Tensions in Iran

The Future of the Islamic Revolution

by Olivier Roy
published in MER207

The May 1997 election of Mohammad Khatami as president of Iran was a watershed event in the history of the almost 20-year-old Islamic Revolution. While the current on-the-ground situation in Iran remains confusing, it is not for lack of information. During the last year, the press has blossomed with a variety of daily newspapers printing real news, including murders, scandals, police misconduct, public protest and opinion, public appeals to rulers and polemical debates between Iran’s different factions. With the exception of attacks on the concept of velayat-e faqih (regency of the jurisconsulate) and the role of the Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, many previously forbidden things have now been printed.

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The Containment Myth

US Middle East Policy in Theory and Practice

by Stephen Hubbell
published in MER208

Among those who direct American foreign policy, there is near unanimity that the collapse of communism represents a kind of zero hour. The end of the Cold War so transformed the geopolitical landscape as to render the present era historically discontinuous from the epoch that preceded it. Policy makers contend that America’s mission abroad has had to change to keep pace with these new circumstances.

Women and the Political Process in Twentieth Century Iran

by Shiva Balaghi
published in MER210

Parvenu Paidar, Women and the Political Process in Twentieth Century Iran (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

This book argues that in neither the Pahlavi nor the Islamic eras have Iranian women enjoyed direct and independent control over the establishment of gender policies. “By destroying the independence of the women’s movement through cooption and coercion, both secular and Islamic states aimed to protect the nation...from the negative side effects of women’s social emancipation” (p. 358).

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Labor and the Challenge of Economic Restructuring in Iran

by Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
published in MER210

During the last 20 years, the Iranian economy has had to adjust to a revolution, an eight-year war with Iraq, economic isolation and the collapse of its oil revenues. As a result, Iran witnessed the complete undoing of its gains in per capita income from the boom years of the 1970s. The generation of Iranians who grew up before the revolution, at a time of steadily increasing incomes, view the last 20 years of decline and stagnation with disbelief. For the new generation, which came of age after the revolution, the pressing issue is not past losses but the current reality of stagnation and unemployment: One in four Iranian youths cannot find jobs.

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From Revolution to Revelation

Khatami's Iran Struggles for Reform

by Geneive Abdo
published in MER211

The revelations came on a January evening and were reminiscent of the days when the Shah’s Savak hit squads ruled Iran. Renegade agents within the country’s secretive Intelligence Ministry admitted to killing secularist writers and politicians they considered enemies of the Islamic state. For weeks, hard-liners within the ministry had been accused of the mystery murders. Iran’s newspapers, which grow in number by the day, were identifying the culprits as members of clandestine conservative factions. Everyone claimed to know the orientation of the assassins, but solid evidence seemed nearly impossible to come by until that night.

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The Imam's Blue Boxes

by Kevan Harris
published in MER257

A fashionable description of the Islamic Republic of Iran is “garrison state,” a concept that originated in the West in the early 1940s. In a garrison state, the ruling elite is mainly composed of “specialists in violence,” and military bureaucrats dominate the social and civil spheres. In Iran’s case, the term is meant to refer to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its rise in the state apparatus. After World War II, however, a group of social historians revised the consensus concerning the social effects of war. Observing the total mobilization of society in wartime, scholars such as Richard Titmuss noticed an increased effort by Western governments to reduce inequality.

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A War on Multiple Fronts

by Nida Alahmad , Arang Keshavarzian
published in MER257

Lasting from 1980 to 1988, the war between Iran and Iraq was the longest inter-state war of the twentieth century. Yet standard narratives of the war, or of Iranian and Iraqi political history, for that matter, barely discuss the war’s legacy for the structure of the two states in question or the war’s effects upon the exercise of political power.

Deep Traumas, Fresh Ambitions

Legacies of the Iran-Iraq War

by Joost Hiltermann
published in MER257

The seeds of future war are sown even as parties fight and, depleted or on the verge of defeat, sue for peace. The outcome is rarely stable and may be barely tolerable to one side or the other. This rule holds true for the two belligerents no less than for their respective sponsors, keen to protect their strategic interests. Ambitions thwarted are merely delayed, not abandoned; new traumas incurred are entered into the ledger for the settlement of what is hoped one day will be the final bill.

Women's Space/Cinema Space

Representations of Public and Private in Iranian Films

by Norma Claire Moruzzi
published in MER212

Post-Revolutionary Iranian cinema has attracted critical attention abroad while constituting a vibrant focus of cultural, narrative and technical experimentation at home. In the politically restrictive context of the Islamic Republic, film has become one of the key ways that sensitive topics are broached in civil society. One of the most important topics is the social and juridical situation of women, including the enforcement of legislation over women’s hejab, which refers to modest dress but can also mean modest decorum.

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"The Temptation of Democracy"

A Conversation with Morad Saghafi

by Kaveh Ehsani
published in MER212

Launched in 1992, Goft-o-Gu (Dialogue) aimed to open channels of constructive dialogue between Iran’s disparate political and intellectual currents. Given the highly polarized and repressive atmosphere at the time, Goft-o-Gu’s publication was a strikingly bold move. The journal discussed issues that have since become the mainstay of the reform movement in Iran: civil society, reformism, regional and ethnic aspirations, the role of the media, Occidentalism, women, youth, modernity, democracy and the city, among others.