Deliberate Naivete

Why Iran opposition should meet


Deliberate Naivete
by Setareh Sabety

When I wrote my 'call to meet' last week, I knew I was baring my neck for the guillotine. Iranian opposition groups to the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) are notoriously hard to organize. Even the five reformist intellectuals, who published a manifesto for the opposition, fell into discord upon its publication. The manifesto was a great idea, but what made it instantly obsolete was the lack of consensus and poor leadership among the opposition. The infighting among compatriots in exile is such that IRI state-owned T.V. has produced a successful comedy show about Iranian cable networks who broadcast from Los Angeles into Iran. These different groups, though mostly from the same monarchist or right wing ideology, have fallen into such vulgar infighting that a few minutes of watching them is the best propaganda for the IRI, convincing even the most avid critics of the regime that worse does exist.

So publishing a 'call to meet' for all the opposition groups is not only considered naïve but suicidal for a blogger-mom who has no money, no political influence, no party affiliation and angered all factions at some point with her blunt writing.

Since I published the call I have gotten some positive feedback but much angry criticism as well. Many have lectured me on how Iranians are impossible to unite, saying their egos are too big for compromise. There have been many meetings, they say, that have achieved nothing. A meeting that excludes none will repeat the mistake of the past, they say, where we sided with the Islamists to overthrow the Shah only to realize that the Islamists were worse. Many use this history out of context to avoid the smallest compromise with another faction.

Critics tell me -- and I agree -- that groups like the MEK are undemocratic traitors. Others tell me that the monarchists and communists are anachronistic. The secular reformists can't stand the non-secular reformists. The nationalist seculars are ridiculed because they lack the bravery of their spiritual leader, Mohammad Mossadegh. Critics say their membership consists of old, pedantic men who don't follow their leader's example in taking risks and standing up for justice. Many claim that some ethnic opposition groups are CIA-funded separatists who have no love for Iran. If there was no anger at my insistence that we cannot start a call to meet with exclusion of certain groups, then there was a patronizing, belittling of the idea. I was told that my idea is a little 'American,' which means naïve and silly. In the slang of Iranian youth, growing up under the choke-hold of a theocratic regime, being 'mosbat' or optimistic connotes being naïve.

If this call is naïve -- or 'mosbat' -- it's not because of my unfamiliarity with the Iranian character. I share many of the flaws that have led to our paralysis. I can be as cynical as the next Tehrani. My ego and paranoia, if left unchecked, match that of any Iranian. I see my Tehrani pessimism as an obstacle to progress. My naiveté is deliberate.

Identifying and analyzing a problem ad infinitum is insufficient. Implementation is key. To inject new life to a movement that is being held hostage, we need to adopt this naïve optimism.

I envision a meeting that is not afraid of being open. I include groups such as MEK and the Monarchists because meetings that excluded anyone have failed. Though dictatorial groups will probably not show up at a meeting they didn't organize, we have nothing to fear if they do take part because we will be following rules of democratic governance in running the meeting. It will be a display of Iranian democracy in action; excluding certain groups goes against the spirit of unity and democracy that the meeting aims to create.

I have also been accused of the sin of 'living abroad,' which apparently does not give me the right to 'decide' for Iranians living in Iran. I'm not trying to decide the future of an entire nation; I can't even influence the decisions of my teenage children. I only call for a meeting that organizes the opposition and gives it the unity and dignity it lacks.

My call is inspired by a conversation I had with my eighty-nine-year-old mom. I asked her what I would do if I was an opposition leader with stature like our Nobel Prize winning Shirin Ebadi. She told me, "Why don't you do it yourself? Just write it down, and publish it." I said everybody would ridicule me, including some of those intellectuals and activists whom I truly admire. She said, "So what? Getting ridiculed is better than being dead or in Evin prison. You owe it to them."

First published in


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more from Setareh Sabety

As a staunch anglophile

by anglophile on

can I apply for the membership of this committee? I am of the opinion that Iran's best interests are served by forging close ties with Britain and returning to the glory days of Safavid empire when Shah Abbas's ambassador to the court of St James was an Englishman !

Setareh Sabety

Planning Committee

by Setareh Sabety on

If anyone is interested in helping we are setting up a planning committee. Please send me an email or go and leave a comment on this page.

Anahid Hojjati

Don't only consider groups representing Iran's past

by Anahid Hojjati on

There are groups that have been formed in past couple years which are a lot more sensible than Mojahedin. They represent future of Iran and should be invited to such conference. One such groups that I can think of is "Iran Secular".


Meeting of oposition groups

by ham1328 on

Setareh, I admire your
wisdom. It must be this way or otherwise, it wont be
legitimate. All parties must be included. From the comments, I see your
point about the Monarchists opposition. They sound like my way or the
highway, very negative. If Iran had democracy 60 years ago, I don't see
why we can't have it now? Perhaps Mr. Amir Parviz is more paranoid than at least some of us? Waiting with enthusiasm to see how it will go.


Excellent ideas. I truly

by vildemose on

Excellent ideas. I truly hope you can pull it off. I applaud your optimism and hope it rubs off on our other compatriots. Have you talked to JJ about organizing a meet up with those who are interested in helping you out in this endeavor?

Setareh Sabety

thank you

by Setareh Sabety on

for the comments. if you were a rep. sample the idea would have a great chance! @lissnup your suggestions are great. I was thinking of a planning committee. will keep you posted.


Looking forward

by lissnup on

to seeing your next step. What will it be, an open invitation to all groups and interested parties? Perhaps a survey on where and when to convene?

What ever it is, I am watching with interest. 


Trying to get a democratic consensus is deliberatly dreaming

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

But it's far better to dream and accomplish nothing than not dream at all. Because from your failure you might learn some lessons.  My amazement is that there are still so many people that are sucked in by the power of the main stream media.  To the point where iranians don't see the obvious. there is no democratic future for Iran, Iranians can't see this even after they can't organize a simple meeting. 

Clearly you havent taken your hands of the desire for a democratic Iran and the main stream media will continue its work on you, most of us learned that lesson when the Shah fell 32 years ago.  So what will the ongoing deliberate niavete as you called it, i prefer to call it dreaming or better yet talking through your hat, achieve?  The MEK in power as they are wanted by foreign powers.

I have been trying to clue people in for a long time on ic, and now bolton has said it to the senate and received a standing ovation.  They want to bomb iran heavily and replace the Regime with the MEK.  If you believe any of the things they say about MEK being democratic, you will be cheated too.

When they used human rights and democracy to get us to follow our dreams down this path of death and poverty, they had no idea how fruitful it could be.  They are going to milk you and others for every last drop, because they know too many Iranians are incapable of rallying behind their proven traditions, flag and king. Everyones motive is to be like the USA.

Monarchy can still save Iran from the future that has been planned for it, but not if people are trying to organize meetings and being so gracious as to also allow monarchists to be part of the discussions.

Iranians need to wake up from their dreams and after realizing what is the only institution is that can save iran from foreign domination, rally around the flag behind the legal king, it's time to get cracking.

Or, just continue dreaming and try and pull off a movement with no leader or possibility of being realized in Iran.

Anahid Hojjati

Thanks Setareh jan for your article

by Anahid Hojjati on

There are days that we certainly need some optimism, naive or not.  My favorite part of your article was this:"I envision a meeting that is not afraid of being open. I include groups such as MEK and the Monarchists because meetings that excluded anyone have failed. Though dictatorial groups will probably not show up at a meeting they didn't organize, we have nothing to fear if they do take part because we will be following rules of democratic governance in running the meeting."

Maryam Hojjat

You Are Very Brave & Your suggestion is Valid

by Maryam Hojjat on

 I hope the oppositions meet but I doubt it since majority of them have an objective which is not IRAN & IRANIANS but Greed for money & Power.