe and even Canada. Whoman also has other intersting posts, touching and also about this subject.
[5] Education is free in Iran, even higher education, but you will have to work in Iran for twice as long as the duration of your studies or pay a certain equivalent afterwards to release your degree.

Update: Well, have a look at these photos from the South of Tehran and these from a university residence.

Seńor Gręd at January 12, 2004 12:52 PM [permalink]:

Given the recent news, the title seems quite apt.

Bye bye, Khatami. (Especially the younger of the two!) Bye bye reform. Bye bye, Iran.

Ahmad at January 12, 2004 01:00 PM [permalink]:

I think you should spend more time on your PhD project,rather than writing political articles claiming: "Before the Earthquake come, the middle class residents of the big cities were enjoying a transparent dream of prosperity and economic growth.To them, health care seems to be cheap and convenient,the poor and the elderly are supposedly taken care of by the Islamic charity foundations." It makes me feel sick! I am sure that you are part of the new rich class(a modern Hezbollahy)in Iran,getting their money through corruption and robbing people under the name of Islam.

Kaveh Kh. at January 12, 2004 01:03 PM [permalink]:

Thanks for the insults. Unfortunately none of them fits me very well, and I am wasting enough time on my PhD project, believe it or not.

Seńor Gręd at January 12, 2004 01:10 PM [permalink]:

Is Ahmad by any chance the name of Kaveh Kh.'s advisor/adversary? Hmmm. Just wondering. ;-)

SG2 at January 12, 2004 02:39 PM [permalink]:

Ahmad: Why don't you spend some more time on shutting up. What a kid!

WhoMan at January 12, 2004 02:40 PM [permalink]:

Hi Kaveh,

Thanks for the reference. Your picture was clever.
I think you've glamourized some parts a bit. Iranians may feel less pressure on their shoulder than before. But that's just it. Their health care may be cheap and quick, but it's got a long way to fairness. I don't think the upsides are sustainable in Iran or viable anywhere else. I don't know about charities taking care of elderly and the poor. And they evade taxes.

Kaveh Kh. at January 12, 2004 02:59 PM [permalink]:

I tried to show the perspective of the Iranian middle class. The poverty in Iranian society, esp. some rural areas, [but not all] and the lack of welfare is a matter of fact.

Payam at January 12, 2004 03:44 PM [permalink]:

It is really a sad story for our country. But I think it is true and it is the end. Had the president resisted closure of newspapers, had he opposed the intellectuals and leaders such as Karbaschi and Nouri prosecution, had he remembered what he promised to the people, had he remembered he is the president may be today we had a different story. But what I see today is loosing the last hope, as if you are a sick person and you loose your last hope. I have never been so pessimistic but I am really hopeless now. What I see now is the invasion of Iran in a couple of years. What I see is the end to one of the oldest civilization in the world.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at January 12, 2004 03:52 PM [permalink]:

I tend to find this pesimism and depression that we are now feeling still much better than that sticky (NOOCH) self-deception and fake hope we were entertaining back in 1376-78 (1997-99).
Sometimes in history, the darkest hour was a prelude to a new birth. Lets hope and struggle to make this one of them.

Sohrab at January 12, 2004 04:30 PM [permalink]:

Seńor Gręd: bye bye Iran

How easy it is to say bye bye to a place that you don't like any more, I wonder, in this world where traveling and immigration has become a norm. It is just surprising when you think about it...

Babak S at January 12, 2004 05:20 PM [permalink]:

Kaveh's account of the perspective of the middle class in Iran is well written. However, I feel compelled to add that this middle class has but a sliver of space for its existance, given the economic situation in Iran. The middle class lives/struggles on an edge in Iran, on one side of which lies the poverty line, and on the other the (somewhat unstable) fat cash off some sudden, usually unforseen financial chance. It reminds me of the Persian film "mard i ke ziaad midaanest" (The man who knew a lot) 10-15 years ago, where a government clerk meets some ghost-like figure who gives him a newspaper of future with the flashnews of gas price hikes...

Somayeh Sadat at January 12, 2004 05:23 PM [permalink]:

I don't know what you mean by middle class, what percentage of the society to be exact? The latest statistics I heard was that 35% of Iranian people do not have medical insurance, and I can guess most of them are those who cannot afford medical treatments on their own, if needed. (Most of them are not employed, for if they were employed, would have been insured by their employers.). So, the picture of health care may not be as promising as you depict.

Kaveh Kh. at January 12, 2004 05:24 PM [permalink]:

I am under the impression that some didn't notice what I said about health care welfare, was just the "ILLUSION" of the middle class, not a reality.

JFTDMaster at January 12, 2004 05:30 PM [permalink]:

"I have never been so pessimistic but I am really hopeless now. What I see now is the invasion of Iran in a couple of years. What I see is the end to one of the oldest civilization in the world."
- Then you, and people like you, should take charge and make Iran a better place. The Iranians who want democracy are the majority, you are capable, you are intelligent, what more do you need? Clear understanding of the situation? Organization? Help? Leaders?

Payam at January 12, 2004 05:50 PM [permalink]:

The problem is that I feel this must happen. I can not change anything there. Iran society is like a very old building. You have to destroy it completely and rebuild it. I can only build I can not destroy.

Tautologist at January 12, 2004 09:14 PM [permalink]:

There is a big difference between deconstruction and destruction. I remember Dr. Homa Katouzain once said Iran is a KOLANGI (pick-axe) society, by which he meant in Iran we are used to destroy structures arbitrarily without paying much attention to the costs. He believes that's one of the reasons that we are still struggling to move toward a democratic society. Lack of old and well-stablished instutions, political parties, and in one word active civil society might be a symptom of this illness.

Seńor Gręd at January 12, 2004 09:23 PM [permalink]:

Homa Katouzian [misspelled by Tautologist] rocks. I sincerely wish we had more genuine intellectuals like him.

Seńor Gręd at January 12, 2004 09:25 PM [permalink]:

Somebody said "deconstruction"? Hmmm. I thought this was some po-mo term related to literary texts. See Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry"! And I am in a hurry...

Seńor Gręd at January 12, 2004 09:31 PM [permalink]:

But before I go (and so sorry about dropping multiple one liners) I wanted to tell Sohrab that I don't not like Iran. In fact it's NOT easy to say "bye bye" to Iran. Not for me at least.

Who was that French writer (no, not Marjane Satrapi who used the phrase without giving reference!) who said "saying good-bye is a little like dying"? It sure is. "You leave a little of yourself there..."

Richard Bean at January 13, 2004 06:41 AM [permalink]:

Your post hardly mentioned Islam at all. A soldier of Islam has appealed to expatriates to
come back to Iran. Even if the political system is going down the toilet, he says it's much better to live in Iran than kaffir countries. And if you return, Imam will forgive you.

"I go everywhere I please, from Bosnia to Los Angeles, everywhere is
land of Islam and Koffar must be informed and saved."

Sohrab at January 13, 2004 10:42 AM [permalink]:

You know Richard Bean, some people take Islam too seriously! Forgive them for that.

Funny Guy at January 14, 2004 02:09 PM [permalink]:

I'm pretty sure Richard Bean is aware that the type of extremists who are actually able to write that kind of stuff are extremely rare these days:

"In the name of Hazrate Imam Seyed Ali Khamenei, Maghame Moazame Rahbariye Enghelabe Eslamiye Jahani, velayate Faghihe Shiayane Iran va Jahan, Representative of Allah on Earth, Marjae Taghlide World Shia', Leader of True Muslimin of the world, Supreme Spiritual Leader of World Shia' Muslim, Light of Allah, Inspiration of World Revolutionary Muslemin and the last stand of Justice and Islam against the Great Satan, World zionism, Koffar al Khabith and Western Imperialist Toxic Waste, I start this letter,"

That kind of introduction should be enough for you to realize you're just dealing with a wacko.

M. Simon at January 16, 2004 11:30 AM [permalink]:

An Iranian group is planning a 6 hour telethon in Los Angeles in the hopes of instituting new tactics in the effort to bring Iran under the control of it's citizens.

It will be on the 18th of Jan.

I'm sure you will hear about it.

Paul H. at January 17, 2004 06:04 AM [permalink]:

What about the demographics? Such a large population under 25, and yet not enough jobs. I'm afraid I don't know a great deal about Iran, but I understood they were some of the primary supporters of the reformists. If that's true, and they remain discontented with the regime, then in the long run, demographics will win out.

Wessie at January 17, 2004 07:34 AM [permalink]:

" What I see now is the invasion of Iran in a couple of years. What I see is the end to one of the oldest civilization in the world."

Invasion! By whom do you expect to be invaded? Unless the mad-mullahs start something with the West, I doubt that anyone will invade. Besides, GW has already spent our treasure on the Iraq war. Another major war could lead to serious economic consequences world wide.

It is up to Iranians to get with it. Iraqis are "humiliated" that the US deposed Saddam. They clearly should have done that themselves. Iran has 70% young people. Why can't they overthrow the humorless, theocratic despots?

Speaking of humor. Recently an Iranian dignitary visiting France admonished them for not permitting Muslim girls to wear the veil. But, rejected France's overtures regarding elections in Iran as "interference in Iran's internal affairs." LOL

Amazing the double standard! ;-)

It is up to Muslims to fix what ails them. We can help and give advice (which you don't want anyway). But you all have to do it. The mullahs can't murder all of you.


Wessie at January 17, 2004 07:42 AM [permalink]:

"You know Richard Bean, some people take Islam too seriously! Forgive them for that."

There is an old toast that goes like this: "Here's to thee and here's to me; and if we both should disagree—here's to me."

Now, even if you don't drink, it should be very clear. They will kill all apostates too—to save them.

You know Sohrab, it is really difficult to forgive a cult that advocates murdering those who don't take their so-called religion seriously. Forgive us kufurs for that—and pass the ammunition. ;-)


John at January 17, 2004 11:24 PM [permalink]:

Maybe this does represent the unfortunate end of a great civilization, and maybe Khatami was the last chance for success, but I don't see it that way. The Bam earthquake does appear to have altered the attitudes of many in Iran, but this was a necessay prerequesite for permenant change. I don't see this as the end of a great civilization, I see it as the beginning of the end of a corrupt dictatorship, and the hopeful rebirth of a great civilization.

hajir at January 18, 2004 04:53 AM [permalink]:

>"Is there a hope for what shall remain of the Iranian civilization, one of the oldest still claiming to exist?"

The fate of Iranian civilization and the fate of Islamic regime are not the same. I believe that actually the iranian civilization has more chance of survival after the regime.

JFTDMaster at January 18, 2004 07:25 PM [permalink]:

"It is up to Muslims to fix what ails them. We can help and give advice (which you don't want anyway). But you all have to do it. The mullahs can't murder all of you. "
- Yes, but most people would rather wait and live in harsh circumstances, people act out of personal considerations.

If 6 million Iranians in Tehran all marched to the government palaces at the same time, and demanded a complete change of government, then the complete change of government would happen, its that simple!

But people don't act as one unless they are in a mob.. People who think for themselves do not act like a mob.. that is a good and a bad thing at the same time, I guess.

Wessie at January 19, 2004 09:29 AM [permalink]:

Moved to WessLog!