Only Democracy Can Save Iran
In an interview with Borna news agency last week, Jahan-Baksh Khanjani, a former deputy minister of Iran, has said that Iran’s policy-making centers, chief amongst them the Majles (parliament) “are infested with extremist people who have shallow views on the roots of the country’s deep social and economic problems.”
The confession does not come as news to the Iranian people. The birth of the Islamic Republic in 1979 has seen the continuous decline of a fast developing country that was at peace with the world, into one that is ruled by an archaic regime whose regional policies threaten world peace.
The “revolutionary” regime’s medieval ideology of “uniting the Islamic Umma”- as perceived by its founder Ayatollah Khomeini – “justified” its meddling in the affairs of other Muslim countries, which led to the eight year long Iran-Iraq war in which two million people were killed.
The scenes of mothers wailing and beating their faces while burying the remains of their young loved ones killed in that war, or having lost them at the gallows for petty crimes or opposition activities, have come to define the image of Iran under the theocratic rule of a regime that was supposed to bring democracy and prosperity to the country.
Thirty-six years on, its repressive domestic policy has alienated millions of young Iranians, forcing them to either flee the country for a better future, or stay and resort to drugs or criminality and waste their lives away.
Following a North Korean doctrine, children are brainwashed at primary schools to worship The Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and be prepared to sacrifice their lives for him “in battles against the infidels.”
Apart from having the highest number of executions in the world (according to Amnesty International’s report last month), Iran also tops the list of countries for brain drain syndrome, where thousands of its highly educated people immigrate abroad every single month.
Its repressive domestic policy has brought nothing but calamities for the Iranians.
The Islamic Republic’s interventionist foreign policy has led to its open military involvement in the flash points of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Yemen, fanning the flames of wars and destruction in many of Iran’s Muslim neighbors, while at the same time providing clandestine support to anti-government forces in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and Central Asian countries.
Yet, Iran does indeed face deep social and economic problems that if left unanswered, will become an existential threat.
In addition to the loss of human resources, decades of corruption and mismanagement in every government department have taken their toll on Iran’s natural resources, which must sustain the life of its 80 million citizens.
From the slow death of its lakes and rivers to facing regular suffocating dust storms blowing in from neighboring countries, as well as uncontrolled industrial and domestic pollution, Iran’s environmental challenges have reached a level that if continued at their current alarming rates could soon pose a greater threat to the country’s stability than any external adversaries.
“The main problem that threatens us and is more dangerous than Israel, America or political fighting… is that the Iranian plateau is becoming uninhabitable,” presidential adviser Issa Kalantari has warned in the newspaper Ghanoon. “If this situation is not reformed, in 30 years Iran will be a ghost town.”
The current Rouhani government may have made the removal of economic sanctions on Iran a pre-condition to be able to implement his reforms and tackle the numerous problems that Iran faces today, but so long as the extremist factions within the Islamic Republic hold key policymaking positions, no meaningful reforms are possible within this regime.
However, Iranian independent opposition forces including my organization, the Center for a Democratic Iran, offer an alternative path of establishing a democratic and secular system of governance to secure progress and prosperity for our nation, and for peace and stability for the Middle East.