In Iran, longtime 'reformers' stifle true revolution
The common view is that violent repression shut down Iran's peaceful Green Movement in 2009, when protesters took to the streets over rigged presidential elections. But Iran's entrenched 'reformers' deserve much of the blame. And they still stand in the way of change.
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Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Mousavi disowned the new demands, confining themselves to supporting a recount. Mousavi went so far as to insist on "the impeccable implementation of the Constitution" (a call for proper counting, perhaps, but also one that underscored the ayatollah's authority and the tired message of internal reform). Karroubi talked about "the golden years of Khomeini" – Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late founder of the 1979 revolution.Skip to next paragraph
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Reformers may well denounce the idea of revolution because they're haunted by their past. Many of them participated in the violent crushing of the democratic wing of the 1979 revolution and in the 1981 coup against the republic's first president, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr. Both events resulted in mass arrests, torture, and executions.
Two decades later, these reformers likely fear that overthrowing today's regime would inevitably expose their own historic role in it, depriving them of a position in a future government. Why else do they fail to explain that the path to reform has backfired after so many years? In 1997, voters supported reformist cleric Mr. Khatami for president, but have ended up with a hard-liner, Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Iranians are paying a high price for allowing reformers to play politics with their future. Real change cannot take place within this repressive, regressive structure in which autocratic clerics constitutionally have the last word. Intransigence is again visible as the supreme leader threatens to eliminate the post of president.
To create an unstoppable social movement for change, the young must shed their fear – and ignorance – of revolution. Rebellion need not be violent. After all, the 1979 revolution to overthrow the monarchy was peaceful, a victory of flowers over bullets as protesters carried roses to shower on soldiers in a sign of solidarity.
After the revolution, a 28-month "spring of freedoms" ensued – until the violent coup ended it. Yet Iran's youth are not taught about this interim of relative freedom, not even by reformers. After all, the reformers participated in repressing it.
A renewed sense of purpose must spur a collective dynamism in Iran and generate a leadership that does not depend on the reformers. Women, especially, should be tapped. They showed the way to university reform that opened for them the closed gates of higher education.
IN PHOTOS: Iran's Islamic Revolution
Only when a new generation turns from the sour song of discredited reformers, will Iranians discover their own voice – and their own power.
Mahmood Delkhasteh is an independent researcher, columnist, and political activist based in England. He is working on a book based on his doctoral disseration, "Islamic Discourses of Power and Freedom in the Iranian Revolution, 1979-81."