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Twilight zone
The promiscuous power of Iranian political parties abroad

February 12, 2007

In the turbulent world of party politics where party members choose their own captain to steer their ship, candidates swarm around their aspirant supporters, hoping to be elected next as the following captain. This procedure is as old as politics itself. Some candidates are more able and eloquent in their approach than others. Some are more charismatic than others and some simply know exactly how to play the game to win sympathy. This is all quite accepted and known, since acumen and leadership qualities of a candidate decide whether he wins the game or not. The arena that exists for this game is present in its national state and facilitates for the people to behold this spectacle and decide for themselves who to support and follow.

But what happens if this game occurs outside of this arena? In a place where there are no rules or limits to rhetorical deceit, where charisma and one-liners rule freely to seduce the people's sympathy, without any formal argumentation of party program or planned actions for the future? This is what happens with party politics in exile. The Iranian political parties that became forbidden after the Islamic Revolution were forced to continue their activities abroad, resulting in an anarchistic and unprofessional approach to party politics. One might even question the legitimacy of these Iranian political parties that only exist outside Iran. Is it not so that political party's only make sense in a society where they have legitimacy and power? What is a political party without any power, one might even ask.

Unfortunately certain quasi political characters have managed to claim their own so-called "leadership" of political party's outside of Iran, based on nothing more than their political martyrdom by being once jailed in Evin as a political prisoner. Apparently, anyone who gets himself into Evin receives an unequivocal legitimacy and is immediately labeled as " hero" and "legend". In this process, some even become so bigheaded to claim that they are very powerful, and even say this about themselves! As Margaret Thatcher once said: "Power is like being a lady…if you have to tell people you are, you aren't!"

Iranian intellectuals who speak their mind freely and are imprisoned because of that are unmistakably very brave people. But most of them do not claim heroism or being a "legend" after being released. This, from my point of view intrinsically proves their integrity.

The fact remains that Iranian political parties abroad are operating in a twilight zone that firstly doesn't allow them any legitimacy and secondly provides no transparency whatsoever about their leadership or party program. Perhaps this is one of the many problems that Iranian opposition parties are facing in this era, namely their lack of power. Some political characters who claim their leadership role therefore do not show any different mindset than the dictatorial regime they supposedly oppose. Apparently we can take a person out of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but we can't take the Islamic Republic of Iran out of a person!

The only legitimate way, from my perspective, to have a role in Iranian political activities outside of Iran, is to create a shadow parliament. This shadow parliament would only be legitimate if the people inside it would be chosen by the Iranian diasporas based on their personal achievements, campaign and program.

Perhaps, if Iranians abroad were to create a culture of tolerance they would be taking the first step towards reaching a true democratic mindset. This is a challenging issue for us Iranians to reach. If we only examine our language and definitions we would be confronted with our own democratic shortcomings. An example is the non-existence of the Persian word for "compromise". There actually is a translation for the word, but is defined differently. The definition would be more in the direction of "giving in" or "accepting defeat". What does this say about our culture?

Iranians are a proud and ambitious nation. Unfortunately we all want to be leaders and none of us actually want to learn how to go on all fours before learning how to walk and run. We preferably all want to run before even knowing how to walk. All those who aspire a role in Iranian politics abroad, would do their own people a great favor by learning about the rules of the game before entering the nonexistent arena and screaming at top of their lungs: "The King is Dead, Long Live the King!" Comment


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Tina Ehrami

Tina Ehrami


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