Foot Soldiers of the Islamic Republic’s “Culture of Modesty”

by Fatemeh Sadeghi
published in MER250

“Simplicity has disappeared,” laments Minoo Shahbazi, energetic at 50, and animated in the cheap manteau and black scarf she wears beneath her chador. Look at her 16-year old son, she says: “He likes to wear famous brand-name clothes. Obviously, I do not agree. He is very different from me.”

Change of Power

Ardeshir Mohassess' Drawings of Modern Iran

by Shiva Balaghi
published in MER250

The poet Esmail Khoi once remarked to Ardeshir Mohassess that many of his drawings focused on oppression, depicting both the oppressor and the oppressed as ugly and animal-like. “You seem to suggest,” Khoi observed, “that those who suffer from oppression are no less cruel that their oppressors.” Ardeshir responded, “Perhaps I see both as equally responsible.” [1] Throughout an artistic career that spanned nearly five decades, Mohassess’ evocative line drawings depicted the heavy burden of the contest for power on the lives of Iranians. Above all, Ardeshir saw himself as a reporter, and his body of work forms an archive of twentieth-century Iran.

The Islamic Republic's Failed Quest for the Spotless City

by Azam Khatam
published in MER250

It is characteristic of modern social revolutions to seek moral improvement of the population, as well as redress of the injustices of the ancien regime. In 1794, Paris echoed with calls to “righteousness”; in 1917, the Bolsheviks denounced the bourgeois decadence of the czarist era. For Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and other clerical leaders, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 was not only a seizure of political power, but also the moment of revival of Islamic morality, which had been systematically weakened by the secular Pahlavi regime. The clerics set out to build in Iran “a spotless society.” [1]

Survival Through Dispossession

Privatization of Public Goods in the Islamic Republic

by Kaveh Ehsani
published in MER250

Since the 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the burning economic issue in Iran has been the privatization of public assets and, more recently, the elimination of subsidies for a vast array of goods and services. Leading figures, including the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have called the privatization program “an economic revolution.” [1] But it is not only the economy that private ownership is supposed to rescue. There seems to be a consensus across the political and ideological spectrum that public ownership of economic assets is the cause of a host of social and political ills, from authoritarianism to corruption and nepotism.

Tied Up in Tehran

A Metaphor

by Norma Claire Moruzzi
published in MER250

I want to begin with a story. Like the best of stories, it is true.

Why the Islamic Republic Has Survived

by Ervand Abrahamian
published in MER250

Obituaries for the Islamic Republic of Iran appeared even before it was born. In the hectic months of 1979 -- before the Islamic Republic had been officially declared -- many Iranians as well as foreigners, academics as well as journalists, participants as well as observers, conservatives as well as revolutionaries, confidently predicted its imminent demise. Taking every street protest, every labor strike, every provincial clash as the harbinger of its inevitable downfall, they gave the new regime a few months -- at best, a few short years.

From the Editors

published in MER250

Tehran, February 9, 1979. The Shah was gone. Iran was governed, if governed is the word, by Shahpour Bakhtiar, a former minister in the cabinet of Mohammad Mossadeq, the nationalist premier whose CIA-engineered overthrow had restored the monarchy 26 years earlier. The country was roiled by massive demonstrations and armed clashes between security forces and revolutionaries of many stripes, secular and devout, Marxist and Islamist. Eight days earlier, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had alighted at Tehran’s airport and, following a jubilant popular welcome, announced the formation of a new revolutionary government. The Iranian military was collapsing, as soldiers relinquished their rifles and numerous commanders declared their neutrality in the civil strife.

Ahmadinejad's Nuclear Folly

by Farideh Farhi
published in MER252

The tumult in Iran since the June 12 presidential election is, without a doubt, the most significant sequence of events in the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution itself. No other occurrence -- not the Iran-Iraq war, not the 1989 turmoil that sidelined Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, until then the designated successor to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and led to revamping the constitution, not the rise of reformist politics in the late 1990s -- has shaken the system so deeply.