Iranian of the year
By Jahanshah Javid
March 28, 2003
The results of a joint online poll conducted by iranian.com amd siahsepid.com is most interesting. From a total of 1,839 votes, the highest percentage (32%) went to Hashem Aghajari, a historian and former revolutionary who was sentenced to death last year for demanding a separation of mosque and state. His life has been spared (after widespread student demonstrations, the judiciary overturned the death sentence), but he is still not a free man.
It's difficult to get a good reading from such polls. They are not scientific and cannot be fully trusted. But all previous polls have reflected the general political mood among Iranians. So if you add up the votes for Aghajari and those in the reformist camp (Mohammad Khatami, Abbas Abdi, Ali Afshari and...), more than half the people seem to prefer the current pace of political change.
Also, Iranians have made a habit of protest votes. They have repeadtedly shown support NOT for those they necessarily like, but for those who stand up to the Islamic Republic and its most powerful hardline elements. Therefore a good portion of those who voted for reformists have in fact sent yet another message to the regime that they are tired -- very very tired -- of religious rule.
There are no surprises up to here.
What has surprised many is Reza Pahlavi. The son for the last Shah of Iran won the Iranian of the year title for 2001. But that was nothing for him be proud of. Just over a hundred people took part in that poll and he got only 19 of them. This time, however, his second-place showing is much more significant. Nearly one in four (24%) chose Pahlavi as their favorite, more than three times as many as those who picked Khatami (7%).
You can argue that most of those who voted for Pahlavi are those who live abroad and understand little about political realities inside Iran. But the fact is that most of those who voted for Aghajari are not in Iran either.
Those who do not like Pahlavi or what he stands for tend to dismiss him without any thought whatsoever. Meanwhile there are indisputable signs that he is constantly gaining ground. Is this another protest vote? Is it that the Islamic Republic (and the reformists who still have hope in gradual change) are losing ground? Who knows...
More than any politician, I would keep a close eye on Iran's young population. Something like 75% of the people are under the age of 30 -- an astonishing number that will have the most to say in shaping our future. That's why I voted for the Rock band, O-Hum.
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