The turmoil erupting in Iran, after the much-anticipated election results, has garnered world attention, and has galvanized questions about the legitimacy of the Iranian political system. But before jumping to any conclusions about the future of Iran, it is important to analyze the election results, the responses to these results from Iranians in Iran and in other parts of the world, and last but not least, the reactions of the Western media and it’s commentators on global politics. From this close analysis, one can better obtain a holistic picture of the situation as well as a practical solution.

The race was between two candidates, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the controversial president of Iran running for his second term, and Mir-Hussein Mousavi, the participant that the United States, as well as many of its allies, were secretly, if not openly, cheering for. However, after the election results came in, it was announced that Mir-Hussein lost, with surprisingly a very large margin. It was clear from the get-go, that the supporters of Mousavi were going to challenge the election results by protesting and calling them “fraudulent”, and some of the Western critics of the Iranian regime, would undoubtedly support them. These events have been made akin to the revolution of 1979, where Ayatollah Khomeini came to power by ousting the Shah; however there is one major difference: it is a revolution—if it can be called that–based upon challenging the regime, not supporting it.

Fareed Zakariya, editor of Newsweek, writes about this point in his latest article, entitled “Theocracy and Its Discontents”:

We are watching the fall of Islamic theocracy in Iran. I don’t mean by this that the Iranian regime is about to collapse. It may—I certainly hope it will—but repressive regimes can stick around for a long time. We are watching the failure of the ideology that lay at the basis of the Iranian government. The regime’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, laid out his special interpretation of political Islam in a series of lectures in 1970. In this interpretation of Shia Islam, Islamic jurists were presumed to have divinely ordained powers to rule as guardians of the society, supreme arbiters not only on matters of morality, but politics as well. When Khomeini established the Islamic Republic of Iran, this idea, velayat-e faqih, rule by the Supreme Jurist, was at its heart. Last week that ideology suffered a fatal blow. [1]

Mr. Zakariya believes that there is a fall happening in Iran, but he is only seeing this from the viewpoint of the supporters of Mousavi, which from the election results, only constitutes 34% of the Iranian voice, while the opposition manifests 62%. [2] However Mr. Zakariya largely ignores this, possibly because he has assumed that the election results were fraudulent. Many expatriates of Iran also uphold this view, and in response carried, signs which states: “Where Is My Vote?” Of course, the signs themselves are in English, not in Farsi, which tells us a little about where their message is actually being directed. Nevertheless, these same protestors largely ignore the statistics of the election results and also forget that the Iranian democratic system has allowed for reformist wins in the past, with former-president Khatami winning not only once, but twice. Flynt Leverett and Hillary Man Leverett of Politico explains this perfectly in their article entitled “Ahmadinejad Won. Now Get Over It”:

They ignore the fact that Ahmadinejad’s 62.6 percent of the vote in this year’s election is essentially the same as the 61.69 percent he received in the final count of the 2005 presidential election, when he trounced former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The shock of the “Iran experts” over Friday’s results is entirely self-generated, based on their preferred assumptions and wishful thinking…But upsets occur — as, most notably, with Mohammed Khatami’s surprise victory in the 1997 presidential election. Moreover, “blowouts” also occur — as in Khatami’s reelection in 2001, Ahmadinejad’s first victory in 2005 and, we would argue, this year. [3]

By ignoring these results, some have instead decided to ignite a propagandist campaign against Iran by spreading misinformation through leaflets, which were allegedly written by Iranian minister of interior, Sadeq Mahsuli. Robert Fisk, in his article called, “Secret letter ‘Proves Mousavi Won Poll,’” analyzes the integrity of the letter with skepticism:

Mr Mousavi has 19,075,623, Mr Karroubi 13,387,104, and Mr Ahmadinejad a mere 5,698,417….Could this letter be a fake? Even if Mr Mousavi won so many votes, could the colourless Mr Karroubi have followed only six million votes behind him? And however incredible Mr Ahmadinejad’s officially declared 63 per cent of the vote may have been, could he really – as a man who has immense support among the poor of Iran – have picked up only five-and-a-half million votes? And would a letter of such immense importance be signed only “on behalf of the minister”? [4]

Others, such as Lisa Daftari and Mahnaz Afkhami, who are not particularly fond of Iran’s Islamic regime, have decided to comment on the current crisis from their own perspectives. Ms. Daftari produced a letter addressing her “Iranian Countrymen” [5] on the right-wing magazine, FrontPage Mag. She utilizes the pronoun “we” as to speak on behalf of the Iranian expatriates in order to empathize with the Iranians who are “fighting for our freedom.” However, neither her freedoms, nor any of the expatriates she is speaking on behalf, are in danger, since they are living in faraway “lands such as Germany, England, France, Italy and the United States.” While living in these new lands, she says “We felt lonely and isolated. We longed to be back in our homeland. We still do,” and that “we left for religious, political or military reasons and can’t even come back to visit,” but since when did the Iran hold any of this against its own people, unless of course, the people have openly conspired against the Iranian regime, which would grant them complete justification in infringing and barring their return to the country. It is difficult to asses who Ms. Daftari is actually speaking on behalf of, since Iranians have had the opportunity to visit their lands, even if they disagree on the many topics she has introduced.

After describing the difficulties Iranians are facing abroad, she says: “You may look at us driving around in our cars, living in mansions, wearing designer clothes. Many expatriate Iranians have been very successful in varying endeavor.” One would assume that due to the successes of Iranians abroad, they would probably have no difficulty in assimilating or interacting with others in their host country. After all, most of them left after the capitulation of the Shah, which would indicate that their visions of politics, religion and society parallels the vision of the Western countries in which they reside. So undoubtedly, how could the very Iranians Ms. Daftari is speaking on behalf, possibly feel out of place or “isolated”?

Now Barbara Corsette writes about women in Iran in her article entitled “Icons of the New Iran,” where she writes briefly on Mahnaz Afkhami, an Iranian expatriate who implicitly supported the Shah:

“In suburban Washington, Mahnaz Afkhami notices the strong presence of women and is not surprised. In no small sense, these women are the heirs of Iran’s first feminist generation of the 1960s and 1970s, in which she was a leader. It was an era when Iranian women got the right to vote, were admitted to universities and professional schools and enjoyed the most liberal system of family law in the region.” [6]

It is not difficult to see the blatant ignorant expressed by Ms. Afkhami. She truly believes that women had “enjoyed” the legal system provided to them by the government of the Shah, but, she also says, “It had nothing to do with him.” Of course, Ms. Afkhami is trying her best to distance herself from the Shah; however, it is not working to her favor since she demonstrates her venomous hatred for the Islamic revolution. “From the beginning the entire philosophy of the Islamic Republic of Iran was a Taliban-like philosophy,” Ms. Afkhami says. In other words, one would presume that she would prefer the Shah over the Islamic revolution. She conveniently ignores the fact that the Shah did not do all the things she is gleefully reminiscing about. According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran Foreign Affairs Committee, they assert in their book Women, Islam and Equality that:

“In striving to consolidate his rule after the coup that overthrew the popular government of Dr. Mossadeq in 1953, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi dissolved the various women’s organizations and established the Organization of Iranian Women, appointing his sister, Ashraf, a notoriously corrupt woman, as its head. In the 1960s, the shah intensified the political repression throughout the society, particularly targeting women. SAVAK, the notorious secret police, was given a free rein. Through a number of superficial and purely formalistic reforms, including the land reform and voting rights for women, the shah tried to champion the women’s cause. In truth, however, all the elections during his reign were sham. In 1963, the shah allowed a few women loyal to the court to enter the parliament. Simultaneously, women entered the work force as cheap laborers, to better serve the interests of the ruling elite.” [7]

The latest election result in Iran is a nascent topic of discussion amongst all people around the world. The skepticism over the poll results is expected from the Iranian elites, both at home and abroad. The protestors on the streets of Iran have also gained worldwide attention; however, it seems rather interesting that no-one is focusing on the Ahmadinejad supporters, who could have possibly won the elections. The Iranian government’s response, although a bit too harsh, is undoubtedly feeding the Iranian activists, who hate the Islamic regime. The Iranian government themselves should realize that whatever force they are using will hurt their legitimacy as well as the Islamic revolution in 1979. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that there are other elements at play here (CIA in Iran), which are not being analyzed mainstream media and are there to exploit the differences between the two contending camps. It would also be foolish to simply ignore the statements by the government of Iran, even if it sounds a bit asinine, because they may have information we do not. In the mean time, the Western world will watch closely what will happen in Iran; while sanctimoniously pass judgments on Iran’s leadership, political system and nuclear facilities.Whatever the case may be, this election will certainly be remembered.

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Resources:

[1] Fareed Zakaria. ‘Theocracy and Its Discontents’, Newsweek, Jun. 10th, 2009, http://www.newsweek.com/id/202979/page/1

[2] ‘Ahamdinejad Wins Iran Presidential Election’, BBC, Jun. 13th, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8098305.stm

[3] Flynt Leverett and Hillary Man Leverett. ‘Ahmadinejad Won. Now Get Over It’, Politico, Jun. 15th, 2009, http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0609/23745.html

[4] Robert Fisk. ‘Secret letter ‘Proves Mousavi Won Poll’, The Independent, Jun. 18th, 2009, http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-secret-letter-proves-mousavi-won-poll-1707896.html

[5] Lisa Daftari. ‘Letter to the Iranian People’, FrontPage Mag, Jun. 15th, 2009, http://www.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=35317

[6] Barbara Corsette. ‘Icons of the New Iran’, Jun. 23rd, 2009, http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090706/crossette2

[7] Women, Islam and Equality, [Online Document] Under ‘Women Under the Pahlavi Dictatorships’, http://www.iran-e-azad.org/english/book_on_women/chapter1.html

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