Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Question 8: If Iranians want democracy why don’t they overthrow the regime?

We get this question a lot… I like to remind people that Iran has had a number of revolutions and a war and that everyone I met in Iran knew someone personally who had died in any one of them. There’s kind of a revolution wariness in Iran right now. People want change, evolution: that’s without the R people!

What is interesting to me, is that the government in Iran seems bent on presenting Iran as country filled with maniacs, fanatics, and mindless followers when this is not the case. No, I believe that the current government of Iran would like the world to be afraid of it and its population. The idea that Iranians might be moderate, as most seem to be, is anathema to the current power structure.

That is why polltakers are dispersed by the police or worse -- as in the case of Abbas Abdi who was commissioned to poll his fellow Iranians on their opinions about the US -- arrested.

In order to remain in power, an unpopular government needs to do several things:

1. It needs to bare its teeth every once in awhile as in the case of the crackdown on hejab.

2. It needs an exhausted population too busy solving day-to-day problems to act on their desires for reform

3. Most importantly, it needs a population unaware of the true feelings of their neighbors.

So, hmm, did it surprise me that 79% of the population supports direct election of all leaders as is reported in the report by Terror Free Tomorrow? A bit… but did it surprise me that the survey showed an overall moderate bent to the responders? Not at all.


Anonymous said...

Most importantly they need to use brute force to repress any movement and prevent Iranians from talking to persons from outside the country that might help them. Wouldn't you agree?

Tori said...

Matt, I actually think that that type of repression is a bit of overkill... I do not believe that any of that talking was ever going to lead to regime change, mainly because it seems to me that most Iranians that I met are more dedicated to evolutionary change than revolutionary change...

Of course, the repression you mention is effective... but what is more effective is the daily scrambling to get by and the inefficient bureaucracy.

Marie said...

I remember during the height of the 'hostage crisis' that Americans were 'seeing' all these fanatical Iranians yelling 'Death to the Shah, Death to America' on their tv screens every night. But if you were there, it was a joke. The tv cameras made it look like a huge demonstration day in and out, when it was just the same, ragtag group every day. :) No larger group than a city block, really! I often joke that the 'hostage crisis' was an American media invention. Of course it wasn't but without all the attention, it would have enjoyed a much shorter and less celebrated life.

Tori said...

One thing you notice on Iranian tv is that the smaller the demonstration, the tighter the camera angle ;-)

christopher said...

what do you think about turkey joining the european union?

if that comes to fruition, it would mean iran would share a border with the eu (seems kinda crazy) which certainly would bring western ideas of culture and democracy right to the door step of iran. and not in the hardfisted propagandizing way the americans are attempting further south. it seems like that could be a bigtime influence on would-be reformers.

Tori said...

I don't know about Turkey bringing European values to Iran... and I do not know enough about Turkey to comment intelligently.

serendip said...

Iranians can't organize as a political party because every neighborhood has informants. The informants usually belong to a Basiji family. Your butcher or your grocer's family members (including a grandmother) could be the informants. Too many times, the intelligence agents in Iran have organized their own fake oppositions groups to trap people.

After experiencing and hearing things like that for many years, people in Iran cannot afford to and will turst anybody when it comes to politics and speaking negatively about the regime; hence the observed political apathy seen among the population by the outsiders.

Concerning “Elections:” In view of the required “approval” of all candidates by the Guardian Council elections are an empty exercise in futility and one wonders why Iranians even bother with elections? It has become impossible to elect anyone who will represent anyone but the extreme loonies and the Rev. Guard.

Great piece on Elections in Iran and the recent White coup...