The coming second qiyamat

My earliest recollection of participation in a political process dates to the mid-1970s. The Shah had tired of the staged bickering among the country’s various permitted political groups and parties. The governing party had been in power far too long and there was no alternative to be pursued.

The Shah ordered the creation of single political party called the Rastakhyz and ordained that the Party shall have a progressive wing and a not-so progressive wing and assigned to each wing a leader. The flawed but still two-party system was abolished overnight. A single Party with a singular ideology was supposed to offer the antidote to the emerging underground opposition that the regime had dubbed an alliance between the red and black, communism and Islam.

In English, the term Rastakhyz was translated into Resurgence, as if to signal the rebounding of an ailing body politic. The Persian wordsmiths, on the other hand, had a field day with the name. Rastakhyz really meant resurrection and to revive required that one be dealing with the dead. The dead in our culture are buried and very quickly, as if to hasten the day one is to account to for one’s deeds post mortem, to hasten the collective day of resurrection, as in Qiyamat, for all.

The 1979 Qiyamat that tore down the feudal regime of some 500-year standing was not about absence of choice or lack of democracy in the political field. Regardless, the example of Rastakhyz was hard to explain to a foreign press corps and intellectuals at a time when “freedom,” “democracy” and “human rights” were all the craze of the day. Iran had become instead a Soviet-style one Party system, now formally run by one boss with no pretense of any constitutional balance.

The problem with a one-Party and single-ideology system is that the public loses its marks of differentiation, even when there were only a few and inadequate ones available in pre-Rastakhyz days. When political or ideological differences disappear among people, distinction based on class becomes all the more acute.

That 1979 Qiyamat was about class, economic power and the general disconnect between the haves (corrupt, unjust) and the have-nots (virtuous, victim). The rapacious rise of the clergy to the leadership of the 1979 Qiyamat was therefore no accident, as they spoke the language of right versus wrong better than any other sector of the Iranian public. They offered a vocabulary and articulated a position with far greater moralistic resonance than others.

The result of the recent Iranian presidential elections is the prelude to the coming of another moralistic Qiyamat. The one-Party and single-ideology political system, with no more allowance for any differentiation, is bound to precipitate a struggle from within — once again between the haves (corrupt, unjust) and have-nots (virtuous, victim).

The president-elect’s rhetoric intones a desire to bridge the gap between the rich and poor, to weed out corruption, and return to the ideological purity of the 1979 Qiyamat. In the Islamic republic, the exploiters, the corrupt, the unjust and the progressive ideologists comprise special interest groups of their own, each is a vested interest and each has its supporters among the public. None will go away quietly without putting up a fight.

This president-elect’s ideological throwback to the early days of the 1979 Qiyamat will precipitate a period of utter political instability among the ruling elite. Just as the most unstable and volatile period in the quarter-century of the Islamic republic was experienced during consolidation phase of the Islamic establishment, so will come to pass a period of utter chaos during the re-consolidation program offered by the president-elect.

Further, this president-elect is of the same generation as two-thirds of the Iranian public, which is under 30 years of age. His election may foretell a cultural shift from the dominance of the government of elders at home, and in offices, to government of the young.

The youth may be deferential to elders, especially if the elders pay their keep, but the youth will not defer to the president-elect with whom they see not much difference in age, experience or wisdom. In the American experience, the general disdain and intemperate remarks about presidents Clinton and Bush Jr. has owed much to them being the first baby boomers to govern baby boomers.

Like most presidents-elect who confuse a popular mandate with a divine bestowment, the president-elect will soon discover that the Guardian Council, Supreme Leader and members of his own constituencies will stonewall his programs — never mind the outsiders.

When a system lacks a responsive legislator, independent judiciary and enlightened leader or executive, then the recipe for political and social change, even if it is regressive, will require violence. That was how things were in the days of Rastakhyz and that is how things will be at the coming of the second Qiyamat.

Guive Mirfendereski is VP and GC at Virtual Telemetry Corporation since 2004 and is the artisan doing business as Guy vanDeresk ( Born in Tehran in 1952, he is a graduate of Georgetown University's College of Arts and Sciences (BA), Tufts University's Fletcher School (PhD, MALD, MA) and Boston College Law School (JD). He is the author of  A Diplomatic History of the Caspian Sea (2001) >>> Features in

Meet Iranian Singles

Iranian Singles

Recipient Of The Serena Shim Award

Serena Shim Award
Meet your Persian Love Today!
Meet your Persian Love Today!