Islamic Democracy, indeed

Well, what do you expect from an ISLAMIC republic?


Islamic Democracy, indeed
by Ben Madadi

The Iranian government, through its actions time and time again, has shown that it does not believe in Iranians for its ideological survival. This has been seen again by banning thousands of Iranians from candidacy in the March 2008 Parliamentary (Majlis) elections. The Iranian regime is a very complex one and whether we accept or not there is also some democratic side to it. People do change in Iranian political arena, and they have done so very often.

For instance Rafsanjani who was often called Akbar Shah (reflecting his extreme king-like powers) was defeated by a relatively unknown figure, Ahmadinejad. The only person who has not been challenged is Khamenei, who is also given special powers by the Iranian post-revolutionary Constitution. Although Khamenei is the most powerful figure in Iranian politics he IS NOT a dictator. He does not have enough duties to make him a dictator. He is something like a powerful arbiter who has since used his authority in its reasonable limits, not showing truly dictatorial tendencies. He has just respected the constitution! And he has not written, or ever changed it.

The whole Islamic regime of Iran is a truly complex creature but knowing how it works has not exactly been the preoccupation of anti-IRI people. It is indeed useful to take an objective look and see how this monster actually functions. It functions quite well, but it is NOT a dictatorship, and it is not a democracy. It is something in between. However it is much more democratic than many other countries out there. This shows the regime's degree of confidence. It is able to let people release their anger once in a while in various elections, without the need to become truly democratic. And the regime itself actually acknowledges that it is not a democracy, but an ISLAMIC democracy. How this Islamic democracy works? Take a look at this: // It is too complicated from an arithmetic point of view, and too worthless actually, to remember each and every bit of it.

The regime does not have a powerful security apparatus like the ones used in many dictatorial regimes such as Syria today or many Communist countries in the past. Although the regime does have means to suppress occasional popular uprisings it is confident enough to let people enjoy quite a bit of freedom of speech, not just in private but also in public. Iranians are not usually jailed, or bothered in any way, for criticising the regime or its personalities in private or in small gatherings. Dictatorial regimes often do not tolerate even private criticism but the Iranian regime is so confident it even allows some sort of public criticism as long as the criticism does not go as far as questioning the whole fundamentals of the regime.

So, the regime is indeed a confident one. It has been so for quite a while now and successfully. But it was not exactly the same during the first years of revolutions when you could even get executed because of some rumours of belonging to some opposition group.

How does this regime handle itself so well? The answer is quite simple actually. There are so many, incredibly many, individuals who enjoy the regime's existence that they constitute a powerful and large enough base for it to be perfectly functional (for its survival), confident, and at the same time partially democratic so that no powerful figure or grouping of the same base itself does not feel left outside the bigger slice of the enjoyment of power. Although many of the clique members may not ideologically agree with the regime, they do understand that their good times depend on the survival of the regime. Nevertheless we shall not under-estimate the power of the ideological base. There is indeed an ideological, conservative, base which is extremely powerful. But no matter what it is mainly the comfort of power (not ideology) that keeps the ruling clique attached to the regime.

Most of Iran's clergy support the regime because it gives them many advantages that they could not have during Shah's time. Most of them know this and they have seen and felt it. Beside the clergy there are also the Basij and others who are linked to powerful clerics. Most of the clerics believe in the Islamic regime. It is not just Khamenei. The regime can do very well without Khamenei or any other powerful figure. There are so many to replace every and each one of them. The regime has been built by Khomeini in such a beautiful (or sinister), practical and functional manner that it actually perpetuates and reproduces with relative ease and harmony.

The Islamic regime of Iran is perfectly aware of its lack of popularity and that is the reason it does not let the people choose whoever they want in elections. But there is democracy among the Islamists themselves so that they do not feel estranged by the system. Therefore the system works so well because it provides the best platform through which Islamists, just the true Islamists who have been blessed by some of the highest-ranking clerics, can quite fairly compete among each other and stay happy with the system, its competitive and functional structures, and the ever-existing promise of becoming someone some day.

This is not a regime for all Iranians. It doesn't even pretend to be one. But we need to acknowledge its merits too. It is a system that works so well. Don't be surprised to find the same old regime in power for decades to come! I won't be surprised. Especially knowing the FACT how irrational, emotional, disunited and weak the opposition is. We all know that the economy is doing poorly, because it is quite simple, the Islamists seem not to be good economists! They also know that having a good economy implies completely opening the doors to American and other democratic powers' investments inside Iran and this might create more sympathy among Iranians for the West, and its DEMOCRATIC values. Human rights record is horrible.

Well, Islamists apply fundamentalist Islam. What can we expect? The regime has been quite successful in finding ways to distance people from the West and its democratic values by finding scapegoats one after another. It has been quite a successful process and most Iranians are not very pro-West and have deep suspicions. There is also some historical ground to this popular suspicion of the West. It is useless to remind the readers about Mossaddegh, let alone others! But the IRI regime does not feel history is quite enough, and it is actually quite right about it.

Watch IRI TV and read the Iranian press (Iran has one of the lowest press readership rate in the whole world) and you will see headlines one after another blaming the West for everything imaginable and unimaginable, from not letting the Iranians to have access to nuclear energy, to oppressing Palestinians, Iraqis and so on. Although the version offered by the IRI is inaccurate, in the absence of the opposing view, it finds its way to be seen as the only version out there. At least this is very often the case for the vast majority of the people. And all these tricks do give some results. The West represents democracy and the IRI represents Islamic democracy and Iranians thinking that the West is far worse than the IRI actually prefer the less evil.

Is the IRI a humane, normal or acceptable system? No. But it is one of the most formidable systems out there. I have written about this before, though not exactly the same format, but it is useful to stress the realities every now and then in light of various news events. To fight this undemocratic and unpopular regime it is necessary to know how it works. Unfortunately many Iranians opposing the regime have little idea about the strength of the Iranian regime. And they do not want to open their minds to see where the facts lie. Let's not forget the vast amount of money that the IRI receives from selling crude oil. We may actually need to get used to this regime as long as it has oil. As long as oil flows the regime does not need so much popular support and by feeding the Islamic clique reasonably it can do quite well. It is actually not that complicated afterall. And what if the whole world stopped buying oil from Iran?

The Iranians, inside and outside the country, would blame the rest of the world for starving simple Iranians to death. This is not exactly the best solution. However we shall not go easy with this regime and hope for a good behaviour. Either one wants Islamic democracy where you have democracy for probably 1 million out of 70 million, or true democracy where you have democracy for all (okay, excluding children). We cannot have both ways. Islamic democracy fails to address the needs of the people because it has little to do with most of the people and what they want, and the results are out there for all to see in Iran. A rich country in ruins!

And by the way, let's hope that Iranians will do the least they can and ignore this whole mockery of inviting the people to vote one long-bearded fundamentalis over a more youthful but sinister-looking Antari-something fundamentalist!


Recently by Ben MadadiCommentsDate
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more from Ben Madadi

AS I said before, IR regime

by Anonymous347 (not verified) on

AS I said before, IR regime will remain in power for as long as there is no real tangible alternative to it, al alternative which could be both "somewhat" acceptable to Iranin people and protective of the great powers' interests in that region of the world.

It has always been up to the incompetent disunited Iranian so called opposition groups to present this alternative and so far they have GREATLY failed to do so PERIOD


Ben: I know you really love

by Anonymous098 (not verified) on

Ben: I know you really love to write; most writers do , but as writers please do some reading, research, and analystical/historical comparisons on the topic you plan to write preferably by providing factual sources and references.


Mr. Madadi!

by Anonymous4now on

"I ment that Iran's social and personal freedoms, OR/AND also freedom to choose among candidates etc are better than many other countries."

I think we can agree to disagree strongly on your definition of democracy in the IRI. 

Young people get arrested and lashed for holding parties in the privacy of their own homes. Which of the countries you named, does that to its own citizens?  

With the exception of Saudi Arabia, in which one of the countries you named are women lashed for not conforming to a dress code? If the dress code seems a bit more laxed, in Iran, than in Saudi Arabia, it is because of the resistance of Iranian women to the strict enforcement of the dress code, and at a heavy price. 

Which other social and personal freedoms are you talking about?   

The countries you mentioned are all dictatorships, and to argue that the IRI is more democratic than these dictatorships is a devoid of content argument. The IRI is a fascist apartheid state.


This is unfortunately the

by Anonymous098 (not verified) on

This is unfortunately the state of affairs we're in.

Yet another fatalistic and defeatist attitude to promote pacifism and silencing those who strive for progress. Why are you so anti-progress with patheticly low standards for your country?

Turkey has the 18th largest economy in the world and is much more advanced in many ways, politically, socially, economically??? Why aren't you comparing us to Turkey? They don't even have oil...You're propagandis of the lowest order.

Ben Madadi


by Ben Madadi on

Well, I just wanted to give examples. This is unfortunately the state of affairs we're in.


I ment that Iran's social

by Raide the Bar please (not verified) on

I ment that Iran's social and personal freedoms, OR/AND also freedom to choose among candidates etc are better than many other countries. Examples can be central Asian countries, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lybia, Myanmar, North Korea, Oman, and many other countries from Africa.

This is sophistry at its best, Mr. Madadi.

What miserable yard sticks we have fallen on. Since when we have lowered our standards to such a level? This is a defeatist mentality for a defeated people which the Islamic Republic is hell bent on promoting to keep people pacified/Islamacied and subjugated.

Why don't you compare those indices to the previous regime??? When did we start comparing ourselves to the most base and primitive of societies?? Is this kind of fallacious logic going to help the future standing of Iran in the world???

Ben Madadi

Re: Anonymous4now

by Ben Madadi on

Well, from the phrase "more democratic than many other countries out there" I ment that Iran's social and personal freedoms, OR/AND also freedom to choose among candidates etc are better than many other countries. Examples can be central Asian countries, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lybia, Myanmar, North Korea, Oman, and many other countries from Africa.


Dear Mr. Madadi

by Anonymous4now on

I understood your statement (in the middle of your third paragraph):“However it is much more democratic than many other countries out there."To mean

"The IRI is a better democracy than any in that

Sorry if I misunderstood your intent.  It is still unclear to me what that statement means.

Ben Madadi

Re: Anonymous4now

by Ben Madadi on

You seem to agree with what I have said in the article. Let me comment your comment please :)

"You start off by saying the IRI is a better democracy than any in that
neighborhood, which is not true when you look at the India, Pakistan
and Turkey examples"

> I didn't say that. Please read again :)

I agree with the rest of your points and I hope the article did not fail to convey them.


Mr. Madadi:

by Anonymous4now on

I had to read your back and forth argument, in your piece, a couple of times to get your point.  You start off by saying the IRI is a better democracy than any in that neighborhood, which is not true when you look at the India, Pakistan and Turkey examples.  Then you comment: 

 “Watch IRI TV and read the Iranian press (Iran has one of the lowest press readership rate in the whole world) and you will see headlines one after another blaming the West for everything imaginable and unimaginable, from not letting the Iranians to have access to nuclear energy, to oppressing Palestinians, Iraqis and so on. Although the version offered by the IRI is inaccurate, in the absence of the opposing view, it finds its way to be seen as the only version out there. At least this is very often the case for the vast majority of the people. And all these tricks do give some results. The West represents democracy and the IRI represents Islamic democracy and Iranians thinking that the West is far worse than the IRI actually prefer the less evil.”  

There are two points buried in this paragraph. 

The first one is, if “Iran has one of the lowest press readership rate in the whole world”, wouldn’t that indicate that the people have realized that the regime prints nothing other than propaganda and so it is not worth reading, and that they do not blame the West for the ill fortune befallen on Iran, as you state?     

The second one negates everything you said about IRI being somewhat democratic.  If they have so much control that they can shape the opinion of the masses to believe they are better off under the IRI than the West, and to manipulate them to achieve their own goals, how democratic do you think the system can be?


You continue to meander through and get to the point two paragraphs later when you qualify your previous statements by saying “Either one wants Islamic democracy where you have democracy for probably 1 million out of 70 million, or true democracy where you have democracy for all”.  You arrive at defining the system of khodies and naa-khodies that Emancipation so eloquently described and analyzed as a fascist state.

 I don’t think people have been fooled at all by this regime and it has survived because it is riding on the self serving and self preserving interests of the khodies.  Any attempt to describe this system of checks and unbalances as a somewhat, partial or Islamic democracy is a failure to recognize its true nature.  This so called democracy is completely rigged towards the unelected system of checks, while the system of balances are completely sacrificed and compromised.  If there seem to be elements of seemingly democratic activities in some enclaves of the IRI’s governing body, they are nothing more than an internal power struggle between the different factions who are fighting for their own political positions and status, and not because they are genuine grass roots democratic or reform movements that may someday flourish into a democracy.  Allowing reform would mean committing suicide by this regime which can be held accountable for an unaccountable number of crimes against humanity.  Self preservation and protection of the khodies is the only goal of this regime.

I agree with you that it is a formidable enemy.       

Ben Madadi

Re: Patriot

by Ben Madadi on

Thank you too!


Thank you...

by Patriot (not verified) on

Regardless of the analysis you did which has no bias, I am personally so proud of such sincere and liberal Iranian citizens...

Nothing is sacred but TRUTH. We should be thrilled by the truth and do our best to keep the truth
revealed solely for the sake of the truth.

Till the day we see the glory of democracy in our country IRAN something we surely deserve

Good bless you brother


To: Daryush I never thought

by Emancipation (not verified) on

To: Daryush

I never thought I would agree with an Islamist such as you, however, you're right about Iran being a socially backward society. That is precisely what Khomeini capitalized on when he was building a case against the Shah 15 years prior to the revolution. He particularly exploited the deeply rooted misogynistic (Namouse) sentiments within the Iranian society as a core galvanizing issue to build a case against the West and the Shah's regime.


Khomeini's speech in 1962:

"We don't have the tools of the Media in our hand. They (Late Shah's Regime) have painted the Clergies in a bad light. Consider this, twenty plus some years have passed since the putrid Emancipation of women (Where the late Shah decreed removal of the veil, mandatory for women and gave them other rights) . They have entered women into offices. See in every office the women have entered, they have paralyzed it. Now its limited. The clergies suggest that do not expand this. Don't send them to provinces. If any woman enters in any system, they stir up the situation. You want women to provide you your independence? Those who emulate you are jumping to the sky. And you want to play with women?--Khomeini, 1962

From 1962, the voices of the religious establishment( clergies and Ayatollahs) against the Shah's regime had changed and the fundemantal differences with the regime were palpable. The leadership of the Islamic movement was out of control of Ayatollah Kashani and now the new leader and standard-bearer against the Shah's regime was putting his finger on one the most sensetive cultural issues (women issues) and was exploiting it politically and for propaganda purposes. Khomeini with acuemen had discovered that he can exploit and frame his opposition to the Shah's regime in terms of opposing the womens emancipation issues which presented the Iranians society with a deep relgious dichotomy. He was right. Twenty plus some years had passed since the emancipation of women in (1936) and the social and cultural status of Iran has gone under fundamental transformations. Iranian Women in 1962 had entered the job market in all different areas and facet of the society. And equality and other equal rights for women such as right to vote, divorece and other equal legal rights were topics of everyday discussion in the society. On this issue though the Iranian society was not united or consistent. From the beginning (1936), the removal of the veil was imposed on the society and although the laws had changed in favor of women, not many fundamental changes could be seen in the misogynistic culture of the society. This issue was not unusual and had no connection with the Shah's dictatorial regime. We can find similar phonemonon occuring in Western societies too.

In the US, after women were allowed to vote, or the African-Americans given the right to vote by law, the society continues its prejudices and discrimination against both women and African-Americans. Change in the culture of the society because of the changes in the laws of the society was not possible overnight. But in the backward society of Iran, the deeply rooted misogynistic culture in a patriarchal society provided the political and propaganda tool in the hands of religious leadership to be used against the shah's regime. Khomeini from the beginning in 1962 in all his lectures placed his objection against women's rights as his rubric. In this period, you will rarely find in Khomeini's lectures or writings that did not give prominenace to this element. Closely examining Khomeini's anti-women quotations and debates, easily shows these cultural elements.

From Khomeini's point of view, efforts to reach equal rights for women was UN-ISLAMIC and showed one's objection against Islam. People in Iran are sensitive..."They have written in their newspapers with big headlines that "the women should participate in elections" was mischief and a lie. And they're reflecting public opinion...they did not succeed to null and void Quron and Islam. You see, it's not women's issue. This is war against Islam....Equal rights for women is synonymous with destroying the essential mandates of Islam...It's rendering explicit quoranic commands null and void...and when the newspaprs heard people's objection against allowing taking women to military...they said it was a lie and they denied it..."--Khomeini, 1962

The opposition groups or oppositions movements in the future will not benefit from making "women's right" or "Human rights" as their main point of contention because those issues are not Iranian's number one priorities and some even prefer things the way they are (mostly men). So, you will not get a national consensus where you can build a critical mass.

Therefore, criticizing the regime's human rights violation will not gain any momentum at this point in time for a long time to come.

So, what core issue might inspire people to rise up unanimously against the regime? The regime's abysmal economic performance and wasting precious and limited national resources and it's inability to create jobs and building infrastructure to compete in a globalized economy. 2. Not diversifying the economy and hence making Iran completely dependent on the oil market and oil revenues. 3. Massive corruption and uncontrollable looting of certain elite, non-transparency and non-accountability in government expenditures and budgerty matters...4. Sqandering the oil wealth on no bid contracts given to IRGC...and so on.

The opposition will gain general consensus by making the economy and corruption of the regime as the central issue of their campaign against the regime...the brutality and the violation of women's right and human rights might also be framed in the context of poverty and lack of economic securities.



by Anonymous, (not verified) on

In a vain attempt in absolving their Islamist system of its naked barbarity Islamists like this Daryush chap who hides behind a national icon put the onus on the victims, the people of Iran. Psychopathic criminal logic of “she made me do it” is an old demagogic argument.


Daryush, well said!

by Anonym7 (not verified) on

I see more and more friends who are realizing what you phrased nicely. Changes in Iran are taking place .... nobody knows how to set the rate of those changes better than those who live there.


We have to realize where we

by Daryush on

We have to realize where we stand today in the Iranian society. Many people think that Iranian society is an advance society and IRI is a backward government that is holding the progression of the people of Iran. That’s not true. Iranian society is a violent society that beats their women because they own their wives. All that is changing but people in LA think that IRI is holding them back. No. What you see coming from the IRI justice system is what people like to see.

We are moving forward and IRI is going along with the society. We have elements of democratic parts within our system and we have elements of dictatorial. Those elements are beyond our government and are inscribed in our traditional society. If we change IRI, we will have another dictatorial regime as long as our society has not flourished to be modern. If you think a government can take Iran to modernity then you are only dreaming. Let's be real and look at ourselves from an objective point of view.

For those who think Iran is a western country and is advance society and Arabized IRI are holding us back, the message should be read:

Javid Shah.


Why cant Iranians accept

by Anonymous on

Why cant Iranians accept that we brought the Islamic Republic to power? We will never see change in Iran until we accept the past for what it really was and is. Whenever Iranians stop blaming themselves is when we will finally see change in Iran.


Thanks for posting this article...

by Fair (not verified) on

..if anything, just because of the great discussion it generated!

What you are doing I agree is very important-try to get an understanding of the government we despise. I would however like to clarify some of your theories:

1-just because positions change hands doesn't make it more democratic. Positions changed hands in the Soviet Union and China as well-among the politburo.

2-Every government in the world has a base, no matter how small. That is how they stay in power. To say a government is democratic to its own base does not make it democratic at all. Because same could be said for USSR, Nazi Germany, and South Africa under apartheid.

3-The IRI has a rather elaborate security apparatus, and don't have us pretend otherwise for a second. It s security apparatus is up there with the most totalitarian states you can find.

4-The IRI interferes in every aspect of your life, the most personal of which is your beliefs and religion. You cannot eat, drink, wear, think, or go to the bathroom in a way that is not approved by their law. Of course IRI apologists will say that is so everywhere in the world, but the limits under the IRI are among the strictest in the world (to be exceeded in some cases only by Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan's Taleban-hardly examples of democracy).

5-Freedom of speech does not exist, and look at all the closed down newspapers and arrested journalists, and look at the pathetic record we have with RSF for example.

6-For some reason, I see many places where people compare the IRI to totalitarian systems like Saddam's or Stalinist states, which is interesting to me. Why isn't it compared with the very government it replaced, which was supposed to be so bad that so many Iranians were outraged that they felt strongly about having a revolution? Which extra freedoms whether political or social were achieved? And where is the extreme outrage today among Iranians that was there in 1979? Do we have a double standard?

7-Khamenei is not just an arbiter, he is the absolute ruler and has veto power over everything. If he does not speak out frequently himself it is because he doesn't need to-the system is set up that nobody with any conflicting agendas can get anywhere in the power structure.

I hope these points help us Iranians understand our government better. Until we take responsibility for our own future we are doomed to continue to be one of the most backward countries on this planet.



Ben, thanks for the reply. I

by Farhad Kashani (not verified) on

Ben, thanks for the reply. I agree with you that unfortunately many Iranians underestimate the regime, and that’s dangerous. They underestimate the ability of this regime to influence and support and inspire International Terrorism. Lot of them subscribe to the this fictional, misinformed, and twisted 19th century communist theory that everything in the world is conspirated by the CIA, so therefore they either blindly bash the U.S or blindly admire its ability to control all that happens in the world ! And the ones who bash the U.S and Iranians who disagree with them, justify the regime’s existence and strip our citizens from taking responsibilities for their actions and strip the regime from accountability for their crimes, and that’s a social illness. I’m sure by reading some of the postings on this site, you know what I’m talking about. On the comparison issue, please refer back to my previous posting. I did not talk about the dress code issue only, but many other aspects of life also. I knew many Iraqis as well, and they’re main concern was lack of political freedom and the brutality of Saddam. I did not hear or see anything that implies they were strained on daily life activities. Remember Saddam was secular, actually a staunch secular at the beginning and after the embargo he started getting some religious influence. In Iran because we have a religious theocracy (Unseen in history since the medieval in Europe), there is lack of the two mentioned above, plus lack of individual, social and cultural freedoms as well. I guarantee to you, and urge to wait and see, if this regime falls, you will be witnessing documents and proofs of unheard of and unseen before crimes committed by the fascist regime in Iran. Also Ben, remember that Saddam and Fascist regime in Tehran, are two of the worst, if not the worst, regimes post WWII, so giving some credit to the IRI for being less brutal, which again I don’t agree that is the case at all, really doesn’t do much ! Regards.


The most comprehensive

by Emancipation (not verified) on

The most comprehensive analysis of power structure in the Islamic republic:


"The Power Structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran: transition from populism to clientelism, and militarization of the government" published in Third World Quarterly (December 2005). Full text PDF

Since the1979 revolution, Iran has experienced two non-class power structures -- populism and clientelism. Populism, a product of the revolution, helped Ayatollah Khomeini to rule Iran for a decade with absolute power. Clientelism in Iran is linked to Shiism, as well as to a rentier state, and to the revolution, which resulted in many autonomous groups formed in patron – client bonds. Neither clientelism nor Shiism can be analysed using classical class system theory. Instead of horizontal layers of classes, the power structures in both Shi’ism and clientelism are based on vertical columns of rival and autonomous groups. The traditional Shi’a institution of Marja’iyat (source of emulation), has come into conflict with an elected government. The reformist government elected in 1997 failed to deliver on its democratic promises and to end the destructive role of autonomous groups. Therefore, disenchanted with state-sponsored reforms, Iranian society seems to be moving towards pragmatism and utilitarianism, while the political power structure leans towards militarism.

Seventy years of conflict and challenge between monarchism, religious traditionalism, regionalism, tribalism, nationalism and the political left finally ended in the revolution of 1979 and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). This period had begun with the Constitutional Revolution of 1905. Reza shah ended regionalism and tribalism and established a nation-state for the first time in Iranian history. Constitutional monarchism, however, culminated in the dictatorship of Mohammad Reza shah Pahlavi following a military coup in 1953. During Mohammad Reza shah’s rule, foreign investments and higher oil revenues helped Iran to pave the way to capitalist development and a class system. Twenty-five years after the coup, however, a major revolution ended the shah’s power and monarchy. As a consequence, the political structure changed from an autocratic class system to a religious populist regime, a tyranny of the majority under the charismatic leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Populism is a non-class structure with a charismatic leadership. It is a political, ideological and centralised radical mass movement. Ideologically it represents the declining traditional middle class. A populist movement occurs when a society enters a structural crisis of transition from an agrarian system to capitalism. Contemporary Iranian history is marked with these characteristics. The land reform programme of 1961 and the shah’s modernisation project aimed to replace the agrarian economy with capitalist relations and the neutralising of any revolutionary motives on the part of the peasants.
However, it resulted in a ‘peasantisation’ of the cities, cultural and economic conflict, unregulated social mobility, and stratification, which set the stage for Khomeini’s revolutionary populism. In a religious culture like that of Iran, and in the absence of political parties, when the shah lost his firm grip on his regime a charismatic leader who proclaimed himself God’s representative on earth and the people’s saviour easily manipulated the uneducated masses, who had no political experience. Khomeini’s populist slogans were altogether directed against one figure, the shah. However, after the victory of the revolution, relying on his new populist base, Khomeini viciously excluded all his rivals and political opponents.

Populist Islamic rule, which is incompatible with the trend of modernisation and democratisation, pushed society into a permanent revolution, involving traditional authority, Islamisation of the social fabric and fragmentation of political desires. Had the war with Iraq (1981 – 88) not occurred, populism could have ended more quickly after the revolution, and society would have begun its routine activities. The war, however, empowered the populist Islamist authority to mobilise the ideologically illtreated masses and to suppress political opponents under the emotional context of defending ‘the land of Islam’.

The religious base of clientelism in Iran
Populism finally ended with the termination of the war in 1988 and the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. No one could replace the unique persona of Khomeini, who was a religious, political and spiritual leader of millions of people who followed his beliefs in search of an ideal society.1 The Council of Experts’ selection of the new supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was caused by a rift within the ruling clerical groups. Khamenei is not a marja’a taqlid, the most revered of the grand ayatollahs, as required by the Iranian constitution.2 Evidently his selection was merely a political decision by the ruling group to overcome possible factional dispute. However, the vacuum of a populist leader after the death of Khomeini resulted in a dispersal of millions of supporters who had become disillusioned, in turn, with Islamic slogans. The death of Khomeini ended the absolute and unified hierarchy of power and opened the gate to the traditional multiple objects of emulation (maraja’a taqlid), which is the norm in Shiism. In a first move the dominant group purged rival powerful ayatollahs such as Mowsavi Ardabili (former head of the judicial branch) and Azari Qomi (a leading member of the Council of Experts and founder of the conservative daily newspaper Resaallat). However, they could not stop the conservative, right-wing and radical zealots, who organized their own client – patron bonds under the name of velayat-e faqih (jurisprudence).
...READ the REST Below:


Jesus: Islamic Republic's

by Emancipation (not verified) on

Jesus: Islamic Republic's power structure is really simple. It is very similar to the "war lords" in Afghanistan. However, in Iran instead of war lords we have highly organized and sophisticated "religious lords" (e.g., Moqtads al Sadr in Iraq and his fathers social and charities through the mosque) in every village, county, province, suburb, neighborhood in a perpetual power (economic and political) and religious brinksmanship for power and turf... This has been the case for centuries. It is all about money not even Islam.


I agree completely with emancipation

by Jesus (not verified) on

I agree with Emancipation on the issue of danger to Islam. Secularism is the biggest threat to the Clerical power in Iran. This is why they are so against individual freedom and democracy, because they will have no or little power over the masses when there is genuine freedom in Iran.

Aside from all the symantics, I also agree with Ben a little here. No one has done a complete, and unbiased analysis of the government in Iran. The opposition seem to always put on a shaded pair of glasses when analysing IR. We need to understand the root of the strength of this government because it definitely has some, and we need to have a better indepth analysis of its weaknesses which are many more.


Iranians did not revolt to

by Emancipation (not verified) on

Iranians did not revolt to have Islam enslave them and keep them in ever sliding journey into sewere of Middle Ages's religous subjugation.

The revolution was hijacked by the most violent factions of the society, namely, those who will kill "the enemies of Islam". The other groups were not nearly brutal or violent enough as this group of murderous hoodlum.
Many years before the revolution, The Mullahs, especially Khomeini, felt their Islam was undermined by the rapid progress the world was making towards secularism and humanism and thus rendering Islam and the clergies job and their only product in their inventory, which was religion.

The hijacking of 1979 revolution would had taken place regardless of the system of governance and the other groups because the Islamist hoodlums were the most organized. The 1979 uprising was everything to do with saving Islam and the clergies lucrative and most profitable job.

Khomeini used to say, "ISLAM IS IN DANGER" and he was right and he did something about it and the rest is history.

The only way the powerful clergies will give up their power will be to offer them positions with the same amount of money. They need to be kept in Quom like Vatican or retrained for other jobs. It's their job that they are most concerned about not Islam. Islam is their only product to sell. We need to replace tht product with something else.


The particular shape of the

by Emancipation (not verified) on

The particular shape of the ruling classes in Iran has, for the past one thousand and one years at least, consisted of two major components. In Iran they are referred to as the ‘Shah’ and the ‘Shaykh’; the King and the Cleric.

For those less familiar with the history of Iran, it is instructive to know that the clergy were a most integral part of the ruling classes all the way until 1920s, when the founder of the Pahlavi Dynasty, Reza Shah, summarily stripped the mullahs of almost all their social institutions of power.

From that point on the clergy had to stay content with running the mosques for the most part. Even large land holdings of the organized clergy were confiscated. The Shah also used to bribe them with a monthly stipen for them to stay quiet. And as soon as he stopped 'subsidizing' them, that's when all hell broke loose!...and the rest is history.

Iranians have been enslaved by the mullahs and Sheikh much longer than any monarchy. Monarchies were mainly figureheads who had to appease/bribe the clergies to keep them docile.

America brought the Shahanshaykhi back to Iran because they have always known about the power of the clergies. It is best for pragmatic purposes for the West to have clergies rule the Iranian people and keep them ignorant and servile. Iranians need to be educated about this history of slavery. The clergies have manipulated and kept masses of Iranians in complete darkness for their own self-serving agenda. They use religion to keep the population obedient, subservient, and subjugated. If Iranians are ever to free themselves from the shackles of religious slavery, they have to understand what's been happening to them and at what cost.

Those zealous fanatic muslims, often brutal and murderous, who have taken Iranian hostage at a gun point with threats of barbaric violence.

True Iranians need to understand if they want to stay Iranian, they need to convert back to their roots. And that will take hard work to educate people on how corrupt the clergies have been and the tremendous damage they have done to Iran and true Iranians. A time will come when Iranians will realize that they have to choose between being Iranian or Islamist...This might take another half a century but it will happen. The longer the mullahs stay in power the sooner Iranians will be able to purge Islam out of their great nation. Educating Iranians about their history of slavery by the clergies is the first step toward emancipation from centuries of slavery under the yolk of powerful and cunning clergies.

Emancipation comes before democracy.


Is democracy the main issue?

by Anonym7 (not verified) on

Ben, you say: "Either one wants Islamic democracy where you have democracy for probably 1 million out of 70 million, or true democracy where you have democracy for all (okay, excluding children)."

Ben, are you implying that lack of true democracy is the main concern for Iranians now?

Ben Madadi

Re: Farhad

by Ben Madadi on

Thanks for commenting! I very often feel that Iranian misunderstand AND under-estimate the regime. And I think it is important for us not to do this. This is the main reason I wrote the way I did. BUT I AM giving the egime the credit of being a regime that knows how to survive, a regime that is built well, to survive! This doesn't mean the regime is anything positive. IT IS TOXIC. I am also giving credit to crocodiles to being such a resiliant animal to have survived for tens, or hundreds, of millions of years. That doesn't mean we can play with it :)

Comparing the IRI to Saddam... I would say that Saddam was worse. I have known some Iraqis. It was very bad during Saddam's time. Saddam and his clan didn't care how people dressed but how they treated the Iraqi people is far worse than how the IRI treats its people. And Saddam heavily discriminated against the non-Sunni Arabs, therefore some 80% of the population, while the IRI discriminated mostly against the non-Shia, who are some 10% of the population. Anyway, the comparison is of little relevance. This was my opinion though.


Ben, I agree with most of

by Farhad Kashani (not verified) on

Ben, I agree with most of what you say in most of your articles, but I have to say I understand you to be an open minded Iranian, not like one of those leftists or IRI apologists. I admire your anti regime rhetoric, but please try as hard as you can not to give this regime any credit whatsoever. Because a single credit given to this regime, means a step back from effectively fighting it. Lets forget about what U.S or Israel or others did in Hiroshima or what have you, like some of these Oghdei and close minded leftist always tie events in Iran to past events like that or fault others specially the U.S for everything that has happened to us and not taking responsibility for what we have done to ourselves, thus justifying the existence of this brutal and savage regime. They are hurting the Iranian freedom movements bad, and I mean bad, by taking this misguided, misinformed, logically flawed blind anti democracy and anti U.S and anti capitalism approach for the last 50-60 years which resulted in the state our country is in now. And they claim they are standing against a U.S attack on Iran, but what they’re actually doing by blaming others (Specially U.S and Israel) for what we did to ourselves and justifying regime’ support of terrorism as “taking anti Imperialism stance” and using fire ultra socialist rhetoric, is they are expediting military action by Israel (Who has done us no harm) and the U.S. Furthermore, I was astonished by what RostamehZaal said “Iranian Regime is not exactly Democratic, it's nothing like what Saddam's regime used to be in Iraq. It's not a totalitarian regime. The regime does not interfere in every aspect of people's lives and as we know many Iranians lead a double life and the regime knows it. It's also true that one could disagree with the regime as long as he or she doesn't question the basic foundations of the system.”. Rostam, you either don’t know the Islamic regime in Tehran or the Saddam Hussain regime. Lets compare: Saddam didn’t care what his people dress, this regime does. Saddam didn’t care what kind of music his people listen to, this regime does. In Iraq under Saddam, you would not see religious minorities fleeing the country, under the fascist regime in Tehran, Jews, Armenians, Bahais, Zartushtis and others left Iran in huge numbers. As much as Saddam oppressed shites, but some of his closest inner circles were secular shites (ex. Iad Allavi), and Tareq Aziz was Christian; under the facist regime, we haven’t had a non shite government official in almost 30 years. Saddam didn’t care what his people eat or drink (alcohol was and still is, although less, sold in Iraq), I don’t think I have to explain what this regime’s stance is on alcohol. Do you believe these examples are interfering in people’s life or not?


Many good points here Ben

by Abarmard on

Many Iranians are gradually becoming more educated about the Iranian system. Many also have come to realize the importance of a transitional system in a traditionally religious country. Modernity along with Democracy must be earned rather than imported. Iranians are getting the first hand experience about the backward religious mentality

As you have mentioned, in the regime today Khamanei does not make political decisions. Although he can but the checks and balances are in such that he doesn't want to abuse his power, just in case!

This is a gradual (yet painful) process, but we're getting it slowly.

Thanks for this article and many good points.


REPLY: Censorship and Freedom of Speech

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

The genuine comment is directed to JJ and other admin and critisises the lack of Freedom of speech/expression in "IRANIAN" and emphasises that these Rights are absolute in this society.
May be the comment means the american, may be another western society. Surely and by no means the ISLAMIC REPUBLIC of IRAN. The JJ is accused pretending he were a advocate of his site by saying nothing is scared, which is a joke, so the comment. so JJ behaves Practically worse than Mullahs. They didn’t know anything better, JJ knew and with his censorship with no real reason downgrades he himself to the same level as mullahs!
This is the opinion of the Letter to JJ which could be publicated only as a comment. In the letter should be emphasised: 'Ying Yang Paintings' in main page of is a trashy painting, and JJ doesn’t have any tolerance to hear it. further is JJ to go ahead and delete the comment once more as he should have done it for past 12 hours. So has the painting lost on meaning. Moreover it should be JJ and his action ( DELETING! ) censoring the meaning to that Portrait which downs JJ to the level of Mullahs.
Now my Comment to the Comment:
1. Freedom of Speech, Meaning and communication in the western world is but a Written Nothing with Gold and otherwise all empty. The laws in the western country have no solution when a private person claims his personal rights from another private person, who naturaly posesses the same private and personal richts. So there are a lot of impasses when the copurts have to decide about these subjects. In the ISLAMIC REPUBLIC of IRAN had the democratic Government the might to decide, weigh and carefully consider and find a solution. It seems as if in Iran existed censoreship. It is the case of a reasonable solution, where in west the courts achieve only a non liquet.
2. JJ - as I see - do not pretend as a advocate, HE IS THE OWNER of the site. It is his personal right to accept or not accpect, publish or not publish the letters he recieves. He makes use of his freedom!
3 The comments are not censorable! The Government has the duty to provide the possibility of practicing the freedom of speech and so on. The Sites owners can not censoring the comments, or delete them or prevent them of getting public. Surely the Aditive by the site"Nothing is sacred" is more than a joke. And why should JJ not being allowed to make a permanent joke? As a matter of fact all "IRANIAN" is but a joke. I enjoy it and wish the same for all other users.
4. The portrait is a trashy one, no daubt. But one finds in "IRANIAN" offen other very butifull Fotos from Iran and elsewhere. I do not want to miss them. I download most of them. I prefer the ones which tray a legend. So I know even after a long time what is what and who is SHE!
5. According to the Laws in the United states of America, where "IRANIAN" is at home: It is the most natural right of JJ not to take away what a visitore classifies as trash when he does not want.
6. It is the damn "Freedom of Speech, meaning and communication" which presents so much - i say just - no nice phrases and speeches in so many Chat-sites such as "IRANIAN". Thanks God it is not available in the Islamic Republic. Otherwise the hospitals, emergency Centers and likewise Institutions had a lot to do with heartinfracted iranian Grand MAs who ahd just read in "IRANIAN"!. because of the same reason can GOOGLE play the role of the dumb man and write arabic Gulf in its EARTH. It is the Freedom of handling with ones property just as one likes. GOOGLE likes it that way and JJ this way.
Facit: JJ can not censoring comments but just putting away eMAILS. Just as nearly all news papers and magazins which do not publish the mails with undesirable contents. Greeting.


A bit off topic but

by Anonymous60 (not verified) on

A bit off topic but insightful article about Iran's economy and how it's run:

Iran is a rare big oil-producing country where economic conditions have worsened despite a tripling of oil prices. The oil today is being traded at $101 a barrel.

Even $100.00 a barrel oil is not enough to keep Iranian's economy afloat as Iran spends foreign aide capital from man power from Afghanistan to Gaza and almost all points in between. One must include in this calculation the monies spent bring both the Busher Nuclear Plant and the Uranium Enrichment Program online. As the supreme leader is the head of Iranian National Security the blame lies with Ayatollah Khamenei for a Uranium Enrichment Program requiring massive amounts of electricity that is off the grid for use to stem domestic shortages. Such state directed power usage is the hallmark of a Command Economy driven from the top down. We shall see shortly how Supreme Leader Khamenei uses his powers as the leader of Iranian Foreign Policy, National Security, the Armed Forces and Chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to mold all policy in Iran under his imprint.

In December and January on three separate occasions, Iranian IRGC Speed Boats simulated attacks on US Navy Ships in the area of the Straits of Hormuz. On these three occasions, oil at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) was at or very near the technical barrier of $100.00. The attacks by the IRGC were an attempt to goad the US Navy to fire upon the speed boats thus creating an International incident that would shatter the $100.00 barrier. Instead, the US Navy coyly handled the simulated "attacks" as to not alarm World Oil Markets while the Iranian government was forced to call the incidents nothing out of the ordinary.

The mere fact that Iran cannot fund all its liabilities with $90.00 or even $100.00 a barrel oil is telling in the extreme. What we see in Iran is a country exhausted and overextended as were the Soviets. Although no firm number is available, the crumbling Iranian economy appears to be reaching the tipping point as did the squalid economy of the Soviets in the late 1980s where military spending reached 25% of the budget.

Providing even more evidence of Iran's failing economic system the leadership has refused to import Turkmenistan Natural Gas as higher world market prices are beyond the apparent purchasing power of the government. What a grim irony for the supreme leader that the very energy prices Iran sought to drive up in the Straits of Hormuz are too great for Iran to pay at home.

Also of import, was Iranian friction with Russia over the costs of construction at the Busher Nuclear Plant. It would appear the budget of the Command Economy is bursting in many areas.

For further irony one need only understand that Iran imports substantial amounts of gasoline and natural gas and subsidizes the price to far below world market prices as there is little refining capacity for either fuel in the domestic market. Instead of investing in refineries to supply domestic needs, the supreme leader has invested in a Nuclear Power Station and a Uranium Enrichment Program that has yet to turnout a Kilo Watt for public consumption, while the Enrichment Program is a major user of energy that could be on the domestic power grid.

Some in Supreme Leader Khamenei’s economic and political harem are calling for economic reform in Iran saying the economics of the Iranian Revolution have gone their natural course. Of course, these comments are made without attribution and without the criticism of the weighty National Security top hamper hanging over Iran’s economy.

The weight of these issues of economics and finance has the supreme leader politically decoupling himself from the elected leader and mouthpiece, President Ahmadinejad. This is a battle Mr. Ahmadinejad cannot win, for in Iran, criticizing the supreme leader is tantamount to criticizing Allah.

As for the looming Parliamentary elections March, almost seventy percent of the Reform Candidates are off the ballot, while the rest of the parties are small and fractured to the point that no unity for real change is possible. Small fractured political parties are to the benefit of the supreme leader creating a vacuum where the leader that makes virtually all the decisions that are never publicly challenged and the leader himself never criticized.

With new UN Sanctions in the works, the Iranian Economy directed by the Supreme Guide will remain a command economy where the needs of Iranian foreign policy and National Security including both Nuclear Programs comes first and the domestic needs of the Iranian people come last. True reform is achieved from the bottom up, but the Iranian people must decide where that bottom is first.