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No brainer
Consequences of blocking peaceful reform

Augsut 7, 2000
The Iranian

An edict by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei forbidding the Majlis from discussing a bill to relax the nation's draconian press laws has caused an uproar (news here). And why shouldn't it? The majority of lawmakers were elected last February with the promise of reform. Their top priority was changing the press laws so that the judiciary would not be ble to close reformist newspapers and magazines with the slightest excuse. Preventing lawmakers from doing so means taking away the right of elected representatives of the people to carry out their constitutional duties.

But it is not just that. What Khamenei has done is to once again confirm what many had suspected since Mohammad Khatami's election; that real power in Iran rests elsewhere. It does not matter if the country's moderate president is very popular. It does not make a difference if the reformists control most of the city and rural councils. And it is not even that important that the conservatives are now only a small minority in the Majlis. Because ultimate power remains in the hands of the conservative clerical leadership, which is determined to block any real attempts to bring change.

Anyone with eyes and ears knows change is what the people want. People have used every peaceful means available to demand freedom, democracy and an end to religious domination. They have said it loud and clear through the ballot box in the past three national elections. But elected reformist officials and lawmakers have been unable to implement any real change because of stiff resistance from unelected conservative centers of power. The result, even before Khamenei's blatant interference in the legislative process, has been growing frustration and alienation.

Just look at the radicalization of the student movement. Look at the growing frequency of political demonstrations sparked by non-political issues, either over water shortages (Abadan), lack of municipal services (Islamshahr), or low wages (strikes at dozens of factories). And things are bound to get worse. The conservatives are making sure of it. They are closing all avenues of rational, gradual change and free expression. They are choking reform. You don't need to be a political scientist to figure out what happens when people don't get their way, peacefully.

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