There is an inviolable connection between political
means and ends
July 9, 2003
There is much disagreement amongst Iranians, sometimes vague and
theoretical and other times overflowing with frustration and contempt
would expect from an exiled people. But where there is agreement
give us hope.
The answer is a clear one, and one we should all
be mindful of
when discussing Iranian political life. Iranians want human rights
democracy. Sit in, protests, demonstrations in Iran as well as
all revealed the desire for greater freedoms and greater participation
the management of public affairs.
I say we should be mindful
because the question we as Iranians should be answering, and
actively engaging in, is in the understanding of transition and
Does it grow organically like a flower coming into bloom? Is
it put together
like a house, with the creation of a foundation and slowly
built brick by
brick? Or can it be cooked, served and fed to a public which
yearns for it?
There is no one answer, instead a variety of voices. However,
history, and if history has taught us anything it is that
forced democratization will inevitably act like a foreign disease
either be rejected by the body or poison it from the inside.
But as with any issue, we must first begin with the basics. What
democracy? There is no one version of democratic governance.
It is as
diverse as the taste of kabab, sheeshleek being my favorite.
The fact is
that modern democracies have no one mold. There are democratic
governments in countries like Canada. Or liberal two-party federalism
the United States.
The fact is that ways of voting and electing
representatives in national democratic systems vary. There
is no one way to
achieve rule by the people because ultimately different values
different democracies. At its most basic root, democratic governance
concerns itself with one thing; giving citizens equal rights
in decision making and to hold public office based on the Athenian
that there is equality among citizens.
However, there are some, like Henry Steiner, a prominent professor
rights from Harvard, as well as Sanford Lakoff, a professor at
University of California San Diego and author on the history
governance, who articulate that the concept of democracy has
their analyses the concept of freedom and democracy becomes relatively
synonymous. It is here where my concern resides. More importantly,
here that my message to Iranians begins.
While the concept
of democracy is
important it is relative to the protection of freedoms and
has given us democracies that have given rise to totalitarianism
the protection of slavery in the United States, and intense
nationalist movements at the sacrifice of fundamental rights
such as in Israel,
and Egypt to only name a few.
Modern democracies are dominated
groups and corporate muscle such as in Italy and the United
excluding the poor, illiterate, unemployed, and abused.
It is, in general,
political utilitarianism but too often political capitalism.
professor in political science at the University of Delhi,
modern democratic ideas initially grew in order to facilitate
the growth of
capitalism. As a result western democracies have become
vulnerable to the
same factors they have developed.
Ultimately, without human rights democracies are useless. More
the creation of a democratic state in and of itself cannot produce
of rights. Does political participation guarantee freedom of
religion, freedom of speech, a free press, the protection of a
the right to an attainable standard of health, or the often neglected
to food? Does it give us rule of law or judicial independence?
The fact is
that it has not in Kuwait, Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina, China,
even the United States. Human rights, on the other hand, are
the bricks for
which we build a stable democracy. The right to political participation
nondiscrimination are the backbones of any free political system.
I have been critical of the United States because it troubles
me to see how
civil rights are trumped by post 9/11 legislation such as the
Act. It troubles me more because these laws are passed in order
democracies from terrorism. The "coalition" went to
war to bring democracy
to the Iraqi people. All around the world, the paradigm of democratization
has taken front stage over human rights. But how do you eat pomegranates
with no seeds?
Amongst us Iranians in the Diaspora the fervor for
regime change increases by the
day. Let us always be mindful, however, that there is an inviolable
connection between the means and the end.
Gandhi once said "I am not likely to obtain the result
the worship of God by laying myself prostrate before Satan."
anyone were to say "I want to worship God; it does not matter
that I do so
by means of Satan" then that person would be an ignorant
democracy must be born from the seeds of its troubles, the
human rights. Without human rights development Iran will remain
house for a people looking for a home.
Nema Milaninia is a Graduate Student, International Human
Rights Law at the American University in Cairo.
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