Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, January 19, 2009

Iranian political culture

Are the youngest Iranians creating a new political culture? Massoumeh Torfeh, writing in The Guardian, thinks so.

But, is she in touch with more than the elite politics of the educated and the middle class? How many of the young unemployed men in Tehran use the Internet and are concerned about personal freedoms and women's rights?

Read the comments attached to the article. For instance, one reader added, "30 years ago Americans were running Iran and appointing the ministers, army officers, torturers etc. Now Iranians have the freedom to elect our own torturers every 4 years; it is not perfect, but better than how it was under the Shah..."

Irrepressible youth

"My mind rolled back to February 1979 when I left my life and family in London to go back to Iran convinced that the revolution would bring change. I was happy the Shah was being toppled. He had monopolised power since 1953, when the CIA coup reinstated him in place of the democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq.

"Months of street protests had finally produced the desired headlines on 16 January 1979: "The Shah Has Gone!" People were dancing in the streets, holding up those headlines...

"The Islamic Revolution was the third major movement in Iran for democratisation in the 20th century and this, surely, could be it! I went back to Tehran, set up home, and began working as a journalist. But only a few months later I had to witness the rival political killings...

"Once again, a major attempt at democratisation in Iran had ended in the creation of an authoritarian state, this time more powerful and organised than ever before...

"Thirty years on, the revolution of 1979 has not produced that unified Islamic state envisaged by Ayatollah Khomeini. While religious ideology and revolutionary fervour remain the credo of the state, the younger generation that makes up 70% of the population appear neither very revolutionary nor very ideological in any classic sense, while at the same time they seem to be inventing a new politics for the 21st century..."

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At 8:20 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

A Reuters article in the New York Times article offers more evidence of political change in Iran.

Iran Students Say Time For U.S. To Change Policy

"Nariman Mostafavi says many Iranian students no longer hold the fierce anti-American views that drove their predecessors to seize the U.S. embassy in 1979.

"Now the student activist says it's time for Washington to change and consider new policies toward the Islamic Republic...

"For some students, now may be the time to end the isolation of their country, where 'Death to America' resounds at rallies.

"'America is a superpower. It is a mistake not to restore ties with America,' said Minu Samadi, a 24-year-old art student. 'The embassy seizure was necessary 30 years ago. Now it is necessary to restore relations.'...

"[A]nalysts says students may now be emerging from their silence to play a bigger role in this year's vote.

"'In the previous presidential election, the students were in a coma. Now they have come out of it,' said Tehran University sociology Professor Hamidreza Jalaiepour.

"Changing attitudes among some of today's students are mirrored among some of those who stormed the embassy in 1979.

"'Never did we imagine that our act of protest would have a far reaching impact on the political history of our country, and of the region,' former hostage-taker Massoumeh Ebtekar said in her 2000 account of the siege Takeover in Tehran...

"But students are not a single voice. Radicals remain a force. During protests over Israel's attacks on Gaza, some radical student groups, echoing actions of 1979, threatened to storm the diplomatic missions of moderate Arab states they said were not doing enough to stop Palestinian suffering..."


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