June 12, 2013


To vote or not to vote? Iranians wary after revolts and uprisings turn sour (Lina Attalah, 6/12/13, The Guardian)

As Iranians prepare to vote for a successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the ghosts of the past are unavoidable. Four years ago the presidential election turned into the biggest political uprising in Iran since the Islamic revolution 30 years earlier.

Now, for those who hoped both acts of insurrection would lead to a better future the options are decidedly limited.

On the ballot paper, there is a list of six men, all vetted and approved by the clerical authorities, and only one of them, Hassan Rouhani, has any claim at all to be interested in change and in opening up Iran.

On the streets the revolutionary fervour that gripped the capital for two intoxicating weeks in 2009 is absent, the chances of a repeat performance small. [...]

Arang Keshavarzian, a New York university professor, says: "All elections, and I've no reason to think this one is different, are simultaneously a moment for the regime to seek to define the contours of politics and a space for citizens to engage in political discussions and actions. As such, they are unique moments and social spaces that are always pregnant with hope and fear."

Keshavarzian recalls how, even in 2001, at perhaps the high watermark of Iranian reformism under Mohammad Khatami, that president's re-election bid in June of that year was briefly threatened by a progressive boycott as people questioned the efficacy of his reforms - only to re-engage with him on the eve of the polls.

Transcending the disappointment over the end of reformism, however, is a deep-held sense of citizenship that does prompt Iranians to vote.

"I try to make the best out of being here. That's why we will have to vote," says Gulzar, an artist who has tried going abroad to study but failed to get a visa.

For Sadeghi there seems there could be a moment to grab. "People [have become] disenchanted with how the state is controlling Islam. And when there is a vacuum in hegemonic power you have to overcome that depression and make an ambush. But you have to be patient. This is politics. Politics means patience."

Posted by at June 12, 2013 8:29 PM

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