White Balloon

Daily Journal of Mahaan, an Iranian-American student residing in USA.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Presidential Election in Iran (2)

Many Iranians say we want democracy for our country and they believe that it can be achieved through quick social changes like the way that the revolution happened in 1979.
People like Mr. Khatami believe that democracy is a gradual process rather than a political movement. In his mind, Khatami probably does not see a democratic Iran in his own life time. I personally agree with Mr. Khatami about the fact that our move towards democracy (similar to the western's move) is a gradual move. Generally speaking I agree with Khatami and I respect his vision (not his action) to large extent. I might say this because I don't live in Iran and I can talk based on my idealism while my own life luckily is filled with opportunities and daily forward movements. But what about that 20 years old Iranian student who sees minimal opportunity for jump both intellectually and financially for himself in Iran?! Is it fair to tell him, dream for another 200 years that we have the rule of law in this country and then things will be in order? Let's not forget that he's going to live only once. How much can he take my lecture about gradual change from the cultural roots of the society! You might say why should he care this much about social and political development of his society? Why should he care this much about democracy and rule of law in his country? In reply, I say: because politics is completely merged with daily life in Iran. If you live in Iran, politics truly touches your life. For example, whenever the political battles within the establishment heats up, you suddenly see new series of crack downs by the moral police on the streets. Today the leader changes the head of police, tomorrow they might not let you in your local police office because of wearing short sleeves shirts. The day after tomorrow they might change half of the traffic patterns of the city with no academic consultation. Every government shake up might result in overnight radical changes in economic policies which affects your investments, your life and future. Another example: Couple of years ago, in an overnight move by the new mayor of Tehran, the city hall stopped publishing construction permits to people. In a week, the price of houses went 50% up in the capital and it took about 1 year that they restarted giving construction permits. At the end it never became clear why they banned it for that period. God knows how much certain people made money from this over night price hike. Just imagine %50 jump in real estate cost! What an effect it can have on the middle class of the country! In such a messed up setup, your minutes depends on the politics. That's the reason that we Iranians are this much obsessed with politics, because we deeply felt its importance in our life. And that's the reason that our 20 years old student should care a lot about the politics of his country.

I said all this long blurb to just mention how difficult is to convince the young people of Iran, to stick to a long term vision of reform for the country. After 8 years of preaching for gradual reforms with very minimum achievements, is Mr. Khatami and his reformist camp able to once again attract these tired young people? At this point I doubt it! Unless they start at least talking about more radical shake up of the establishment.
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