Report from Iran

by MERIP's Special Correspondent in Iran | published July 15, 1999

International press reports have not done justice to the complexity of recent dramatic events in Iran. What began as a genuine, spontaneous student uprising in defense of press freedoms and political reforms has now been appropriated by extremist religious paramilitaries and vigilantes aiming to discredit the students and provoke a crackdown by anti-reform elements of the regime. Khatami's call for moderation in the wake of street battles between students and security forces was not an "about face" on reform, but a demand consistent with several appeals for calm issued by leading pro-reform figures and groups, including the fledgling student "Unity Council."

Neo-Conservatives, Hardline Clerics and the Bomb

by Kaveh Ehsani , Chris Toensing
published in MER233

Even as the US military launched a long-rumored offensive in the Iraqi city of Falluja in early November 2004, the subject of anxious speculation in Washington was not Iraq, but Iran. President George W. Bush’s victory at the polls on November 2 returned to office the executive who located Iran upon an “axis of evil” in the 2002 State of the Union address and called the Islamic Republic a “totalitarian state” during his campaign for a second term in the White House. The neo-conservatives who were so influential in promoting the invasion of Iraq have long harbored the desire to foment “regime change” in Tehran as well as in Baghdad.

Iran, the Vatican of Shi'ism?

by Roschanack Shaery
published in MER233

The Iranian state, controlled de facto by the conservatives in the government, promotes the idea that Iran is the center of Shi‘ism. It bases its argument on the fact that Iran is a Shi‘i-run state, whereas Shi‘i Muslims in other parts of the world live in states that are dominated by Sunnis, and so Iran is free to pay near exclusive attention to Shi‘i concerns.

Fatemeh Haqiqatjoo and the Sixth Majles

A Woman in Her Own Right

by Ziba Mir-Hosseini
published in MER233

On February 23, 2004, two days after the conservative victory in the elections for the Seventh Majles, for which the Guardian Council banned over 2,000 reformist candidates, including some 80 current deputies, the reformist-dominated Sixth Majles accepted the resignation of Fatemeh Haqiqatjoo.

Abbas's Photographs of Iran

by Shiva Balaghi
published in MER233

My work is visual. It’s immediate. My photographs show the process that is happening in Iran. —Abbas

Born in Iran in 1944, Abbas moved to Algeria with his family when he was eight years old. As a young school¬boy at the École de Garcons d’El-Biar, Abbas wrote a short story entitled “A Grand Voyage” about his family’s emigration, illustrating the tale with a pencil drawing of an Air France jet flying over jagged, snow-capped mountains. “A Grand Voyage” proved to be a prescient tale, foretelling his life as a traveler -- an identity he prefers to that of an exile.

The New Conservatives Take a Turn

by Farhad Khosrokhavar
published in MER233

The conservative forces that took majority control of Iran’s parliament, or Majles, in the February 2004 elections were not swept into office by a mass movement. Conservative candidates had the help of the Council of Guardians, a body of 12 senior clerics [1] vested by the constitution of the Islamic Republic with the power to overturn acts of parliament, which blocked the candidacy of over 1,000 men and women associated with the reformist trend that held the majority in the Sixth Majles of 2001-2004. Thanks to this intervention, conservatives won the majority of seats, because many Iranians were left with no one for whom to vote.

The New Landscape of Iranian Politics

by Morad Saghafi
published in MER233

After seven turbulent years in which a reformist movement transformed Iran’s political landscape as well as its international image, conservatives recaptured two thirds of the parliament in February 2004. “Victory” for the conservatives was achieved, in large part, by the intervention of the unelected Guardian Council, which succeeded in rejecting the candidacy of 2,400 reformist candidates. The “Tehran spring” -- when Iranians and international observers hoped that reformists could bring about peaceful, democratic transformation of the Islamic Republic -- has faded.


by Arang Keshavarzian
published in MER237

Masoud Banisadr, Masoud: Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel (London: Saqi Books, 2004).

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The Ethnic Question in Iran

by Kaveh Bayat
published in MER237

Iran is not a Persian monolith, as it is often portrayed. Owing to waves of migration and foreign invasion over its long history, the Iranian plateau has become home to a diverse assortment of people speaking a range of languages and adhering to numerous creeds. The “Iranian” languages spoken in Iran include Persian, Kurdish, Luri, Gilaki, Mazandarani, Tat and Talish. But there are also Turkic languages such as Azeri and Turkmen, and Semitic languages such as Arabic, Hebrew and Assyrian. Likewise, Iranian citizens profess many different religious beliefs, including the dominant Shi‘i Islam, but also Sunni Islam and several kinds of Christianity.

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Paradise Lost, Gone Shopping

by Norma Claire Moruzzi
published in MER245

Shahram Khosravi, Young and Defiant in Tehran (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007).