This was originally published as part of my post “Maryam Namazie Frequently Publishes Misrepresentations about Iranian Politics”. I feel this part which argues in general deserves its own independent post for future linking.
It happens often that Iranians who have lived outside Iran for decades or less portray a very misleading and dishonest picture of Iranian politics and the 2009 protests that broke out after the fraudulent “reelection” of Ahmadinejad. I don’t know why these Iranians do so. Maybe they’re projecting their wishful thinking into facts, and indeed it seems to be so. Maybe they’re lying and they want to make their own supporters think that they are powerful. Indeed, in Iran, if you ask anyone – whether it is regime supporters or reformist or the revolutionary opposition – it seems that 98% of Iranians firmly support them and that 2% are paid by the USA or the Islamic regime.
There is a dangerous narrative shared by some members of the opposition.
This narrative is that all the officials in the Iranian regime are the same, that there is no difference between reformists like Mousavi and moderates like Rouhani and fundamentalists like Ahmadinejad, and what Iran needs is a revolution that overthrows the regime, and that when that revolution happens, a secular democratic utopia is just around the corner.
I know that to your western ears this might seem very obvious. Why would I – an atheist and a liberal – be so adamantly opposed to the idea of a revolution that overthrows the regime? Why would I have to look inside a theocratic regime to see which ones are the moderates and which ones are the reformists to choose someone among them?
But that is a wrong impression. We support people and ideas based on their consequence. And actual facts have shown – again and again – that following these opposition members has no consequence but pain and misery.
They usually want us to boycott elections. They say that the reformists who are allowed to run and the conservatives are no different. But that is simply not true. Anyone who has actually lived under Khatami and Rouhani can you that there are great differences. Now the differences were bigger under Khatami, but that’s not the most important point – the most important point is that Ahmadinejad was a disaster. He destroyed the economy and brought the country to the brink of financial ruin, he made everything worse. If you asked Iranians, they all felt a country called Iran might not be on the map anymore.
The position of the opposition is dangerously wrong because of that. No matter how small or insignificant is our political breathing space, we need to use that space to prevent people like Ahmadinejad taking power. These people are not your normal conservatives. They’re not your normal religious fanatics. They can destroy an entire nation and they almost did.
So basically, the opposition is asking us to roll the dice and gamble. If we boycott the elections, as we are asked, either a relatively moderate conservative will come to power, who might or might not make the situation worse, but will surely not make it much better, or a fanatic like Ahmadinejad might come to power. And Ahmadinejad did come to power because Iranians either didn’t vote for his conservative rival (he’s now a leading reformist) or mistakenly believed his economic promises or mistakenly thought he is the lesser of two evils.
But why should we make such a gamble? If you can use your very limited power and voice to elect into office rational and moderate people, why not do that? Just to make a statement about how fake Iranian elections are? Is our actual well-being worth less than political statements about the validity of Iranian elections? Or, to actually make sure that Iran gets worse, people get riled up, and the Islamic Regime falls? Are we the meat fodders of the opposition? Should we welcome poverty and sanctions and suffering and death to marginally increase the chance that the regime might fall?
Ultimately people like Maryam Namazie don’t care for Iranian people. What they care for – the only thing they care for is the downfall of the regime, and it doesn’t matter what is the human cost of that.
Now, you might say, Kaveh, isn’t the human cost worth it if the regime falls and Iran becomes a democracy?
Which makes me ask you – why are you so sure there will be a democracy? What makes you sure that Iran won’t become an unstable country like many other, torn apart in civil war? Who guarantees that another authoritarian regime will not take the place of this one?
You see, in the fictional world of the Iranian opposition, all Iranians are already “democrats”, or their understanding of the concept anyway. And the cause of all problems is one thing and that is the Islamic Regime. Ask them about any problem and it will be solved once the regime is overthrown. Economy! Politics! Even the environment! Just kill this monster and then everything will be alright. The Islamic Regime is the only obstacle against utopia!
But history teaches us that it is not so. Iranians had the same attitude towards the Shah’s regime. The Shah was the symbol of all evil and the sole cause and if you just overthrew him everything would be fine. Well, he was overthrown. The results, as you might know, were not as stellar as the revolutionaries expected. Now some of the same people who gladly jumped on the revolutionary bandwagon back in the 70s are selling us the same narrative about the current regime. Some have the nerve to do it whilethey’re admonish Iranians for buying it back in the 70s and bringing the “mullah regime” into power.
And the most dangerous delusion of the Iranian opposition is their delusion that there is no racial and ethnic tensions inPersians and the Kurds and the Turks and the Arabs are living in absolute harmony and everyone is wronged by the same regime. But ask any Kurd or Arab or Turk in the poor regions of Iran and they will have a much more different story to tell you.
And even if the regime falls, who takes their place? The Royalists? The communists? The horrifying terrorist cult the Mojahedeen who are a medley of Pol Pot and Al Qaeda? The ultra-nationalists a majority of whom are vicious racists completely indifferent to the ethnic minorities? People who think Reza Shah was a good ruler – an authoritarian dictator who killed journalists and undid all the reforms of the Constitutional Revolution – people who openly support Reza Shah’s act of removing women’s hijab forcefully?
Or the handful of democrats who lack all organization and support and have absolutely no power?
There is simply no guarantee that the Islamic Regime can be overthrown without a civil war and much bloodshed. The regime has shown repeatedly that it will crush every protest. Many people believe what they did in Syria is like a testing ground for what they should do if Iranian people rise. So if – theoretically speaking – people pour into streets and the regime starts killing them, they either have to make a choice to go back home (the revolution has failed) or fight back (civil war). The regime has a legion of supporters who are by no means small and by no means support it only out of financial greed, and they will most possibly will not back down (civil war). The anger that the ethnic minorities have might erupt and cause them to rebel, to ask for secession, and the nationalists would never allow that (civil war).
Also remember that if we actually do let the worst sections of the Islamic Republic rule, they’ll just destroy the country so much that it will take decades before the country recovers (right now it will take years to undone Ahmadinejad’s damage), and that greatly reduces the chances of a stable country to come afterward.
So – does it make sense now that we prefer to not listen to our dear opposition members living comfortably in the West and not risk total annihilation of our country and instead vote for reformists in hopes that the country moves away from the brink of destruction?