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June 13, 2005

I Will Not Vote
Guest Author: Jafar Rezaei

IREL2.jpg Those who promote participation in the coming election have only one argument to present. According to them a boycott of the elections would throw the reformist camp out of the last bastion of power left and would permit the hardliners to take over the entire power structure and form a uniform and monolithic front. This would mean the defeat of the gradual progress to democracy in Iran. So despite all the disadvantages of the reformist camp and their candidate Moeen, the pragmatic and reasonable decision to make is to vote them in power again and stop the hardliners' total victory.

In this article I try to show why I believe this is not true and why voting in this election would be a mistake for anyone who wishes to see Iran move towards freedom and democracy.

If we accept the scenario of the pro-election factions, we must ask the question why the hardliners even risk having a reformist in the competition in the first place. If he is going to be an obstacle to their plans of power, why not get rid of him altogether since they have huge amount of powers within and outside the law? What happened however was the opposite. The Guardian Council first barred the reformist candidate from running for presidency. (Contrary to many later claims, this move was in accordance with the constitution, which at one place demands that the elections be supervised by the Guardian Council, and in another place acknowledges this very Council as the sole authority to interpret the constitution.) He was then allowed to continue to run with a direct decree from the Supreme Leader personally. Since the hardliners have evidently both power and the "law" on their side to accept or bar any candidates they please, why did they go to all this trouble to keep their foe in the race?

One possible answer could be that the Leader himself is not a hardliner, but a reformist at heart. This is actually what the future vice president of this reformist candidate seems to believe. But then if the Leader is a reformist and he has all the power of the country, even power to act outside the constitution, granted to him ironically by the constitution itself, why do we need to vote for the reformists in the first place to keep the reform going. After all, the Leader has managed to stay in power for the last 15 years, so he has definitely real resources beside the "law".

The other possibility is that the Leader is trying to divide the number of votes of another rival this way, for example that of Rafsanjani and his camp. If so, then we are already faced with a division within the hardliner camp that is so deep that one faction is using the supposed reformist thorn in the eye, to fight the other faction. This is already in contradiction with the monolithic and uniform hardliners front we are being warned against.

Again a possible answer could be that they have fractions and rivalries within themselves, but are unified against the people. That begs two remarks. First of all, we still wouldn't be faced with a monolithic front. After all, the rivalries could be used to weaken the whole structure especially when they don't have this shared reformist foe to unite them anymore. The events since the last two elections support this assertion, a point to which I will return. The second remark is that in such a case one faction evidently has such deep enmity with the other that they are willing to use the reformists in their battle. So, why shouldn't that be the case in the future as well?

There have been two elections that where boycotted in practice by the people: the municipal elections and the last parliamentary elections. In both of them the hardliners won almost all the seats. Back then the same arguments were used to invoke the people to vote, the same grim scenario of a hardliner-dominated regime who would stifle all the progress made were told and retold again and again. It is now two years past and the society still enjoys a more lax environment. Actually the tone and content of the speeches and demands of the hardliners have become much more in line with the new atmosphere. They wear chic dresses, talk about reform in religious views to accommodate modern life, relations with the US and so on. At the same time, the reformists themselves admit that Khatami didn't use his supposed power, especially in the past two years. They say this to contrast it with their own candidate that now promises to be different. So here is another question. The reformists were not elected because people didn't bother to vote, and those in power chose not to use the power they had for the causes of the reform, and yet the situation seems better now than two years ago. How is this possible if the only shield protecting the people against a fate worse than death is to have the reformists, no matter how incompetent, sit in power positions? On the other hand, we can see very clearly the fractions within the hardliner camp, again in contrast to what the pro-participation group is saying.

Therefore I think the reality is very different from this scenario. What accounts for the lax environment and the soft talk of the hardliners now is their fear of the American presence at their borders and the disillusionment of the people. (They know very well that they need some way to keep the huge youth population in control, especially with the ever increasing rate of unemployment. The system knows that it can't go on as a monolithic power structure indefinitely.) As long as these two elements exist, not voting will not change the present condition for the worse. Another factor is the regime's attempt to gain nuclear power. They will try to keep the present situation intact as long as they haven't achieved that goal. An important aspect of this balance is the image of the reformists in power positions, who at the same time declare themselves loyal to the present constitution, the Leader and the ambition towards nuclear energy. This way the regime will maintain the subtle legitimacy it has won since the election of 1997.

This brings us to the third point. Those supporting the elections consider the issue of legitimacy as irrelevant, since according to them everyone inside and outside Iran already knows this system as illegitimate and yet during the past 26 years this has led to nowhere. First of all this is not true. All the gradual moderation of the regime, from the ceasefire with Iraq to the present concessions were all partly reactions to outside pressure such as US sanctions and their almost total isolation in the world. This is a matter of legitimacy. Before the 1997 elections Iran was in total isolation. The European countries had called their ambassadors, Iran was under a US embargo and even Saudi Arabia, Egypt and most of the Islamic world shunned the Islamic Republic. After the election with the large turnout, Iran made close ties with the Arab countries, build bridges with the Europeans and the US embargo was not followed outside the US. Even the US tried all it could to open relations. All of this happened under the excuse of a reform movement and an elected side of the regime fighting an unelected minority.

If this is not buying legitimacy, I don't know what is. Ever since that election things are different. The regime itself based its legitimacy in the world arena on the popular support for its tamed constitutional reformism. As a result, given the 1997 turnout and later elections, the boycott now would definitely be a blow to the subtle legitimacy the regime has bought for itself. In the precarious situation after 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the pro-democracy movements in other countries of the region, this could be a very heavy blow.

Even the pro-reformists admit that all the power and advances of the so-called reform movement is due to people's demands and the desire for change. Well, the people are still here and so are their demands and desires. This can be focused again and turned into political action towards a referendum once the whole chapter of reform within the system is closed. It can't go on as long as a sham reformist mirage is hanging there to divert attention.

Another question worth asking is what Moeen voters would have done if Moeen had remained disqualified? According to the logic of bad and worst they should still have voted for the least bad among the remainig candidates. But many of them would have abstained in that case. As Tajzadeh declared after Moeen's disqualification, they would have considered the elections as void. Now this is interesting. Obviously they believe there is more in the Moeen's camp than not being the worst. But is that so?

It is important to note the background and the present attitude of the reformist candidates in this light. They have proven time and again that they will not stand firm to win any substantial freedom or democracy. Even now after being qualified like this, they still fail to demand any of the necessary conditions for even the slightest real reform, from the unconditional release of political prisoners to the formation of a truly overarching front against tyranny. It is also interesting to remember that all this new, slightly more radical and different stand points are taken only after they were banned and reaccepted, with the goal of winning votes. If none of this had happened, they would not have stood for even this much. How can they be trusted to remember even the insignificant new promises they are making right now, once they have won the votes they are craving for?

This is not surprising. How can they be any different, since they insist on working within the current constitution. Here is a good article to show what this constitution really amounts to, both logically and in practice. It can very well be argued that by giving false promises, bringing real courageous forces in front and then leaving them alone and vulnerable they frustrate the forces of change and do more harm to the whole movement than any possible good.

Putting the pieces together now explains why the Leader asks for the reformists to be accepted, why the regime tries so hard to present a milder face in the days before the elections and is so desperate for gaining votes for no matter which candidate. It is unfortunate that no specific plans exist at the moment for after the boycott, but that does not change the main conclusion. It is worth reminding that this lack of organization is partly due to the continuous effort of those who try to revive a dead corpse and to take us down a dead-end alley once more. After the election there would still be many opportunities to build upon the general consensus towards a referendum.

This is why I believe the only logical and pragmatic choice right now is the absolute boycott of the elections.

Jafar Rezaei was born in Mashhad, an important religious city northeast of Iran. He moved to Tehran, where he went to university and studied Chemical Engineering. This is his first attempt at an orderly written presentation of his thoughts on a political matter.
Comments
Alborz at June 13, 2005 01:15 AM [permalink]:

What ever you do, just ignore what americans tell you. they are liers and criminals. they want to undermine democracy in iran and independence.

Elizabeth at June 13, 2005 02:02 AM [permalink]:


In some ways boycotting the election would make sense to me (if I were an Iranian), yet in some ways I cling to the notion that failing to vote is akin to inviting oppression, since silence could me mistaken for apathy or even satisfaction with the present situation.

Mehdi Y. at June 13, 2005 02:27 AM [permalink]:

Your first argument is that why they let the reformist candidate, Moeen, run:
-they most likely did an early polling and saw that there was very little chance for him to win. He has picked up quite a lot of votes in recent weeks, which was hard to predict.

In answer to the legitimacy issue, I have to say that you are right. The regime gains some legitimacy when people participate in the election. But I am not so worried about it. Giving some legitimacy for the regime is not that bad in order to protect from getting invaded or bombed by the US.

Also, I see a real big difference between Moeen, the reformist candidate, and the rest. Moeen is a man who is running on a platform of democracy and human rights. By incorporating the dissident and underground party of Nehzat Azadi, he has shown that he is brave and has gone one step beyond what Khatami did. Moeen is a man with clean history. He is the first presidential candidate who represents a political party (unlike other candidates who are supported by unknown and mafia-type supporters).

I am against a boycott as long as there is a candidate who is substantially better than the rest of the candidates such as the case of Moeen. I also believe that the intelectuals who purpose a boycott should come up with some practical alternative methods of changing situation. How many times the LA sattelitte TVs have called people to show up for a demonstration and nobody has showed up. The cost of such actions are high and people are not ready for it.

The good option is to keep the divided government in place and at the same time build the civil organizations and unions that will be needed to push Iran toward democracy. The answer is not boycotting and sitting in your home and waiting for American marines coming and saving you.

someone who is usually silent at June 13, 2005 02:36 AM [permalink]:

Alborz, do you have any logical reason for your claims? This post is full of logical reasoning, and your comment seems to have none. Can you elaborate? Why do you hate Americans so much (referring to them as liars (not liers) and criminals)? Is it to follow the popular anti-American sentiments? If everyone in your little circle loved Americans, would you still say the same? Until we learn to think about every situation without previous judgments, we cannot improve our situation. I am not saying that Americans love us and want to help the middle east out of the kindness of their hearts, but may be, may be, there is a chance that their profits lies in line with ours. Why should we reject the much needed help from the foreign countries (in this case Americans), if it is good beneficial for us as well as them?

Elizabeth, I do not know where you are from, but perhaps you grew up in a democratic society. Therefore, what you say in a democratic setting makes sense. However, what you have to imagine, for Iran's situation, is that these elections are not democratic. Why there are no women in the scene? Why no real opposition? Why don't they put the "supreme leader" (the great dictator)'s power up for elections, against the wish of Iranian people?
In a non-democratic totalitarian society, no vote means no to the great dictator.

someone who is usually silent at June 13, 2005 02:45 AM [permalink]:

Did I mention that I agree with boycotting this election?

Mehdi, do you really think that Moeen is different from Khatami? Khatami had the support of the nation, I doubt that Moeen gets the same support. With that support, Khatami couldn't (didn't) keep the government divided, as you claim. Remember many instances when he explicitly said that he agrees with the great dictator. Remember what he siad when Shirin Ebadi won the noble peace prize. Furthermore, remember that his friends were imprisoned, tortured, and terrorized, and he was silent as a lamb.

Alborz at June 13, 2005 03:31 AM [permalink]:

I was talking about the american government and foreign policy. ofcourse i was not talking about american people in general. I thought this post was about politics. my bad.

Someguy at June 13, 2005 04:46 AM [permalink]:

breaking news:
Ibrahim Yazdi has been attacked and injured by hardline vigilantes while out campaigning on behalf of the main reformist candidate standing in Friday's presidential election, IRNA reported.

Niayesh at June 13, 2005 10:33 AM [permalink]:

Can supporters of boycott suggest a historical precedent, where boycotting a democratic process (i.e. election) has brought about more democracy?

someone who is usually silent at June 13, 2005 11:58 AM [permalink]:

Alborz,
I think I e-discussed American policy with you as well. I thought people read the comment before hastily replying to it...my bad.

Niayesh,
If you really believe this election is a democratic process, then you "have to" vote. As I said, and I am repeating myself here, I don't think it is a democratic process, and therefore, I am not voting. I hope others who also "don't think" it is democratic, won't vote as well.

Ordak D. Coward at June 13, 2005 12:12 PM [permalink]:

Your summary in the first pragraph is to the point, though it only describes the argument of those promoting participation AND who vote against hardliners. However, I wish I would have seen a similar summary of your own argument against participation in th upcoming elections.

Other people on this forum have pointed to the different viewpoints of a pragmtaist versus that of an idealist. The same argument cannot win both sides. As a pragmatist, I still need arguments to convince me that by joining the boycott camp, not voting and also persuading others to boycott, I can help causing an effect that helps my ideals.

I have not seen any so far.

In order to help you convince me and perhaps people like me to not vote, I present my conditions to join the boycott camp:
- An objective ratio of participants in this election, so we can measure the success of the boycott camp. I like it to be around 25%.
- A realistic assessment of plausibility of the objective ratio.
- A plan of action to show what the boycott camp will do in the two cases -- one being the objective ratio is met, the other is the objective ratio is not met --

Until I hear such an argument I will vote based on the choices imposed by the IRI. I will vote if I believe the vote can make a difference. For example, in this election, I would have voted in the order, Moe, Raf, Kar, Rez, Meh, Qal, Ahm

Babak S at June 13, 2005 12:49 PM [permalink]:

Niayesh,

Some examples could be found in the struggle to freedom in South Africa, during the time elections were restricted to the white minority.

But I guess our exact situation may be a new and unexperienced one.

Mehdi Y,

You concluded: "The answer is not boycotting and sitting in your home and waiting for American marines coming and saving you."

I don't see why you think if somebody does not vote he is going to sit in his home and wait for the bombs. In fact, at least psychologically, the person who does vote is more likely to "sit in his home" and expect the people he voted in take care of the job. And that is one reason I consider voting a passive approach at this time. There are some who don't vote no matter what, since they do not care. We are talking about those who do not vote as part of a strategy. Boycott is the first step, and a person taking this route expects more of it to unfold later. So, many of those who don't vote (notables include Ganji, Zeid Abadi, Sazegara, Nouri, etc.) won't be sitting in their homes and waiting bombs to set them free.

Ordak,

Only the last one of your three conditions makes any sense. Subjecting your particiaption in an action to the particiaption of a ratio (sizable, as you demand) of the population only means never taking any action at all. What objective method could there be anyway to know the answer to your question? Who could tell if Khatami was going to win the election 8 years ago? This is the recipe of the herd, if you excuse my saying so.

One should take part in something since he thinks it is the right thing to do, and should try to convince others as well by putting forward the arguments for its being the right thing to do.

In fact, your last statement demonstrates the fallacy of your approach clearly: if the IRI imposed Ahm on you you would vote in the worst person you could find on this planet for the President of any country and give him legitimacy as well. (Where is Lar in your list by the way?)


Elizabeth at June 13, 2005 12:57 PM [permalink]:

The other day I was reading the latest issue of "Time" magazine in which the Iranian elections were being discussed. One article claimed that young Iranians are, for the most part, being 'bought off' by their government and are reluctant to oppose them as a result. Basically, this article portrayed young Iranians (between the ages of 18-29) as so distracted by their new cars and are enjoying the more lax approach the government is taking regarding morality (for example, they aren't as strict about making women wear the chador in public), that they simply lack the motivation to take a stand against the government.
This is why I have joined this forum, so that I can find out for myself is this kind of information is correct.
If it is, then I can't see how boycotting would help, since most people are less interested in politics and more interested in living comfortably, as Time is suggesting.


yaser k at June 13, 2005 04:51 PM [permalink]:

Babak,

Let's say the boycott is the first step. Then the obvious question is what are the next steps and more difficult question "who are the people that will do these steps in a peaceful way?". Among more than 20 milions people who will supposedly boycott the election, you can hardly find dozen people to join the sit-in protest in front of the Evin prison in support of political prisoners. Sorry to say, but our people will not join for any peaceful civil disobedience capable of bringing democracy. All the problem is with these steps which should be followed after boycott and they are all very unrealistic for our country.

Your example of South Africa has showed that there hasn't been any country that boycott had worked. I guess in the last few decades, more than 50 countries have had a transition from dictatorship to democracy. I haven't heard of a single country that people have used the boycott strategy and were successful. In most of the east European countries, there were always a strong opposition inside the governement.

Parthisan at June 13, 2005 06:44 PM [permalink]:

Unfortunately your reasoning is incomplete, and you have a weird view to domestic and world issues!

The change of atmosphere in Iran happened way before the US invasion of Afghanestan and Iraq, it's a direct product of the [mostly theoretical] reform movement that started 8 years ago, so the American presence in both sides of the country could be considered as a potential advantage for us, because the hardline fraction in the conservative camp now feels some kinda pressure from outside as well as from inside.

Relations between Iran and the world before Khatami was bad NOT because the regime was illegitimate, but because the Iranian gov at the time bothered and annoyed almost every country in the world. Demonstration in Mecca, sending missiles to Europe, you name it. Your assumption is totally wrong. Otherwise there are very many other illegitimate regimes around and they have perfect international relationships! how could you even think like that!?

Massive changes has happened in the past 8 years, in the ways we think about politics and our own rights. You must be blind to ignore that (even blind people would be able to feel that). We just need to keep pushing, and take advantage of the stupidity or confusion of the conservative camp. We did that once by electing Khatami, something that the conservative hardliners could not even dream in their worst nightmares. Yes we did not achive all the practical goals that we dreamed of, but we have learnt a lot and that is a firm platform for future changes. Fast changes in the gov with no foundation in people's minds could only be implemented by external forces, and our history proves that is not the way to go.

We should take advantage of this situation, and practice our most basic civil right to "influence" the election of the person who's going to take control of the gov and influence our lives BIG TIME. We (collectively) showed a bit of immature behaviour in the city council elections and it burnt our own asses.

In the past 8 years the conservative camp has done its best to convince people that the real power is not in their hands. They have done their best to convince us to stay home and kiss our most basic civil rights goodbye. You seem to be one of the conservatives' favourite citizens, someone who has not only given up himself, but is also pulling others with him in the black hole of ignorance and torpidity.

Your reasoning reminds me of immature primary school children: "if no one does the home work then the teacher won't be able to do anything". Oh yes the teacher is VERY WELL able to fine us all, so we better shake a leg and AT LEAST influence the process, now that we can do so up to some extent.

Azad Rahnama at June 13, 2005 08:33 PM [permalink]:

دکتر سيد ابوالحسن بني صدر، اولين رئيس جمهور ايران به مناسبت انتخابات ۸۴ با هموتنانشان از طريق وب لاگ شخصي سخن مي گويند و ايرانيان را دعوت به تحريم انتخابات و انتخاب فرهنگ آزادي مينمايند.
http://ahbanisadr.blogspot.com

JRez at June 13, 2005 08:40 PM [permalink]:

Thanks for debating the points of the article everyone. I appreciate all the points made here.
There is an extra point I would like to make here. I didnít include it in the main article because it is not a self-sustaining logical argument. It just show a different, more reasonable way to look at a point mentioned in favor of voting: One claim is that since the total boycott is already undermined by the participation rate of about 50%, it is instead better to vote. The argument could be turned on its head. Those voting could abstain since their candidate, even if elected, would be lacking popular support. Moreover, those who have advocated a boycott would face serious threat after the elections if the boycott is weakened, since asking for a boycott is considered an attempt to topple the state. Whereas the reformists, even if they lose, will not face such a severe prospect. Among the pro-boycott groups are some of the most courageous and effective of the opposition groups.Many of them are facing death even now being on hunger strikes. Another importnat pro-boycott group is the main body of student movement. They have always been the most important engine of any real progress. Only after a successful boycott will the system be unable to focus its wrath on those who are now singled out.

Another point is the argument by Ahamd Zeydabady in Rooz yesterday. In short the excellent point he makes is that it is a mistake to assume the hardliners would be forced out of power if not elected. They will just move in the shadow of parallel organizations and become more effective and dangerous, and can act with more freedom and with no responsibility. They can even act as if they were in opposition and take advantage of the inevitable shortcomings. By being elected by their supporters however they will be burdened with executive duties that will waste a lot of their energies. They will also be in spotlight and have to take responsibility of what ensues.

Parthisan at June 13, 2005 09:05 PM [permalink]:

I much rather see hardliners living in shadow and fear, rather than running every device in the country that has to do with me and my family's life!

Your reasoning is absurd! I rather see wolves live in fear and isolation, than seeing them busy eating my kind!! With your logic(?) every country in the world should abandon its democratic movements and secret police etc because terrorists better be in power busy with administration!!

JRez at June 13, 2005 09:38 PM [permalink]:

Yaser,

Asking for the huge demonstrations at this time as a pre-requisite for believing in the boycott is like putting the cart in front of the horse and not a fair demand. If people came out in thousands now in public demonstrations the fate of the system could have been wrapped up very soon, in a couple of weeks even. That stage will come, if correct decisions are made, only at the last stages. In all tyrannical regimes, the number of activists is few compared with to the total population. The contrast is always huge in the stages before the final days. This was true in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Soviet Union etc. In Romania, for instance, the demonstrations that changed the system came as a shock to everyone, from the regime officials to the people themselves. The same goes everywhere else.
More importantly, all actions do not need to be in form of public demonstrations. There are still many instances of negative resistance bothe available and needed before massive demonstrations or even widespread strikes come into picture. There is need and opportunity to practice passive resistance in more limited scales. But the pro-democarcy forces have to come to a firm resolve to pursue this rout. That's the point.

But let us assume what you say about the people is correct and that their indifference is a proof of futility of such grass root actions. I have a question. Obviously the hardliners too, would already know this fact. Why would they bother with anything the reformists say do or demand, supposing we elected the reformists? If as you say the best people can do is to vote every 4 years in rigged elections, then why should anyone care between those election dates what the elected officials demand? Why canít they just ignore what they say. After all people arenít going to back them up in action in any other situation but the official election booths.
You see, if what you say is both correct and the decisive factor in the choice for voting or boycott, it works both ways. Iím sure you agree that the mere official number of votes a candidate wins does no magic by itself.

This actually clarifies my point about the need for an end to reform from within. If we agree with you and participate and Moeen gets elected, there comes a time where he has to act and he has to rely on public reaction if what he wants is not granted. He has to be able to call the people to streets as a last resource. Somewhere there should be a mechanism, at least in principle, for words to translate into actions. Now if the reformists can bring the people to the streets in large numbers, why do you think it is impossible for the same to take place without their having official positions (which otherwise would be just a title they'd carry)? The only difference would be this: if they are in power positions the same old arguments about keeping the power that has been won after somuch trouble, etc. can be used as excuses for inaction. When it becomes necessary even in your kind of reform, prudence and pragmatism and gradual motion and all other nice words will start popping up again. Without those positions of power, they will have more motivation to take the right, but risky, moves. After all they wouldn't have much to lose, would they?

some guy at June 13, 2005 09:42 PM [permalink]:

breaking news, there was two sound bombs which exploded in sistan-baloochistan province in the city of zahedan. looks like the destablization of iran is the main objective of these bombs.

JRez at June 13, 2005 09:53 PM [permalink]:

Parthisan,
The difference is that terrorists in free countries do not already hold all real poisitiosn of power and decision making.

Sayyed Bashir Sadjad at June 13, 2005 10:01 PM [permalink]:

This is not a direct response or opinion regarding this post, I have already written a long comment in favor of participating in the election in the previous post (i.e. "I shall vote" by Yaser), and I guess many of the discussions are in common between two posts. I just wanted everybody promoting boycott to have a look at what Sahabi has written in Eqbal:

http://www.emrouz.info/ShowItem.aspx?ID=3058&p=1

(sorry this is in persian)

JRez at June 13, 2005 10:53 PM [permalink]:

Niayesh,

I see what you mean, but the question we have to ask fist is whether this election is democratic or not? It isnít. The president is really only a title with no power. If this election was about electing the leader, or if there were no position of a l;eader in the constitution, and there was even the slightest chance of a real improvement I would definitely have participated in the elections.
I you want to look for counterparts in history, you have to look for elections in totalitarian systems, and elections not of the dictator but of one of his officials.
Iím sure there were/are many such elections in different dictatorships tha we do not even hear of and should be boycotted anyway.
There are other examples too. Iím sure any elections in the Vichy government were boycotted by the resistance and the government in exile, although being ďelectionsĒ they were sort of democratic. I am also sure that the Civil Rights Movement would have boycotted election for racist governors in the southern states, if they were convinced none of them would have been able t o advance the cause of equality and freedom for the blacks. I am also sure that Gandhi would have asked for a boycott of any elections of British governors during the colonial eras, if any such elections were held by the British Colonial power in India. Iím sure the Founding Fathers in America could have participated in democratic activities of the British Crown if they wanted to instead of cutting lose with the Crown once they realized continuing that rout would be futile. Then there is the abolition of the parliament by Mosaddegh which by itself was an act against democratic institutions...
Actually the major idea behind non-violent movements and passive resistance is to abstain from doing ordinary jobs or actions that otherwise are ok or even progressive and democratic by themselves.

Maryam at June 13, 2005 10:56 PM [permalink]:

Elizabeth:

I don;t understand why it has to be termed 'bought off'?
Maybe that 'is' what 'our people' 'WANT'!!
and that's it!!
Maybe they don't want the "American" version of democarcy dictated to them from afar!
Maybe a large number of us are just satisfied with these more 'lax' behaviors of our government!
In fact, isn't it a democratic element when a government listens to some of the wants its people?
Alright!! maybe that's not as "progressive" as the Western experiences of democracy..
Maybe we're just 'gradually' trying to learn some new ways of governance, but it doesn't mean we may 'want' to go all the way! maybe we'd feel that's just about it! maybe we wouldn't!?
God knows.

JRez at June 13, 2005 11:13 PM [permalink]:

mehdi Y.,

I had already mentioned the possibility of a hardliner camp using the reformists for their own goals. The question was, why should the hardliners do that, even at the beginning when the reformists didnít seem to have any hope of victory? To use them against another faction? It is also worth noting that the reason for the reformistsí improved chances now is because of the intervention by the hardliners.

You want the supporters of boycott to give you an already devised plan of action before you consider the merits of boycott. I presume the reason for the insistence on having a detailed planned step by step action necessarily before this election is because you fear a complete crack down of all freedoms if the reformists arenít elected. You fear it would be too late. I will agree that there would be some backlash initially but as I have argued extensively why a total crackdown on all current freedoms is not likely, I donít see why those plans canít be gradually worked out, the same way supporters of current reform ask for time and patience for the gradual progress? If you disagree, then I think you should first provide arguments show why a crackdown by a unified hardliner front will be imminent, if reformists lose.

I give it to you that Moeen has a better standing (compared to the rest of candidates) in what he says but is that also true in what he would and could do? That is for me the crucial factor. This doesnít change the point I was making. I donít think the decision to vote could be based solely on the relative standing of the candidates. Not in a non-democratic country like Iran. The more relevant question in such a case would be if any candidate reaches the minimum requirements for a transition to democracy. This depends on the background of the whole team, not Moeen alone, their conduct ever since, and the potential of the entire system to really reform within itself. I believe the answer here is no. He is simply not good enough and as I have argued can never reach that minimum given the constitution and the power structure. I believe his coming to power with words alone is more detrimental than beneficial.

Finally I find Zeydabadiís argument against a dual and divided government more convincing than yours in favor of it.

JRez at June 14, 2005 12:08 AM [permalink]:

Elizabeth,

I don't think the youth have been or ever could be "bought" or "satisfied". The distance between what they have and the standards of the free world is so huge that their thirst can never be satiated under the current systemin. Actually the more freedom they win, the more knowledgable they would be about what they are missing.
There is a lot of frustration and fire under the ashes at the moment. But the general mood of the society is a pragmatic one. The fastest and least costly way to democracy is what almost everone is looking for. I can understand how this can be sometimes mistaken with apathy and passivity from outside. There might be short term calm, but impetus for change is very very strong.

Elizabeth at June 14, 2005 12:11 AM [permalink]:

Maryam (and others),
I don't understand why Time termed it as being 'bought off' either. The implication of the article is clear: the regime is oppressive (and in need of a fix) and has successfully squelched any form of opposition with bribes. Most of what I hear about the Iranian people come from the Western media, being that I am in the West. I'm glad to be here, to learn about what the people of Iran are thinking, from the people themselves. American policies are directed toward the Middle East and Iran and probably will be for some time.
To be completely honest, I vacillate back and forth between supporting the presence of the U.S. in the Middle East (because I think Democracy is good and everyone would benefit from a democratic government) and loathing it (because I question Bush's true motives and, quite frankly, he scares me at times).
My questions are, what kind of democracy do the people want, if they want it at all? How do they want to pursue their goal? Will this vote hurt or help their cause? What, if anything, should the West (namely the United States) do to help? Or should the U.S. mind their own business? These questions are important to me for so many reasons.

someone who is usually silent at June 14, 2005 01:19 AM [permalink]:

Maryam,

For the mere existence of the ideological "issues" such as yours, we are still living in this mess. For many reason:

1. If what you call people's wish was what you (very superficially, I may add) think, why is Ganji in prison? Why are people OF IRAN in such state of anxiety? Are they happy? Why are all the brains running to US as soon as they get a visa, and to Canada if they don't?

2. If someone who is not Iranian is here to see what we think, we should (and I hope that most of us will) appreciate their presence and their intellectual curiosity. As I can see in many of these comments, Iranians (who mostly live in north America I may add) don't want to learn about the culture of Americans, they only want to criticize them, call them liars, criminals (well, they claim they only talk about American government, but who knows) as if Iranian government is pure and clean of criminal acts or lies. It is like Zahra Kazemi was killed for taking photographs in the hand of Americans. It is if Ganji is in Guantanamo. What is wrong with you people? Can't you see what you are doing?
If someone like Aborz describes American government as criminal, what would he (I assume He is a He) call Iranian government? By the way, where do you live Maryam? I don't think in Iran, since this site most likely is filtered there. So next time you want to talk about how Iranians think and feel, may be you should call someone who is actually living there.

JRez at June 14, 2005 02:23 AM [permalink]:

Mehdi Y.

So we agree about the issue of legitimacy. the argument was necessary because there are many who question this fact.
Instead of this, you are raising a different point, namely the threat of US invasion.
I think it is fair to say that a full scale American invasion of Iran is clearly out of the picture. The worst case scenario, as far as foreign violent measures are concerned, would most probably be targeted air strikes. The point is, however, that if it ever comes to that kind of situation (either one), it would be because of the nuclear ambitions of the Islamic Republic. The US might attack if the situation reaches a point of no return and no other solution is available. The reformists are not going to be such a solution because first of all they are united with the others on keeping on with the nuclear adventures and secondly, even if they didnít agree, they wouldnít have any say on that matter anyway. The legitimacy we agree about wonít be able to prevent the attack if the Americans finally decide to get on with it. What the system is hoping to achieve by preserving the current situation is to buy time to finish its projects. The reformist legitimacy provides security for the system until the point where they pass that red line. It gives them room (Conversely, the nuclear case also provides them with another subtle balance that they can exploit).
After that it is a race of which one of them will reach its goal first, the Islamic Republic or the US?
If that's the way things evolve, we must conclude that the regime must have been willing to take the risk.
The question is, are we?
It seems to me that voting the reformists back in power actually increases the risk of any military intervention, farfetched as it is. They should be delegitimized way before reaching that point.

JRez at June 14, 2005 02:28 AM [permalink]:

someone who is usually silent,

We share a lot in our viewpoints. It's nice to have you speaking out now, instead of being "usually silent".

Parthisan at June 14, 2005 09:25 AM [permalink]:

See, the problem is you simply don't feel like voting (which is fine), and then you're trying to make up some reasons for your feeling. in Persian the word is "Javaab Saazi" or "Dalil Taraashi"; you desperately want to prove that your decision is rational. That's why it's pointless to carry on with this discussion. "Whatever" people say you have an answer for them. And in your reasoning you're not following any of the conventional systematic methods.

I hope we don't experience a repitition of our failure in the city council elections. If we do, then we need more education on social life and behaviour.

Arash Jalali at June 14, 2005 10:24 AM [permalink]:

someone:
FreeThoughts is not (yet?) filtered in Iran. There was a short period a couple of months ago that the site was inaccessible in Iran but it could have been due to technical problems in Iran's Internet infrastructure. My guess is that the English knowledge of the morons in charge of filtering is limited to X-rated words, so FToI is safe for now!

someone who is usually silent at June 14, 2005 10:37 AM [permalink]:

Arash,

I am happy that this site is not filtered. Thanks for letting me know. Although, the point still stands. I really do not think Maryam lives in Iran, it is clear from the way she has answered Elizabeth. The reason I say that is that people who are still living in Iran are not "SO HOSTILE" towards someone from another country, who is here to learn about what Iranian people want. Ironically, this is an attitude that some people who live in north America have towards their host countries.

But at the end, I may be totally wrong, and Maryam may be living in Iran. Who knows...

Thanks again for clearing this up.

Maryam at June 14, 2005 11:04 AM [permalink]:

someone who is usually silent:

maybe you think 'you' are living in a mess! but please do not 'generalize' it!

what i call 'our people's' *want* is what i see in their actions and that is it.
are *we* happy? i do not know! i don;t think it is a 0&1 question (for a people)!
i don;t think Ganji or Kazemi are representatives of us (Iranians)! as nothing shows me that it is!
why people leave to go to other countries!?
it is not a new problem to our country!
i wonder if it would not had happened at any other time, had we the same extraordinarily high number of the educated that we have today!

contrary to your suppositions! i appreciate the Anglo-American culture and their way of governance! far beter than the سوسياليستs' in Europe! yet, with all due respect, i don;t see any nation's hands clean when it comes to the matter of their affairs with other nations!
i do not think any realist politician would refute the opinion!

Sir, i do live in my country 'Iran', and I forbid any comments on that!

Elizabeth:
thank you for replying to my comment!

p.s. for your information, the word سوسياليست is termed as 'containing questionable content' in the freethoughts website!

Ali M at June 14, 2005 11:53 AM [permalink]:

Maryam,

How could you say that Ganji or Kazemi are not representative of Iranians ?

In the absence of a fair and open democratic process, there is no way to measure the representativity of anyone in Iran.

If Rafsandjani is "elected" would you say that he is representative of the Iranians ?

Misha at June 14, 2005 11:59 AM [permalink]:

sorry to interrupt. Maryam, there's no "anglo-american" way of governance. The American way of governance is far from the British way. There are some similarities between the British way and the very 'social-ist' governments that you didn't like, e.g. Scandinavian countries, where the difference between poor and rich is minimum.

Anglo-American culture is also a very broad word and is meaningless outside a specific context, which you didn't use.

Maryam at June 14, 2005 12:22 PM [permalink]:

'how' could i say that they are representatives of us?
if elected, i could say that among all the 'politician' candidates who made it* to the presidential elections he is the most representative.

*made it: by winning either political or social popularity or both

Ali M at June 14, 2005 12:30 PM [permalink]:

Maryam,

By "made it" you probably meant the one who made it through the Guardian Council and/or the Supreme Leader.

And there is my question again. How can you say positively that Ganji or Kazemi are not representatives since they would not be allowed to be candidate.

This process is as democratic as was the election of the First Secretary of the USSR communist party. It is not Jrez who is trying to make up reasons for not voting but those who are going to vote that convincing themselves that their vote count.

Iranians citizens are considered by the IRI's constitution as children who needs guidance. Such guidance being provided by the Velayat Faqi.

Unless you are a khodi (insider), your vote is totally irrelevant.

someone who is usually silent at June 14, 2005 12:52 PM [permalink]:

Maryam,
This would be my last reply to you. Take it as you wish.
You said "Sir, i do live in my country 'Iran', and I forbid any comments on that!"
1. I am not a sir... I am a very nice lady.... :)
2. I do not think you can forbid my comment on anything. If you are really living in Iran, I was wrong, and I am sorry. But it makes it even harder to understand where you are sitting... Don't you see people are angry at the government? When you say Ganji is not representetive of people, I guess we wouldn't know that, would we? Since there is no "REPRESENTETIVE OF PEOPLE IN IRI". How do you claim you know about people of Iran, if you don't see and you don't listen? Do you live in a concrete castle? Without windows? (Let me guess, you want to forbid me from making comments on your housing situations now). Let me appologize right now.

Farzine Kamali at June 14, 2005 03:00 PM [permalink]:

http://www.petitiononline.com/SayNo/petition.html

To: United Nations
To the head of United Nations, Mr. Kofi Anon,

We, the following signatories, the youth and people of Iran, both inside and outside the country, wish to bring to your attention the following considerations.

With noted attention to:

1. The upcoming Presidential Election of the Islamic Republic of Iran by no standards holds any merit, or integrity and is not worthy of the title of an "Election".

2. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has placed strict filters for candidacy in this election. This government has recognized and accepted only the most abhorred candidates. However, the candidacy of all parties and individuals who do not have a most discriminating and guarded devotion to the Islamic Republic itself is not authorized or accepted under any circumstances.

3. People of Iran are vastly frustrated with both the regime and its "Elections" for its use of horrific attempts of threats. Threats are given in all forms. Ultimatums range from with-holding salaries and sources of income to revoking rights to enter universities for not voting. These are just two examples of the many tactics used by this government to terrorize and threaten the nation into submission and showing up at the voting booths.

We declare:
THE ELECTION OF A NEW PRESIDENT IN THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN ON JUNE 17, 2005 HOLDS NO LEGITIMACY. THIS REGIME AND ITS ELECTION DOES NOT HOLD ANY CREDITABILITY.

If you have any respect for freedom, we ask you to support us in our struggle against the entirety of this Islamic regime and its "Elections." We are ready to prove with evidence the illegitimacy, irrelevance and ludicrousness of this charade that has been endowed the title of an "Election". We wish to meet with you to present our case. We have millions and millions of Iranians as our witnesses and ask you to not turn a blind eye to this barefaced and manifest utter act of disrespect to humanity in Iran and the world. We ask you to not even accord the title of an "Election" to this shameless act of lies and threats.

Signatories,
Libertarian Youths Association

Elizabeth at June 14, 2005 03:14 PM [permalink]:

Thanks to those of you who have expressed support of my presence on this board. This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, but it has taken me this long to muster up the courage to try and engage in a political discussion when I know very little about it.
Well, we all have to start from somewhere!

What I am hearing from Maryam is that she isn't sure if people are happy with Iran, that it is possible that the goverment might actually be listening to the will of the people after all, which could be a step in the right direction toward Democracy albeit different from the kind of Democracy one would find in the West. Correct me if I'm wrong.
I disagree that the regime really cares about the will of the people. In a book by Dr. Azar Nafisi called "Reading Lolita in Iran" she describes how difficult life can be for those who want to read a book that is forbidden by the Ayatollahs(like Nabokov or Jane Austen), that a woman and a man who are not related or married cannot even so much as have coffee together without fear of being caught by the police. Dr. Nafisi had once taught at the University of Tehran but eventually had to start an underground study group with some loyal students so they could continue to study and discuss such forbidden literature. I read from the Iranian Press Service that a sixteen year old girl who was raped by a male relative was executed by hanging, but the rapist was allowed to live. Whatever Democracy is, examples such as these show what Democracy isn't. Again in the IPS I heard that Iranians all over the world have been petitioning the EU to facilitate a peaceful change of regime because of the "inteptitude of Irans leaders".
From what I'm reading on this board, people are still dissatisfied, if not angry.

And I'm getting the impression that all the low-interest loans and cheap Coca-Cola in the world will not keep the anger at bay forever.

JFTDMaster at June 14, 2005 04:01 PM [permalink]:

It seems that the Guardian Council wants you to vote. They must have their reasons, and people here already discussed them: legitimacy of the regime, etc. Isn't that a good reason not to vote?

Babak S at June 14, 2005 04:05 PM [permalink]:

Elizabeth,

I read "Reading Lolita in Tehran" and it is an amazing book. I will probably publish on this site a review of the book once the election frenzy has subsided. There is one thing you must know though, and that is the book tells the story of Iran as it was a few years ago when Dr. Nafisi lived there. Iran is a rapidly changing country. So, some of the harsh realities depicted in the book have become more laxed in the mean time. For instance, the youth are not so much bugged by the police or vigilantes any more for having coffees with a friend of the opposite sex. Perhaps because they are busy fighting in other fronts. But this does not mean that it could not make a come back if the struggle is lost, and the fact reamins that Iran is far from being democratic, as shown by the story of the 16-year-old girl hanging and thousands of other stories.

I applaud your interest in knowing about Iran and the fact that you have been reading up on it. A key to broaden your understanding, as to mine and other Iranians as well, is to diversify your sources while understanding their motives, agendas and social and political standings. IPS for instance takes very solid stands against the the regime, etc. I do not know myself what agenda if any they have.

FToI Editorial Board at June 14, 2005 04:10 PM [permalink]:

p.s. for your information, the word سوسياليست is termed as 'containing questionable content' in the freethoughts website!

This problem was caused by our overzealous spam detector. It must be corrected now. We apologize for any inconvenience. If there is any other problems with posting your comments please do refer them to the webmaster here @ freethoughts.org.

SG at June 14, 2005 04:15 PM [permalink]:

Again, the way I see it, what we have here is a factory with, say, 700 workers. There are a few very brilliant people among them who put forward very tempting arguments for a strike. The gist of their argment being, a strike would be the best thing in these circumstances. And they may be right. However, the fact of the matter is there will be NO strike, because only 50 workers pay attention to what these folks are talking about. In other words, the strike movement hasn't yet reached a "tipping point". Now, what happens if 50 workers out of 700 attempt a "strike"? The answer is clear: The "strike" is no strike, and the rebels will be either ignored or fired.

Babak S at June 14, 2005 04:33 PM [permalink]:

SG,

Is this an argument, an analysis, a prediction, or what?

There is only one way to decide on this matter: do you find the arguments for the strike compelling enough to agree with it? One should not base individual decisions on the hypothetical collective outcome of the decision. How are we going to know what will happen at all before it actually happens, let alone base our course of action on it? If everyone, on the other hand, makes up his mind based on the actual arguments put forward by those for and against the strike, we will see the true result of the debate.

Here's an example of what your approach amounts to: I want to shop for a T-shirt. I look around and find that a newly opened outfit store has really good T-shirts (they look good, feel good, have good quality, ect.) Then I ask myself: but if I shop here and nobody else does, they are going to go out of business. You seem to conclude from this concern, that the store does not exist any more and so one cannot shop at a non-existent store. How could one really? :))

Look though, the store is still there, the T-shirts are still there, and they are good T-shirts. If you know of people who have shopped there and found the T-shirts not as good as they look and plan not to shop there any more, that's another matter. That is objective. But concluding from a simple concern over the business of store that the store does not exist now, so you cannot shop there, is not only not objective, it is absurd.

Babak S at June 14, 2005 04:46 PM [permalink]:

SG,

I am repeating myself here but it seems unavoidable: if people decided in real life as you seem to suggest one should, Khatami would not have a chance to win the election 8 years ago. Till the very last days, nobody really paid any attention to him. The transition occured when those arguing for voting for him convinced the reluctant, and the reluctant did not decide on whether or not Khatami was (hypothetically) going to win, but whether or not they thought he had to win because of what they thought he stood for.

SG at June 14, 2005 04:46 PM [permalink]:

Babak S,

I guess my previous comment is simply a well-chosen (I tend to think) metaphor. Unlike your T-shirt metaphor! This is one of the cases that our system daynamics expert, Hazhir, should comment on. It's simply my gut feeling that there are not enough workers who cooperate at this point, even though they're all suffering, and the strike, although a marvellous idea, will be a failure, simply because it will not materialize. Look, there is only three days to the election and Mr. Zaydabadi (of roozonline.com ) still hopes that his voice may reach all the Iranian people and make a strike possible. Do you seriously think it is going to work? I say let's vote one more time and dream about the faraway tipping point later!

Parthisan at June 14, 2005 04:52 PM [permalink]:

In the past 8 years the conservatives have done their best to rewind the situation to what it was before Khatami's landslide election, i.e. convince the majority of eligible voters to stay at home and remain neutral to the struggle for power.

Their effort seems to have paid off.

The GC and their gang traditionally have a certain number of secured votes. I guess statistically about 15% of eligible voters vote for them in every election (Except the two occasions when Banisadr and Khatami were elected). So when participation is low, that 15% counts a lot, and makes them win.

SG at June 14, 2005 04:54 PM [permalink]:

Babak S,

I wish there was a way to distinguish those who do not vote "ideologically" and those who do not vote "lethargically". There is none, however. Not at the moment, at least. As it stands, your not voting will be subject to (mis-)interpretation and as some young mullah argued (see the link), those in power will hijack the "boycott" to their own benefit and attach their own interpretation to it.

Babak S at June 14, 2005 04:58 PM [permalink]:

SG,

I don't think your metaphor is really that well-chosen: a worker normally goes to work. To do otherwise is a serious matter that could lead to his being laid off. Voting on the other hand is not something you do normally and if you don't you are not going to see an immidiate personally serious backlash. I tend to think my metaphor of shopping at this or that store is a better one, exactly because it is the arguments for and against the decision that are most important, not the mere act of one person voting (shopping at this store) or not (shopping at another store).

Now, even if we agree with your (subjective I must add and so subject to considerable debate - just as a sample of the visitors of this web site look at the results of the poll on the front page) view that not many are going to accept the idea of the boycott, why should you who think it is a good idea, do the exact opposit? I find that a little hard to swallow.

Babak S at June 14, 2005 05:04 PM [permalink]:

Parthisan,

How could you claim that (all) those who don't vote "stay at home and remain neutral to the struggle for power." See here. Read also the following.

SG, As it stands, your not voting will be subject to (mis-)interpretation and as some young mullah argued (see the link), those in power will hijack the "boycott" to their own benefit and attach their own interpretation to it.

Not if there are announcements and manifestos. Not if it is targeted. Most of the people who argue for a boycott do publish announcements explaining why they are doing so. That would rule out a "hijack" of that sort.

SG at June 14, 2005 05:35 PM [permalink]:

Babak S,

The reason why I do the "exact opposite" (not really) of what I think is right must be clear. My strike metaphor says it all. I wish in Iran's elections we could have something like a "black ballot" for those who *would* vote under more favorable circumstances (to distinsuish them from those who would not vote anyway), but do not like to vote to any of the candidates that have been filtered. That would make our life much easier.

Babak S at June 14, 2005 06:06 PM [permalink]:

SG,

There is something you and those like you can do, and that is to cast a spoiled ballot. There is a chance that it is going to be counted as a spoiled ballot, but you have to spoil it really good! Otherwise it could go to some candidate of the counter's choosing. However, as I already challenged your strike metaphor, I cannot understand why one should do so when he thinks not voting the sound thing to do.

Monika at June 14, 2005 06:29 PM [permalink]:

One point for Elizabeth,
My major is ĎEnglish literatureí and I study it in Iran;actually all kinds of Literature are allowed to be discussed. Azar Nafisi has pointed out ĎThe Great Gatsbyí as forbidden Literature, but we did analyze it in our class. Nabacov, Fitzgerald are no unfamiliar to students. I guess within a special point in time, after the revolution they ban such stuff, but now they have taken a new strategy which works better for them, students just glossing things over. Whatís missing is engagement. French call it engagee, it means to struggle with, to put into use. That`s what literature should be about, partly, especially in a politically oppressive situation. It should be applied to life and to the situation. Female characters should be taken in Literature and female writers for that matter and apply the issues women of contemporary Iran face. If we donít do that, we are missing the whole point of studying literature. Literature as Political engagement is another matter that we havenít even scratched the surface.

SG at June 14, 2005 07:40 PM [permalink]:

Babak S,

Just for the record, I am not 100% convinced that voting (for Moeen, or for whomever) is the right thing to do. But I am about 51% or so convinced, if you know what I mean: The arguments against voting (i.e. for boycotting) are strong, but not, in my opinion, as strong as the ones for voting.

As a matter of fact, I will be happy if our next president can do at least as much as Khatami did! The advatnage of this view is, I can conceive it. But what comes out of boycotting (assuming, as improbable as it seems, that it will materialize) in the absense of a savvy political leadership is quite vague for me.

Imagine, for the sake of argument, that on Friday only 1,000,000 Iranians vote. What will be next?

Babak S at June 14, 2005 08:03 PM [permalink]:

Let me take the opportunity and utter some profound wisdom: those who cannot imagine beyond what they've seen will not bring about any change.

SG,

If only 1M vote on Friday, that will be by and in itself a huge blow to the system. It would precipitate a strong domestic as well as international pressure on the system. No one in the world buys the word of a government with only that many backing it. Not just in the world, but also inside the country, people will see how many actually support the current system. It could by itself and without much planning lead to the fall of the government. Now, this looks like a dream or a bad joke, but that's because only 1M voting on Friday is such an unlikely scenario.

As to the real world, the same logic that leads one to opt for the boycott, sets the rest of the plan; in two wrods: nonviolent movement. Setting out on that route will be eased after a successful boycott: our reformists will be forced to rethink their startegies and demands (as they have been due to the past two spontaneous boycotts) and since they will be out of the power structure they must go back to their roots, that is their popular support and mobilize them.

Nonviolent movement is what is happening right now too: women demonstrating for their rights and demanding the change of the constitution; students and prisoners families protesting in front of the Evin prison, etc. These must be expanded into a widespread movement.

SG at June 14, 2005 08:50 PM [permalink]:

Babak S:

"... only 1M voting on Friday is such an unlikely scenario."

Exactly my point!

Also, "mobilizing the popular support" is easier said than done. I think a successful boycott, a great nonviolent movement, comes about naturally and cannot be forced. Those who would like to bring about change simply cannot be *too* ahead of their people, or they're heading for disappointment.

Also, the fall of the government by itself will not automatically lead to a better situation. Do we want to be the next Iraq? The recent bombings point to the fact that Iran has the potential of becoming a good habitat for terrorists. And who can guarantee the non-violency of the movement when it takes momentum?!

JRez at June 14, 2005 09:43 PM [permalink]:

Babak S,

You said:
There is something you and those like you can do, and that is to cast a spoiled ballot.

I disagree. There is practically no chance for the spoiled ballots to be counted correctly. If anyone wants to cast in blank votes, he or she should stay home instead. One important aspect of the election is the number of people in voting booths, especially in Tehran and large cities in the election day.

JRez at June 14, 2005 09:49 PM [permalink]:

SG,
you said:
I think a successful boycott, a great nonviolent movement, comes about naturally and cannot be forced. Those who would like to bring about change simply cannot be *too* ahead of their people, or they're heading for disappointment.

There is a name for this and it is not pragmatism. it is populism.

I disagree with you on this. Everything in history shows the need for those who want to bring about change to be demanding beyond what the society persumably wants at the time. It is in their analysis of the situation and the rationality of their mehods that they are recognized as pragmatists.

Besides, are ou really serious that the main body of Iranian people are way behind such simple demands? Based on what are you making this claim? People might be afraid, but their demands are much much more than anything the reformists are going to utter publically.

Babak S at June 14, 2005 10:44 PM [permalink]:

SG,

Sorry, what was your point? 1M turnout is unlikely but 10-15M is not. That is the minimum turnout by any means, about 20-30% of the electorate. Can't go lower than that.

I should second JRez on that I don't think the reformists who are campaigning for votes are ahead of the people. Surely those who are going to vote them in are ahead of them at least in their demands, hidden and spoken.

Do we want to be the next Iraq? In what respect? In the sense that terrorist blow themselves up to scare people? That would be an improvement to the situation where they sit in the courts and punish others in their prisons. Joking aside, I don't believe Iran will become like Iraq; the situation is very different, the economic conditions are not anywhere as dire, people are better educated, etc. But anyway that is not the point of the discussion, as I said the fall of the regime is very unlikely.

If the nonviolent movement gets rolling, the popular will behind it will keep it nonviolent. Remember the street protests in 1999 (18 Tir)? I remember clearly that people were very careful not to let it turn violent. They exercised extreme patience in the face of the brutal violence that the other side directed at the students and later the people in the streets. The same is still true today. If there was any popular violent sentiments, there would have been another revolution by now.

Elizabeth at June 15, 2005 01:28 AM [permalink]:

Thanks, Babak (for the reply you made a few paragraphs back). I'm glad things have become less strict (and less scary), but it really does sound like there's a long way to go. I wish the best for all the people of Iran and hope they will continue in the right for freedom. You have friends in other countries who honestly care about your welfare, no hidden agendas. I'll be watching the elections in Iran very closely, because all of us will be affected, Iranian or not. (I am a non-lying, non-criminal American:-)

SG at June 15, 2005 03:19 PM [permalink]:

Babak S,

Here's a prediction, not an analogy or an analysis or an argument:

If your advocated "boycot" succeeds, Hashemi will become Iran's next president and ...

I don't think this is what you want. Am I right?

Babak S at June 15, 2005 05:00 PM [permalink]:

Dear SG,

Ideally, yes, I do not want Hashemi Rafsanjani to be the Preident. But gone is the time I decided what to do in Iranian elections based on negative outcomes. Here's why:

First, in this case, Hashemi will remain the head of the Expediency Council even if he does not become the President, with enormous "unelected" powers to interfere with the workings of the "elected" offices. What should we do about that?

Second, this election is not a choice between bad and worse. This is a non-choice. And that is the major problem to be addressed. There exists a choice, however, and that is to fix the system nonviolently.

Ganji-Behnoud at June 15, 2005 05:44 PM [permalink]:

Click and listen.

Name at June 16, 2005 07:55 AM [permalink]:

To alborz, responding to the very first comment:

The wise man will listen even to what the birds are telling him. It is up to him to clarify the lies. Ignoring them won't help but torment his spirit.

If "anything americans say" is a lie, what's the purpose of the struggle then?

Listening and exchanging arguments is very powerful in the long run. Identifying lies to an informed public can be a strong move.

So listen carefully and speak up - if you dare to try the hard way. It won't be easy, but it's the only way towards equal justice.

Ricky Neva at July 24, 2006 03:04 PM [permalink]:

Don't Vote! It only encourages them! By the way, those of us who do not vote are in the majority and that sends a real message!