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Those who like to watch rigged wrestling matches on television probably got a kick out of the "great struggle" between reformists and conservatives in Iran that has been going on for several years, played out in successive bouts. Friday, they played what was probably the decisive bout. No doubt about it. The fellow in the white trunks took a beating from the Mullah the Mauler from Qom. The bad guys won this time.
There was never any doubt about the outcome. It doesn't really matter who is elected to parliament, because parliament (majlis) has no power. Nonetheless, just to make absolutely certain, the Governing Council took care to rig the elections.
Regimes like the one in Iran know that the public will to resist can be broken by a timely and healthy dose of cynical repression. In Iran, it was administered in the best tradition of Joseph Stalin, the great Soviet humorist, and his emulators. About 2,500 reform candidates were banned for being "un-Islamic" and the principle opposition newspapers were shut down.
The reform movement, if there ever was one, was more or less clueless about what to do. They couldn't even organize a proper boycott. Many reformists including Nobel Prize winner Shirin Abaddi, called for boycotting the elections, but reformist President Khatami called for a large turnout, and asked people to vote for whatever reform candidates were allowed to run. No that it matters. Though bloggers reported that streets were empty and that only old people were voting, the government mysteriously reported record turnouts, and of course, the figures will bear them out. Rumors circulated that the government had printed 2 million fake IDs, but these were probably an underestimate. One wonders why they bother to go through the charade of counting the ballots. As Joe Stalin once remarked, in elections it doesn't doesn't make any difference who casts the votes, it matters who counts the ballots. These are elections Middle East style. These are the kind of elections that the Ayat Allah (Ayatollah) Sistani in Iraq wants to copy from his fellow Ayatollahs across the border. The only surprise about these "elections" is that some people were surprised. In the Daily Star, David Hirst finally "discovered" that the fanatic regime of the Ayatollahs is worse than that of the Shah. It took him 25 years to catch on. Some folks are slow.
Many Iranians were somehow naive enough to believe in 1979 that the rule of religious fanatics would bring democracy, and supported the reactionary "revolution" of the Ayatollahs. It is time for the last starry-eyed idealist in Iran to wake up. It is true that that American attempt to force democracy on the Iraq people "whether they want it or not" seems to be headed for a fiasco. However, it is equally obvious that the current Iranian regime will never willingly allow real democracy. If the Shi'a Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq has his way, he will institute the same same sort of "democracy" in Iraq. "Sistani-ism" will take its place alongside Khomeini-ism. Clearly, those who kept telling us that the Iranian revolution will evolve into democracy, or is evolving, into democracy, have a good deal of explaining to do. Perhaps they can blame it all on the Americans, or the Mossad.
These are the sort of elections that returned Saddam Hussein in Iraq with 100% support not too long ago. They are good enough for Mubarak in Egypt and good enough for Assad in Syria, so why shouldn't they be good enough for the Iranians? Democracy Middle East style, without pernicious Western intervention no doubt. The process is the same, whether it is for an Islamic party or a Syrian or Iraqi Baath party or Mubarak's party.
There is a joke making the rounds in Egypt about such "elections." During the Presidential referendum, an Egyptian decided that he would tick the 'No' box. When his friends at the cafe found out, they put the fear of God into him as to what consequence might follow for him and his family. Truly terrified, he went back to the head of the polling station and pleaded with him to correct "the mistake". The official looked at the man long and hard before patting him on the shoulder and saying: "Well, we have already changed it for you this time, but don't you ever do any such thing again."
The joke is just a joke, but in such regimes, the reality is more tragicomic than any joke. From an Iranian Web log:
Apparently, most people didn't believe they were really free to not vote, or else the authorities helped them along and improved the election results. Pretty soon, the blogs may be closed down too, since the conservatives have long wanted to crack down on them.
The election results in Iran don't tell us anything we didn't really know before. The Ayatollahs are in charge. They were always in charge, and left to themselves, they will always be in charge. It is an illusion to believe as blogger (and former vice-Presidential candidate) Mohammad Ali Abtahi says he believes, that an Islamic Republic is compatible with democracy. The whole point of having the Ayatollahs in charge is to prevent democracy and free thinking. The Shi'a radicals evolved or invented a new "tradition" of Marj al-Taqlid which means emulation of worthy ones. This translates into following the religious ideas of a few "worthy" religious leaders, rather than arriving at conclusions by reason (ijtihad ). To this was added the idea that religion must dictate the affairs of the state as well. Specifically, this principle is called velayat - e - faqih, the rule of the jurisprudent. The ayat allah Khomeini reportedly said that in Islamic Republic, the will of the of the people is subservient to the will of God. Apologists claim it is not so:
The combination of velayaet -e-faqih and marj al-taqlid produces the Iranian equivalent of the Fuhrerprinzip, - the "leadership principle" that Hitler used to justify his dictatorship. In Iran, perhaps it is the "Ayatollahprinzip." Whatever the Governing Council says is right must be right, because they say it is right. No two ways about it. It is forbidden by law to criticize the Supreme Leader. You can believe that Iran must be a dictatorship because it is a theocracy, or you can believe that the religious ideology is just window dressing for the usual megalomania of Middle East rulers, but anyway you look at it, there could be only one real winning party in this election.
All the childish illusions of certain polyanna scholars in the USA, that such regimes would evolve into democracy, are shown to be what they most obviously were from the start: foolish delusions. All the hopeful and naive initiatives of reform from within are premature. President Khatami, if he wasn't discredited before, is probably discredited now, and the reform movement in Iran is without an effective political leadership. It may be Khatami's "fault," but surely it is beside the point to say that the movement might have succeeded with more effective and assertive and skillful leadership. If there had been any chance that Khatami might be effective, it would've been very hazardous to his health, and he would have been removed. That is what happens when you try to fight city hall in such regimes.
Perhaps the saddest thing is that friends of democracy outside Iran can do very little. Negotiating with the Ayatollahs, as some have suggested, perpetuates the regime and lends it legitimacy. Those who advocate better relations with the Iranian government are not serving the best interests of the Iranian people. On the other hand, mindless "mullah-bashing" and Iran-bashing does just as much harm. The conservatives made good use of America-hate to get people out to the polls. According to Al-Jazeerah:
We will not doubt be reminded by the usual false patriots of Middle East and apologists for tyranny that Bush of course, is not one to pontificate about honest elections. That may be true, but there really is no comparison between the USA and Iran. Racial problems in the US that were frequently pointed out by Pravda in the "good old days" should not have detracted from understanding and condemning the nature of the Soviet regime, and the tyranny of Joseph Stalin in the 1930s was not a valid reason for ignoring the nature of the Nazi regime.
One is reminded of the probably apocryphal graveyard epitaph in the USA:
The "reform" regime of Khatami had little power. It was little more than a sop by the Ayatollahs to disillusioned Iranians, and a way to give greedy Western businessmen and their hireling apologists some window dressing that would perfume the stench of doing business with the Mullahs. When it threatened to get out of hand, it was quashed. Last night the Iranian "reformist" regime died, it was a lousy reform anyhow.
Though there is little anyone could do perhaps, the silence of the UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights watch and other groups about the election travesty in Iran is deafening. Iranian refomists have a dream of a UN supervised referendum that would end the regime of the Mullahs. But this dream has nothing to do with reality. Justice and freedom and rights are only slogans for organizations to collect money, justify their existence, and allow them to fight whomever they don't like at the moment. The UN is busy assisting the Ayatollah Sistani and his friends into power in Iraq, they have no time to deal with Iran.
It is no laughing matter. People will go to jail and some will die, just as they died in Hungary and East Germany and Czechoslovakia in the Soviet years. But there is an end to every tyranny. The false dawn of liberty in Iran is gone, and it may be many years before it dawns in earnest, but it will come. The sun of liberty cannot be forced to rise by foreign intervention alone; deposition of the Mullahs by Western powers would convert them from detested tyrants into patriotic heros. That is hardly an excuse for Western governments to grovel before the whims of the Mullahs, ignore human rights violations, support for terror and nuclear weapons programs. However, freedom must come from Iran by the efforts of the Iran Until then, our sympathies must be with all those who yearn for freedom in Iran. We must do it, because nobody else will apparently.
BLOGS AND ONLINE NEWS ABOUT IRAN
Iran Filter - Reformist news from Iran
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Replies: 3 comments
My name is Augustus Firestone I am a free lance peace campaigner much like the people who did the Geneva Accord. Over the years I have worked with Bawa Jain the Secretary General of the World Council of Religious Leaders, the personal secretary of the Dalai Lama and debated with the Vatican on it's roll in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
I am currently trying to present these peace strategies(See below) as I call them to the leaders of Israel and Palestine. I seriously lack funds and help in securing audiences with people people who shape the middle east. Much like the creators of the Geneva Accord I can get the approval of some major leaders of the world but ultimately need to discuss these peace strategies face to face to the people who can stop this conflict.The result of this work would be to present alternative peace strategies to the people of Israel and Palestine have them discuss the solutions at the very top or the very least suggest a referendum for the people of the region to ultimately decide their own destiny.
I have worked on the main sticking points between Israel and Palestine and I believe if applied would bring immediate cease fire from the Israelis and Palestinians. (For more greater detail please look at the Geneva Accord and the Road Map to peace).
Right of Return
The issue of Right of Return by stipulating that a percentage per year of
Israeli settlers in PLO controlled areas will, in turn, be protected in
Militant factions of Palestine
Acknowledge the role of all militant factions of Palestine in contributing
The City of Jerusalem is to be shared between the state of Israel and
Palestinian and Palestinian militants in Israeli prisons
20% of the Palestinian militants in Israeli prisons will be released after
Posted by Augustus Firestone @ 02/24/2004 10:56 PM CST
I welcome all comments. to
Posted by Augustus Firestone @ 02/24/2004 11:05 PM CST
I welcome all comments. to
Posted by Augustus Firestone @ 02/24/2004 11:05 PM CST
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