Iranian Press Update

by Ramin Karimian , Sha'banali Bahrampour
published in MER212

The press has played a crucial role in advancing Iran’s emerging reformist agenda. Following the initial wave of attacks on the reformist press, which culminated in the closure of Jame’eh and Tous in the summer of 1998, a second crop of independent dailies appeared in late 1998. These papers exposed Intelligence Ministry agents’ involvement in the political assassinations of reformist intellectuals and activists in late 1998.

Municipal Matters

The Urbanization of Consciousness and Political Change in Tehran

by Kaveh Ehsani
published in MER212

Although the 1997 election of Mohammad Khatami as president of Iran is widely considered a political watershed, an intriguing question remains unanswered: Why did such a grassroots intervention not occur earlier? What had changed to unite Iran’s heterogeneous interests and constituencies at this particular historic moment? [1]

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The Islamization of Law in Iran

A Time of Disenchantment

by Azadeh Niknam
published in MER212

The re-Islamization of law by the leadership of the Islamic Republic following the 1979 revolution immediately clashed with the realities of contemporary Iranian society. [1] This clash engendered divisions between the parliament and the Guardian Council (a body of faqihs [2]] tasked with safeguarding laws’ conformity to Islam and the constitution). [3] Numerous government projects and decisions adopted by the parliament were rejected by the Guardian Council on the grounds that they did not conform to shari‘a (Islamic law). The Council’s hard-line policy generated continuous conflicts, necessitating the intervention of Ayatollah Khomeini, Supreme Guide of the Islamic Republic.

Political and Social Transformations in Post-Islamist Iran

by Azadeh Kian
published in MER212

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Do-e Khordad and the Specter of Democracy

by Kaveh Ehsani
published in MER212

A shadow haunts Iran, the shadow of democracy and popular sovereignty. Twenty years ago the Islamic Revolution established a polity based on two contradictory elements: a republic of equal and sovereign citizens, and a hierarchical theocracy of pastoral power descending from an unelected religious leader (vali-e faqih, the Supreme Leader), which represented an innovation in Shi‘i Islam. The inevitable tensions between these irreconcilable elements are now coming to a head. [1]

From the Editor

by The Editors
published in MER212

A quarter of a century ago, MERIP Reports, the forerunner of this magazine, received wide acclaim for its incisive and politically accurate reporting on Iran in the years leading up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Two decades after the culmination of the tumultuous events that redefined Iranian society and politics, and indeed, regional geostrategic and ideological realities, we are pleased to present this special issue of Middle East Report assessing Iran's Islamic Revolution at 20 from an on-the-ground perspective.

The Fight for Iran's Democratic Ideals

by Ian Urbina , Saeed Razavi-Faqih | published December 1, 2002

Over the weekend thousands of Iranian students continued their protests to demand political reform. Their voices were raised in support of Hashem Aghajari, the college professor who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy. But the student movement is broader than dissent over one injustice.

Ground Shifting Under Mullahs

by Ian Urbina | published December 1, 2002

After a court in Iran sentenced dissident academic Hashem Aghajari to death for challenging clerical rule, several thousand university students took to the streets in Tehran. They protested for about two weeks before the government threatened to crack down and declare a state of emergency. No one has forgotten the government’s hard-line response, in July 1999, to crowds rallying against the closure of a liberal newspaper. Most of the student protesters rounded up then remain in jail.

To Deny Iran Atomic Weapons, Create a Nuclear-Free Region

by Chris Toensing | published December 16, 2003

The 12-year standoff between Saddam Hussein’s former regime and the US displayed a circular logic: the Iraqi refusal to “come clean” about possibly non-existent weaponry simultaneously fed, and fed off of, Washington’s belligerence toward Iraq. With most eyes on the denouement of that malign symbiosis, something similar is developing between Washington and Iran over the apparent nuclear ambitions of the Islamic Republic.

Iran's Human Rights Record Should Be As 'Intolerable' As Its Nukes

by Kaveh Ehsani | published December 17, 2004

The Islamic Republic of Iran is in hot water with Washington and European capitals because of its apparent pursuit of a nuclear bomb. Dangling carrots of increased trade, the Europeans are trying to persuade Iran to renounce atomic ambitions. Skeptical of these methods but bogged down in Iraq, the Bush administration has grumbled on the sidelines.