Monday, July 17, 2006

Iran's dissidents -- alive but not well

It's not easy to discover through the popular press but Iran has a large body of citizens who do not like what Ahmadinejad says, does or stands for. Iran Press Service is an opposition site to the regime in Tehran. Yesterday's post about Akbar Ganji is instructive.

New York, 16 Jul. (IPS) Iran’s leading dissident Akbar Ganji continued his symbolic hunger strike in front of the United Nations head quarters in New York on Sunday, with a strong pledge to replace the present Iranian “authoritarian” theocracy with a “democratic and free regime”.

Mr. Ganji, 47, flew in from London on Saturday. A slight figure, he greeted admirers with kisses on the cheek at a small rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across the street from the United Nations.
A supporter of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Mr. Ganji served in the Revolutionary Guards and in the State apparatus, before, with the passing of time, he realised that the Islamic revolution was an illusion, that religion can not be mixed with politics and nothing replaces democracy, points he raised in a three volume pamphlet entitled “Manifesto for Republicanism”, a book in which he outlined civil disobedience and no cooperation as tools for peaceful regime change.

“Without freedom, without democracy and without human rights, there is always the danger of a war”, he told a cheering crowd, adding that Iranians do not want war and shall not allow the regime involving in adventurism”.

As an investigative journalist, Mr. Ganji was instrumental in revealing the participation of high-ranking Iranian officials in the assassination of hundreds of dissidents, an action that cost him a ten years imprisonment.

Check out other articles from Iran Press Service.

Keep in mind as serious discussions about "regime change" in Iran are taking place, that a large body of everyday people in Iran are as opposed to their elected madman as we are, perhaps for different reasons, but not with differences enough to ignore their opposition. Check out One Year After Election, Ahmadi Nezhad is Weaker.

The priority for Iranians is the economy. A year ago, Ahmadi Nezhad promised a more equal distribution of the country's riches, mostly of oil revenues among low-income families hit by inflation and unemployment.

Contrary to what the president had promised, Iranians will not benefit from the hike in oil prices, though as of September they will have to deal with petrol rationing. This will lead to a black market which many believe will be managed by the Revolutionary Guards corps, the Pasdaran, the president's main supporters.

Ahmadi Nezhad's election a year ago led to the fall of Tehran's stock market. Right after the president's victory was announced, the stock market lost 126 points. One week afterwards it had fallen by 466 points and in October last year it hit a record low, loosing 10,000 points.

This year 60 percent of companies listed in Tehran's stock market have suspended trading.

The current government is also facing growing domestic opposition. Strikes and demonstrations have been reported in the past two months in almost all universities in the country - heightening a strong political malaise.

For the first time in 25 years the cabinet has had to deal with strikes called by independent unions.

And that doesn't take into account women, minorities and ethnic

Don't tell Ahmedinezhad what American voters and politicians have known for years: It's the economy, Stupid.

When this guy was elected last year I looked closely at a veriety of commentaries by Iranian experts. From what I could gather his election did not speak for most movers and shakers in Iran. His political success owed more to voter apathy on the part of people who didn't imagine he had a chance than anything else. (Uh, where have we ever heard anyone complain about "voter apathy"?)

He has had plenty of time now to whip up the passions of those who would now be enthsiastic supporters. (Do we know anything in America about the power of the incumbent? Especially if the party in power and that of the candidate in question are the same?)

Regime change in Iran must honor the potential of grassroots Iranian opposition if it is to succeed. Anything less is buying into a load of problems that can be avoided.

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