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An apolitical solution
How to bring about political change in Iran

Shahin Milani
November 4, 2002
The Iranian

Every concerned Iranian, I believe, asks what is the solution to the problems that our country faces? There are many political groups and factions across the political spectrum who believe that they have the answer. In general, they can be divided into two groups:

A) The groups who insist on overthrowing the Islamic Republic. This category includes Mojahedeen as well as the monarchists who support Reza Pahlavi.

B) The groups who argue that the Islamic Republic could evolve into a democratic system, and therefore the focus should be on attempting to reform the existing system.

The political groups in the categories mentioned above, as different as they are, have a common theme. They all believe that the answer to Iran's grim condition rests in political change. In other words they want to bring about the change from the top of the pyramid. That is a mistake and is a sign of misunderstanding the realities of the Iranian society on part of the political groups.

Essentially, I believe, the answer to our common concern -- the prosperity of our nation in the long-run -- is apolitical.

Perhaps it is useful to briefly examine the condition of both opposition groups and reformists. The opposition groups who insist on the overthrow of the Islamic Republic seem to have lost touch with reality. They do not understand that the Islamic Republic passed its most turbulent period a long time ago and is not likely to crumble.

Besides, the Iranian society is mainly comprised of youth who do not remember the Pahlavi era, have no interest in the Mojahedeen and are highly unlikely to unite under the auspices of old comrades of Dr. Mossadegh and the National Front.

The reformist camp, although are not as disillusioned, seem to have put too much focus on an issue which is not the underlying problem. As long as the Iranian society is unfamiliar with the concept of responsible citizenship, making changes at the top is not going to deeply affect the current condition.

It is incumbent upon us (by that I mean Iranians who care) to bring about the necessary change. There are several ways in which each and every one of us could contribute to the cause of advancement of our country:

We can invest our money in Iran. In fact, considering the current situation of Dow Jones and NASDAQ, any Iranian bank with interest rates ranging from 7% to 20% would generate more income than stocks since the exchange rate for the American Dollar has remained the same in the past few years.

The commercial community could find more markets for Iranian goods (that is, if U.S. sanctions are eased). We can consume Iranian goods. Our prestige will not be shattered if we do so. We can sponsor volunteers to travel to remote corners of Iran to fight for social causes such as rights of women. We can sponsor Iranian students here in the U.S. or elsewhere.

We should try to institutionalize the standards of responsible citizenship in the Iranian society. This could include making people aware of the consequences of tax evasion and bribery, as well as making them aware that seat-belts really save lives.

We should be responsible citizens ourselves too, and remember that wherever we are, we are representing our country. We should teach our children that being Iranian is not just dressing up for lavish parties, driving BMWs or talking constantly on our cell phones. I define being Iranian as being concerned about the problems that Iran faces.

As I said, there are many various ways to do something. What we need today is a unified will and not necessarily a unified political cause. We all know that our community outside Iran is known to be characteristically disunited. The reason is that we have unnecessarily wasted our time to be united politically. We should set aside our political ideals and focus on realistic ways that we can utilize our resources to the process of betterment of the Iranian society.

We should recall John F. Kennedy's famous quote, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." We should remember that Iran belongs to each and everyone of us. Or maybe the better to put it is that we belong to Iran.

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