Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How It Might Succeed


And thanks to Stanford and
Dr. Milani for inviting me. I hope you can all hear,
because the loudspeaker doesn’t work very well. So I’m loud enough that
the students can hear me, way in the back. If you don’t hear me, please
raise your hand or speak loudly, so that I
can [INAUDIBLE].. OK. I’m going to be speaking
for, let’s say, half an hour, or 40 minutes at most. And then we open it for
a question-and-answer. If you don’t speak English,
the second section, I can turn it into
Farsi, Persian, and translate it for those
who don’t understand Persian, so we have two different
level of understanding. OK. My book is about
Democracy in Iran– Why it Failed and
How It Might Succeed. OK. I have an understanding of
Iran and Iran’s revolution and its outcome that’s very
different from current academic understanding. So I’ll tell you a
little bit about it and then talk about
the challenges against the revolution
and the Islamic Republic. And then we end it with
a sort of aftermath of the Green Movement. And, if you are
interested, we can talk about the recent events
in December and January that happened in Iran. Those are not
included in the book. The book was published in
2016 and so [INAUDIBLE].. But I predicted that
it would happen. I’ll show you how. [LAUGHTER] Oops. [INAUDIBLE] Something went wrong already. [LAUGHTER] OK. Now we have it. OK, thank you. OK. There are different
understanding of what democracy means and what
democratization is all about. I define “democratization”
as “the process of empowering the civilian population,”
ordinary people, “vis-a-vis the state.” So, throughout
human civilization, states in the Middle
East and in Asia have been powerful, imposing,
dictatorial government. And democracy’s supposed
to be countering that by empowering the civilian
population against the state. So, above all,
democratization requires what I call
“political equality,” meaning that people
have political rights and equal rights. So, with democracy, you cannot
have and aristocracy ruling the society and the state. So that’s the first, most
important requirement of democracy and
democratization. So you have to have
rule of law, you have to have freedom
of expression, freedom of association,
gathering, protest. All of those things are part of
democracy and democratization. If you don’t have
them, you are not empowering the
civilian population. All of those items
that people talk about fall under the
category of empowering the civilian population
and providing equal political rights for
countries that are democratic. So the first consequence of
that kind of an arrangement, that kind of a definition
of “democracy,” is that democracy is
incompatible with any kind of theocracy, whether it’s
Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist– whatever you call it. What comes from
God, or from Allah, cannot be rejected
by the people. In democracy, people
reject, people decide, people make the rules. And so democracy, then, is
incompatible with theocracy– and any kind of theocracy,
because they have irreconcilable conflicts
that cannot be reconciled. OK, I keep coming back
to the same slide. OK. The Iranian Revolution began
with a pair of conflicts. There were two conflicts against
the monarchy, against the Shah, in the latter part of the 1970s. The first one was about
political freedom. And people wanted
political freedom. In the summer of
1977, they started talking about [INAUDIBLE]. The second conflict
had to do with the official economic equity– better standard of
living, improvement in the livelihood of the
people, particularly the working and the middle classes. And the two conflicts–
the political conflict and the economic conflict– the
two of them, towards the end, joined together, produced
and ideological conflict, which was the third conflict. And that was against
the monarchy, and in favor of an
Islamic republic. So there were two conflicts,
produced a third conflict, and that ended the monarchy. The ideological conflict
ended the monarchical system. Now, what happened
after the revolution, the Islamic Republic
produced what I call “multiple
irreconcilable conflicts.” And these conflicts
were, first, people still wanted political freedom. Economically, they lost. There was a major loss
in the economic standing of the population. Then there were new
conflicts that emerged within the Islamic Republic. And these were
cultural conflicts. Then there were
social conflicts. Then there were religious
and anticlerical conflicts and tendencies that
we recently saw, last month, emerging in Iran. And the five sets of conflicts
have produced a sixth one. The result of the five conflicts
are ideological conflicts against the Islamic Republic. And now they are
calling– at least, a portion of the
population is calling– for an Iranian republic, as
opposed to an Islamic republic. This is new and since
the Green Movement. OK. Let’s see. So, the monarchy
produced two conflicts, became ideological
conflicts– three conflicts. The Islamic Republic has
produced five conflicts, and the sixth one is the
ideological conflict. So the Islamic Republic
is much more conflictual, compared to the Shah’s
regime prior to 1979. OK. During the
revolutionary struggles, various social
classes and groups emerged and demanded
political or economic rights, depending on their
class interest, depending on their capacity
for collective action. So, who was the first one
that started challenging– Sorry. Don’t be sorry. That’s fine. It’s a hard place to
find your way around. How’re you doing? Sorry about that. It’s no problem. I get a chance to drink
a little bit of water. OK. So, Iranian intellectuals,
like few other revolutions in the 20th century, stood in
the forefront of the struggles against the monarchy. And they basically wanted– at the beginning, they
wanted political freedom, and that’s all they wanted. OK. This guy keeps coming back. In the summer of 1977,
three leaders of what is called the National Front,
those who were supporters of Dr. Mousavi, the
prime minister of 1950s, they started demanding
political rights and asking the Shah
for political freedom and civil liberties. That’s all it was. And then those
demands were expanded by the participation of students
and other intellectuals, in the fall of 1977. And so most Iranian
intellectuals, in 1977, supported not an Islamic
system– don’t get it wrong. There are a number
of scholars who think that the Islamic
revolution began when intellectuals
switched to supporting an Islamic revolution
and an Islamic republic. My understanding is
somewhat different from it. The vast majority of Iranian
intellectuals in 1977 were either socialists
or supported some kind of liberal democracy. If you look at the
64 writers and poets, in the fall of 1977,
who participated in what is called in
Iran “poetry nights,” of the 64 of those 66%
were secular socialists or some kind of Marxists. 28% of them were
liberal nationalists. And only 6% were
actually Islamists. And none of those 6% actually
supported an Islamic theocracy that was to happen
in 1979, 1980. OK? So the intellectual
ideology in the 1970s, in moving into the revolution,
was very socialist or liberal and not an Islamic one. OK. Two major collectivities joined
the intellectuals and these were leftist students
at Tehran university and polytechnic and
other universities throughout the
country– these were not very large universities. At that time, the total number
of students in the country were about 150,000 or so. And then a major
social group that joined these struggles
for freedom and democracy were bazaar merchants. “Bazaaris,” we mean, in
Iran, are referred to as merchants,
shopkeepers, and artisans. They’re all gathered
together around bazaar. Very large place. There’s about 100,000
people working there and controlling about two
thirds of the country’s capital. OK. So these are the
main groups that started the struggle
for political rights during the Shah’s regime. In August of 1978, the
Shah’s regime decided, well, there were fewer
rounds of conflicts, and the number of
people who were killed during those conflicts produced
cycles of 40 days of mourning, and so forth. I don’t want to make
the story very long. But the Shah decided
to introduce– towards the end of August
of 1978, the Shah decided, we are going to
introduce some reforms. And what he called was
“national reconciliation,” a government that was–
whose prime minister was Mr. Sharif-Emami. Sharif-Emami came from
a religious background, an Islamic background. And the Shah thought, OK, he is
going to be good prime minister to take control of
things and introduce some political reforms
that would reduce the level of the conflicts. But what happened was that
the announcement of reforms suddenly expanded the political
conflicts from 70 cities, up to August of 1978,
to more than 170 cities. So the conflicts expanded,
once the Shah announced that, oh, yeah, we
are reforming things, and we have the national
reconciliation government. So it didn’t work out. It backfired. More importantly, the reforms
mobilized two other classes that joined the struggle
for greater economic rights. This was the industrial
working class but also the middle class,
white-collar employees that joined in and demanded
changes in the economic sphere. Mostly they wanted greater
salaries and benefits and so forth. By the end of the year
1978, Iranians gradually coalesced, demanding
political changes, as the working class
and the middle class became more politicized. I’m sorry. Go ahead. What? Why did they coalesce
to support the Islamic– [INTERPOSING VOICES] Very good question. But we can talk
about those things, because I am trying to get
to the– quickly trying to get to the program. [INAUDIBLE] OK, yeah. So what happened–
they were demanding more wages, more
salaries, greater rights in the workplace, and so forth. And the Shah was giving
in to some of the demands but not all of them. So there were a lot of
changes happening here. Workers go on strike there,
workers going on strike. And so some of the
demands were met. Some were not met. Some would accept to go back. Some didn’t accept to go back. And so then the Shah–
so this is a long story. This maybe will go
on all night tonight. So the Shah said, well,
nobody’s listening– imposed martial law in
12 cities and brought a military government. After two months, brought a
military-regime government and Mr. Azhari and then said,
well, everybody go home. Some people went home
and went back to work, and some people didn’t. And, as they didn’t, then bazaar
merchants suddenly showed up. They said, we have a protracted
struggle and conflict, and we are going to
fight [INAUDIBLE].. And the bazaar
merchants showed up. The workers in the south,
mostly in oil refineries and oil rigs– please come in. Oil workers joined
in and said, we are supporting the
overthrow of the monarchy. And we are supporting
actually a government that has two characteristics. One is anti-despotic,
anti-despotism. The other one was
anti-imperialism And so they shut down
the oil production, and so the lifeblood of the
regime basically dried up. And so, once oil wasn’t–
you couldn’t sell the oil, bazaar merchants were on
strike, workers were on strike– and particularly
led by oil workers. And that finally was a big
blow against the monarchy. By the way, a lot
of people think that, oh, the workers are, um,
they were supporting Khomeini, yes. Workers, merchants, everybody
was supporting Khomeini. But everybody supported
Khomeini because Khomeini was standing against
despotism, he said, against dictatorship–
all those things. The leadership of the
oil workers in 1978, as the conflicts were
going on, the oil workers organized this council. And about 35% of
the council avowedly declared that they
were Marxists. So, to think that workers
are very religious and so they are supporting
Khomeini wasn’t really true. Yeah. Most workers ended up, in
the end, supporting Khomeini, as the rest of the population. Everybody– by the
end of 1978, everybody was supporting Khomeini. Not because everybody
was an Islamist and wanted an Islamic theocracy,
but they had their own demands, and oil workers, in particular,
thought that, well, Khomeini comes and he takes power away
from the wealthy and the rich and will improve our living
standards, our conditions. So, those were some– sorry. So I have to move on. I hope I connected the dots. This is a long story. If we have to talk about
every aspect of this, this will be all night and
days and months, we’ll go. OK. By the end of 1978,
Iranians coalesced to support the formation
of an Islamic republic. So we come back to this. On December 10 and December
11, what is called Ashura– sorry, Tasoua and
Ashura marches. And this belonged
to the Muharram, which is very important to the
Shiites, the Shiite Muslims. And people knew that a lot of
people would be participating, because, first of all, two
important religious holidays, but also the government said,
as long as you do not shout anti-Shah slogans– “Death to the Shah,”
and things like that– you can come and march. They said, no,
OK, we won’t shout any slogans against the Shah’s
regime, against the Shah. So, permission was given. So they expected a lot
of people would come. And a lot of people, more
than 1 million people, at least in Tehran, showed up. And all major cities,
there were a lot of people who were
participating in the march. So organizers said,
well, OK, we need to have some marshals to guide
the march and the procession. And so we need every major
political organization who are non-Marxist or
non-Communist to provide a list names of people who would be
able to guide the marches, to be marched. And this is a very
fascinating story that most works, scholarly
works, haven’t gotten. Because I became
lucky, at one point. Luckily, I was at Harvard,
researching for my book, and just by accident I found
this interview that had been given in 1982 to a Harvard
librarian who had gotten some money to do a research
on, they called it, “oral-history project.” And so this was turned up. At the time– this is
December 10 and 11, 1978– the National Front,
the liberals, gave names of 2,500 people. The militant clergy,
Ayatollah [INAUDIBLE] and those who were following
Ayatollah Khomeini, they gave names
of 1,400 marshals, much less than the
National Front. And then it was the
Freedom Movement, who were Islamic liberals, led
by Prime Minister Bazargan. They gave names of 800 people. And then, finally,
the Mujahedin families gave the names of
400 to 500 people. And so this, in a way,
is very nicely, very interestingly
captures the capacity, organizational capacity,
of various groups at the time of the revolution. And so the clergy
doesn’t really have the great support that
they ended up claiming and the power that they ended up
grasping after the revolution. Because the clergy was not
a politically active group until very recently. We come close to
the 1979 revolution. In fact, the first
statement the clergy issued was in spring of 1978. So the National Front, which
is a much older organization, going back to the 1940s
and 1950s– so this is very interesting fact that
turned up in my research. Now, during those
marches, the Iranians acknowledged Ayatollah
Khomeini to be the leader of the revolution. And Khomeini, in fact, emerged
as the, they called him, “undisputed leader”
of the revolution. And there were major reasons. First, he took an
uncompromising stand against the Shah and his regime. So, by this time, a lot of
people are against the Shah, and that position was very much
accepted by the vast majority of the people at the time. Second, Ayatollah Khomeini
was in Iraq but then finally in Paris. And all domestic opposition
were afraid of speaking out and criticizing the
Shah the way he did. Because he had greater
freedom, being outside of the country, and the
people inside were less free– were afraid of being arrested,
put in jail, and so forth. Now, more importantly,
Ayatollah Khomeini repeatedly promised freedom
and an end to corruption. Those were some of
the major themes that the Ayatollah spoke
about, while in Iraq– 14, 15 years in Iraq
then a few months in Paris in the fall of 1978. Khomeini– these are
some of the statements he made while he was in Paris
and when he came back to Iran. So I don’t want to make
a long story short. You can read it very quickly. “In Islamic government,
there is no dictatorship.” “We think that force
and repression are not the means to progress.” “There is no
repression in Islam. There is freedom in
Islam for all classes– for women, for men, for whites,
for blacks, for everyone.” “Never allow a small
group to rule over you like in the bitter days
of despotism of the past. Do not forget the principle
of Islamic democracy.” “Repression has been buried
and will not return,” when he was back in Iran. So the Ayatollah
made great promises, and so Iranians liked a
lot of these promises. Khomeini then made even
more important promises. And let’s take a look– Whoops! [INAUDIBLE] Somehow, I
pressed too hard, I think. Oh! It came back. OK. [LAUGHS] It went to sleep. Maybe. I need to wake it
up, occasionally. It’s old, like me. It falls asleep very fast. [LAUGHTER] Now, once in power,
Khomeini pursued policies, three policies. Wait a minute. First, he rejected
political freedom and democratic institutions that
he had been promising for years that the Shah was a
dictator and Islam is not going to be dictatorial. And so. He and his allies,
what he did quickly, seized the assets of the
wealthy part of the population. And then he imposed social
and cultural restrictions. OK. So Khomeini undermined
prospects for democracy by establishing a
theocratic regime. So he established
a theocracy that appoints somebody by the
name of the velayat-e faqih. Now it’s commonly called the
Supreme Leader, basically. And the Supreme Leader is the
one who, in the constitution, says that, in the
absence of the 12th Imam, he is the leader of
the Islamic community. So that is a very important,
powerful position. In the absence of the 12th Imam,
the Mahdi, the Supreme Leader, or the velayat-e faqih
is the one to follow. So we have appointed
somebody that basically represents Allah. And when the constitution of
the Islamic Republic– actually, the referendum for the
Islamic Republic was passed, Khomeini– they put
it to a referendum. Do you want monarchy, or do
you want an Islamic republic? And the vast
majority, of course, voted for an Islamic republic. Who wants monarchy? Because we just overthrew it. And a few thousand people were
killed, in overthrowing it. So he didn’t give
an option of, do you want democracy or
an Islamic republic? He said, do you want monarchy
or an Islamic republic? And everybody said Islamic
republic, of course. And the Islamic
republic wasn’t clear what the political
rule was going to be. And he congratulated the
Iranian people and said, this is the same as
God’s government. It’s the Islamic
Republic, but it’s the same as God’s government. And those are big words. The Iranian people at the
time didn’t figure out what he was talking about. It’s the same as
God’s government. Now, Khomeini said, we–
the velayat-e faqih, the Supreme Leader is going
to be strong and powerful. People said, well,
why do we need to have a strong velayat-e
faqih, Supreme Leader? Doesn’t make any sense. And we just got rid of
one very powerful person. And he said, this is to
prevent dictatorship. [LAUGHTER] That was his response. And so it was supposed
to prevent dictatorship. So what he established,
in the end, was what I call an “exclusive
state” that basically eliminated all of the rivals
and the allies, as well, and established a harsher
regime than it had replaced. The fate of the Revolutionary
Council is very interesting. The Revolutionary
Council were 26 people who, after the
revolution, were composed by Khomeini’s
endorsement and so forth, to rule the country for about
the first year of the life of the Islamic Republic. Out of these 26 political
leader, 4 of them were assassinated. Please come in. Out of 26, 4 of them
were assassinated during the first year
of the Islamic regime. One of them died
very mysteriously. Ayatollah Taleghani,
when he criticized, in one of his sermons,
criticized the Islamic regime– even he himself
was an ayatollah, but he was too liberal. He criticized what was
going on in the country. Three days after his sermon,
he died very mysteriously in his [INAUDIBLE]. And the people said his
medications were changed. So out of the 26, then,
we had 21 survive. 21 survived until
after 2009 and 2010. Out of these 21, 19
of them were either against the Islamic Republic,
had joined the opposition, had joined the reformists,
one was executed– Ghotbzadeh, who was
Iran’s foreign minister during the hostage crisis. He was executed
in the mid-1980s. Please come in! –was executed. And one or two basically
withdrew– one, I think– withdrew from politics. And so, out of the 21,
Ayatollah Rafsanjani became also critical with
the conservative faction of the Islamic Republic. Out of the 21, we
had 2 that fully supported the Islamic Republic
and the conservative faction. And guess who those
two people were. [INTERPOSING VOICES] One was Ayatollah Khamenei, the
Supreme Leader, current Supreme Leader. The other was
Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, the head of the
Assembly of Experts that appoints the Supreme Leader. So those two were the survivors. The rest of them basically had
been in the opposition, forced out, something’s happened. OK. Ayatollah Khomeini. Once we got to 1981, 1981– 1979, the revolution happens. 1981, Banisadr is removed. First, Bazargan was removed. He was a member of the
Revolutionary Council. And then Banisadr, elected
as President, he was removed. In the fall of 1981,
Ayatollah Khomeini said, to protect Islam,
you can lie, you can spy, you can even drink alcohol. [LAUGHTER] It’s what happened. An exclusive state that ended
up doing these kind of things. Khomeini also produced
more important things– promised to reduce
inequalities and serve the interests of what he
called “mostazafan,” the poor– mostazafan. For five days
after he came back, he was speaking
about mostazafan. I have read all
of his writings– OK, not religious writings–
all the political writings, social issues, and
so forth Nothing about religious
practices and so forth. He has different
kind of writings. So all of the ones that were
addressed to the Iranian people and had to do with an Islamic
republic and its nature and so forth, all the statement
he made from 1963, when he was jailed, all the way to
1979 and throughout the period that he was in power,
to 1989 when he died, I’ve looked at all of them. And before 1979, he only once
used the term “mostazafan”– the poor, the oppressed,
the downtrodden. But after he came
back, he kept talking about mostazafan– the
downtrodden, the poor. And, of course,
it became– it was a very good way of surviving. And this is a time when
the regime is overthrown and leftist forces became
very powerful, very strong. So Khomeini realized, to get
the support of the working class and parts of
the middle class, you need to keep
talking about serving the poor, the oppressed,
and all of that, in order to eliminate the
left from competition. And it was somewhat successful. Islam would serve the
interests of the mostazafan– the oppressed and the deprived. And so I hope you can
read the rest of it. In the interests of time,
I am going to shift and get to the next slide. I hope it’s OK with you. [LAUGHS] OK. But the clergy
managed to control the resources of the country. As soon as the
monarchy is overthrown, much of the assets
of the monarchy was expropriated by the clergy. They established these
monopolistic entities, called various [INAUDIBLE]
and foundations. And they control,
basically until today, over 50% of Iran’s economy. And so the assets
of one organization that’s under the control
of Ayatollah Khomeini is called Setad Ejraiye
Farmane Hazrate Emam. That alone, according
to research by Reuters, has assets more
than $95 billion. That’s just one of these, the
foundations that [INAUDIBLE].. The Revolutionary
Guard also emerged to become what I call
sarcastically “the first armed bourgeoisie in Iran’s history.” These are armed bourgeoisie. When you make a bid– This is a capitalist
corporation, like a company. But it’s a company that
comes– when there is any bid, they come with arms. Who is going to win,
when you come with arms, this armed bourgeoisie? You are going to win,
without any bid offer. There’s one of the cases
that caught my attention. In the Persian Gulf,
in [INAUDIBLE],, they got this contract without
any bids but the government. And this was 970– more than 1 billion euros– dollars, sorry– 970,
something like that, euros, but over $1 billion. They took the money. They performed
about 2% of the task and then told the government,
we can’t do the rest of it. Get lost. And the government said,
well, they are more powerful. As I said, this is
armed bourgeois. And when you come with arms,
nobody can challenge you. The government
cannot challenge you. So, basically, they
call the shots. So they control– this is an
estimate by The Economist, that about 20% of Iran’s
economy is controlled by the Revolutionary Guard. OK, let’s move on. Now, comparison of the
life of Iranian people after the revolution. In 1979 and 1980, Iran’s GDP
per capita, or per capita GDP, 1979, 1980, was even,
equal, exactly equal to the per capita
GDP of South Korea. 1979 and 1980, both years. They were very similar. By the time we get to 2009, when
the Green Movement is going on, Iran’s GDP per capita
is less than one third of that of South Korea. That is the tragedy,
for the Iranian people. Those who wanted to improve
their economic conditions, this is what happened to them. Ranking of Iran’s GDP per
capita in 1976 to 2009. This is what– the
figures look like this. 1976, Iran had its highest
GDP per capita in history. And it was in 1976, Iran’s
GDP per capita was $13,300. That’s the dollar that
was denominated in 2005. But, in 2005 dollars, Iran’s GDP
per capita was $13,300 in 1976. $13,300 in 1976. By the time you get to 2009,
when the Green Movement was going on, Iran’s GDP
per capita– again, denominated in 2005 dollars– Iran’s GDP dropped to $9,400. So, between 1979 and 2009,
30 years, instead of Iranians gaining, their GDP
per capita declined. And then, by 2015, Iran needed
to boost its GDP per capita by about 76%, to catch up
with what they had in 1976– according to Eqtesad news,
that’s published in Iran. And that’s what happened
to Iran’s economy. So, you’re following me? So they lost in
the political relm. Instead of having political
freedom and the things that they were promised,
they got a Supreme Leader that basically represents God. So, in Farsi we say
[SPEAKING FARSI].. “From ditch into the well.” In English, you say “from the
frying pan into the fire.” That’s what that means. And then, economically,
this is what they lost. OK. Then, there was,
of course, rising inequalities and unprecedented
corruption and cronyism. It’s rampant in
Iran Unprecedented! That no one really has
heard of in Iran’s history. That’s what has been
going on in Iran. So, I’m going to make
a long story short. And inequality’s
expanded worse than what it was during the Shah’s time. The Gini coefficient
increased– since I don’t have a lot of
time, I’ll be very quick. The Gini coefficient
is what measures– is a measure, an
index, of inequality, the distribution of income. Vittorio Gini was an Italian
sociologist and statistician that came up– measuring all this,
since I don’t have time to tell you all about that part. So, the lower the
number, when you look at Gini coefficient,
the lower the number, the more equality. The higher the number,
is more inequality. So, during the Shah’s
time, late 1970s, inequalities were rising. So people argued
that that was one of the reasons for the
conflicts against the Shah, the struggle for
freedom, and all that. So Ahmadinejad kept
arguing that, oh, we have reduced the Gini coefficient. Inequalities have declined in
Iran, and we are doing great. He was very successful. I looked at the same
numbers, and I did the math. He was lying. The numbers they give
to the United Nations are very low, showing that
Iran is very egalitarian. But when you do the math, the
numbers are really different. And so Iran’s inequality is
very high right now and very similar to some of
the Latin American countries that have
been historically very– have had very high
levels of inequality. So this was promises
to reduce inequality. So there is polarization
of wealth and income. So you take the top
1% to bottom 1%, or you take the top 10 to bottom
10, or top 20 to bottom 20, all of them show very high level
of inequality in the country. Even Ayatollah Khamenei– and
you can read the statement. Khamenei, in 2003,
“Dispensing economic justice has been one of the
regime’s most cherish yet unrealized goals since
its establishment nearly a quarter-century ago.” So even the regime itself
admits that inequalities have– they haven’t been able
to deal with them. OK. Now, the third one and last one. But last one, before I get
to the Green Movement– so there’s a lot to come. I apologize. Long evening, here. So here we have, the regime
had promised all the freedoms and democracy and so forth. But what they did–
the theocracy imposed social and cultural
restrictions that nobody, none of the major participants
in the revolutionary coalition, had demanded, had asked for. The result was that
the only people who had freedom in
their personal lives– to listen to music, to
dress the way they want to, or to drink alcohol,
or to go and dance, or whatever you want to
do in personal lives, they lost those freedoms. And so the result was that those
personal liberties, liberties that they had– taken away from them. Not only they lost economically,
they lost politically, but they also lost
socially and culturally. And so this brings the
whole thing together. So, drinking, and some
music, were forbidden. Women cannot sing any longer. Some of the best
Iranian singers, historically, have been women. And they say, no, women cannot
sing, wherever there are men. And of course, not on
the radio or television because there are a lot of men
that are listening or watching. Women can sing for women,
but not for everybody else. OK. Women were relegated
very quickly to second-class citizenship. And women’s dress and
makeup were restricted. And so I’ll talk about–
come back about this a little bit later. So there were all these
changes that, in a way, once I look at it, people
were forced into Firdaus. So, those of you who
are Persian here– and I see a lot of Persian– “Firdaus” is a term that most
Iranian don’t use as much. And so it means
basically “paradise.” The Greeks who went to
Persia– [? old days ?] I’m talking about–
learned that there is something called “Firdaus.” And they didn’t have
F in their language, so they said [? “parados.” ?]
And eventually it came into English language
as “paradise.” And so that’s what you
got from the Persians, going back a few
thousand years ago, that Zoroaster had come
up with the idea for this. So basically what the
Islamic Republic did, they have put chains and
shackles on their hands and on their feet, and they’re
dragging them forcefully into heaven. [LAUGHTER] What a heaven it is. [LAUGHTER] And so this is what
people hadn’t asked for but they were forced to. There were casualties
in the revolution. During the
revolutionary struggles, 3,000– close to 3,000,
not exact– close to 3,000 were killed between
1977 and Feb. 11, 1979. Now, more, many
more, people were killed resisting the theocracy
between 1981 and 1985. And I’m not including
the people who were, right after the
revolutionary war, were executed. Several hundred people– army
generals, and so forth– were executed by the Islamic regime. But between ’81 and ’85, nearly
12,000 people lost their lives. And then, two months
during the summer of 1988, 5,000 people were executed. Recently, the
International Tribune investigated it and called it
“crime against humanity,” what happened in two months in 1988. Ayatollah Khomeini ordered
the execution of 5,000 people, and so constitutes as a
crime against humanity. OK. Now, despite this what I
call “endless repression” that the Islamic Republic has
imposed on the population, we have had challenges
against the Islamic Republic. First one comes 1999. 2003, 2009, and now
we just had the 2017. 2018 hasn’t ended
yet, so I’ll tell you what I’m predicting–
my book predicted. Students remain, just like
the revolutionary struggles, students remain in the
forefront of the struggle. And more than 4,000 of them
were killed between ’81 and ’85 that we just talked about. And then student protested again
in 1999, and again in 2003. One of their very
popular slogans that was just picked up, just
this past month by the poor– I call the “poor people’s
movement”– in 2017, end of 2017, early 2018. They picked it up. And the slogan was that
“The people are miserable. The clerics are
acting like gods.” [SPEAKING FARSI] That’s a very
challenging slogan that attacks the very foundation,
the economic, the political, the ideological foundation
of the Islamic Republic. Who can claim to be God? And that’s what the
students were shouting. The poor people,
now, in last month, they picked up the same
slogan, and they were shouting the students’ slogan. And then the students
protested again in 2003. They were all harshly repressed,
because the students, often, are alone. The students are usually in
the vanguard of struggles and against any
dictatorial regime. And without students–
but also, in Iran, without women and students, we
won’t have much of anything. Those are the two
groups that have been fighting for a long, long time. And they were
unfortunately repressed. And what happened–
their struggles was picked up in 2009,
during the Green Movement. And the Green Movement
happened during the presidential election. It was a disputed election. So the opposition said, we
won, and they have evidence to present that they won. The regime claimed
that Ahmadinejad won. So one side was claiming Mousavi
won, and the other side said, no, Ahmadinejad won. And so the initial
conflict in the struggle was, where is my vote? What happened to my vote? And my vote has gotten
lost and wasn’t counted. And there was fraud
and dishonesty. And, on June 15, an
estimated 3 million people marched silently in
Tehran, demanding to know what happened
to their vote. A week later, about– four, five days later– on June 19, Ayatollah
Khamenei warned the people to stay off the streets. And he said,
Ahmadinejad has won, and anybody that’s against
it is going to be punished. And so the opposition
leaders were warned that you are going
to be held responsible for the bloodshed. And so protests– as soon
as Ayatollah Khamenei– the election was on June 12. On June 19, Khamenei
said the last word. He said, Ahmadinejad was
won, and it’s finished. It’s completely done. The people who were talking
about, where is my vote, they changed their slogan– “Death to the dictator.” And “Death to Khamenei.” Basically one week
after the election, they were radicalized. And they were calling “Death
to Khamenei” and “Death to the dictator,” and so forth. And so it became
increasingly radicalized. So, became increasingly
[INAUDIBLE].. “Khamenei is a murderer and
his leadership is revoked.” “Khamenei ghatel-e,
velayatesh batel-e.” “We did not give our
lives to compromise and won’t praise the
murderous leaders.” OK. Others revised and they were
calling for “Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic.” As opposed to the
revolutionary slogan, 1979, when they were calling
for independence, freedom, Islamic republic, now– and the poor people’s
movement, also, they started calling for
Iranian republic. So it became very radical. One week after the election,
the movement became very radical and demanded major
changes in the country. Now, to circumvent
the repression that the regime was imposing,
dissidents wrote slogans. As soon as repression came,
they started to say, well, what can we do? They said, write our slogans on
currency notes, on the bills. And so bills are circulating
with pictures of Khamenei crossed out or slogans. And slogans included
“Death to the dictator,” “Down with Khamenei,” and “Fear
the storm of dust and dirt.” “Dust and dirt” comes
from a statement that, right after the election,
Ahmadinejad was asked– he claimed that he had won. So journalists
asked him, so, what do you think these people
in the streets are saying? They’re saying that you lost. And you say you won. So what’s your response? Ahmadinejad said, well,
after ever football game, people make a lot of noise
and people jump up and down, and they produce dust and dirt. And these are dust and
dirt, those people. And so these people
came out and said, well, fear the storm of dust. OK, that’s what we are. OK. So the government basically was
forced to collect those bills and outlaw the activities. And a lot of money was
wasted, by doing that. They had to reprint the money– which they do every day, anyway. [LAUGHTER] That’s why Iranian
currency is so worthless! In response to the protests, the
regime speeded up repression. I had promised you to be
short, but you know what? I had to wait for people to walk
in, so it’s not all my fault. [LAUGHTER] But this is getting
a bit longer, so if you don’t mind, I
will speed through it a bit, so that we can talk more. OK. In the 50 days after the
presidential election, the regime executed
about 115 people. These were not even announced. This is according to
Amnesty International, that had the count. It was to intimidate. Many of these people were
drug dealers or peddlers, and so forth. They were executed to intimidate
the political opposition. And some of the 115 were
also political prisoners who were executed during the time. And authorities, at one point,
banned shouting “Allahu akbar.” My goodness! This is an Islamic republic! If you can’t shout “Allahu
akbar” in an Islamic republic, what’s happened to
this Islamic republic? They came to power with
shouting “Allahu akbar,” but [? that’s when ?]
they were frightened. But during 1978, ’79, they
were going to rooftops and shouting “Allahu
akbar,” and the same thing was happening again. And some universities
told their students, don’t come with green objects. And a lot of people
came in green objects– women with scarves
or various kind of thing– and so
they were banned. Ayatollah Khamenei warned
against political activities. I’m going to move from
this one to the next. [INAUDIBLE] Now, the Green Movement
reemerged in 2011. End of 2010 and 2011, if you
remember, in end of 2010, somebody was
overthrown in Tunisia. Anybody remembers? Ben–? [INTERPOSING VOICES] Thank you. Ben Ali was overthrown. And then, on February
11, 2011, somebody else was overthrown, in Egypt. On February 11, the
same day the Shah was overthrown in
Iran, in 1979, Feb. 11, 2011, now– Mubarak. –Mubarak was
overthrown, in Egypt. And so the opposition said– first, the government
said, the conservatives said, OK, this is the impact
of the Islamic revolution. These are all anti-imperialist,
anti-American. You wee, the Islamic
revolution is spreading. The opposition quickly– Mousavi
and Karroubi, two leaders, they picked up– they said, oh, yes! We want to have a march in
support of all these people who are fighting for democracy. The regime said, what? You want to support them? Finished. So, quickly arrested
the two leaders and put them under house
arrest and banned the protest and demonstration. So first they
supported it, but then, as soon as the opposition
said, oh, yeah, we want to speak in
favor of this protest that you’re supporting,
that have been successful. They said, of course not. And so they blocked them. OK. I think we talked about this. We have to move
a little quickly. It’s almost 7:30. You have time. It’s OK. The Green Movement ended
up shaking the foundation of the Islamic Republic. The protesters, their
mobilization and scale of the protests, and swift
radicalization of the movement participants, they
basically targeted the economic, political and
social-ideological foundation of the Islamic Republic. They didn’t want to have any
part of it– any part of it. And, more importantly,
the regime basically– it became
clear that the regime had lost the support of important
portions of its own base, including the
Revolutionary Guard. OK. To repress the movement–
the Green Movement, I’m talking about– they had to bring the
Basij from various cities. Make a long story short, some
of the commanders and leaders of the Revolutionary
Guard, apparently, according to their
own statements, were not interested in
repressing the Green Movement. And so they said,
OK, what do we do? We need to bring in more troops,
and troops may not shoot. And so, if people come
out and don’t shoot, then that will cause
all kinds of problems. So they said, we’ll
bring in Basij. And they were lucky
that they had the Basij. This is General Jaafari,
down here, at the bottom. He says “Had the
Basij not existed, we don’t know what
might have happened, and it is possible that
the seditionists might have achieved their goals,”
meaning over from the regime. And so they were
able to bring Basij from smaller and
medium-sized cities to Tehran and large cities and
repress the opposition. So, after the movement,
during all these conflicts, 10 commanders of the
Revolutionary Guard who had participated
in the Iran-Iraq war died in less than one year. Four of them, these commanders,
died in four consecutive days. And nobody explained
why this happened, what happened to these
Revolutionary Guard commanders. OK. The movement, in
the end, failed. Sorry, I had to move quickly. I know you’re writing. The movement failed to
democratize Iran, largely because of four major reasons. One was insufficient leadership,
that Mousavi and Karroubi did not play a leading role,
particularly at the beginning. There was a disjunction
between the leadership and the protesters. And then there was also
limited solidarity structures. And they failed to consolidate
and form a broad coalition. And those factors were important
in the failure of the Green Movement and the
success of the Islamists during the 2009, 2010,
all the way going to 2011. So, why was the
leadership insufficient? The leadership was
insufficient because, at the beginning, the leaders– Mousavi and Karroubi– basically
they were following the events, rather than leading. Mousavi showed up during the
first protest, on June 15. And he told the protesters–
millions of people, 3 million in Tehran– and he
said, well, this doesn’t have– He wanted to ask them not
to participate in a march, or in any event, because
he had asked for a permit. They didn’t give him a permit. And so he said, don’t go. People just said, we are
participating in this. 3 million people, how
do you block them? How do you prevent that? So they– And then finally he showed
up, and he said something about thanking
them, and so forth. And he happened to be an admirer
of Ayatollah Khomeini, which a lot of people didn’t want to– he also urged the
protesters to be faithful to the Islamic Republic
and to the sacred Islamic– and a lot of people didn’t
like the “sacred” element of the Islamic
Republic that Mousavi was talking about, asking the
people to remain faithful. So the people are
asking for one thing. Mousavi and Karroubi are
asking for another thing. And he said, those
people who are among you who are
shouting radical slogans, they are part of the regime. They are provocateurs. And that’s what is going on. Don’t get fooled. But this was the majority
of the people who were shouting radical slogans. And so the 5 people,
10 people who were trying to provoke these
people– who these people were? Hundreds and thousands
and sometimes millions of people who are
shouting radical slogans. They are all agents of the
regime, participating in it? It didn’t make any
sense to the people. OK. As in the past, there were
problems with the solidarity structure of the movement. Students remained in the
forefront of those struggles. And 112 people died,
during those protests, of the Green Movement. 112 people died. Not executions. 100 people died during the
protests in the street. Out of those 112 people,
we had the occupation of a whole bunch of them. 50% of those whose
occupation were clear were students, basically,
mostly students from universities and colleges
that died during the protests. They were students. OK. Women also stood in the
forefront of the struggles. 11.6% of those killed during
the Green Movement were women. The New York Times
reports that sometimes, when both boys and
girls were fighting against the thugs and
the Basij, and so forth, throwing stones and shouting
slogans, sometimes the boys– often, they’d hit
a little harder. They would run away. And the women said,
you cowards, come back! And that was the extent of
the struggle of women getting the boys to come and
join them in fighting against the Islamic Republic. Highly educated professionals
were a second category who participated. These were often intellectuals
and high-education doctors, lawyers, journalists in
particular, professors. And these people had broken
off from the Islamic Republic from very early on. This was the first
group that broke away from the Islamic Republic and
opposed the Islamic Republic. During that time, a lot
of them were arrested, imprisoned, some were killed,
and some left the country. But during these protests,
after the students that was the
second-largest category. About 22% of those whose
occupation were clear were professionals, of the 112
people that I’m talking about. OK. Self-employed also participated
in the Green Movement protests. And about 10% of those
slain, those killed, were self-employed. Workers also participated,
not as a collectivity, not as industrial workers,
but as individuals had participated. And they constituted
about 18% of those killed during the repression. OK. So there were other
categories that did not participate in the struggle. And that resulted in the
failure of the Green Movement. The clerics basically
were absent, because they are now the
beneficiary of the revolution. And only seven
clerics were arrested during the protest that
lasted exactly 20 months, with the Green Movement. Most bazaar merchants
who had participated in the 1979 revolution
did not participate in the Green Movement. And so they were also repressed. The bazaaris in Tehran were
getting ready to go on strike. Actually some of
them were on strike. And one of the leaders
of the of the bazaar was attacked by the militias and
was murdered during the Green Movement protests. So bazaaris stayed away
from joining the movement. OK. The industrial workers I talked
about also didn’t participate. And 18% of the [INAUDIBLE]
industrial workers. And the labor repression
was very intense after the revolution,
because they had moved towards the left,
where the left was very active among industrial workers. So Khamenei didn’t like it. And so their repression was
very intense and [? lost. ?] But 70% to 90% of
the Iranian workers have basically no job security. They have no unions [INAUDIBLE]. They don’t have the
solidarity to fight. They are in a very
precarious situation, and they ended up
not being participant during the Green Movement. OK. The absence of this
broad coalition resulted in the failure
of the Green Movement. And so the movement
happened, basically, in major, large cities. Medium-sized and smaller
cities didn’t have anything to contribute to the protests,
during the Green Movement. These were some of the cities
where the protests occurred. OK. And smaller and medium-sized
weren’t, so the regime was able to recruit
these Basij militias. And this is a few million
people we are talking about. People are paid for– civilian people who
are given some training but given monthly salaries. And whenever they
are needed to beat up on the protesters and the
people, they are recruited. And then, once it’s done, they
go back to their own work, to their own lives. And, when they are
needed, they come out and repress protesters,
students, and women, and so forth. So these were some of
the things that happened. After the Green Movement– I’m almost done, OK? I promise, this time. I will make sure [INAUDIBLE]. After the Green Movement
ended, the clergy came with a new
ideological twist. And the ideological twist was
that the regime’s legitimacy is not dependent on the
approval of the population. The people don’t
have any say about whether the regime
is legitimate or not. Legitimacy comes from God, the
Prophet, and the 12th Imam– the people. Now, what did that contradict? This claim contradicted what
is written in the constitution of the Islamic Republic. Because we have documents on
the constitution, fortunately. Not just in books and
papers, but also now we have the internet,
and it’s all there. And the Constitution
says, as you can read, “God has
made man the master of his own social destiny. No one can deprive
man of this divine right nor subordinate it
to the vested interest of a particular
individual or group.” We come to a situation
in which the rulers of the Islamic Republic are
contradicting their own claims about what rights
human beings have– the rights that were given
after the revolution, by the constitution, now
is contradicted and denied by the Islamic Republic. So now you can see
where we are going. Iranians continued the
passive resistance. And this is the last section. Passive resistance
actually began right after the 1979 revolution and
has continued until today. Until today, right now,
at the moment as we speak, Iranian are engaged
in passive resistance. In 2005, 2015, the regime
spent more than $2 billion to teach people about Islamic
culture and Islamic values. And what are those cultural
values and Islamic practices? Well, you should abide by
the rules of not drinking, cover your head, and don’t
listen to bad music, and– and so many things that
came after the revolution. Iranians violated basically
every aspect of those. Many Iranians refuse
to attend mosque. About 5% of about– Iran has about 60,000
Shi’ite mosques. About 5% of them are
annually fully operational. The rest of them– this is government’s
own statistics. 86% of Iranian youth,
86% of Iranian youth– university and college
students, high school– do not say the
obligatory daily prayers. And 75% of the entire
population do not say the obligatory prayer
that we just mentioned. OK. So elementary school
students, according to government officials,
come to school drunk. High school
students, same thing. Some of these Iranians
are converting. The favorite religion to
convert to is Christianity. And a lot of Iranians are
converting to Christianity. Majority of them watch
the satellite dishes. That’s forbidden. Has been forbidden
since early 1990s. Women constitute the most
rebellious category in Iran. And so, as we speak, I
should tell you, maybe take a little bit time after
the question-and-answer. So women refuse to
observe restriction on the head covering. And so makeup–
this fascinates me. Iran’s population is
about 17th in the world, according to Iran’s
Ministry of Health. And makeup consumption
is about 7th, right? 7th in the world. Iranian women use four times
more mascara than French women. [LAUGHTER] This is forbidden. Supposed to be,
without a question– [LAUGHTER] –forbidden. So 80% of high-school girls,
80% of high-school girls have boyfriends. I grew up in Iran. I didn’t see a single
girl to have a boyfriend. At this age, I didn’t
know anything about it. In colleges and
universities, yeah, when you get older, but
not in the high school. And so this [INAUDIBLE]. As we speak, in the past
few days, as we are talking, have you noticed it? The New York Times had an
article a few days ago. One woman showed up
on Revolution Street and took her scarf
off, put it on a stick, and started waving it. That has produced a
lot of other women– 29, until two hours ago, when
I came here– about 29 of them have been arrested. So they continue the struggle. They are not silent. They do not remain silent. And they don’t want to have
any of the things going on. OK. Girls in the
religious city of Qom don’t want to marry clerics. Qom is the capital,
right, of Islamic faith. And girls– and
these young clerics, who are supposed to be
the rulers of the country, cannot find mates sometimes. And that makes it
very painful for them. Young people– there’s
a fire festival– I should move on because
there’s too much to talk about– [INAUDIBLE] and all that. Fire festival is celebrated. Although the regime said this
is for pagans and all that. Comes from Zoroastrian,
jumping over the fire. At any rate, perhaps
most striking in the use of the ballot,
instead of the wallet, in clergy’s standing
in politics. The number of clergy that were
elected to the parliament, in the first parliament,
in 1980, 164 of them, constituted about 60.7% of the
first parliament, were clerics. By the time you come to 2016,
when my book was published, that was reduced to 5.5%. So, more than 90%
drop, for the clergy– clergy’s membership
in the parliament. And that’s huge. So there are only– right
now, this is the parliament that I’m talking about. Right now, there
are only 16 members of the parliament
that are clerics– 16 out of 290. In the first parliament
was 164 out of 270 members. And so this is, Iranian
have been fighting them at every level. This is my last slide. And I want to thank
you for being patient. And this is the last slide,
which I predicted something to come. More than three decades
after the formation of the Islamic Republic,
Iranian society is more polarized
than ever before. On the one hand, the regime
insists on the continuation of the theocratic structures. On the other hand,
people are engaging in widespread passive
resistance and refuse to live in accordance with
the rules of the theocracy. The persistent conflicts
have compelled the regime to resort to endless repression. More importantly,
the contradictions have generated
irreconcilable conflicts and set the stage for
protests and clashes that have yet to reach a climax. And history has already
partially vindicated me, in the last month. Thank you for your patience. [APPLAUSE]

Maurice Vega

9 Responses

  1. 'With democracy, you can not have an aristocracy'? So, how do you explain Britain? Oh yes, I forgot, Britain is a kleptocracy.

  2. It is too late Mr Parsa. What has been done can never be undone. We are in 2018, not 1978. The political climate today is very different. The Jews will not rest until they balkanize Iran and conquer it like they have conquered the UK, US and every other western nation.While the Iranians hate the Islamic Republic they have no intention of being controlled by the corrupt Zionist Jews and their servants. Iran will not change until the Zionist/US empire is destroyed.

  3. Iran is too large which is the reason for it constantly posing a security threat in the region. The long term solution is to carve up Iran into smaller countries based on ethnicity.

  4. People who want to talk about Irans democracy need to look at the unfortunate relationship it has had with the west since about 1908. The west has never allowed democracy in Iran. How can the west complain?

  5. unfortunatly islam and democracy arent really compatabile. As islam is getting very unpopular in iran, i think the things will open it. muslim nations need a monarchy. They are failed states without them.

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