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Road to recovery
The challenges for Iran

By David Ramezani
February 18, 2004

First and foremost, Iran is a bio-polar society. Part of society identifies with the Islamic norms and standards while the other part of the society prefers the values and the life style before Islam. Some Iranians take pride on their pre-Islamic history and it serves as a source of inspiration for them. These people view the domination of Islam in Iran as a defeat of their self-determination and the loss of identity.

As a result the society has been polarized and the country has been struggling to find its true identity. The polarity of the society has been demoralizing and at some points it has been very violent. The country is going through a soul-searching process in order to adopt a way of life in order to satisfy the both ends of the spectrum.

Life before the 1979-uprising was mainly in favor of the camp which was promoting the Iranian pre-Islamic heritage. During the Shah reign the Iranian pre-Islamic values along with the Western life style dominated the Iranian culture. This caused the Islamic camp to be more alienated and to develop a xenophobic attitude toward the camp with the pre-Islamic identity and the Western values. Through out the history there always have been rivalry and hostilities between these two camps. This was one of the reasons for the emergence of Islamic Revolution on 1979.

Another reason behind the 79-uprising was the impact of the Cold War on Iran. Iran had the longest borders in the north with the former Soviet Union. During the Cold War some of the Iranian political groups and organizations opposing the Shah were influenced by the Soviet Communist ideology. These groups were very instrumental in the collapse of the Iranian Monarchy.

In addition to that, because of the 8-year Iran-Iraq war, there is a major generation gap between the Old generation and the new one. Because of the war the middle generation between the two is gone. The majority of the Iranians are under 30 years old. This creates a unique demographic for Iran.

Ever since the Islamic government was born in Iran this system has been faced with an internal conflict a biggest challenge of its time. The root causes of this internal conflict have an evolutionary nature. The Islamic laws and the Islamic governing policies were formulated 1400 years ago and have not been revised or upgraded since.

As a result these laws are obsolete and outdated. The obsolescence of the Islamic laws has caused stagnation in the country. This stagnation has split the Islamic camp into two groups of fundamentalists and the reformists. This conflict is the battle between the old and traditionalist verses the new and modernity.

At this stage Islam is where the Christianity was during the Reformation and at the time when the Protestantism was introduced by Martin Luther of Germany. Islam is in a crucial point of its time. If it follows the same path as the Christianity and produces an Islamic Protestantism, then it would survive and the Islamic countries would get a chance to enjoy a prosperous life otherwise the violence, repression, poverty and terrorism would continue.

About four years ago the pro-Democracy Student movement was crushed by the security apparatus of the Islamic Republic. The security personnel went to the dormitories and beat up some defenseless students while they were sleeping during the night, simply because they were critical of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This was a turning point in Iran's struggle for Democracy. This was reminiscence of what happened in the Tiamen Square in China on June 4, 1989.

The upcoming parliamentary elections in Iran have taken center stage in Iranian politics. The show down between the Fundamentalists and the Reformists has reached its boiling point. The political situation may not be very different whether the Reformist takes control of the parliament or the Fundamentalists.

The Parliament is controlled and monitored by the Guardian Council which oversees and exercises the veto power over the parliament. So in either way the destiny of the parliament is determined by the Guardian council which is a governing body appointed by the Fundamentalist Supreme Leader. So in either case the hard-liners would override any bills that do not meet their expectations and requirements.

Initially the Guardian Council rejected 3,700 people out of 8,000 who registered to be candidates for the parliament. As a result 126 Representatives of the 290-seat parliament resigned from their post. Later on Guardian Council decided to approve the candidacy of 5,450 out of 7,900 total numbers of registered people. So the Guardian Council reinstated the qualification of 1,160 people.

The Iranian Islamic parliament does not represent a legislative body. The Islamic laws are pre-deterministic in nature and leave no room for any change, modification or any upgrade. Mohamed the Islamic prophet has already determined the laws and those are taken literally. The Islamic laws can not be challenged and should be applied accordingly. So there is no need for a true legislation. The parliament is nothing but just a consulting and policy making entity for the President and his cabinet ministers.

The solution for Iran's social ailment is Democracy. I believe under democracy this country can restore its proper place in the International community. I believe the presence of United States in the region would be instrumental in introduction of concepts such as Democracy, Checks and Balance, Separation of Mosque and State, Republicanism, Federalism, Freedom of Expression and many other values that we take it for granted in this country.

The major sources of threats to Iran's national interest have been the Islamization of the society and the influence of the Northern neighboring country of Russia and its satellite country of Iraq along the Western borders during the Cold War era.

Saddam Hussein had territorial claim on the province of Khuzestan in the South West corner of Iran. After the revolution Saddam realized an opportunity to make a move toward Iran while the Iranian military was in chaos. This war lasted for about 8 years, which caused killing of about half million Iranians and tremendous amount of devastation to the country.

There are so much potential in that part of the world which needs to be recognized and developed into a constructive and a productive force. Iran in the past has contributed its share of Civilization and it will contribute again once it recovers from its existing social ailment.

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