Cleaning up politics
Iran's political opposition: a birth of a new
era or another political miscarriage?
October 16, 2006
The Netherlands -- Iran, a country with a rich and old political
history has seen many governments come and go, statesmen have been
All government call for political opposition, political activism
and counterweight organizations. In Iran these institutions of
opposition have been created, developed, banned, used or forgotten.
Iranians seem to have become used to revolt and on the other hand
also to suppression that it almost seemed natural that every voice
that ever came near to criticism against the regime was smothered.
This socio-political evolution has resolved in a certain cynicism
that has grown over the past years among Iranians of the older
generation that grew up with names like Mosaddeq, Tudeh, Mojahedin,
Pahlavi, Savak, Ayatollah Khomeini and political assassinations.
To this generation, every political involvement carried a scent
of "dirty", "non-integrity" or trouble in general.
The Persian saying "Siasat kasifeh" (politics is dirty!) expresses
the old image Iranians used to have of politics, politicians and
political activists. It was also due to this same "dirty" politics
that almost thirty years ago an exodus of Iranians left to mainly
the United States and Europe to find a new place to live, work
and continue their political opposition activities.
Some of these Iranians living abroad lost their interest or passion
in politics and became milder in their convictions. Some continued
their opposition activities within their own party or movement
and some continued their activism in other ways. The few who continued
their opposition activities have become a small group of "veterans" or "dinosaurs" as
they are called by the new generation Iranian political activists
living abroad. Their mostly black- and- white way of thinking and
strong ideological conviction is that which characterizes them
the most. Because of this the Iranian opposition has always been
fragmented into political splits.
Now, the twentieth century has opened doors to many ways of communication
and information through satellite television and the internet.
For the few Iranians who are willing to pay the price of being
a "dirty political activist" the internet has given a
new impulse to reach their message across to larger groups. On
the other hand, the Iranian political opposition of 2006 face a
new challenge today, namely difficulties of ideological diffusion,
party-sclerosis and the culture of the younger political (mostly
students) activists in Iran.
The ruling image of the old-fashion Iranian political activist
is that of someone who has a strong idealist and ideological conviction,
who mainly and sometimes even unconsciously thinks in terms of
black and white and whose opinion is usually negative about other
political party's or organizations. Sometimes party's that support
the same ideological thought even rule out the possibility of cooperating
together to reach a common goal!
This diffusion of idealisms in
the past has often leaded to disappointments and frustrations for
the political activists, but also for the Iranian non-activist
population. The most edgy and perhaps also tragic example of this
distrust among political activists are the "character- bashing-campaigns" that
American- Iranian political activists show on their satellite television
programs, where everyone actually tries to disgrace each other
as if they were all in an electoral campaign, or a free-fight competition!
The new generation of Iranian political activists, that mainly
consists of students in Iran and a very small amount of young individuals
living abroad. These are mostly children of the political refugees
who left Iran during the past thirty years. This new generation
can be characterized by a strong sense of urgency, lack of a network
and a lack of knowledge of political history. Some are organized
in student organizations and some express their involvement under
a less political colored umbrella such as human rights activism
and urge for democracy and more individual freedom. They are passionate,
motivated and in need of guidance.
The new means of communication that has finally brought the old
and the new political activists together can turn two ways after
a while. The first scenario would be that the old would be able
to teach the new political activists about the historical and political
background of social and political phenomenon in Iran. They could
also provide the (inside Iran) new activists with a large and trustworthy
The new political activists could teach the old political
activists to reach out together to reach a common goal instead
of holding tight to their own ideological convictions. This synergy
of old knowledge and new strategies and energy could create an
arena in which Iran's political opposition could perhaps one
day be an added value to the Iranian people to offer them some
of alternative to the Iran they live in today.
The second scenario would be that the older political activists
would only take advantage of their newly found arena to censure
each other and create more diffusion and partysclerosis that
would only disappoint and de-motivate the new political activists.
(mostly inside Iran) new political activists would then have
no other option than to exclude Iranian political activists living
abroad who could at least have brought their message across to
the international arena.
The new political activists, mainly students
in Iran, see and feel the need for political change everyday; it
is in their direct interest to have support and attention. Political
activists living abroad do not share that sense of urgency to act
within a problem- solving mindset that the new political activists
do have. This alarming fact could only lead to a cultural gap between
the old and the new political activists resulting in more fragmentation.
According to an old saying unity is more than an accumulation of
parts. According to another old saying all small drops of rain
could create a river and this river could destroy any obstacle
that would want to stop it from reaching the sea. Would it not
be a synergetic and strategically wise decision for Iran's opposition
party's, groups or individuals to gather their powers, means and
visions aiming only to reach one common goal, instead of wasting
their knowledge and energy by disregarding cooperation? Eventually
all drops of rain long for the same vast blue sea.”Comment