Iran’s deep political divide

This is the best essay on contemporary Iran I’ve read in a long time . An excerpt:

The key to the Islamists’ “anti-imperialism” is not the emancipation of the subaltern, but self-preservation. Ahamadinejad’s “anti-imperialism” has meant little to the well-being and the emancipation of ordinary people: the excluded, the poor, and women. If anything, hardliners have denied most citizens of their economic benefit and human rights, while their extremist rhetoric and exclusivist practices have justified and dignified neo-liberal enemies in the west. Their undemocratic precepts have given ammunition to the most intolerant Islamophobes and warmongers in the United States and Europe, enabling them to wage a protracted campaign in which mostly poor and downtrodden Muslims get victimised.

Think: any of the talking heads of cable news. Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial statements have, since they were made, been extrapolated to the entire Iranian people, and even Muslims in general. This is the main reason why the Daily Show’s brilliant Jason Jones “Behind the Veil” segments were so shocking to so many Americans.

Under the “anti-imperialist” Ahmadinejad, scores of NGOs have been closed down; hundreds of dissident students, faculty, women, and civil-society activists have been incarcerated, and the mass protests of teachers, bus-drivers, and other workers have been suppressed. It was under Ahmadinejad’s government that subsidies were cut, privatisation reached a new height (eighteen times more than that in 2001-03), and a 25% inflation-rate brought low-income people to their knees. Ahmadinejad’s electoral campaign in 2005 focused on fighting corruption, generating jobs and a generous redistribution of oil money. But under his government, cronyism and corruption reached a new level, and people living below the poverty-line increased (by 13%), with 9 million-10 million falling below it (according to the Islamic Works Council). In fact, judging on economic policies and support for the public sector, Mir-Hossein Moussavi is certainly more to the “left” than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

[…]

The shocking outcome of the elections dashed hopes and inspired a profound moral outrage that in turn fed into a broad-based protest movement unseen in the history of the Islamic Republic. This movement, neither a class struggle against a pro-poor government nor a secularist war against religious rule, embodies a post-Islamist democracy movement to reclaim citizenship within a religious-ethical order. It articulates the long-standing yearnings for a dignified life free from fear, moral surveillance, corruption, and arbitrary rule. Indigenous and non-violent, it represents a green wave for life and liberty.

This is such an important point, as I personally know some fellow lefties who wrongly believe Ahmadinejad is a Persian Hugo Chavez with slightly nastier views on Israel.

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