Text from the Tehran street

For the first time in its political history, Iran finds itself thrown into an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy


Text from the Tehran street
by Rami Jahanbegloo

Ever since the first days of the Islamic Republic there have been two sovereignties in Iran, a divine and a popular. The concept of popular sovereignty, which is derived from the indivisible will of the Iranian nation, is inscribed in Article I of the constitution of the Islamic Republic. And the divine concept of sovereignty is derived from God's will, which, through the medium of Shi'ia institutions of an Imamate, is bestowed on the existing 'faqih' as the rightful ruler of the Shi'ite community, a perception which forms the foundation of the doctrine of the 'Velayat-i-Faqih'. Increasingly, the divine sovereignty has been less about religion than about political theology. As for the popular sovereignty, it has found its due place in the social work and political action of Iranian civil society. The presence of these two incompatible and conflicting conceptions of sovereignty, authority and legitimacy has always been a bone of contention in Iranian politics, often defining the ideological contours of political power struggle among the contending forces. The advocates of civil and democratic liberties in Iran have tried to give the popular conception its due place in the framework of Iranian social and political institutions.

The present crisis in Iran following the Iranian presidential elections is rooted in the popular quest for the democratisation of the state and society and the conservative reaction and opposition to it. Furthermore, there is another factor distinguishing the current political crisis from the previous instances of political factionalism and internal power struggle in Iran. This is a crisis over a deep-seated ideological structure inherited from the Iranian Revolution.

On the one hand, those like Moussavi and Karubi, who have been among the architects of the Islamic regime and the challengers for the presidency in Iran and who believed that the Islamic nomenclature allowed scope for reform and renewal, find themselves at the head of a pro-democracy and pro-reform movement that continues defying beyond the results of the presidential election the very essence of illiberalism and authoritarianism in Iran.

On the other hand, there is another and equally important factor which must be taken into consideration. Most of the demonstrators who have been questioning the entire legitimacy of Iran's electoral process in the past week are not, unlike their parents, revolutionaries. They belong to a new generation who did not experience the revolution of 1979 and want another Iran. Most of them were not around or were too young to remember the revolution, but they made up one-third of eligible voters in the Iranian presidential election. These youngsters are a reminder of the fact that a monolithic image of Iran does not reflect necessarily the mindset of 70 per cent of its population who are under the age of 30. After all, the young Iran's quest for democracy has presented serious challenges not only to the status of the doctrine of the 'Velayat-i-Faqih' and questions of its legitimacy, but also to the reform movement and its democratic authenticity.

Having said this, one needs also to add that Islamic Iran is more divided than at any time since 1979, a divide between traditionalists and modernists that has been deep in Iran since the Islamic Revolution. But in this election the divide has become deeper than ever before between the state and the nation. It also created a gap between those who believe that normal economic and political relations with the West are vital to Iran's future and those who disdain such relations as violations of the Islamic Revolution's ideals.

Clearly, the outcome of the ninth presidential elections, which led to Ahmadinejad's election, was already indicative of an internal crisis at the heart of the Islamic Republic's political framework exemplified by the conflict between popular sovereignty and authoritarian rule. The current conflicts between pro-reform and pro-Ahmadinejad groups after the re-election of the former president represent in fact a political struggle between the republican essence of Iran and its clerical oligarchy. The republican gesture pays attention almost exclusively to the legitimacy of the public space, but the clerical establishment refuses to grant any legitimacy to the judgment of the public space.

At moments like this, it should not be forgotten that each time democracy is intimated, silenced and postponed for another day by a show of force in a country like Iran, it is a loss of credibility for those in charge and a crisis of legitimacy for the entire political system. Should street violence in Iran escalate, it also spells the possibility of an escalation of violence in the Middle East. This could also complicate international efforts to deal with Iran on issues such as the nuclear one, Iraq's future or Afghanistan.

The American president has made it clear at different occasions that he would like to engage Tehran in diplomacy. But the re-election of Ahmadinejad would add to the fears of the Israelis and Saudis regarding the security of their countries and their citizens living close to a hostile Iran. The US would have hoped for the victory of the reformists. These hopes have been belied and the US would have to make do with Ahmadinejad. It is true that the American president counted on Ahmadinejad's defeat to justify his administration's decision to punt on the nuclear issue. However, it is highly doubtful that the Iranian unrest would somehow blossom into a flame that burns away Ahmadinejad and his group.

But we should not forget that for the first time in its political history, Iran finds itself thrown into an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy. This is a turning point in Iran's domestic and foreign policies that the world cannot ignore. In short, letting the genie of democracy out of the bottle in Iran is like opening a Pandora's Box that the Iranian regime is clearly fearful it won't be able to close.

The writer, former head of the Contemporary Philosophy Department of the Cultural Research Centre in Tehran, has written more than 20 books including Iran: Between Tradition and Modernity. This piece was first published in The Indian Express.



The demonstrations must

by cezare on

The demonstrations must stop because blood will be shed. This fight is not for the ordinary citizen. Shame on people who consider themselves educated supporting this movement. Why don't they fly over there and do it? They talk the talk but cannot walk the walk. The sitiation is much more complex than what there petty minds can bear. The isalmic republic is a fascist regime and it is not for defensless citizens to come up against it. IT IS UTTERLY FOOLISH! We must voice our concerns for life and tell these young men and women to get off the streets and tend to their lives. Only God has the power to remove this regime. That is; if anyone really beleives in God. I hear ALLAHO AKBAR but ALLAH is a Fake Moon God. Get this. All men have a grave waiting for them.. Why shoiuld a wise man trust the words of mortal man when there is a real creator? Solomon said, wisdom starts by the fear of God. Tell you wha;t know one has got it, this timeless verse. All we can do is hurl fuel to the fire. Iranians overseas are mostly a bunch of petty selfrighteous bunch because they live in freedom and have failed to convey the message of the price of freedom that is taught in a free world. Shame on everyone of you godless people. Even the death of this young woman has not stopped your empty words that are good for the grave.

Iranians. Come to your senses. get off the streets and tend to your lives and thank the almighty for what you got. Only God has the power to remove this fascist regime. Stop breaking your parents hearts. Mosavi does not represent you. He has a grave waiting for him just like all man. He just called for his own martyrdom which brings him to the level of the mullas. This is not your revolution. make a revolution in your heart. Trust your Savior Jesus  and he'll take care of you.


The Color of Money

by Abol Hassan Danesh (not verified) on

...however my hunch is that whatever regime comes in the post islamic republic era, the new money is going to have the Freedom Square Monument on the back of one of its paper money becasue of all the rallies having been taking place there.

Now the question is:

Is it One Toman?
Is it two tomans?
Is it five tomans?
Is it 10 tomans?
Is it 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 tomans?


Lanat bar the dual arab devils: Khomeini and Khamenei

by Anonymous News (not verified) on

JP is reporting that IRI is rushing to buy anti-riot gears (tear gas, bullets, acids, batons, ...) through its intermediaries and arms dealers in EU like Tabatabaee from third parties, dominantly esraelis and chinese, at premium prices.

Down with IRI and ALL its supporters -- the biggest enemies of iran.


Crime and punishment: JOb! Job! Job!

by Dr. A Danesh, Sociologist (not verified) on

...now imagine that the islamic republic is replaced with another one tomorrow.

Now the question is who amongst the protestors right now in the street will accept the job of arresting, beating, imprisoning, killing, incarcerating, hanging... etc., etc. when it comes to punish the wrong doers: the criminals, drug dealers, rapist, serial killers, theifs, etc., etc., etc.

Who will accept these jobs in the new regimes? Who amongst you who?

Now let me go read more novels by russian writers...


Basij shots to death a young

by moo (not verified) on

Basij shots to death a young woman in Tehran's Saturday June 20th protests At 19:05 June 20th Place: Karekar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st. A young woman who was standing aside with her father watching the protests was shot by a basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house. He had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her. However, he aimed straight her heart. I am a doctor, so I rushed to try to save her. But the impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim's chest, and she died in less than 2 minutes. The protests were going on about 1 kilometers away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gass used among them, towards Salehi St. The film is shot by my friend who was standing beside me. Please let the world know.

Attacking the defenseless. What is so shocking about many of these videos is that the armed police are willing to attack completely defenseless bystanders. This video, apparently from the university in Shiraz, shows police not in any immediate danger walking up to veiled women who are leaning against a fence and raising their batons above their heads, threatening them, and then occassionally striking them. It is pure brutality.



by Dr. Prof. Abol Hassan Danesh (DAD), Ph.D. from UCR (not verified) on

Today I saw Mr. Khamenei on TV before the supporters and I saw his beard in need of some trimming...Here is the scissor and the cut beard will be collected to put it in a nice glass frame to be kept in the museum for the future as compensation for his right hand injury.

The deal is closed and sorry no more ayatollah cut beard will be accepted for the museum colection...

34: there will be 4 more years to go toward beautification of iran as a werlcome preperation greeting for landing of the imperial King.

Big Dig!



by Bahramerad on

I would not be so sure of your stupid prediction that : " However, it is highly doubtful that the Iranian unrest would somehow blossom into a flame that burns away Ahmadinejad and his group.".... This is only the beginning of the end for the Mullah Mafia and the likes of you Neanderthals....



by Bahramerad on

 HOW DID YOU FIGURE THIS OUT ? --- "they made up one-third of eligible voters in the Iranian presidential election. These youngsters are a reminder of the fact that a monolithic image of Iran does not reflect necessarily the mindset of 70 per cent of its population who are under the age of 30. "

You obviously can not count - what is 2 + 2 = .... and I suppose you will say 10 !



by Bahramerad on

Your headline "  For the first time in its political history, Iran finds itself thrown into an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy". does not make any sense unless you are equating Iran's 'History' to only the last 30 years !..... which is bullocks....

Ari Siletz

The age issue is a red herring

by Ari Siletz on

The election unrest seems more like the nation's delayed response to the unkept promises of the 79 revolution. Due to the Iran-Iraq war, Iranians of the now older generation did not get a chance to prevent Islamic hardliners from commandeering the revolution. These older veterans of the 79 revolution are just as eager as the young to participate in the overdue course correction for the republic.  Individuals may be too young to remember the events, but the collective memory of our history is much more long term. Few of us are old enough to remember the 1906 revolution, yet the experience is with us, and advises our political reactions. Iran does not become a different country every thirty years; she's not a consumer electronics store.


my personal thought

by Ali Akbar (not verified) on

Should your eyes behold the Black Standards proceeding
from Khurasan, hasten ye towards them, even though ye
should have to crawl over the snow, inasmuch as they
proclaim the advent of the promised Mihdi, the Vicegerent
of God.


The name is...

by Parham on

... RAMIN Jahanbegloo.