Get it together

The problem of the opposition is its incoherence


Get it together
by Ben Madadi

There is no serious opposition for the Iranian regime. But at the same time it is also practically difficult to organise open and transparent opposition for the regime, or the leadership or even the sort-of-elected government while Iranian semi-democracy does not tolerate opposition. Any person or group openly acknowledging to oppose the regime or the system would risk serious threats to their lives, liberties and reputations (through cooked-up allegations in the media), for themselves and even their families.

However there is some sort of an empowerment of the people in Iran. Iranians can choose between one Islamist and another. There are moderate Islamists and there are hard-line Islamists. Hard-line Islamists control the country, control the armed forces, the media and also the channels through which they can block true and undesirable moderates from gaining any significant political and social positions. These are authoritarian tactics that have allowed a regime which has usually had a small minority backing among the Iranian electorate to stay in power for so long.

Of course in case there were more free and open elections the situation would have been a very different one already.
We can also refer back to the beginnings of the 20th century when Iranians started their immature struggle toward something they thought was democracy. The rest is history. Even during the early post-Constitutionalism years Iranian democracy was a very imperfect one (understandably, like any other start-up affair) but the free Majlis (Iranian parliament) of the time was not much different from the one we have today; mullahs (Shia clerics) were probably even more numerous (proportionally) than they are in Iran's current parliament.

So, the fact of the matter is that Iranians, even when freely allowed to choose their representatives, prefer akhoonds, mullahs, Islamists, or whatever one may call them. Is there anything wrong with that? If you ask me, yes, there are a lot of things wrong with choosing clerics to administer and rule your country, because they will inevitably mix their religious duties with their newly appointed administrative duties, which are best given to professional politicians who are normally more competent in getting practical things done. Clerics are also best outside the immediate political arena so that religion stays clean of dirty politics.

But who can argue with the facts? Iranian people, through democratic means, chose clerics to represent them. This showed their devotion to Shia Islam, and also probably their fear of what they have often perceived as neighbouring threats to their relatively unique (Shia Islam is practised by a small minority of the overall Muslims and they are surrounded by Sunni Muslims and Christians who are far more numerous) Shia identity.

What would Iranians choose today, at this very historical moment, in case they had the chance to freely elect their representatives? I doubt they would choose so many clerics any more as they did during the first years of Iranian democracy in the early 1900's. Even in the current Iranian parliament, as mentioned earlier, there are fewer seats for clerics. But this is not the result of any secularisation that has taken place within the Iranian society but the public conclusion that clerics are lousy admnistrators or politcians. Iranians are still pretty much devout Muslims. Iranians have always been lazy in their religious practises, ignoring timely prays or even very often fasting properly, but they do regard their Shia credentials with utmost respect and they still do uphold their religious beliefs though with the same pragmatism that has long characterised Iranians.

So in case there was a real chance for Iranians to freely elect whoever they wanted, these same Iranians would most probably (I bet on it, so I would say definitely) choose representatives who would openly be devout adherents to Shia Islam, or more commonly viewed as Islamists. However I very much doubt that the vast majority of Iranians would prefer an Islamist hardliner who would rather work toward the creation of the right atmosphere for the appearance of Imam Mahdi rather than a moderate who would work toward the creation of the right atmosphere for more jobs, improvements in the lives of ordinary Iranians, economic growth and prosperity, better education, better health-care, better transportation, better environment and all the other earthly affairs that are the daily concerns of Iranians who struggle to make a decent living for themselves and their families.

Hardliners would lose the public backing in front of moderate Muslims because no matter what, people in general, wherever they live, are happiest when they are best served from an earthly point of view. People would always support a public administrator, or a ruler, who would succeed in providing stability and prosperity but at the same time protecting the values they believe in, which in the case of the average Iranians, is the values of Islam, Shia Islam.

This being the reality, the opposition groups, especially those inside Iran who have the best moral grounds to act, should forget about their monarchist, secularist, left-ist, right-ist, or even Persian-ist, Aryan-ist, National-ist or other types of something-isms and stick to the same old Islamism, but its more moderate version, and build a coherent, united and powerful front to be strengthened in time, giving possibly one or two charismatic leaders who could gain some significant popular support from ordinary Iranians and beat the hard-line extremist ideology. Life in Iran for opposition groups, even for the Islamist ones, is not easy. But it is possible.

There are already signs that individuals who oppose the oppressive policies of the regime, like Shirin Ebadi, but who do not call for the overthrow of the regime or popular revolt, are tolerated. The problem of the opposition is its incoherence rather than the brutality of the hardliners. There are still too many day-dreamers who are calling for extremism to tackle extremism.

There are still too many who are calling for revolution, secularisation or the restoration of monarchy while there is close to no desire among the public for such transformations. Opposition needs to get its act together and take pragmatic measures in order to gain popular support. This will take time though and the best way to hasten this progress is to reach the conclusion that Iranians are indeed Shia Muslims and those opposing the regime who dislike Shia Islam are always free to move to other countries where the populations are less concerned about religion. Iran is not that place yet.


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Ben Madadi

Good point irooni!

by Ben Madadi on

Religion has become stronger in the US, though it may have actually become somewhat weaker in Iran in the past three decades ever since the IRI came to power, maybe not in essence but people DO go to mosque LESS and prayers or fasters are somewhat fewer (proportionally) than they used to. Bur Islam remains still the stongest bond for Iranians, or maybe the only serious bond. But it is true that the US has seen an increase in the role of religion in society and politics, but it has not reached a level to threaten democracy's fundamental values and I honestly doubt it will become a threat to democratic values of the US.


Isn't Bush basically a cleric too?

by IraniIrooni (not verified) on

Aren't the Americans moving towards religion playing a much larger role in the democratic govt? Hypocrisy at its finest.

I do agree with you that the extremists are trying to end extremism. That is a very good point. Also, I think as you implied, the majority are Muslim, and in a democracy, the majority rule. The little ones make the biggest noises. And in the case of Iran, you've got the bahais and zorasterians demanding everything as if they were majorities. Yes, they must be treated much more with equality, there is no question. Actually mostly the bahais. I think zorasterians are respected and have an increased following in Iran.

Now, certainly we'd like to have the moderate Muslims there and the ones that can disctance govt from religion as much as possible, but Iranians are just like the Americans, they care about religion. The way the extremists get a following is when something is wrong on the other side. If at least some of these mullahs wanna stay in power, they better at least keep the MAJORITY happy by being more moderate.

Religion is becoming too big here in the US! Why do you think Romney has had a difficult time with his Mormon background? How about Huckabee being loved cause he was a pastor? What about Bush? He is prob the most religious mofo Prez we've had. What about Tony Blair that just converted to Catholicism and said religion is huge in his life? At least the Europeans are smarter than Americans where the Europeans understand that religion is a big part of each individual's life, but don't demand their leaders to be include religious crap in justification of everything they do, kind of like what we have here in the US. Funny that OUR constitution is the one explicitly stating that the church and the govt must be separate. Hypocrisy ... again.


So view Evolution in Iran .............:o)

by Sasha on

 So you see evolution and not revolution in Iran as the next process in the Iranian government. Interesting and you really put a great deal of thought in this article. Very good. :o)




Re: Malekansari

by Anonym7 (not verified) on

Faribors, I am by no means critical of your ideas, as I am not quite clear about them. It would be more beneficial if you somehow summarize your ideas. Your posts are usually as long as the article or longer!



by Farbors Maleknasri M.D. (not verified) on

The question for me is: How can coherent various waves with different Frequncies? We - I hope so, including me - know all that different waves can be coherent up to the rule: As littel the wavwlength- and as littel the frequncy-difference as bigger the coherence. right? Now: the number of iranians who oppose is little. the Interessts are so different. the Motivations leaving iran have not been political. The Life in the diaspora is so difficult so that one does not have the energy to oppose thousands miles away living poeple who are most satisfied with what they have and what they have arranged for themselves. The actual and effective Opposition is reduced to NEFRIN NAMES and writting earthy wordas to respectable Personalities, making Jokes about them which are by no means funny and likewise nonesenses. Then is the fact that even best friends and near relatives "do not Understand me" after I have lived some years in abroad. regarding ioppositional Coherence: I am afraid one searches in darkness a black cut. In absolut darkness the eyes of the cut do not reflect the none existent light! So I think trying to get the different opposisional waves coherent is a Mission of impossibility. never the less In the ISLAMIC REPUBLIC of IRAN there is also a OPPOSITION, But: They work constructive. Not against the constitution. The Iranians - I mean the ones who have founded their ISLAMIC REPUBLIC of IRAN, are living there and are willing to protect it from seizing strangers - have paid with life and blood for thier ISLAMIC REPUBLIC and know well that no other ideology is good for them. Even the devilish Mights in the western world have not secceeded to change the regime and just newly they have begann to tell stories like: Iran must not be for ever a enemy and likewise nonesenses. The westerns can play well the role of friend till they get the possibility to act as murder and rubber. Just as experiences the new comers make in the western countries in thier daily life, so are the westerns in the politics. and stil after several 10 years the new comers are new comers and have not learned to manage thier lives according to the same tactics of natives. The opposition which is built and supported by the strangers is not a real opposition. At the End the strangers are the masters. Just look at the most last Perserkaiser. And also his father. They had guided the opposition of the strangers against iranian nation. And how did they end? So I think it will be most rational to forgett the motives why one once has left Iran, try to come closer and closer to gether, build a strong naiborhood, live in friendship and peace togehter. One will then see that the natives will not like it. they will allways try to divide. they prevent just the new comers to come close to gether.
Anyway Iranians are a nation with the strongest regional Might. It will be simply not possible to behave respectless against that honorable Nation. Just short bevore conquery of the Islamic revolution was a young boy named - I think - Heigh or something liek that, he was the highest NATO general. In paris as he had got an audienze by Imam he should have said it would be better when Imam stops his activity, otherwise 10 Million Iranians will die. That was exactly the number of Iranians who would choose the death instead to live under the conditions they had to live since 1952/53. Now will be this number at leats 3 times as high. ERGO: SYSTEM CHANGE IMPOSSIBLE. This argumentation is - i hope so - by no means emotionaly loaded. I have - at least - tried to be objectively and logical. Just take a look on the coountries in the naighborhood of the ISLAMIC REPUBLIC. Where do they stand to day? How are they intensively tried to win the friendship of the mighty, rich and most stabilized Islamic Republic? may be this or the other user of "Iranian" will think about what I have thought for me and written down hier. Greeting


Ben, nice

by Abarmard on

I think this is the most thoughtful article you have written. Thanks


But THERE IS a coherent opposition inside Iran

by x-pasdar (not verified) on

The trouble with you guys is that you think of opposition only in terms of an anti-Islamic one. There is no need to be anti-Islamic in order to be an oppostion to the regime. Because, like it or not Islam is the established faith of the country. There are right now many influential groups who would see the salvation of the country in the hands of the young and upcoming post-revolutionary generation who are in their 30's or 40's AND are perfectly happy to remain Islamic. So Please open your eyes and see the truth. The likes of Reza Pahlavi, Akbar Ganji, Fakhravar, Mohsen Sazegara, Soroush, Khalaji, etc. have played their cards and are known to be losers. They have nothing more to declare. The REAL opposition has already taken shape within the rank and file of the Pasdaran. Watch this space!


your best article!

by Anonym7 (not verified) on

Ben, I am as secular as it gets, and I agree with you. Very good article, let's hope that those extremist nuts in opposition read this article and something from it!