Photo by Nader Davoodi
Not about Khatami
All about the younger citizens who are prepared to take a
By Mehrdad Emadi-Moghadam
June 29, 1999
As an Iranian who came to Britain fifteen years ago determined to severe
his ties with Iran, I have noticed that the last ten years of my life has
been more immersed in Iranian-related issues. I came to Britain thinking
that I would never go back to Iran as long as this regime is in power.
Last fall, after fourteen years, I went back for a nine-day visit. This
happened to coincide with the Wrestling World Cup which was hosted in Tehran.
In the hotel I was staying were also the team members of the participating
countries including those of the United States, Turkey, and Russia. It
was quite interesting to compare my own observation of Tehran with those
of the reporters and participants and to hear their comments on the behavior
of ordinary Iranians.
During my stay in Iran, I visited Espahan (the correct spelling of the
city as against the commonly used Isfahan) and Kerman. I also spent about
twenty hours in the bazaar and south of the city in Tehran just being idle,
chatting with people and hearing their views on what ever was of interest
to them at the time.
As a practicing economist and an academic who has spent a good deal
of his time in the last nine years in Eastern European countries as a researcher,
advisor, and consultant, the similarities between Iran of 1998 and Czechoslovakia
of 1989, Poland, Hungary and Russian Federation of 1997 are striking.
There seems to be the same kind of uncertainty about the path of reform,
struggle for democracy, and resistance toward change in Iran as there was
in these countries when they started their journey toward a new form of
society. As events in these countries have revealed, the attainment of
a democratic society is highly conditioned by the degree of participation
of the people and the extent to which they fulfill their civil obligations
through peaceful but self-coordinated channels.
Inside Iran, I discovered a new society where its younger citizens are
prepared to take a stance against the dominant oligarchy. Support and even
push the president toward deeper reforms and incur the risks imbeded in
challenging the quasi-mafia of monopolies and their agents. In the domestic
arena, a large segment of the Iranian society is fighting its most courageous
fight and seems to be pushing the oligarchy into a corner. However, there
is much to do to ensure an outcome favorable to further deepening of democracy.
As an Iranian, I would like to appeal to other Iranians living in the
North America and Western Europe to support this historical struggle for
democracy. Though we all can play a constructive role in this conflict,
my appeal is more to those Iranians who have a better access to the decision-making
circles in their country of residence. These typically but but exclusively
include educated Iranians who are employed in both public and private sectors
and businesswo/men who have regular contact with the business community
in their country/region.
I am aware that we are all very busy and have all kind of commitments
and I do not expect you to participate in demonstrations. But you can help
to enhance the awareness of people around you of what has been happening
in Iran, likely implications of reform if and when a mature democracy takes
root in Iran and how that may benefit the West, specifically the country
of your residence.
It is crucial to be fact-based in our discussions and avoid emotive
approaches. In most cases, as we all know, the West as a whole moves when
its economic interests are at risk or there are new opportunities to be
explored. Of course there are exceptions to this but not many.
I think as Iranians, we owe this to ourselves to raise the profile of
what is happening in Iran. We do not need to be in agreement with President
Khatami and his government. This is not about him! The appeal is on behalf
of many Iranians who during my nine days in Iran kept asking me, "Why
is it that nobody in the West takes our struggle seriously and help us?"
Help for them did not mean sending troops. Or intervening in their struggle
against the so-called conservatives. I think it was more like why there
is so little said about what we have achieved and trying to?
I believe that Iran today is similar to Spain in the last few years
of Franco and Greece under the colonels. The outcome is not certain but
there are many encouraging signs that after all these years, we may earn
the right to live in a democratic society.
Like many if you, I have every reason to dislike the regime in Iran.
I have disliked its treatment of human rights and I have been very critical
of it. But I have come to believe that the move toward democracy in Iran
does have a real change of succeeding. I also believe that Khatami shares
people's desire for change though he may not have the same pace.
I think it is high time for us to lend our support to people in Iran
and act as a conduit for importing the image of our people and their struggle.
We each can choose our own way of articulating our support. But we owe
support to Iranians living through this period.
Mehrdad Emadi-Moghadam is a senior lecturer in international Economics
at Staffordshire University in England. Between 1994 and 1997 he was the
director of the Centre for European Research in Economics and Business
(CEREB). In the last seven years he has acted as advisor to the Czech
and Russian governments on privatization and banking reforms. TO TOP
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