Consequences of blocking peaceful reform
Augsut 7, 2000
An edict by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei forbidding the Majlis
from discussing a bill to relax the nation's draconian press laws has caused
an uproar (news here).
And why shouldn't it? The majority of lawmakers were elected last February
with the promise of reform. Their top priority was changing the press laws
so that the judiciary would not be ble to close reformist newspapers and
magazines with the slightest excuse. Preventing lawmakers from doing so
means taking away the right of elected representatives of the people to
carry out their constitutional duties.
But it is not just that. What Khamenei has done is to once again confirm
what many had suspected since Mohammad Khatami's election; that real power
in Iran rests elsewhere. It does not matter if the country's moderate president
is very popular. It does not make a difference if the reformists control
most of the city and rural councils. And it is not even that important
that the conservatives are now only a small minority in the Majlis. Because
ultimate power remains in the hands of the conservative clerical leadership,
which is determined to block any real attempts to bring change.
Anyone with eyes and ears knows change is what the people want. People
have used every peaceful means available to demand freedom, democracy and
an end to religious domination. They have said it loud and clear through
the ballot box in the past three national elections. But elected reformist
officials and lawmakers have been unable to implement any real change because
of stiff resistance from unelected conservative centers of power. The result,
even before Khamenei's blatant interference in the legislative process,
has been growing frustration and alienation.
Just look at the radicalization of the student movement. Look at the
growing frequency of political demonstrations sparked by non-political
issues, either over water shortages (Abadan), lack of municipal services
(Islamshahr), or low wages (strikes at dozens of factories). And things
are bound to get worse. The conservatives are making sure of it. They are
closing all avenues of rational, gradual change and free expression. They
are choking reform. You don't need to be a political scientist to figure
out what happens when people don't get their way, peacefully.