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A Profile of Revolutionaries By: Pejman Yousefzadeh
techcentralstation.com | Wednesday, July 02, 2003


The ongoing revolts and demonstrations in Iran are finally capturing the attention and interest of the media, and the Bush administration -- which has decided to come down strongly in favor of the Iranian dissident movement. Protests both within Iran and outside of it have helped expose the brutality of the Iranian regime, brutality that international organizations are decrying.

It is not easy to take one's life into one's own hands, as the protesters are doing night after night, and risk injury, arrest, and even death at the hands of the regime's thugs. They take these risks to protest the totalitarian and incompetent manner in which the regime has made Iran a pariah among nations by fomenting terrorism and Islamic fundamentalist movements. And they protest the way in which the regime has run the country's economic and social structure into the ground. All of this is clear from the news reports that we receive out of Iran, and is enough to make the dissident movement inside the country worthy of our support and best wishes.

But it may be helpful to learn more about the nature of the dissident movement -- about who helps constitute the movement, where their motivation comes from, and what intellectual influences propel the movement along. So here is a thumbnail sketch of Iran, and of the people who may very well bring down a theocracy.

First of all, Iran is a young country, thanks in large part to the Islamic government's constant efforts to encourage a baby boom, and thanks to the early tendency of Iranian mullahs to discourage the use of birth control devices. According to the
CIA World Factbook, nearly a third of the country is under 15 years of age. Those who are 15-64 years old make up over 63% of the population. The franchise in Iran is given to those 15 years and older, so the large youth contingent possesses a powerful voice in determining Iran's political future. Given their desire to see political reforms instituted in Iran that would bring about a more democratic society, as well as revitalize the relationship between Iran and the West (especially the United States), the Islamic regime may very well have sown the seeds of its own destruction by encouraging the recent high birth rates.

Young Iranians have many influences that encourage them towards adopting democratic values. One is the Internet.
Weblogs have become an immensely useful source for Iranians in search of information that has not been filtered by government censors. Other Internet sites devoted to the cause of Iranian democracy, and the Internet in general, help influence Iranians in their political views, and thus help determine the direction of the protests. Iranian efforts to establish a substantial Internet presence -- efforts that have even led small villages such as this one to establish an Internet page -- will allow for outsiders to gain a greater understanding of Iran's closed society, along with an understanding of the nature of the Iranian dissident movement, and how to help it thrive. Iranians are enthusiastic users of the Internet, a fact that the Iranian regime has finally begun to notice with its newfound attempts to censor and restrict Internet content inside Iran.

Iranians are also receiving valuable information from
National Iranian Television (NITV), as well as cultural programming from Radio Farda (the organization's Farsi-language website is here), and the Voice of America's Farsi language service. NITV has become increasingly influential in shaping the national mood in Iran. The Iran Democracy Act, currently pending in Congress, promises to fund satellite television and opposition groups with as much as $57 million. In this way NITV may be able to remain financially viable while not having to require subscriptions from Iranians to its satellite television service, and may be further empowered to frustrate the satellite jamming activities regularly undertaken against its broadcasts by the Islamic regime.

Iranians are increasingly -- and strongly -- in favor of enhancing their country's
relationship with the United States, with some going so far as to hope for American military action against Iran, once the United States was finished defeating the Ba'athist regime in Iraq. The days of "Death to America" may be passing, with more and more Iranians looking to the United States as an estimable role model in their own struggle to modernize and reform their country. To be sure, some Iranians remain wary of gharibzadegi, or "Westoxication" as the phenomenon is commonly referred to in English. But many other Iranians believe that their country will benefit from closer ties to the West. It should therefore surprise no one that instead of hearing "Death to America" out in the streets, the mullahs are increasingly listening to chants of "Death to the Taliban -- in Kabul and in Tehran!"

This then is modern day Iran -- a country whose people are determined to bring about revolutionary change. Indeed, such a need for change is part and parcel of the country's history -- as it struggles to finally realize the dream held by millions of Iranians of a democratic and pluralistic society that is a respected member of the international community.

Lest the hardliners in the Islamic regime believe that they will be able to ride out the protests against them in the long run, they need only consider the following passage in Amir Taheri's
biography of Ayatollah Khomeini to realize that in the long run, the regime is doomed:

But Iran in the past eighty-five years or so, the life span of [Khomeini], has also been an extremely unruly nation. In that period it has been ruled by two dynasties and six kings before the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Of the six kings of Iran in the period under study, one was assassinated and another died a broken man under the pressure of a constitutional revolution. All the other four were either forced to abdicate or were dethroned. Every one of them died in exile. Not a single one is even buried in Iran today.

Taheri wrote his book in 1985, while Khomeini was still alive. Currently, Khomeini defies the historical trend Taheri describes by remaining buried in Iran. But graves can always be dug up, and institutions brought down. And it appears that modern Iran is increasingly moving to do just that in its attempt to replace totalitarianism with democracy, and to cease the support of international terrorism in favor of joining with the international community to further enhance regional and global security and stability.



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