Saturday, November 10, 2007

Oppression is weak

"In an open society it is impossible to kill, jail, or occupy everyone who disagrees with you." (Bill Clinton speaking at the World Affairs Council)

The regime in Iran is a house of cards. Many may talk about their strength. I’ve heard it: money is rolling in because of the high price of oil. Yes. That is a strength. The revolutionary military supports the current president. Many in the Arab world and beyond see Ahmadinejad as a damn against the tide of Western imperialism. Another strength. They are acting boldly. Another strength. The world is paying attention. Yep, yet another.

Why do I say they are weak? A government that stones a man for adultery, sentences a woman to lashings for promoting the rights of women, imprisons professors, blocks social networking sites, and locks up union leaders is weak. W-E-A-K. We know now how weak the revolution was when Iraq attacked in the early 80s thus uniting the population behind the regime. That revolution was so weak that it tortured, killed, and imprisoned nearly all of the political thinkers and activists in the entire country.

Weak regimes respond with violence. Weak regimes keep their populations in a state of fear.

Read about the weaknesses here:
Listen to Halleh Esfandiari
talking to NPR about her imprisonment

Kamangir writes about the sentencing of feminist Delaram Ali

Here is an account of the stoning of the man put together by Hamid Tehrani at Global Voices

Read a report from the OpenNet initiative on Iran


Anonymous said...

Somebody tell Bill that you don't have to kill, jail or occupy everyone who disagrees with you in a democracy. All you have to do is kill and jail enough to make a deep impression on the rest. Kent State, anyone? Chicago Democratic Convention? You can even just ignore your opposition like Bush does and go ahead and do what you want. The cowed won't say a mumblin' word.

Anonymous said...

Don't you think that the US-imposed regime of the Shah, Reza Pahlavi, substantially destroyed the moral basis of Iranian society, and the Islamic Revolution is an determined attempt to regain that necessary element of every human group? Let's wish the Iranian people God speed and the best of luck and every good thing!

Tori said...

Do you think enforcing a dress code for women, squeezing out the best and the brightest, squashing dissent, and harassing minorities is a return to moral society?

Is corruption a return to moral society? Is torture?

Anonymous said...

You seem to think that there is a universal, absolute social morality. To the contrary, there are as many social moralities as there are subgroups. Nations differ in terms of what their morality consists of and how they enforce it. I don't think that ensuring that women appear modestly in public is so terrible. At most it is an annoyance. There are a lot of the best and brightest still in Iran attending and teaching at prestigious universities. Every society quashes dissent when it places the state in jeopardy. There is nothing unique to Iran about the harassment of minorities. You hate the regime. Shame on you!

Anonymous said...

Why don't you ask Bush about corruption and torture?

Tori said...

I don't get your point anonymous. So it's okay to arrest and harass women for wearing boots or makeup? That's morality? It's not about modesty. It's about perversion and power.

The women I met in Iran who were most upset about forced hejab were observant women who wore chadors. How does that fit with your notion of forced social morality.

I had four years of keeping my mouth shut when I lived in Iran. Shame on me? I only get upset because I love Iran. If I hated it, I would not bother crtiquing it. What would be the point?

Anonymous said...

The point would be to change it now, which is what you want. I think Iranians should be allowed to develop a vibrant society and powerful nation as demographic changes open new possibilities for individual freedom and accomplishment and the development of a civil society, rich and complex.

Anonymous said...

The general regulation of women's dress is upsetting to observant women who wore chador for a very obvious reason: mass enforcement of a regulation diminishes and obscures the value of their moral choice. No wonder.

Anonymous said...

The protection of Iranian women from the corruptions of the West in dress and appearance is definitely a matter of morality.

Anonymous said...

Iran can do without your love.

different anonymous said...


It seems that, according to you, men in Iran have no self-control, the slightest sight of women hair make them immoral and corrupt them.
As for corruption of the Western dress and appearance - corruption is in the eye of a beholder, you see only what you want to see, not what really is.

tori said...

You're wrong, I do not see Iranian men as incapable of self control: the regime does.

Anonymous said...

hsjflgIf moms at the restaurant are showing deep cleavage while they shovel cheeseburgers and fries into their toddlers, that cleavage is not in the eye of the beholder. It is a personal statement made by the moms. It's saying I've got 3 kids and I'm still HOT!! Of course, the male viewer can enjoy the view or find it repugnant. I personally think that it puts two different roles in one conflicting package: motherhood and seductress. But, at a time when 1/3 of mothers in US are unmarried, maybe it is a survival strategy.

another anonymous said...


You misunderstood me, the post was addressed to anonymous not to you. Anonymous, like the government of Iran, thinks that morality should be enforced by dress codes and squashing dissent otherwise men will start constantly to think of women and of nothing else.
Again, I would like to stress, that I do not think of a men in Iran as incapable of self control, that would be insulting to Iranians.

I know that if somebody is religious nothing can prevent him (or her) from being moral and from following codes of her/his religion.
Anonymous does not understand the above fact, as he does not understand that even girls or women wearing bikinis can have a deep religious conviction and follow them

As for deep, deep cleavage - why should a mother who is pretty after three kids try to hide that fact. It is not "I am hot" but it is "I am a mother, I am pretty and I am proud of how I look and who I am"
Men do the same thing - wearing expensive clothes, driving costly cars and showing their expensive haircut(or expensive headgear), at the same time having wife (or wives) - they, too, are saying "I am hot"

You, anonymous, would like that women to hide herself behind the veil so she will be a thing belonging to her husband.
Tell me, why don't the men hide behind the black veil too, then nobody will have a problem - both women and men will be hidden and neither will have "visual stimulus".

another anonymous said...


One more thing. You said that 1/3 of mothers in USA are unmarried. Well, in Iran 29% of women and 23% of men are unmarried. The above statistical data is taken from the IRI statistical portal and although they counted Iranian population from the age of 10 up, I think that even after one disregard Iranians below 18 years of age, it would mean a lot of unmarried people, wouldn't you think so?
What do you propose these men and women should do - dream of marriage if they do not have money or position to get married?
I also heard that apartments/houses in Tehran and elsewhere did went up - I assume that it is not very conductive to married life, even if majority of people do live with a familly ;-)

Anonymous said...

I personally think that all religion is a vicious stupidity and do not care whether people believe them or not. One anonymous apparently believes that the government of Iran thinks! Morality is not being imposed by requiring Iranian women to dress modestly; the power of the state and social control is being established through demands for acquiescence from the weakest, potentially least violent sector of adult Iranian society. The lesson is not lost on the majority. He/she seems not to see a difference between being "pretty" and being seductive. Anonymous also seems to think that there is a one-to-one correspondence between being religious and being moral. Religious leaders would like to know this; please tell them! There is a difference between what I think is the case and what I would like to see happen, a difference anonymous does not perceive. Finally, being young and unmarried in Iran is a far different thing from being young with children and unmarried in US. Tell me please the statistic on the number of unmarried mothers in Iran, but don't spend the rest of your life looking for it.

Anonymous said...

Hey! Maybe the scarcity of unmarried mothers in Iran has something to do with morality. It's a thought!

Tori said...

the scarcity of unwed mothers in Iran due to morality, Ralph? Where do you live... It's more likely due to fear, temporary marriage, and the difficulty women have obtaining a divorce. A man can take on mutliple wives through sigeh (temporary marriage) and leave his wife "married."

I'll never forget what my sisters-in-law said when Kamran told them that the divorce rate in the US was more than 50%: "Here it's closer to 100%, but we still have to live together." They laughed, but that is approximately the case.

And all this focus on women's clothes even from you westerners... what's up with that. Is it any business of yours at all?

Anonymous said...

tori azizam, for a view of the relationship between morality and fear, I suggest that you read the book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible. Please tell us about your notion of morality and its psychological costs and benefits. Oh, I can't wait to hear!!

Anonymous said...

I think it was tori that initially kept complaining about the Iranian regime making Iranian women observe modesty in dress.

Tori said...

Ralph, I don't get your point. I *have* read the Old Testament. It is filled with violence and capriciousness. What does that have to do with our discussion?

Another anonymous, thanks for clarifying.

Anonymous said...

Does "do the right thing or face the consequences" mean anything to you, tori? Morality, broadly construed, is enforced rigourously in every society. It is especially enforced in conditions of restricted economy, wherein individuals may try to turn every human weakness into an unending source of profit. Moral institutions will intervene against such rapacity and greed, as they do in Iran. What are you anyway, an anarchist?

Anonymous said...

Hey, anonymous, ease off tori. She's just a kid and hasn't thought very deeply about stuff.

another anonymous said...


I would, if you allow me, like to explain why "westerners" like me keep focusing on woman clothes.
I think that it is the most visible result of imposition of certain islamic laws. There are other results, but they are less obvious.
I am pretty shure that if, somehow, laws of sharia got struck out of Iranian law, many Iranian women would still wear hijab. But then the wearing hijab would be voluntary, would result from their convictions and not be imposed from above. And that is exactly what I oppose, I am not opposing wearing the hijab ( or veil) as such but its imposition from the above.
One more thing, nowhere in Qu'ran there is a sura about wearing veil, there are couple of suras about wearing modest dress. And modesty depends on the wearer - some women would look modest in mini-skirt, other women would look immodest even in full abaya.

@ anonymous 11:11

It is especially enforced in conditions of restricted economy, wherein individuals may try to turn every human weakness into an unending source of profit.
And who is turning every human weakness into unending source of profit? I heard that in Qom temporary marriage is very popular, is it not turning human weakness into profit, particularly when women in temporary marriages are treated by many Iranians as whores?
Moral institutions will intervene against such rapacity and greed, as they do in Iran.
Moral institutions should do something about rapacity and greed of people who allow to flood Iranian market with cheep stuff from China making money on the side. Moral institution should do something about rapacity and greed of people in high positions in the present government and in bonyads with their connections to narco-traffic and oil-traffic.
Moral institutions should show by example, but not like they do it - choosing the easy targets but shying away from the difficult.

Anonymous said...

I agree with another anonymous. Moral institutions (like the Catholic church in America in which many children have been sexually abused by priests) can be improved and must root out evil doers among their personnel. Iranians will have to organize court action against the sins of the clergy. It's a good place to begin to build civil society.

Anonymous said...

anonymous, are you saying that since there is variance in modesty of women in different states of dress and undress, there can be no standard for modesty among Iranian women?

another anonymous said...


Sexual abuse is a crime not only in light of western secular law but also in light of a teaching of catholic church, therefore both catholic church and the secular courts did condemn and do something about these few breaking-law priests. On the other hand you are forgetting that Iranian law is based on sharia and some of what you may think a crime/sin is not a crime according to IRI law. Temporary marriages, stoning, cutting hands and such are punishments administered according to the sharia law.
In Iran getting religious credentials is for many a way to better job and better money, after all Rafsanjani, a mullah, is worth 1.3 bln USD; Ayatollah Vaez Tabasi is worth 770 mln USD; Ali Jannati is worth 220 mln USD. Mullahs working in the government do drive costly cars, overseers and managers of bonyads are mullahs.
Therefore, I think it would be quite difficult to organise court action against the greedy mullah(s), in Iran mullahs are also jurists. On the other hand to organise an action against rapacity and greed of government officials, even the ones who are mullahs, may be a different thing.

@ pogo

It seems that you are limiting what modesty is to the dress code. Modesty is a behaviour and the appearance.
Also I am not saying that there can be no certain standards of modesty. I am saying that imposing a specific dress code from the above against the feeling of many/majority of women and concentrating on minutae of dress (locks of hair getting out of hijab, too bright lipstick, too colorfull outer garment, ................what a horror!) is wrong. This preocupation with small things says to me that government of IRI regards women and men of Iran as incapable children who have to be controlled in all things for their own good.