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Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 15:26 GMT
Will the elections bring real change?
Iran's reformists have swept the board in the general elections, dealing a devastating blow to the hardline clerics who have dominated politics since the revolution.
President Mohammad Khatami wants to prize society out of the grip of the fundamentalist clerics.
His aims include curbing corruption, making the security forces more accountable, reforming press and election laws and improving relations with the West. He also has an economic crisis on his hands.
The outgoing parliament has obstructed Mr Khatami at every turn, but now his reformists are in power the question is whether they can deliver on their promises.
Will the elections bring real change or are there still too many obstacles? And if there are changes what reforms do you think Iran need most?
Just because candidates had to pledge allegiance to the Government and constitution doesn't mean that this was not a "real" democratic election as some people claim. In all democracies, candidates must swear their allegiance to its form of government.
Barnabas Little, USA
As an Iranian woman, I am so proud that we showed the world that it's still us (Iranians), who decide for our country, and of course, the West is not very happy with it. West's values of freedom are to have prostitutes in the streets, pornography, violence, and to steal from rich countries.
Before jumping to any conclusions take a deep breath and try to see the big picture and then try to understand the western world's strategies in the region. Hopefully you'll then be able to see the recent developments in Iran as part of a global scene and not in isolation. The key is to leave your emotions and passions about Iran or dis/like of Islam out of the loop.
Dara, Sara's Brother, New Zealand
Democracy and freedom cannot be delivered in instalments or conducted under the guidance of unelected clergy. "Guided democracy" and "People's democracy" have turned out to be no democracy at all. The Iranian contradiction will be resolved by the fall of the clergy (relatively peacefully as in the Soviet Union or violently as in Rumania) or by the militant reassertion by the clergy (Talibanization of Iran). There is no Wahid (Indonesian President) or Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan (the late Pathan-Afghan leader) in Iran who could harmonise Islamic principles and traditions with the demands of democracy and a pluralistic state.
Thiru Ramakrishnan, US
Iran appears from all accounts to be a vibrant country, rich in cultural heritage, i.e. poetry, classical music, exquisite cinema, and an ancient tradition of honour and personal integrity. In my naive and hopeful heart it is what I wish the west is most truly interested in, and not OIL.
Daniel Forest, USA
Iran has an Opportunity to make a fresh start. The question is, are the new leaders wise enough to find the Middle Route to Balance, between the Old and the New, the Traditional and the Modern? Whatever one's criticisms of the rigid grip of the Clerics held for 20 years, their legacy Today is an Iran with abundant enthusiastic young people, a Good Leader, a rich history and a beautiful & plentiful piece of land at their disposal... as well the most Merciful Grace of Allah...
Before getting too swept up in the heady optimism about these elections, it's important to remember the Iranian people's incredible past willingness and ability to cope with an oppressive political regime and the miserable economic conditions it has caused. As long as the foundations of that system remain in place - a substantial core of the population over which the mullahs hold sway through daily brainwashing messages in the name of Islam, a savvy "bazaari" merchant class in alliance with any power structure that favours their economic interests, and a demolished wall of separation between church & state that allows a small minority clerical class to hover above any rule of law - then real, home-grown change in Iran will occur very slowly, if at all. The real X-factor is the outside influence of the western powers, driven by the politics of oil. If the West sees the growth of democracy, human rights & free markets in Iran as benefiting western interests, then changes will happen in a matter of months rather than years or decades.
If an election turn-out of approx. 80% in Iran is a sign of "tyranny", what hope is there for the UK where the general election turn-out is less than 50%?
Well yet another change for Iran? The hardliners have been told what the people think. The only problem is they don't care. You have to look at the situation this way. The more you squeeze the tighter the grip of the mullah. I feel that conservatives in Iran will "nip this problem in the bud" I hope my people don't have to suffer any more.
I'm happy for Iran and Iranians. We are free and proud people, who have suffered because of mismanagement and corruption. Don't mention the greed of western countries for oil and other natural resources. The revolution era was sad, however, we can see that people are getting more educated, women are intellectually more mature and all the country is moving towards a better tomorrow. If the golden day won't come just tomorrow, it will come sooner or later. We don't need another revolution.
Khatami and his supporters will bring a less of a change than expected from the generation who haven't experienced the Islamic revolution of 1979. Khatami is in a difficult situation. As well as carrying out his promises of greater media and personal freedom and closer relations with the west, he has to also please the conservatives and supporters of the current state. Therefore, a compromise must be found. A step too far towards secularism could result in a step towards civil unrest as seen in Algeria.
Ben Archer, United Kingdom
Despite the foreign propaganda, Iran is a relatively free country. Even then we had much more freedom of speech than any other country in the middle east. Look at our neighbours: Pakistan has a coup every other day, Afghanistan, Iraq.... even Turkey which is the west's favourite in the middle east is by no means a democracy. I don't favour the mullahs but the media is portraying Iran as a super fundamentalist country.... women can vote, drive and even become a government minister or MP.... where do you get that in any of the Gulf counties???
Daniel Bassiri, UK
President Khatami is just another mullah who is trying to save an out-dated system from falling. His plan for reform will never bear any fruits.Iran needs another revolution.
Of course Iran is moving towards democracy. Today's Iran can't be compared with the Iran of before 97. People are starting to express their opinion again, they are feeling hope for democracy. The victory of reformists is the start of the way to democracy.
I do not think that the moderates will be able to achieve many of their goals. I think the Iranian people wanted a change of parties, not a change in direction. Many Iranians still remember vividly the Shah's rule and his drive to modernize Iran at the expense of tradition and ancient custom. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 marked a sea-change in Iranian politics and history. The new government will find itself unable to stop, let alone reverse that tide. Iran's clerics and the Ayatollah still wield the power of life and death over Iranian governments.
There can be true change in Iran if and only if the constitution of the Islamic republic of Iran is changed. The most important item that should be deleted is the existence of the Supreme Religious Leader. So long as this exists in the constitution, there will be one person in Iran holding uncontrollable powers and the people will be at the mercy of his decisions and he will always have fanatical and opportunist followers to carry out his whims and fancies. A democracy cannot co-exist with a supreme leader. That's it and though not palatable for many, this is a proven fact.
Iraj Khan, Canada
A recent message indicated that women don't have any freedom in Iran because of the Hejab. This is a commonly held western view and a sad one at that. The Iranian Hejab is the most lax of all Islamic countries in the Middle East. Have you ever seen an Arabian women's face? Neither has anyone else except her mom, dad, and husband! Which is the more important freedom to you having to wear a simple head garb or being able to go where you want to go? Iranian women in many ways are more free then their western counterparts. In Iran you can go to a park and have women and children walking about at 2:00 in the morning with out the least fear for their life, but here in the good old USA I have to walk my female friends from our college classes to the parking lot as soon as the sun goes down because they are scared, of being mugged, raped, and murdered.
If we (Iranians) want your opinion about our future, then why did we participate in this parliamentary election? More than 30,000,000 people voted for what they wanted and what the they thought right for them, I am just wondering why the result of this unique election should be so important for foreigners! By looking at our history in the last 200 years it can be seen the main purpose of the foreigners were to exploit us in different ways, but I have to say that those times have been finished and we know what you want from us!
Today, global changes are accelerating and Iran cannot remain indifferent to these changes for too long. Yet it is not just the ruling clergy that needs to do some soul-searching and become more transparent and tolerant. The transformation must also begin on an individual level, beginning with an awareness of our history and an effort to reshape Iranian society based on our past costly errors. But as if not burdened with enough adversities, the Iranian nation has to wrestle with the task of tempering and making more palatable the demands of its impatient and highly inquisitive youth and moderating the zeal of its ardent conservatives-a daunting task indeed.
Mahyar Balali, United States
I think that the United States should stop saying that they want to start new relations in Iran, and a day later say that Iran is a terrorist nation, with no proof I might add. What is this hypocrisy that the US is playing? They say one thing and the opposite the next day. Iran has not been responsible for the killing of a single American citizen. The US has no proof that Iran is a terrorist nation. I think that progress will be made when the imperialist "democratic" United States stops criticizing Iran about everything they do. If any one wants to debate about this issue you can reach me at email@example.com
There are two concerns:
1. Will the reformists keep on holding together now that the reformists have no rival in front of themselves, or simply fall apart?
2. Will conservatives who have access to most of the resources in the country give in?
A clash seems to be inevitable. But it could be either a war of words resulting in conservatives giving up power or a war of guns leaving people to back off from their bid for change.
Hooman Moradmand, Ottawa, Canada
Babak, you obviously know nothing of the history of Iran - nor that of Islam for that matter. Iran has influenced Islam and the course it has taken since the beginning. In addition, religious fundamentalism and a fiercely "anti-western" stance both predate Islam in Iran. Before Islam, the Magi were trying to control politics and impose a fundamentalist state like our mullahs. The Magis destrusted and despised the "heathen" west. It was the coming of Islam that provided religious minorities like Christians some relief from persecution by the Magi. Also Babak, you have to know that when Islam came into being it was as alien to Arab culture as it was to Iranian culture - and that is why so many Arab tribes resisted it fiercely.
Changes will come - either come violently or peacefully. I hope and pray it will be a peaceful change.
Ashraf Khorasanee, Dubai
I'm Iranian youngster so I represent the youth's general idea about this clerical system. First of all let me assure you that most of the Iranian people are pretty much fed up with this system, and the heavy turn-out in our elections just shows them they don't have any base among people. The reason people voted for the reformists is just because they have no other alternatives. I believe that Iranians, especially the young, want a secular regime, a regime which does not intrude in their private life, a regime which does not divide boys and girls in public places, even in parks, a regime which does not abuse Islam, and last but not least Iranian society is just like a volcano that there's always the possibility of eruption.
The last time Iranians had a democratic government was in the early 50s and the US and the Wst soon got rid of it. They can not of course do it in the same crude way as then, but I hope they will leave Iranians alone to sort it out for themselves.
First of all I want to say unfortunately many of us (both Iranians and people from western countries) are not ready to accept a democratic system if it is not exactly according to their wishes.
Everybody is talking about freedom in Iran. The United States for example is worried about the women's situation in Iran, while its best friend in the region is Saudi Arabia. Women there are not even allowed to drive cars, but it's OK because they are ready to sell cheap oil whenever Clinton orders.
The terrorist group of Iranian Mujahedin Khalgh in Iraq is worried about people's situation in Iran while they co-operate with Saddam Hussain in killing both Iranian and Iraqi people. Why don't you let us find and choose our way by ourselves? It would be much easier to succeed without your "help".
I think it will. However I think the pace of reforms will be slow. On the other hand I can't see the conservatives giving up the enormous power that they currently enjoy. So I think the road to true reforms may be a bumpy one.
I think the events in Iran are slow but hopefully Iranians will make many new gains against the religious state and keep the ones they have already won. But we should not equate the possible advancement in the dard-won social freedom with improvement in ties with the West and US.
I think the West in general and US in particular, would gladly support any non-democratic government, as long as they do not have the power to pose any threat to the US interests and to Israel.
The changes in Iran are definitely real. The conservatives in power will increasingly bend and change their ways because they now recognise that the winds of change are against them while they are vastly outnumbered and their ranks divided.
Proof: Only one ultra-right wing faction put a picture of Ayatollah Khomaini on their election leaflets; something that was almost fully expected before, but is now political suicide. They don't want blood to be shed, for they know that the blood will be their own. They've been there, done that, they were the revolutionaries once, and they know that if the restrain Iranians too long and too severely, Iran will erupt. The only threat to change from Iran would come from America who doesn't want a large democratic country in the Middle East.
Pofak Namaki, USA
This country is going its way, the way that is unique for it. There are 60 million women and men there who can decide for their own future better than us sitting outside and talking.
The reform will happen. Election result is only one sign of the reform. The election is neither the beginning nor the goal. Khatami is not the father of the reform he is son of the wave but a real good son.
What is important is that 33 million people showed up for this election and that's what they wanted. So if election voting is compulsory in countries like Australia but in Iran it is not, so people did it at their own will and what ever be the result it is Democracy
The change that the West wants is the one they see now in all Middle East countries. The West wants to see a puppet government in Iran, but that is not going to happen never. Back off! Let the Muslims decide their own affairs. Don't be fooled by the dirty media's claim that Iran will become a "Secular" state. Iran will be an Islamic state forever, like it or not.
It seems that change was the engine behind recent developments in Iran and turned the elections into the spectacular event that it was. The main catalysts to change, among others, were:
1) The alternative and vital press that has emerged in Iran
2) Broader access to international media, such as radio broadcasts, satellite TV (although still illegal) and the Internet
3) Overall dissatisfaction with government performance.
Broadly speaking, the first two factors increased exposure and the press, in particular, provided a forum for the loud expression of criticisms.
I do really appreciate the changes that are taking place in Iran and I am positive that things will get better, but of course it takes time. We had a revolution 20 years ago and we saw the consequences. Let's once in our history give a chance to reforms and don't rush to violence.
I am bewildered with the comments I am reading here. "Mardom" wake up and smell the coffee. Iran is now more democratic than it has ever been. Although it has yet some ways to go, we are on the right track and we are making progress.
Khatami is the catalyst who started everything and as his brother tells it, reform in Iran is unstoppable. The supreme leader and his tools won't stand in the way of this change, because they don't want the revolution to fail or simply because they can't. What we all need to focus on is doing our part in helping our great nation, and people.
Ali, Herrassat, USA
These Iranian elections must, and could bring change to Iran, and to Islam itself. Firstly, Sharia (Islamic Law) needs modification. The Hejab or covering up must be abolished, and consequently Islamic women would gain independence from the often despotic rule of their husbands. Iran itself must abolish the dogmatic policies of the 1980s, and allow Iranian culture to be proliferated by goods and visitors from the west, like North Korea has done.
Peter Crawford-Bolton, UK / US
It is truly unbelievable that the country whose rulers originated and paved the way for the comprehension and adoption of Human Rights hundreds of years ago (Persian King Darius), can find itself under such circumstances. Islam has been adapted to suite the Arabic culture and as there is an enormous gap between the Persian and Arabic cultures, Islam in its current form will not work for the majority of Iranians. Until such time that Iran is ruled by a moderate government, who would allow enough personal freedom such that each individual could choose their own religious beliefs, Islam will be used as a tool of oppression. Whether to the outside world, Iran could in the future appear both politically and economically successful in adopting a democratic and moderate Islamic rule, while its people lack freedom of choice, we must consider democracy and Islam a failing combination for Iran. Religion & Politics do not mix. You cannot choose the people who run a country on the basis of their religious beliefs. This victory for the moderates is only a first step in the right direction. The right direction being one that ensures freedom for all, and prosperity for the country and its people.
The true Democracy will only come when the "reformers" acknowledge all the minorities in Iran, particularly the 10 Million Kurds and offer a real solution to the Kurdish question in Iran.
The Iranian people have shown their desire for having freedom, and now it is up to the reformists to deliver what people voted for. But Iranian politicians are well known for turning their back to the people after they got their votes. The reformists have got to stick to their promises. On the other hand the hardliners still have the majority of power in Iran.
Being a reformer in Iran is going to take exponential amounts of bravery, patience & tenacity. Religion should be a positive influence in the society, not a constrictive one. Serious reformers here are going to face serious dangers from the hard-line.
Tom Dwyer, USA
I don't understand what kind of changes you are waiting for. Don't think that this win means that Iran will turn her back on Shari'a or Islamic laws. If the changes are according to West's wishes then they think it is real change but if not then they are calling it hardline. Let the country do whatever they feel it is good for them.
Hatarud Eshraaq, Canada
Iranian society is in a state of a unique and irreversible move toward a civil society and rule of law. President Khatami is man of his time and well aware of the need for change, nevertheless, he is also aware of the opposition to change from the conservative minority ready to use violence in order to halt Iran's democratic development. The upcoming domestic changes would be a gentle yet resolute tilt toward the implementation of Khatami's vision. The re-establishment of relations with the U.S. (under current set of pre-conditions set by the Clinton Administration) is a liability and frankly a flimsy move.
Sharif Herrassat, USA
First I want to quote BBC correspondent in Tehran: "They (parliamentary election candidates) all have to demonstrate their loyalty to the Islamic Republic and swear allegiance to the system which gives the Supreme Leader sweeping powers." There can't be any real reform as long as mullahs rule in Iran. There isn't much difference between conservatives and reformists. As one scholar has put it: "Reformists are those conservatives who have run out of ammunition." Iranians, especially young people, expressed their view when they, some month ago, pour into the streets of Tehran and denounced the regime with all its factions but were suppressed brutally by the joint efforts of conservatives and reformists. Reformists are wolves in sheep's clothing.
B Behdad, UK
Is real change possible? It's inevitable. This is not about reformists and conservatives, it's about real people with real needs. This youthful society has convincingly demonstrated it's desire for social, economical, and political change. The wheel of democracy has been set in motion by the will of the people, and it can not help but gain momentum hereafter.
James Bass, USA
All successfully held elections in any tyranny will help but as long as the clergy have any political say or power in national government or matters there is no hope for a decent society. It is and will remain an oppressed one, even more oppressed than in worst one party systems. mikko toivonen finland
mikko toivonen, finland
I don't understand what do you mean by the "real changes". Don't think that reformers winning means Iran will turn her back to Shari'a. The bottom line is: if the changes are according to the wishes of West then media will call them "real changes" but if they are not then they will call this election and winning a bogus one. If the West let Islamic countries and do not interfere directly and indirectly they would have had far more good governments than what they have today.
Hatarud Eshraaq, Canada
They are still no human rights in Iran. Also Mr Khatami is still a mullah, who would rather sell his own mother than lose any power.
Jon Norman, uk
The Iranian people have suffered long enough. It is time Iran should open up to the world and the world to Iran. Khatami is fighting an uphill battle but with strong support from his people he'll free Iran from clerical. rule. Allah would've wanted it that way.
Afework, A, U.S
Don't expect noticeable change any time soon. Iran's "reformers" are a fairly timid lot, though that may be understandable when you consider the sort of people arrayed against them. The supreme power in the land is still Ayatollah Khameini and he seems to have little use for reformist challenges to the hard-line rule of mullahs.
Rath Andor, USA
As far as improving relations with the West, that will be a positive thing as long as they do not adopt the values from them. But again that's what the West wants from them.
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