What's the alternative?
Send your ideas and visions on what Iran's government
should be like
By Naghmeh Sohrabi
June 27, 2003
Anyone who has dared write anything on the pages of Iranian.com
somehow disagrees with the absolutist vision of some monarchists
likely than not confronted with emails such as this:
We the Akhoonds
are ready for a long, deep, and extensive political
intercourse (bekon bekon) with you, jj, and the rest of the gang.
Why is she allowed to insult the Pahlavis and I am not allowed
to call her
stupid --which she is?!!!!
Needless to say, these emails are essential in that they provide
needed laughter on a topic that is not, in and of itself, very
I was pleasantly surprised though that this time, in response to
the people" the majority of the responses
analyses of the situation in Iran.
Most agreed with
some points and disagreed on others. They took the time to come
arguments for their positions that went well past the "go
fuck yourself" variety. What was common to most
of these emails was the question of
alternative and vision. If I am critiquing the current political
discourse on Iran, what else do I have to offer? What do I think
There is a problem with this question itself. If we breakdown
of these questions we come to a couple of assumptions. The first
the idea that a critique to be valid needs to be followed by
Were that the case, then the whole idea of journalism and criticism
fall apart and be placed within activism.
The problem is that activism, while absolutely necessary, begs
a kind of personality that chooses to see the world in black and
white, rather than shades
grey. It needs to believe that there is a right way and a wrong
order for it to take its first steps. Criticism while admittedly
nobler of these activities in some people's eyes, takes off from
belief that there are multiple sides to every issue, each of
to be taken into consideration and illuminated.
Not to say that we should go around critiquing everything under
and leaving it at that. Just that there should be room at least
kind of division of labor and an understanding of the different
one plays in a political community.
Whether or not you agree with my previous assertions (and I am
to admit that there are ample problems with them), there is a second,
more important assumption at work here. In email after email (including
my wonderful father's) the recurring question was "But what
alternative do we have?" or the somewhat less gracious "unless
you have a
better plan than that of Mr. Pahlavi, then I suggest you keep your
old, same old' comments to yourself."
The issue here is the urgency in the request for the alternative.
notoriously a rather impatient nation and history is the best
that. Viable alternatives are not born over night and the rush
one the minute things go wrong is what put us in this position
Just look at the current level of analysis on Iran. Protests
neither as reflections of dissatisfaction, nor as a STEP towards
something new. They're treated as beginnings of a revolution if
not the revolution itself.
Everywhere I go, I am asked "So, do you
going to be another revolution in Iran?" As the Persians say,
written on our foreheads that change in Iran comes only in the
mass (and often violent) protests? Do we have some kind of a predisposition
Add to that the fact that every time there is a protest, the
most inflexible and absolutists of the Iranian opposition abroad
knickers in a knot and start salivating. They remind me of hyenas
incapable of hunting themselves, can't wait to feast on a leftover
But I digress.
My critique of the current Iranian opposition stems from my belief
think we are, both inside and outside of Iran, in a situation
idealists, to reach for the stars, in the hope that if we aim
high, we may
actually not have to settle for the first brand-name middle-aged
wearing a turban.
The search for an overnight alternative will and actually has,
politics to focus on individuals as opposed to desirable systems
governance. Doesn't it make more sense that when things start
stirring, we don't rush to the first father figure that saunters
see it as a time to come up with a blueprint, no matter how idealistic,
a system whose success or failure would not depend on one person?
I may be wrong but I don't believe there is going to be regime
Iran over night and I think that itself is a good thing. Aside
wanting what we have, what do we really want Iran in the future
like? What do terms like secular democracy, which has become
catch phrase, mean to you?
Is the absolute rule of the majority
desirable? What kind of a Constitution would you like Iran
to have? A
weak one like France or a strong one like the U.S.? What would
role of elites? How desirable is the American system? Or any
Send your ideas and your visions. What is your ideal system?
your alternatives? Once we've gathered enough material, I'll
together and reprint them (with or without your names) on these
What is the alternative? I don't have one yet but with your help
time, a pretty good one may take shape.
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