VOMENA Special Part 2: Iran Election Coverage

June 23, 2009 (begins at 5 minute point)

We speak with Eric Hooglund, professor of politics at Bates College and editor of the scholarly journal, Middle East Critique. He will discuss the debated notion of the rural/urban divide in Iran in the context of the most recent elections. Kaveh Ehsani will also share with his take on this topic. Dr. Kaveh Ehsani is an Assistant Professor of International studies at DePaul University. He is also a member of the editorial committee of the Middle East Report Quarterly as well as the editor of an independent journal of social analysis in Iran called “the Dialogue.”

We also hear from Iman, a young activist who recently escaped from Iran will share his story with us. Iman had to flee to Dubai on June 15th – three days after the election – fearing imminent arrest by the Iranian regime. Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to Iman on the phone.

Finally we will hear the reaction of two Tehran residents about the historic demonstration that took place two weeks ago.

Flashpoints – June 23, 2009 at 5:00pm

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VOMENA Special: Iran Election Coverage

June 22, 2009  (Begins at 8 minute point)

In this program, we talk to Arang Keshavarzian, an Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University who just returned from Iran. Dr. Keshavarzian  is the author of “Bazaar and State in Iran: the Politics of the Tehran Marketplace.” He is on the editorial committee of Middle East Report Quarterly and was in Iran for approximately three weeks before returning last week.

Later in the program, we  speak with Kaveh Ehsani, an Assistant Professor of International studies at Depaul University. He is also a member of the editorial committee of the Middle East Report Quarterly as well as the editor of an independent journal of social analysis in Iran called “the Dialogue.”

Flashpoints – June 22, 2009 at 5:00pm

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Survival Through Dispossession: Privatization of Public Goods in the Islamic Republic

Article by Kaveh Ehsani

The Islamic Revolution at 30

The Islamic Revolution at 30

Since the 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the burning economic issue in Iran has been the privatization of public assets and, more recently, the elimination of subsidies for a vast array of goods and services. Leading figures, including the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have called the privatization program “an economic revolution.” But it is not only the economy that private ownership is supposed to rescue. There seems to be a consensus across the political and ideological spectrum that public ownership of economic assets is the cause of a host of social and political ills, from authoritarianism to corruption and nepotism.

 

 

Though the debate seems new, the privatization of public assets has been a constant, albeit disputed strategy of consolidation for the Islamic Republic from the outset. Privatization of public assets has taken place in waves, always accompanied by a rational justification: The privatization of public land in the 1980s was carried out in the name of distributive justice, while the sale of city skyline and the liberalization of zoning laws in the 1990s were presented as the precondition for urban renewal. The current wave of privatization of industrial and financial institutions is framed as the technocratic rationalization of a hopelessly deadlocked economy. In fact, it is only the latest in a series of enclosures of the commons for the benefit of a select few who happen to have, for the moment, the upper hand in the political domain. Read more.

 
 

 

Khamenei’s Hypocrisy (Translations to Come…)

Khomeini's Hypocrisy

Khamanei's Hypocrisy

Protesters Giving Flowers to the Police in Iran

Video of Candlelight Vigil for Iranian Protesters in SF, CA

Video of candlelight vigil for Iranian protesters in San Francisco, California on Sunday, June 21st, 2009.

Protester Interviewed in Spanish at Candlelight Vigil

Protester interviewed in Spanish for Univision t.v. at a candlelight vigil for those who have died and suffered loss protesting the unfair elections in Iran (Un protestor habla contra los elecciones en Iran en Espanol).

San Franicsco, CA, June 21st, 2009

Silent Candlelight Vigil in SF’s Civic Center, TONIGHT 7:30-9pm

The recent tragic events in Iran calls for continuous outcry.  We must keep up our support for the opposition demonstrators in Iran.

Please come and show your support for Human Rights in Iran at a silent candlelight vigil tomorrow!

LOCATION: Civic Center Plaza, San Francisco

McAllister St. San Francisco, CA 94102

DATE: Sunday, June 21

TIME: 7:30pm to 9:00pm

BRING YOUR OWN CANDLES

Please note: this is a silent vigil.  Please refrain from bringing any flags or banners.

Circulate this email widely and tell all your friends and family to join.

See you at the vigil!

Human Rights in Iran Now!

Akhbare-Rooz: Letter to the United Nations (In Farsi)

Akhbare-Rooz: Letter to the United Nations (In Farsi)

A Different Iranian Revolution: Op-Ed by Iranian Student

June 19, 2009, OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

A Different Iranian Revolution, By SHANE M.  – This article was written by a student in Iran who, for reasons of safety, did not want to be identified by his full name.

Tehran WE look over this wall of marching people to see what our friends in the United States are saying about us. We cannot help it — 30 years of struggle against the Enemy has had the curious effect of making us intrigued. To our great dismay, what we find is that in important sectors of the American press a disturbing counternarrative is emerging: That perhaps this election wasn’t a fraud after all. That the United States shouldn’t rush in with complaints of democracy denied, and that perhaps Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the president the Iranian people truly want (and, by extension, deserve). Do not believe it. Those so-called experts warning Americans to be leery of claims of fraud by the opposition are basing their arguments on an outdated understanding of Iran that has little to do with the reality of what we here are experiencing during these singular days. For instance, some American analysts assert that the demonstrations are taking place only in the sections of Tehran — in the north, around the university and Azadi Square — where the educated and well-off reside. Of course, those neighborhoods were home to the well-to-do … 30 years ago. The notion that these areas represent “the nice part of town” will come as a surprise to their residents, who endure the noise, congestion and pollution of living in the center of a megalopolis. People who haven’t visited a city in decades are bound to give out bad directions. But their descriptions of where the protests are taking place, and why, also draw on pernicious myths of an iron correlation between religion and class, between location and voting tendency, in Iran. This false geography imagines South Tehran and the countryside as home only to the poor, those natural allies of political Islam, while North Tehran embodies unbridled gharbzadegi (translated as “Weststruckness” or “Westernitis”) and is populated by people addicted to the Internet and vacations in Paris. It is as if political Islam withers north of Vanak Square and the only residents to be found are “liberals” who voted for the opposition leader, Mir Hussein Moussavi. We must not assume that the engagement of members of society with their religion is uniform or that religious devotion equals automatic loyalty to a particular brand of politics. To do so is certainly to deny Iran’s poor the capacity to think for themselves, to deny that the politics of the past four years may have made their lives worse — and plays right into Mr. Ahmadinejad’s dubious claim to be the most authentic representative of the 1979 revolution. Mr. Moussavi was, let’s not forget, a favored son of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and a member of Iran’s original cohort of revolutionaries, and he remains a firm believer in the revolution and the framework of the Islamic Republic. But the United States seems able to view our country only through anxieties left over from the 1979 revolution. In the “how did we lose Iran?” assessments after the overthrow of the shah, many American intelligence agents and policy makers decided that their great mistake was to spend too much time canoodling with the royal family and intellectual elites of the capital. Commentators now are worried that, by siding with the opposition today, the United States will once again fall into the trap of backing the losing side. But the fact is, Tehran is not the Iranian anomaly it was 30 years ago. It has become more like the rest of the country. Internal migration, not just to Tehran but to other major cities, has accelerated, driven in part by the growth of universities in places like Isfahan, Tabriz, Mashad and Shiraz, and now nearly 70 percent of Iranians live in cities. The much vaunted rural vote represents not a decisive bloc for Mr. Ahmadinejad but a minimum, one that was easily swamped by the increased turnout of city dwellers, who normally sit elections out. And, of course, Iran in 2009 — better yet, Iran on June 12, 2009 — is not the same as Iran in 1979. Just as Tehran’s neighborhoods cannot be fixed in time, the cultural lives of Iranians have greatly changed in the past 30 years. The postrevolutionary period has seen the expansion of education, the entry of women into the work force in large numbers, and changing patterns of marriage and even of divorce. These have all shaped Iranian society. The pseudo-sociology peddled by so many in the West would easily dissolve with a week’s visit. Let’s also forget the polls, carried out in May by Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion, that have been making the rounds this past week, with numbers that showed Mr. Ahmadinejad well ahead in the election, even in Mr. Moussavi’s hometown, Tabriz. Maybe last month Mr. Ahmadinejad was indeed on his way to victory. But then came the debates. Starting on June 1, the country was treated to an experience without precedent in the 30 years of the Islamic Republic of Iran: six back-to-back live and unscripted debates among the four presidential candidates. Iranians everywhere were riveted, and the poll numbers began to move. By the Wednesday before the election, Mr. Moussavi was backed by about 44 percent of respondents, while Mr. Ahmadinejad was favored by around 38 percent. So let’s not cloud the results with numbers that were, like bagels, stale a week later. (And let’s ignore the claim that polling by Iranians in Iran is “notoriously untrustworthy.” A consortium of pollsters and social scientists working for a diverse range of political and social organizations systematically measured public opinion for months before the election.) Such a major shift has happened before. A month before the 1997 elections, the establishment candidate, Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri, was trouncing his opponents in surveys. Then, a week before the vote, the tide changed, bringing to power a reformer, Mohammad Khatami. The reason for this fluidity in voter preference is simple. Iran has no real political parties that can command a fixed number of predictable votes. With elections driven primarily by personality politics, Iranians are always swing voters. So Mr. Moussavi, hampered by a lack of access to state-run news media and allowed only two months to campaign, began to make inroads into Mr. Ahmadinejad’s lead only during the final days leading into the election, his poll numbers rising with his visits to provincial cities and the debate appearances. One final note: the election does reveal a paradox. There is strong evidence that Iranians across the board want a better relationship with the United States. But if Mr. Moussavi were to become president and carry out his campaign promise of seeking improved relations with America, we would probably see a good 30 percent of the Iranian population protesting that he is “selling out” to the enemy. By contrast, support for Mr. Ahmadinejad’s campaign was rooted in part in his supposed defense of the homeland and national honor in the face of United States aggression. Americans too-long familiar with the boorish antics of the Iranian president will no doubt be surprised to learn that the best chance for improved relations with the United States perhaps lies with Mr. Ahmadinejad. But Mr. Ahmadinejad is perceived here as being uniquely able to play the part of an Iranian Nixon by “traveling to the United States” and bringing along with him his supporters — and they are not few. In other words, Iranians believe they face a daunting choice: a disastrous domestic political situation with Mr. Ahmadinejad but an improved foreign policy, or improved domestic leadership under Mr. Moussavi but near impossible challenges in making relations with the United States better. The truth is, it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. The open-air parties that, for one week, turned Tehran at night into a large-scale civic disco, were an accident. People gathered by the tens of thousands in public squares, circling around one another on foot, on motorcycle, in their cars. They showed up around 4 or 5 in the afternoon and stayed together well into the next day, at least 3 or 4 in the morning, laughing, cheering, breaking off to debate, then returning to the fray. A girl hung off the edge of a car window “Dukes of Hazzard” style. Four boys parked their cars in a circle, the headlights illuminating an impromptu dance floor for them to show off their moves. Everyone watched everyone else and we wondered how all of this could be happening. Who were all of these people? Where did they come from? These were the same people we pass by unknowingly every day. We saw one another, it feels, for the first time. Now in the second week, we continue to look at one another as we walk together, in marches and in silent gatherings, toward our common goal of having our vote respected. No one knew that it would come to this. Iran is this way. Anything is possible because very little in politics or social life has been made systematic. We used to joke that if you leave Tehran for three months you’ll come back to a new city. A friend left for France for a few days last week and when he returned the entire capital had turned green. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Until last week, Mr. Moussavi was a nondescript, if competent, politician — as one of his campaign advisers put it to me, he was meant only to be an instrument for making Iran a tiny bit better, nothing more. Iranians knew that’s what they were getting when they cast their votes for him. Now, like us, Mr. Moussavi finds himself caught up in events that were unimaginable, each day’s march and protest more unthinkable than the one that came before.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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