By Pirouz Azadi , Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Part I. The Paradigms of Religious Traditionalism vs. Secular Modernism (Mashroueh vs. Mashrouteh)
This article, written in two Parts I and II, is based on my most recent extended visit to Iran (summer 2009). I am neither a political nor a social scientist; nonetheless, like most Iranians I aspire to remain a careful and active observer of my surroundings especially the motherland, and so, feel compelled to share my perspectives with avid readers on Iran in the hope that it could help toward the peaceful future direction of this nation. My goal is to serve as a mirror to my compatriot Iranians in order to assist the reform processes and practices, actions and behaviors, etc. that are currently counterproductive to the progress of Iranian society at-large. Although a globalist, I am proud of Iran and its long history in the context of the international forum of all nations. I, therefore, present herein a socio-political assessment The ultimate goal for Iran as a strong nation should be to achieve self-respect and self-reliance, respect for human rights (minorities, gender, children, religion), freedom of expression (assembly, press), conservation of natural and human resources, independent sovereignty, homegrown democracy, a democratic process anchored in education, communication and full empowerment for all Iranians to participate in shaping the future direction of their nation and without any external interventions.
This past June during Iran's tenth presidential election, the government was caught off guard having wrongly assumed they could continue exploiting the rigged voting turnouts to bolster their own legitimacy, while appointing the pre-chosen president by the supreme leader in the end. It has now back-fired indefinitely, and the fire will not subside until the nation can soon achieve fundamental peaceful reforms hopefully from within; otherwise, the likelihood of external intervention, as undesirable as it is, may become inevitable. The issue is no longer the recent rigged presidential election, but rather the very legitimacy of the regime is under question by the people. The torture and imprisonment of thousands, the killing of nearly 100 and rapes of many, and the mass trials of "key figures" many of whom were paradoxically the past pillars of the Islamic Republic's theocracy has intensified the resolved determination of the people for freedom and democracy, justice and transparency, accountability and reforms in an indigenous "Green Movement" that conjures up the mass elimination of dissidents and political prisoners of conscience of the Shah's and Khomeini's era of the 80's. No one can deny the adverse role of western hegemonies as evidenced by the annual spending of over $100 million dollars by the U.S. government alone for subversive and media based insurgencies, which has ironically impeded the people of Iran to achieve their goals, since the Iranian regime exploits this as a rationale for repressing their rights.
The ideals articulated by the progressive forces of the 1970's have but all been denied and/or violated by the current establishment which self-righteously exploits a twisted fatalistic and fanatic Shiite ideology, as orchestrated by the entrenched "Revolutionary and Basiji guards" of the governments, toward their own masochistic ulterior motives of hanging on to power and capital. Irrespective of divergence of opinions as to the specific process and the type of preferred government and as debated within the nation and among the three plus millions in Diaspora, there, nonetheless, has emerged a consensus to respect all religions especially the Shiite Islam, as private rituals to which most Iranians believe in or were born into believing families. Where they mostly draw the distinction is how to reform such religion and ensure it does not any longer become the political tool of legitimizing any improprieties with it, thereby jeopardizing the puritan beliefs of the masses.
Irrespective, many scholars believe the process of reformation leading to a protestant renascence has already begun full course in Iran. The opposition to government has been growing on two fronts: one is comprised of the youth, the educated, the technocrats and those more affluent with affinity toward the west; and the other, that is far more devastating to the long-term sustainability of the current political system is the strong Shiite believers, mostly from the poor slums and rural areas, who have concluded the current system has betrayed them both in terms of their regions and equal opportunities. For instance despite repeated government warnings, tens of thousands partook on Quds Day (it was instituted in the early 80's to commemorate the Palestinian plights) in the streets of Tehran to once again raise voices for demanding their rights. In summary, and as self evident by the growing oppositions to the ill-conceived actions and failures of those in government, the struggle would not only continue but that it grows over time for good to triumph over evil, a Zoroastrian belief as narrated in Shahnameh, that is encoded in every Iranian psyche. The Iranian expatriates abroad will serve as the voice of all Iranians to ensure their wishes are clearly heard by other nations and international agencies. Growing number of demonstrations, petitions, websites and blogs, typified by the yesterday activities by the United Nations, and in and out of the Iran, will only grow as well. As to the three days of spontaneously percolated activities of Iranian-Americans in New York City (September 22-24, 2009) when several thousand demonstrators spend their own money and time from all over north American to register their disgust with the failing domestic and international policies of the Islamic republic regime in Iran, it was so gratifying to observe that despite the diversity of organizations present each with their own prescribed solution for IRAN, that they all united for what the people in Iran have persistently yearned for: an organically developing process, homemade, that leads to freedom and democracy, the prerequisites for justice and peace.
Although a diverse nation ten thousand years in the making, with 2,500 continuous years of government, the struggle of the people of Iran for democracy and freedom, justice and modernization has lingered on with little sustainable progress since the mid 19th century, when a group of elites educated in European cities returned home. A well-balanced integration of western modernity with the Persian philosophy and way of life was their aim. This led to the much anticipated replacement of absolute monarchy with constitutional monarchy (Mashrooteh) under the 1906 Constitution. The struggle, however, has continued. Although the then new Pahlavi dynasty placed on the Peacock Throne under the British colonial hegemony, brought about a degree of modernization and uniformity to the nation, the two self-proclaimed "King of the kings" violated the new constitution by primarily serving the interests of the foreign conglomerates and their own egos. This in turn led to a growing level of frustration and dissent among the emerging educated middle class. At the same time, a vocal number of disgruntled ayatollahs, representing the traditional segment of society, left out of the power equation they had enjoyed the preceding hundreds of years, continued their dissent under the term, Mashrooeh. This latter Shiite religious cohort of the past 100 years, led by Ayatollah Khomeini hijacked the fruits of the 1979 revolution, and established a theoretically driven and traditionally rationalized and repressive Islamic Republic that most Shiite grand ayatollahs and other Islamic scholars view the Islamic rationalization of the current regime as a mere philosophizing fallacy, and thus gravely flawed. Their fear is the imminent loss of their long power grips over the spiritual destiny of their 150 million Shiite followers, which will undoubtedly ripple throughout the Moslem world.
Future of Iran.
Iran is a richly diverse nation of nearly seventy-five million people, 70% of whom born after the 1979 revolution. The Nation is comprised of a dozen ethnicities, major religions and faiths and thus there are diverse opinions and priorities. The nation is also blessed (or cursed) with massive amount of natural resources and minerals, including oil, coal and gas, as well as diverse biomes spanning from desert along the Persian Gulf and snow capped mountain ranges to luscious tropical like forests along the Caspian Sea. A consensus has grown among all Iranians in the past one hundred years and that is, the need for the independent sovereignty of the country, a paradigm shift toward a secular democratic and representative government that respects all religions including the Shiite Islam observed by the majority, transparency and accountability in government conduct with checks and balances, and separation of the three major branches of government, and homegrown democracy. The ultimate goal is to achieve freedom of expression, assembly and press, equal opportunity for everyone, duly deserving recognition and respect in the family of nations, and justice and peace.
Pirouz Azadi is a Pen Name for an American integrative science professor with multi-ethnic and inter-religious Iranian heritage. He has lived in the U.S. since a few months after the 1979 revolution when he arrived to complete his doctoral studies and has traveled and worked in a dozen other countries as well. Having developed and practiced a universal vision of appreciation, acceptance and tolerance, as evidenced through his prolific writings on Iran and the Near East, environment and sustainable development, humanism and naturalism, aspirations and challenges faced by first generation Americans, etc. Pirouz, nonetheless, keeps his beautiful place of birth Iran and his compatriots the Iranians, close to his heart.
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