Another spring

Thirty years after the Iranian revolution,can Khatami be the man of the moment?

Written by The Indian Express | Published: February 11, 2009 12:18 am

Thirty Februaries ago,Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini landed in Tehran on an Air France flight and brought the Islamic Revolution in Iran to its messianic success. By then Reza Shah Pahlavi — the last Shah of Persia,guilty of brutal suppression of opposition,inhuman use of torture,criminal neglect of the poor and abject subservience to the US — had already fled. Iranians felt happy and free again. Millions had lined the streets,to be shot by the Shah’s imperial guards before,to celebrate their deliverance after. But as with all revolutions,that which abolishes a savagery,replaces it with one of its own. The aftermath of the revolution saw kangaroo courts that gave the old order back what it had given,with as much blood and gore. Over these 30 years,one reformist leader or the other,political or spiritual,has failed to increase civil and political liberties and the will of the Supreme Leader has remained inviolate.

Seyed Mohammad Khatami,whose two-term presidency from 1997 to 2005 has sometimes been called the “Tehran Spring”,was the last to try,till the Guardian Council stepped in,blocked out the reformists from the last elections which brought the reactionary and conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s indulgence,Ahmadinejad has further isolated Iran,with nuclear obduracy as well as distasteful rhetoric,not to mention his Holocaust denial project. On the domestic front,his tenure has seen the erosion of Khatami-era freedoms,bad governance and economic mismanagement. Khatami has taken his time to announce his candidacy for this summer’s elections,but the procrastination notwithstanding,he has done the right thing. His previous tenure was in the end a record of lost chances to undertake deeper reform and to make good on his offer of a dialogue on civilisations to bring Iran constructively back for substantive

engagement with diverse countries.

As the Iranian regime celebrates the revolution and then prepares for the elections,the world knows that it needs Iran back in the international arena. If Iranian leaders isolate the country or others boycott it,nobody’s interest will be served. Iran is not a model democracy,but it does have a

democratic mechanism.

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