Post-Imperialism in Iran
by AKBAR GANJI
16 Feb 2010 03:02
Other events quickly followed: the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, Saddam Hussein's military invasion of Iran, a cultural revolution, and the crushing of Marxist and other opposition groups. The revolution that Ayatollah Khomeini led was a populist one with little concern for fostering political pluralism and and little respect for diversity. Populist economic policies and the nationalization of economic assets and resources made the state the key actor on the scene, while the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s further enhanced the new regime's efforts at social mobilization. Oil revenues led not only to state autonomy from civil society, it allowed the regime to expand its repressive apparatus and tighten its control over many aspects of society.
Thirty years of Islamic fundamentalist rule, however, have generated significant political opposition throughout Iran. This has gradually coalesced into the Green Movement that has been on display since the June 2009 presidential election. In contrast to the Revolution of 1979, what the world has been watching for the past eight months is a movement that seeks a democratic transition to a government that respects pluralism and human rights. While this has been taking place, the focus of the U.S. government and most of the media remains on Iran's nuclear program and the possible dangers it poses for the world.
Perhaps the Iranian regime's repression over the past eight months, replete with the deaths of about 100 people in the streets, further deaths due to torture and executions, mass arrests of thousands of opposition supporters, harsh prison sentences, and the banning of all opposition media, pales in comparison to the loss of life in neighboring Iraq. But this is the story of a people who have endured three decades of repression, fear, the squandering of their national interests, and the humiliation of their country by the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It might be hard to appreciate how widespread and deep-rooted is the discontent among freedom-seeking, peaceful Iranians with the current regime, but denial of this fact leads to distorted, ideologically skewed interpretations of Iranian politics and society. While Iranians certainly want to see diplomatic relations re-established between their country and the United States, they do not wish to see this happen at the price of ignoring systematic human rights violations, including the executions of political prisoners. The actions of this regime against its own people are tantamount to crimes against humanity, and those responsible for these crimes must one day be brought to justice.
Translated by Nader Hashemi.
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