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Iran and democracy in the midst of a media-war: How the U.S. and its allies can help the green movement in Iran

By Ali Reza Majlesi [1]


For more than 30 years now, living in chaos and crisis, the Islamic Republic have pressed to stifle different voices in Iran in order to make a homogenous obedient society. Nonetheless, there are different voices, despite the suppression, finding a way out to be raised to the world and be heard besides the only horrifying messages of a de facto dictatorship.



What the world has witnessed during the last three decades was always the ugly face of a totalitarian regime and its voice of terror. Now to the world's surprise, there is a majority of non-violent democracy seekers whose message has been delivered to the world in the aftermath of last year's disputed election through the modern media and new technologies.


Thanks to different media and especially Internet, the voice of a tyrannized people in Iran can be heard more clearly. People in the world should know that Iran is ready and is on the verge of change; thus, it needs the international community to support the Iranians to reform the regime and root out the extremism founded on the policy of terror as a result of the revolution of 1979.


Iran and the U.S.


Antagonism between Iran and the U.S. has been so vital to the Islamic Republic. They have always needed an enemy to be to blame for. This is a sort of bedrock in the ideology of the regime and a central pillar in its structure. Any change to this ideology brings the whole construction down. Even a kind of modification to this policy has a price to pay. The green lights in both sides, in the first year of President Obama in the office, have had consequences. Any inclination toward normalization of the relations between two countries in Iran has been a suicidal attempt for the Islamic Republic; it has marginalized its traditional supporters and made it shakier than ever to any protests.


The enmity between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. goes back to the history of American influence in the Middle East, which was ideally exploited by Mullahs in the revolution of 1979 to besiege the former regime in Iran. In fact, it is true that the 1953 US-backed coup d'état[2] literally changed the history of democratization in Iran. The new fragile democratically elected government was toppled down and the hopes for democracy, which had been rooted in the Constitutional Revolution in the early 1900s[3], were soon replaced with social melancholy manifested in poetry and prose of the time[4]. Shah came back victorious and soon fortified his position as impregnable king in the region. It vegetated all moves.


It is not really implausible why Islamist opposition groups, then, borrowed the Marxist terms and values to call US a symbol of Imperialism in Iran. Since then, the U.S. was stigmatized as a big brother who helped Shah to slay the spirit of the society.


Cracked down social and political oppositions were almost splashed. The opposition leaders were neutralized. The civil societies were latent in a way that any social movements seemed imperceptible. To awaken the mortified society, Shah was even forced to stimulate it by his own so-called White Revolution of the 1963[5].


The vertigo of post-coup in the society triggered two opposite reactions among the oppositions, being either hopeless hibernated groups or underground-radicalized extremists.


Appealing to the religious groups seemed normal. All sorts of oppositions were aware of the influence of Mosques in every corner of the society and even if they had anything against Mullahs they were certainly mesmerized by the power of Mullahs in herding the mass.


The Rise of Mullahs


It should be wrong to think of social religious activists as newly born oppositions at the time. Religious leaders, particularly those who interpret Shiite Islam in their vicious circle of God-given power have historically claimed their rights to rule the society, even though there has always been a sort of conventional compromise between Mullahs and the actual political leaders of the time. Most of the Grand Ayatollahs, though reserved the right to claim the leadership of the society, never actually claimed it on the pretext of waiting for the time that their 'Savior'[6] arises and all governments around the world surrender to him.


Radicalization of the opposition in Iran helped religious groups to upgrade their imposition of religious rules (Shariat), which had always been used as bullying tactics, to lever the balance in their favor.


The huge network of Mosques in Iran, even in far remote areas in small villages, and their potential power in the society helped them to realize that they could play their card high-handedly more than a bargaining chip but knocking the whole game down and rebuilding their own play which became more brutal, dictatorial and uncommitted to any game's rules!


The Enemy of God


The revolution of 1979 and the advantage that Mullahs took to steer the whole mass to vote for the Islamic Republic have bestowed them a privilege to declare their leadership to be divine and descended from the prophet of Islam and those Imams whom they call 'the God- chosen successors of the prophet'.


Ayatollahs who regard themselves the representatives of God on earth have found a historic moment to establish their system and enforce it. Their claim on their legitimacy to rule the country is not based on the public reception but God's choice. Even though they need the support of the masses to show that their system is somehow democratic, they do not care for the public opinion to rule. The reason they provide for the public is that they have inherited the authority that the prophet and his successors were given by God. They promote their agenda and publicize it night and day that whatever happens to Iran, their regime must survive to a day when the "savior " of their religion arises.


Then it is easy to imagine that whoever stands against this regime is, then, the enemy of God.


The Islamic Republic


This amalgamation of opposing political ideas of religious rules and peoples' rules means 'the republic should decide but it is only legitimate if it accords with the religious rules'. The divine rules and mundane rules have soon turned to be antipathetic to each other. The vague system under the title of the Islamic Republic was approved of in a referendum in the first year after revolution, during the confusion of the collapse of monarchy in Iran in which Shah was replaced with a Supreme Leader.


The sweet victory of the revolution did not last more than a few years and the public soon realized what a devil had befallen upon them. To the new regime's good fortune, however, war became a perfect pretext to silence the opposition and convene more people behind the authorities to defend the sovereignty of the country.


After the eroding eight-year-war, even though religion could still serve the totalitarian Mullahs and make many people hesitate to think of any changes to the system, social groups started to request for reforms.


Under the leadership of Khamenei, the current Leader, during the last twenty years and so, particularly during the presidency of Ahmadinejad in the last 5 years, the Islamic Republic has grown more and more totalitarian, militarized, mismanaged and, thus, domestically and internationally vulnerable. The regime has lost its traditional partners and supporters. Even religious groups who had a bit of trust in the regime for having witnessed the brutality of the suppression of Iranians in the aftermath of last year's election can not simply back this regime any more.


Muslims around the world have seen the unaccepted cruelty of the Islamic Republic in the holy Islamic month of Muharram, which is supposed to be respected by such a government; yet this month was among the bloodiest days in the history of Shiite on which many people were killed and inhumanly battered by the police and Basij, the state paramilitary.


A Totalitarian System


What the world experienced during the era of Taliban in Afghanistan is almost the same in Iran with a slight difference of implementing those rules through a more modern complicated system. They are hiding behind the name of 'Republic' and are exploiting the democratic structure of having a president and administration, parliament and judiciary system but all as a mask on the ugly face of Caliph-like political regime.


This system has in fact never been democratic. The leader has a power of an absolute dictator and his words are beyond the laws. He appoints six members of 12-member-Guardian Council who are powerful Mullahs whose job by Constitutional Law is to determine if the rules passed by the Parliament are according to the religious rules (Shariat). They are also responsible to supervise the elections in Iran; and through a radical interpretation of the Law, the Guardian Council must approve of the list of nominated people for each election in the country. They judge if the nominated people to be candidate for the elections are "fiddle" and "loyal" to the Leader.


By knowing the fact that the head of the judiciary system in Iran is also appointed by the Leader, it is not very subtle to understand that the power is totally centralized and dictatorial around the little finger of the Supreme Leader.


The Green Movement


To be the government's opposition in Iran is playing with death.


A Mass grave of the opposition members in an unmarked cemetery in Tehran[7] (Khavaran, in southeast of Tehran is known as the grave of the Massacre of 1988[8]), and the chain murder of intellectuals, political and social activists in 1990s are evidence[9] of the danger of being disobedient to the Islamic Republic. Daily open Institutional terror in the streets, arresting and beating up the youth for behaving or wearing non-religiously, undermining the position of women in the society through rules and regulations, depriving students who are critical of the Islamic Republic from education, banishing, incarcerating or executing the dissidents, censoring voices other than the authorities, suppressing other religious groups or races and making Iran as the biggest prison of journalists, torturing and raping detainees[10] are all part of a daily business of living under the rules of the Islamic Republic.


It is indisputable that Iranians have increasingly displayed their interests to change their government's behavior. The Green Movement born after the alleged fraud in the presidential election in June 2009 is the result of the three decades wrath of the public, which widely proves that the average Iranians' interests conflict those of the regime.


The nonviolent demonstration of people in Iran and their civilized requests for change have been violently cracked down and brutally suppressed, nonetheless, the Green Movement is still maturing into a revolutionary inspiring movement in the whole region of the Middle East and particularly within the Muslim countries.


This movement has demonstrated so widely and openly that the majority of Iranian population is rising against the infamous Islamic Republic. If the government uses the old habit of accusing the dissidents of being "the enemy of God", they should charge the majority of people by such an indictment.


Iranians in the Midst of a Media-War;

What the World Can Do


The history of the relations between Iran and the West does not show that the West has ever practically been very much in favor of democracy in Iran. Now after more than three decades of bearing with such an ailing system in Iran, disappointed with the Islamic Republic, many Iranians wonder why the U.S. and its allies once supported Shah to overthrow the democratically elected government in 1953 watching democracy and human rights in Iran succumbed to death, and then turned their backs to Shah in 1979 to welcome the Islamic Republic, which was founded on terror and violence.


To Iranians' surprise, what the Western media has broadcast to the world has almost always been an Iran marked out as a menace to the International Community and an everlasting threat to peace in the Middle East. Iran is pictured in the world as a superpower that provokes many precautions like a "missile defense shield" or amassing weapons in the region for the "probable attack" to countries like Israel.


Iranians today may ask the International Community if they are honest in their campaign for human rights and supporting any democratic movement in the world. If so, there is no need to confront the Islamic Republic of Iran by war or any fatal weapons or crippling sanctions which affect the majority of impoverished Iranians; the Green movement in Iran can put an end to such a threat if and only if there could be a wave of support in the world to help Iranians inside Iran. Technology can help out the Green Movement in Iran.


There is a war in Iran, cybernetic war and even an all-out media-war against the opposition voices. Everyday, journalists, bloggers and the facilitators in media industry are arrested, kidnapped, imprisoned and even found killed in a systematic violence provoked by the Islamic Republic of Iran.


Millions of dollars are wasted away through sanctions against Iran (or millions of dollars are profited by middlemen in this way). Iranians wonder if the "free world" is just benefitting from Ahmadinejad and the Islamic Republic of Iran. They wonder why the U.N. sanctions are not directed to the leaders and their benefactors but to the majority of people. They ask, why they do not put pressure on the authorities instead of on average people and not posing the issue of human rights as significantly as the nuclear conflict.


The world can just contribute to the free flow of information by helping the Iranians to have a network of connections with the world. Iranians have demonstrated their interests to be heard and supported. The war on Internet is the ultimate front for the Green movement. They cannot win this non-violent media-war without the aid of countries like the U.S.


Without any doubt, Iranian Green Movement can be the first of so-called color revolutions in the world which has achieved a democratic purpose of reforming an extremist regime with the aid of modern technology.


So far, the average people on the streets of Iran have been finding ways through different media to make their voices and pictures reach the world. Everybody with a small camera in hand is a journalist in Iran nowadays. However, Iranians feel that they are let down because the Islamic Republic is using the technology which has been sold to them by the Western companies to blockade all small outlets from inside to the "free world". Satellite TVs and Radios which broadcast something unfavorable to the Islamic Republic are jammed by electronic interference, Internet is down and writing against the regime via any media is a criminal act by the authorities' biased interpretation of laws in Iran.


The only hope to prevent any more systematic violence against human rights and only hope for the people of Iran to non-violently change the Islamic Republic's behavior is fading away, unless the international community helps the Iranians to use the opportunity of remaining connected to the world.


There is an urgent need for the international community to take a right measure in favor of democracy in Iran and peace for the region. The infamous history of interference of the West on the path of democratization in Iran can be put right if the "free world" listens to the voice of people. Iranians undoubtedly watch to see where their friends choose to stand between the two poles of people and the Islamic Republic.


[1] A Doctoral Candidate in 'Language & Culture' at Linköping University, Sweden

[2] New York Times, Feb.14, 2010.

[3] "Afary, J. (1996). The Iranian constitutional revolution, 1906-1911: grassroots democracy, social democracy & the origins of feminism. New York: Columbia University Press. "

[4] Mozaffari, N. & Karimi-Hakkak, A. (2005). Strange Times, My Dear: the PEN anthology of contemporary Iranian Literature. New York: Arcade Pub.

[5] TIME magazine, Feb. 14, 2010.

[6] The Savior in Shiiet is called "Mahdi" whose fanatic followers believe that they should seize the power and make the world ready for him to arise; and Ahmadinejad is one of supporters of such an idea.

[7] It is reported that in the summer of 1988, more than 2000 prisoners of conscience were executed in the notorious prisons of Islamic Republic. See Afshari, R. (2001). Human rights in Iran : the abuse of cultural relativism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp.104-118.

[8] See the report of Amnesty International

seen on February 15, 2010.

[9] I refer you to the report of "the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights" about Iran, February 15, 2010.

And the reports of "Reporters Without Boarder".

And please refer to Mousavi, N. (Dec, 1999). "A Review of Serial Murders".  Zanan [Women]; Social & Cultural Magazine (Monthly). 58 

[10] I refer you to the reports made by the former speaker of the Islamic parliament in Iran, February 15, 2010.

... Payvand News - 04/19/10 ... --

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