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June 22, 2005

Be Warned
Babak Seradjeh  [info|posts]
leminencerouge.jpg

The cover of the 26th print of the book by Ganji that is thought to be the major cause for his imprisonment, "The Red Eminence, The Grey Eminences (the pathology of the transition to developing demacratic govenment)."

I have been holding my breath since the election results were clear. I was dismayed by the results then, and even considered shutting this part of my life down in favour of more rewarding activities of which there is no shortage. But I was discouraged even more by the aim and target of some of my friends, and indeed almost all so-called reformist politicians, activists, journalists, etc. who have since become ever more active to persuade us to vote for Hashemi Rafsanjani. In all this it seems only a principled lawyer and human rights activist such as Shirin Ebadi is able to keep her mind together.

I remain convinced that the road to democracy in Iran does not go through the supervised elections of the Islamic Repubic, all the less through this run-off. The reasons are the same as the ones given before by great thinkers such as Akbar Ganji. Even if I agreed hypothetically that voting against Ahmadi Nejad is the right thing to do, there would remain issues that are being inevitably pushed aside in this frenzy of campaiging for votes turned into a matter of life and death. This shift of focus can prove even more dangerous than the presidency of Ahmadi Nejad, which in any case would naturally place heavy costs on the anti-democratic camp itself. I could not hold the deep breath any more, so here I would like to register a few of these sacrificed issues, at least for the record and future reference.

1. Elections in Iran are just a façade. This is the most important item sacrificed in the campagin for votes against Ahmadi Nejad. The real power structure in Iran does not depend much on the outcome of elections. The shots are called mostly by the unelected bodies, especially on the most sensitive issues. This is exemplified by both run-off candidates. Rafsanjani is the head of the Expediency Assembly by the Leader's decree and has always had great influence and (political and economic) power. Ahmadi Nejad represents the military forces of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Basij both under the direct supervision of the unelected Leader and is reportedly supported by his appointees in the Guardian Council. This structure of power would not go away even if Moeen was elected.

2. Rafsanjani is L'Eminence Rouge. This truism is the other direct victim of this fierce campaigning. If 20 out of 30 million participants vote for Rafsanjani in the run-off (a scenario not so implausible) he would have a mandate as large as Khatami's. Given his position and history, he would be able, unlike Khatami, to use this quite effectively for his agenda. Do not expect that to be anything you may like.

3. Fascism in Iran does not end with Ahmadi Nejad's defeat. Fascistic methods were in use even before the revolution of 1979 culminated in ousting the Shah's last prime minitser, Bakhtiar. Indeed it was the way the mullahs succeeded in consolidating their powers against their rivals after the revolution. That Fascistic consolidation of power is still present. Even if Ahmadi Nejad is accepted to be the only one between the two candidates that would be bringing back the danger of Islamic Fascism to Iran, one must not forget that he and his friends in the Guards Corps and Basij are and will remain in the real structure of power even if defeated in the run-off.

4. Iran is not France. I can't but laugh at the proliferation of this analogy between France's last run-off and Iran's. Is it the wish that Iran were France, I ask myself, that makes people ignore all the facts against such laughable analogy or simply the poetic nature of Iranians mingled with their political thinking? Whatever the reason, once our friends are done, successfully or not, with getting the votes they can for their, in their own words, less-than-ideal candidate, they must only face the reality of Iran (and not France) and that is that they are living in a theocracy ruled by the likes of Rafsanjani himself.

5. Ganji is dying. Finally, the most disasterous side effect of this election circus is that the trembling voices of true champions of freedom such as Ganji and Zarafshan and many more unlawful captives in Islamic Republic's prisons, and even possibly their bodies are buried under the noise. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if one-tenth of the effort put into vote campaiging today had been spent on campaiging for the freedom of Ganji, Zarafshan, and their colleagues, or indeed, for that matter, for the true freedom and the true democracy in Iran. Would they still elude us?

Comments
itchy_thoughts at June 22, 2005 02:13 PM [permalink]:

"I sometimes wonder what would have happened if one-tenth of the effort put into vote campaiging today had been spent on campaiging for the freedom of Ganji, Zarafshan, and their colleagues, or indeed, for that matter, for the true freedom and the true democracy in Iran. Would they still elude us?"

... And I wonder what is wrong with intellectuals of Iran although I am agianst elitism and intellectualism. But that's a different story for a different day.

No country in the world has achieved democracy for the sake of democracy and freedom of speech. Stop philosophizing things. Revolutions and evolutions started by much more earthly causes than philosophical concepts. You can't bring a nation together just for democracy specially you can't bring a nation together on empty stomach.

Again, I don't know what I will do on Friday, but your logics is simply flawed, and that makes me seriously ponder and tilt towards voting:

RE: 1. Unlike the nowadays western democracies where the ruling governments do not affect people's lives that much, in Iran things are different. In a country where the government sticks its nose into people's underwear, who-rules-you is very important.

RE: 2. Rafsanjani won't be able to deliver anything he promises, but he is lesser evil than Ahmadinehjad.

Isn't choosing the "lesser evil" or the "the devil we know is better than the devil we don't know" what that determines the elections in the west?

RE 3: I am dumbfounded by this one. So if I understand correctly, you are suggesting since we can't do anything with facsism in Iran, we better let it rule us. It's like telling a cancer patient that since you can't be cured, we'll let you die.

RE 4: Iran is not France, but Iranians need to vote for more reasons than the French do need. See RE: 1.

RE 5: Yes Ganji is dying. It is barbaric by any today's standards to keep someone in jail for what he believes. But are you suggesting since he is in jail and it is not fair, we better let more people put in jail for reasons like what they wear, eat, drink, do, and finally believe?

A tired man at June 22, 2005 02:38 PM [permalink]:

I didn't get Babak's logic. Who says we should ignore Rafsanjani's crimes, or Ganji's situation, or corruption of the elections in Iran?
Exactly for these reasons we need to vote and encourage others to vote: If ahmadinejad's group dominates the last part of government not yet controled by fundamentalists, we may easily see that:
- Ganij will die in prison, and nobody can say anything. (of course you and me can condomn from the other side of the world, but so what?)
- Next election... there will be none. This one is corrupted by 2 million votes, the next one they will get anybody out of the box (which they couldn't do when Khatami got elected, or if there is a margine of 2-3 million for Hashemi this time).
- Criticizing Rafsanjani... well you might be able to do that under Ahmadinejad, but you will be jailed for saying anything against the new powers: Allha karams, Shariatmadari's, etc.
If today there are people inside the system that care about the international pressure for attention to Ganjis, tomorrow there will be none. Those who are boycotting elections, will then be accomplice to what happens to brave Iranians in jails, who are left alone with the bloodthirthty fascists.
Babak, What shift of priorities are you talking about? Have you really thought about the consequences of Ahmadinejad for all the goals you value? You and me are sitting here and are sentencing Ganji's to death by our inaction. How many people died in Iran's prisons between 61-68 with nobody ever hearing about them? Why do you want to go back to those days? You and I will be responsible for all that blood if we don't do whatever we can today to avoid it, even if that is electing the devil himself.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 22, 2005 03:10 PM [permalink]:

Babak,
I agree with you completely (as must be clear by now).

Thanks for reminding about Ebadi. I was pretty harsh on her, for good reasons that still hold.
But to her credit I have to say here as well, thaht unlike many, she has been taking many right stances, especially by focusing her attention towards releasing the prisoners, amidst all this noise and stinking hypocracies that is covering around us all.

That's it. I am finally out of here!

SG at June 22, 2005 03:15 PM [permalink]:

Babak S,

I thought the outcome of the election would teach you a lesson or two. Alas, you proved me wrong, still beating hard on the same old drum.

A very very very very *large* number of Iranians voted for AhmadiNejad. Millions of them, indeed. Also, a very very very very large number of Iranians voted for Hashemi.

Obvious moral: At the time being, Iranians, by and LARGE, do not care all that much for the values you (and Ganji) are tearing yourself apart for. This is a simple fact.

It will take years and years and years of teaching and preaching the ideals you rightly believe in for them to be accepted by Iranians.

Unlike you, *most* Iranians, that is a lot more than half of them, have never been exposed to democratic ideals, or if they have, they have been "ill-exposed" to them.

Conclusion: It is way way way way too early to expect a full-fledged democracy to even start in that beloved country of ours. Under such far-from-ideal circumstances, a semi-democracy can at least provide an atmosphere for our thinking writers to *openly* discuss such matters, and hope these ideas to mature and reach the masses of Iranian people. While if we opt for a non-democracy (as opposed to a semi- one) the way you and some others do, then we'll be swiftly back to square one and we'll lose the chance for deepening and spreading the democratic ideas altogether.

SG at June 22, 2005 03:50 PM [permalink]:

Let me rephrase (or repeat) myself. It may be worth it.

Before the election, we didn't have a clear idea of the "political demography" of Iranians. Now we do, even though the election results may not have been quite accurate, but they are plus/minus a small percentage, which doesn't make a difference in what I am trying to conclude.

It takes a lot more than a minority of people who are able to argue "rationally" for a democracy to start. For starters, just look at Moin. Poor Mr. Moin was reformist camp's *highest hope*. This has a name in Persian: GHAHTORREJAAL.

No ready people combined with no good leadership simply means no democracy.

Iranian, as this election have shown us so plainly, lack the *capacity* for having their country run democratically. They. Are. Not. Ready.

Do not be deluded by what "high-brow" publications in Iran have been saying all these Khatami years. They are read by a *dire* minority of Iranians. The majority of Iranians either do not care for what Shargh op-ed says, or simply cannot afford to buy it everyday.

It is only a relatively few of us who get carried away and think democracy can take root by arguing rationally over a time-span of a few years.

Please remember that Galileo (that ONE person) was wise (or "rational") enough to retract his correct understanding. He knew how to protect (and hide?) his rational views for a later time.

itchy_thoughts at June 22, 2005 03:52 PM [permalink]:

I totally agree with SG.

Iran is a closed society that has remained as a suprise even to Iranians. All societies have different types of mentalists some of them totally contradicting each other. Iran is no exception. In democracies these differences are constantly brought up and so some of them are smoothed over in the process.

But in a country like Iran, every individual sees what is just around him not farther than that. So we may have suprises from time to time to learn that someone else with a totally different viewpoint is also Iranian.

WAKE UP PEOPLE: Iran has many many poor people, people who have different values than you guys. They have differnt priorities than you guys. And they are no less Iranian than you, guys. They are part of Iran, as monarchists are, as pro-reformers are, as every body else is.

I bet many of you "intellectuals" snub them. And that is your hypocracy 'cause if you truely believe in democracy, you should respect what their choice. And if you want to be heard, you have to vote like them too.

Sooner you, intellectuals", learn to make your peace with this simple fact of life, it will be better for all of us.

Ahmadinejad, who is not known outside of Tehran, won't change the life style of many people living in smaller cities (red states if you will) and south Tehran, but they have a disdain for corrupt Rafsanjani that had made them poorer.

Your train of thoughts comes from an old, broken,and half-baked European philosophy station. Broaden your horizon.

Babak S at June 22, 2005 04:07 PM [permalink]:

itchy,

I won't have time for detailed rebuttals for a while, but for now it seems you have completely missed the point: these are not arguments for a boycott, but issues I do not want to see gone and forgotten. (Although the natural suggestion that is consistent with the view I take in raising these issues is indeed a nonviolent movement instead of wasting our time in the circus show called elections in the Islamic Republic.) For now, "be warned" not to forget these...

SG at June 22, 2005 04:13 PM [permalink]:

Care for another analogy? Here you go:

A guy (let's call him Asghar Jangi) is sitting in a cell with only a small hole in the wall that makes it possible for him to breathe. Instead of trying to keep that little hole open to survive, he cries out loud for closing that little hope.

His argument: I like to become free RIGHT NOW. If I close the hole, then people from outside who care for human rights will rush to my cell to save and free me.

Poor Asghar. True, his current situation is not comparable to living a free life in a mansion on top of a hill with a great view, but at least there *is* hope for him to one day become free. No?

P.S. Don't take this analogy out of its context. Have it with my previous comments above.

itchy_thoughts at June 22, 2005 04:32 PM [permalink]:

Babak S, you wrote to me in some other comment (and I am not gonna follow that discussion thread cause it is a bit outdated) that I keep comparing Iran with some other countries that are democratic.

Well, I guess you shouldn't raise methods that have worked for other countries either.

"...with the view I take in raising these issues is indeed a nonviolent movement"

Non-violent movement may have worked for India that had a mellow enemy (as opposed to our brutal one) with strong Anglo-Saxon liberalism background in its psyche. They were practical enough (even unlike the French) to volunteerly give up once they realized a wave is turning against them.

If mullahs acknowledged that Ganji (for example) is a great man (like the way the British acknowledged that Ghandi was a great man) and they made a movie in his honour, I'd say things are ripe for a non-violent movement in Iran.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 22, 2005 04:55 PM [permalink]:

If I had the free time, energy, or just the patience to show the likes of our SG here why they are blurring out nonsense I could have pointed out that Afghanis, after all the war and Taliban and much much fewer educated masses have a democratci government, with women in the cabinet and a totally free press. Just as one example.
But I did want to get on with my life and as a principle I never argue with dellusional, self-appointed intellectual, retarded idiots.
pity.

SG at June 22, 2005 05:02 PM [permalink]:

F***!

That's you vision for Iran? Another Afghanistan?!

Gisoo Talaayi at June 22, 2005 05:37 PM [permalink]:

So what are you guys trying to achieve by not voting? What would happen? Do you think the government would just pack up and leave?

Niki at June 22, 2005 05:38 PM [permalink]:

Yes, SG, at the end of the day, people like AIS do want to make another Afghanistan out of Iran. With even the U.S. hardliners admitting that all is not well either in Afghanistan or Iraq, the likes of AIS want us to lead us down that same sorry road. This is why it is more urgent than ever to make sure that even the slightest ray of hope, as you put it, are followed or else we will find ourselves in an even bigger dump.

Mohammad Mahdian at June 22, 2005 05:45 PM [permalink]:

Babak S: Who said we want to forget Rafsanjani's crimes? We have not changed our minds about Rafsanjani; he is the same person he used to be. But I still advocate for voting for him, because I see the prospect of having Ahmadi Nejad as the president much more black.

Also, you say the road to democracy in Iran doesn't go through supervised elections. You might be right, but the reason I think we should vote for Hashemi is not to achieve democracy with him; it's too keep the personal freedoms that were gained during the past 10 years.

AIS:
Are you seriously proposing Afghanistan as a good model for Iran? Do you think the fact that there are several women in Afghanistan's cabinet and there are none in Iran shows that women are more free in Afghanistan?

One-Liner at June 22, 2005 05:55 PM [permalink]:

SG's analogies (and expletives) sound very appropriate to me. I wish I could know who he is.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 22, 2005 06:05 PM [permalink]:

Mohammad Mahdian,
I am talking about Afganistan's government structure, not the society or its present condition. This government structure allows freedom of press, women in high positions, free elections. In short it is a democracy and thaht is despite the fact that Afghanistan as a society is in such ruins. It is precisely this contrast that I am talking about. That's my point. You see anything wrong in what I say?

Niki at June 22, 2005 06:12 PM [permalink]:

AIS-

I for one see much wrong in what you say. How can you just talk about the government structure without any attention to what is happening on-the-ground to the people of Afghanistan. They--and especially the women--are not much better off. And even the government itself has no shortage of problems. One of the many complaints against it is that it is not at all an inclusive government. The fact that almost all of the top posts have gone to Pashtuns is not very democratic now is it? Many Afghans--who as you know are a very diverse people--have pointed this discrepancy out. And this is just one of the many problems with the government structure, as you call it.

Alborz at June 22, 2005 07:06 PM [permalink]:

this is the vote fraud of the century, hashemi is nothing but the same as ahmadinejad, same bullshit, same brutallity, same lies.

Shabnam at June 22, 2005 07:48 PM [permalink]:

I don't see any point anymore talking about who is doing what. Boycotters (I am proudly one of them) have their reasons, which they have discussed many times, and people who like to vote have their reasons. Everyone seems to be repeating himself or herself. I invite all of you to read Abbas Ma'roufi's weblog to see another side of story from boycotters' side.

Anyway, Afghanistan, Iran, France, Canada, or anywhere else in the world, if the elections are fraud, I won't vote. (By the way, do people believe that Afghan women have the same situation as they had in Taliban's time? Do you really believe it, or is it your anti-American sentiment that causes this illogical behavior?)

Alborz at June 22, 2005 07:54 PM [permalink]:

Shabnam, I hope ther were more people willing to boycot the election. dont vote out of fear. this is all a planned thing by the mullahs to bring rafsanjani to power.

Alborz at June 22, 2005 08:08 PM [permalink]:

visit my blog for more info. why u should boycott the election.

SG at June 22, 2005 08:09 PM [permalink]:

Some more thoughts (and "expletives"! Thank you, OL.)

Niki: It was a Freudian slip, I swear, when I said "closing that little hope". I meant to say "hole".

My analogy is flawed. It's just an analogy after all. Just to be clear, by Asghar Jangi, I meant the entirety of the Iranian nation. One person *may* have the right to kill himself, but one person does not have the right to recommend the Afghanistanization of Iran for all Iranians.

In my opinion, democracy has much deeper roots in Iran than it is in Afghanistan and any other Arab country (perhaps with the exception of Lebanon). And this is partly thanks to the semi-free press that we have had during the brighter times in our recent history.

Both Afghanistan and Iraq have a long way to go.

Back to the analogy: Asghar has a file and if he is wise and patient he'll give himself the chance to widen the hole slowly, but consistently. The file here can be taken a metaphor for education, and not just formal education. Educating can be achieved through newspapers, magazines, etc.

Finally, I want to take what I said to AIS back.

What I should have said is the following:

F***!

That's your vision for Iran? Another Afghanistan?!

(An "r" was missing.)

Mehdi Y. at June 22, 2005 09:00 PM [permalink]:

I don't agree with SG and some other commenters regarding lack of readiness of Iranians for democracy and freedom.
People have many priorities in their life including having a job, having good income, good education for children as well as having freedom. Many of people in Iran understand that the real and significant improvement of all these things can come if the political situation would change. But since they have become so hopeless about the change of political situation, they have blocked out the political issues from their mind and now only focus on things that more achievable. This hopelessness has also made them to a large extent gullible and succeptible to believing people like Karubi or Ahmadinejad who promise some economical remedies.

The moment that people believe that there is an actual chance of changing the political situation, their mood will change. At the moment they are very hopeless because Khatami did not achieve many of his goals and the things that he achieved were largely neglected by people or were buried under the mention of all those things that he didn't achieved. Also, people are hopeless about any change coming from outside after they saw the bloodshed in Iraq. (Note: even many of us are against US intervention in Iran, this was not the case for many of the poor people in Iran right after fall of Saddam. People were genuinely excited about the prospect of the change in Iraq and eventually in Iran. Many of the people who rushed to pilgrimage of Karbala and Najaf after fall of Saddam were coming back with tales of generousity of American soldiers in giving them food on the way there. Some were showing off their pictures next to American soldiers. This sentiment changed considerably after the increase of insurgency and insecurity in Iraq and beseiging Najaf by American forces when they were fighting Sadr's supporters.)


What is needed now from intelectuals is not self-defeatism. Regardless of the outcome of the election, the intelectuals should work harder to tell people that without political openness, there isn't going to be any economical improvement. They have to look for better ways of reaching people. Internet has a very limited reach.

Also, in all calculations, it should be factored in that the public has a short attention span. When they are excited and focused on political freedom like the time at the beginning of Khatami's presidency, the opportunity has to be taken advantage of. It needs a brave leadership (such as Akbar Ganji who is unfortunately in jail) who would take the status to a new phase.

itchy_thoughts at June 22, 2005 09:10 PM [permalink]:

Folks,

Wake up and smell the coffe. The world is run by pragmatic people who think rationally not by those who sit on the fences and wait to jump in when their ideals come true. These people live in their world of fantacies and you know what. Nobody takes them seriously.

I am an undecided as i have said before. What is keeping me from voting Rafsanjani is not a bunch of poetic nonesenses. Here are two articles that have worded my concern for a vote for Rafsanjani much more efficiently than I could put it.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/story/2005/06/050622_a_z_election.shtml

http://roozonline.com/02article/008034.shtml

In a nutshell, these, by the same author, outline why a Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad's administration will not be practically that far off.

Shabnam at June 22, 2005 11:37 PM [permalink]:

SG:
"In my opinion, democracy has much deeper roots in Iran than it is in Afghanistan and any other Arab country"

What do you mean any other Arab country? Neither Iran nor Afghanistan is Arab countries.

Right now, I have heard a talk from an Iranian professor, who lives in Iran. (" Not living in Iran" seems to be the base of some people's judgment about our boycott: "you don't live in Iran, so shut up and vote", so this professor living in Iran may make his views more acceptable for some people). Anyway, this professor, who lives in Iran, was also a boycotter, who said that the reason he is boycotting is that he doesn’t see any difference between Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad (yea, he was brave enough to admit that), and he said, and I agree, that putting Ahmadinejad with rafsanjani in the same camp for second round was just to get a lot of votes. For the Iran's "supreme leader" it doesn't matter which of the two gets elected, both of them are khameneii's "dast-neshandeh" (puppet). I thought about this a lot, since last Friday, and I agree with it, even though at first I didn't agree that the number of votes would be important for the validity of elections, but as the time goes and I see reactions, I see it was important, and they did this only to get the maximum number of votes.

Think about any other 2-combination of candidates (for the mathematicians among us), none would get the same response as Rafsanjani and ahmadinejad. The former has his supporters, who are a majority, and the later has his enemies, who vote against him under any condition, to anyone, even Rafsanjani.

By the way, how many people will be foolish to buy into this game? We shall wait and see. (Sorry folks, I don't find any word that is more polite than "foolish" for this sentence.)

On another note: Moeen supporters, can you see how he changed his mind in less than a week from one side to another? Please remember his non-existing-principle and non-existing-personality for the next elections, if he ever dares to come back. He showed us how much worse he is from Khatami. I still try to respect Khatami, but I cannot respect a man with no principles, such as moeen. Note: Khatami's principles are not many, but he has some, none that I can think of now, but I am sure if I think hard enough I can come up with something... Well, who am I kidding, I just like him, because he was the reason I had started to think about politics for the first time in Iran. It is JUST nostalgia.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 23, 2005 02:41 AM [permalink]:

Niki,
this is a bit late for a reply, but I say it anyway.
See hwta the topic of discussion was then jump in.
A genius among us made a very very very very very stupid assertion that we should not expect anything better than the likes of Rafsanjani because Iranians in general are only this much democratic and deserve no better for a long long time to come.

I mad an obviou scounter example of Afganistan with all the problems taht you mention that has a much much much much much much more democratic constitution (or whatever it is they have till now) and laws than we do, while their society is more behind than ours. there are many other such examples to give. That this government structure is not yet perfect or is not implemented yet fully is not the point.

I agree with Shabnam , we are all repeating ourselves here.
A good thing, from my point of view, about all the debate was that those who want to vote find it much harder now to claim they're acting rationally or pragmatically and the boycott camp are mere dreamers. At least I think that is what a 3rd party observer will conclude.
They act out of irrational fear and that's it.
AIS, out.

Yaser K at June 23, 2005 08:29 AM [permalink]:

Just a comment,
Shirin Ebadi as you said is a principled lawyer. However politics is not about principles. So what she says about election is not important. We should thank her for focusing on human right issues.

Kaveh K at June 23, 2005 11:38 AM [permalink]:

I wonder what all of you advocating not voting would say if by your non-actions Iran ends up in a war where thousands might die and countless more would suffer?? Is that Free Thinking?? Why is reality is so hard to grasp?? C'mon Open your eyes, smell the coffee, Any election would make a difference and so does this one. I wonder if any of you ever made anything with your hands, sometimes you have to make with what you have and not what you wish you had!! I just hope you are the minority and this non-voting does not result in bloodshed and violence that we don't need.

SG at June 23, 2005 12:26 PM [permalink]:

Shabnam,

Sorry. Believe me, I know Iran is not an Arab country. I must have meant to say "In my opinion, democracy has much deeper roots in Iran than it has in Afghanistan and in Iraq and any other Arab country", referring to Iraq.

Thanks for pointing that out.

SG at June 23, 2005 01:01 PM [permalink]:

Mehdi Y.

What's the core of your argument (for Iranian being ready for democracy), if you are in fact offering one? What you say about Iranian is just a *possible* explanation of what happened last Friday. Even if I agree that it is a *plausible* explanation, then it doesn't change my conclusion. That at least 25 million Iranians either do not care *enough* about what the likes of Babak S hold so dear (such as human rights, individual freedom, the right to run for presidency, equal rights for women, etc.), or are simply too un-educated to realize that they have priority.

Okay, this came out too harsh. I, who have the time and can afford the luxury of sitting here and write in a website with few visitors, should try very hard to feel the pain of the poor Iranian who doesn't have the minimum of what a human being by virtue of having been born deserves to have. I was just thinking about something that has by now become a familiar spectacle in Western media: Iranians hovering around a newspaper kiosk, reading the news, without buying them. They're very curious, but can't afford to buy the damn paper.

Also, it's not only *political* issues. Those who voted for Ahmadinejad, don't they really realize what social conditions they'd have under his presidency? Don't ordinary poor people want to live a hypocrisy-free life, where they don't have to grow beards to increase their chances of getting employed, where they can wear short-sleeved shirts in the hot summer without being hassled and harassed?

Apparently, a significant number of Iranians don't mind living under those conditions that we (and that is the unfathomable part of it) have actually experienced in very near past. Of course, these are not the kind of Iranian that you see around yourself or the kinds that write articles in magazines. But they do exist and are as Iranian as you and me.

You also claim that as soon as people feel there is a chance for political change, "their mood will change". I have been Iranian all my life and I think I know Iranians very well. Their change of mood, as you put it, as history has shown us, is just that. We get easily worked up, but we cool off as easily. The democratic ideals are not OUR ideals. We have other priorities. I have argued before in these very pages that the Iranian culture contains ingredients that oppose democracy. Ingredients that are so much part of being Iranian that we normally don't see them. I have tried to observe and detect habits and traits of Iranians, their sensitivities and "priorities" (justice and fairness not being one of them, mind you) that by their own nature make it impossible for the plant of democracy to take root in the soil of the Iranian culture.

(It's not a place for me to elaborate on these, but I plan to publish my findings and ideas when they reach an acceptable level of maturity.)

SG at June 23, 2005 03:33 PM [permalink]:

And I will vote for Hashemi tomorrow, not because I think he will be a good caring gardener for the plant that will bear all the good fruit for Iran. But because I think at least he'll give gardeners a little chance to fertilize the soil (which more or less means changing our culture) and slowly, but surely prepare Iran for a full-fledged democracy. I am not expecting this to happen in the next 4 or 8 years, but by defeating someone who I'm afraid may tie up the hands of gardeners, I can at least hope that 40 years from now there will be a tree that we can be proud of.

Babak S at June 23, 2005 03:47 PM [permalink]:

Yaser K,

I am afraid we are talking about different meanings of the word "politics." For an academic (hence as a science), politics is all about principles. For a private citizen too, politics is about ways of life, and hence all about principles. For a political activist too politics is about principles since otherwise there will be no grounds left for the activism in question. I guess you are taking the very narrow meaning (yet commonly used in everyday speech) of the word that is concerned with the tactics of gainging and keeping political power by a politician or group of politicians. I am not talking about this.

SG at June 23, 2005 04:19 PM [permalink]:

Babak S,

I have long admired your keen intellect and you fairness, but it makes me uncomfortable when you talk about "principles"...

See if these words ring any bell:

"I can simply go about my business, and shrug the ‘No’ and the finger off my shoulder."

Babak S at June 23, 2005 05:10 PM [permalink]:

SG,

It is not very wise, nor very useful, to take a sentence out of its context from a non-analytic piece and throw it in a totally irrelevant discussion. What are you trying to say? That I was annoyed and depressed so I have no principles? What was exactly the principle that was abandoned here, if you please? In the meantime, just look at the next paragraph in the same piece you quote, to see where I stand with my principles. I also corrected a possible implication of that writing in the comments. Please read again, my Senior!

Ahmad Sadri at June 23, 2005 05:33 PM [permalink]:

On what "politics" is. Just read the first paragraph.

SG at June 23, 2005 07:46 PM [permalink]:

The hidden hand of FToI removed the quotes around Ahmad Sadri's name. (I guess they were placed to signify that Ahmad himself didn't write that comment.)

I wish I could remove the quotes from around the word "politics", because I happen to agree with what Ahmad says, and that *is* politics.

For those of you who can't read Persian, here's a somewhat related essay by the same person, just to give you a taste:

http://www.iranian.com/AhmadSadri/2005/June/Elections2/index.html

Yaser K at June 23, 2005 07:56 PM [permalink]:

1) I think people are dying out of hunger and you are warning people of fatty diet. Your warnings are quite negligible comparing to the real warning which you miss to mention. And that is UN sanction and possible US invasion by coming of Ahmadinejad.
2) Just wondering why one percent of the people who boycott (18 milions boycott) don't try to campaign for freedom of Zarafshan and Ganji?
3) Who says Iran is as democrat as France?? There was an anology that sometimes for the fear of Fascism you have to vote to someone who is not ideal and in that sense Iran's current situation is much like France. That's it. Not quite clear what you laugh at?
4) Again who says "Fascism in Iran ends with Ahmadi Nejad's defeat"?? We say that total Fascism will come with Ahmadinejad victory. These are very different. Unless you say Rafsanjani is as Fascist as Ahmadinejad which then I totally disagree.
5) Shirin Ebadi has said that " She doesn't vote because election is not free and fair". Do you know "a single politician" who uses such an argument for boycott? That's why I say Ebadi is totally off. This is the principle she uses for boycott which in my opinion shows her lack of understanding of politics.
6) Sorry for being a bit angry!

ElizabethB at June 24, 2005 01:53 AM [permalink]:

All I know is, Ahmadinejad scares the crap out of me and I hope for the sake of the world he doesn't become your next president.
I'm pretty depressed about the elections, and I'm sitting halfway around the world.

Self Determination at June 26, 2005 01:57 PM [permalink]:

The elections in Afghanistan only concern Karzai, who in effect is only the mayor of Kabul - the warlords control the rest of Afghanistan. And in his de facto role as mayor, he is largely controlled by the US ambassador Khalilzad:


http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=8135

Democracy can only happen in Afghanistan if the warlords are disarmed and some alternative military/police presence comes into being - it will also require effective communication among anti-authoritarians/democrats. But the US occupation is supporting warlords - not only is it not removing the warlords, but it is supporting them. Iran has been independent from UK/US since 1979 - it's only continued struggle for human rights and democracy from within (plus international communication support, but nothing imposed, and certainly not US bombs) that can lead to continued evolution. Suggesting Afghanistan as an example democracy to follow is absurd.

In any case, surely it's best we hear the opinion of the women of Afghanistan:


http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=7958


(begin quote)
People are fed up with many critical social issues and come out on the streets to protest. When people see that Karzai shakes hands with the most dirty enemies of the Afghan people, who first of all should appear in a court of justice; when people see that millions of dollars given in the name of the reconstruction of Afghanistan goes into the pockets of warlords and no one asks about their brutality (on the contrary Mr. Karzai frequently installs them in key posts); they have no other option but to protest and in many cases it takes a violent form.

The situation in Afghanistan is far more disastrous then what you may imagine. The Karzai administration has done nothing positive but just works hard to gather all the top fundamentalist criminals around himself. Even these days he is trying to portray some key Taliban leaders as “moderates,” and tries to share power with them. A few days ago through Sibghatullah Mojadeddi, the government announced amnesty for Gulbuddin and Mullah Omar if they surrender.
(end quote)

See the Afghan women's own web site at:

http://www.rawa.org

and decide if their "participation in Cabinet" is anything to take seriously.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 26, 2005 02:38 PM [permalink]:

blah blah blah still more nonsense leftist blah

heydarbaba at June 27, 2005 02:02 AM [permalink]:
Don't you love ACLU? Let me play a little bit ACLU here. ACLU defends all categories of people from KKK to blacks.....So let me defend my past antagonizer here. What AIS is saying is the structure of the Afghanistan government, the set up and the framework in which it operates. This has nothing to do with the culture on the ground. In fact recently there has been a rash of Afghan women committing suicide by burning themselves. Majority of these women are the ones who have moved from Iran to Afghanistan to find out they have been back to a cultural hell. But still, this can not be used to refute AIS's argument that Afghanistan has a more democratic government than Iran and a totally free media, it is irrelevant. However this argument that Afghan political system is more open and more democratic than let say Iran needs to be scrutinized realistically . There is a lot to ponder and say about this but I am dead tired and mentally even deader. Just briefly, one can argue along two lines: 1) The political system and the form of the governemnt , the freedom of press and expression..that exists as an AFGHANISTAN REALITY, 2)the political system and the freedom of expression, media, ...as envisioned in the constitution (I must say that constitution in general has nothing to do with democratic or an autjoritarian form of a government. Israel and Saudi Arabia are two countries with no constitution. Israel has a great deal of democratic process (and a good deal of press cencorship) and Saudi Arabia?...don't even start me on that...). If we compare the AFGHAN REALITY with the ENVISIONED democracy and see the difference and try to uderstand the reason for that difference and take into consideration the similar cases in the neighboring countries (Pakistan ,past and current, Turkey )It won't be too hard to refute AIS's argument. But for now let me just shed some light on the status of TOTALLY FREE PRESS in Afghanistn: A draft Afghan Press Law of February 2002 contained an injunction against information that "could mean insult to the sacred religion of Islam and other religions." This draft law was subsequently adopted in April 2002. The ambiguity surrounding what constitutes offensive material offers the potential for abuse of this clause in order to restrict press freedom and intimidate journalists. On June 17, two editors of a weekly Kabul publication were arrested for allegedly violating Article 30 of the Afghan Press Law that prohibits publications of articles defaming Islam. Conservatives within the Judiciary recommended the journalists be charged with "insulting Islam" or blasphemy. Police searched the editorsí offices, and Afghanistanís intelligence agency confiscated the editorsí publication, Aftaab, from stores. On June 25, President Karzai ordered the editors released on bail; however, the charges of blasphemy were not dropped. Moderates led by the Minister of Information and Culture argued for the release of the journalists and a resolution to the Afghan Press Law that permits administrative punishment (a fine) in lieu of prosecution. At the end of the period covered by this report(2003), no trial date had been set. In the spring of 2003, Mariya Sazawar, a journalist in Mazar-e Sharif, was accused of having insulted Islam in an article she had written about the formation of Afghanistanís next constitution. Sazawar was accused of writing that Islamic rules w ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]