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).

Worker Protest in the Age of Ahmadinejad

by Mohammad Maljoo
published in MER241

In June 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unexpectedly won the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran, after an intense campaign in which he exerted great effort to present himself as the defender of the poor and the working class. These classes, badly hurt by neo-liberal economic policies in the period following the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq war, had staged a number of organized and noisy protests in the years preceding Ahmadinejad’s campaign, and they responded in significant numbers to his appeal for votes. The first year and a half of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, however, has seen an erosion of the social contract between working Iranians and the state of a magnitude that may be decisive for the future of democracy in Iran.

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

Young Iranian Women Today

by Norma Claire Moruzzi , Fatemeh Sadeghi
published in MER241

In evaluating women’s position in the contemporary Islamic Republic of Iran, it is important to look at the social, as opposed to the legal, aspects of citizenship. In the decades following the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian society has become resolutely more modern, despite the public face of elderly tradition presented by its clerical political elite. This modernization enhanced trends that were already evident before the revolution. In 1978–1979, for the first time more Iranians lived in cities than in the countryside, and nearly half the population could read and write. The number of births per family rose in the early years of the revolution, but by 1986 the fertility rate peaked, and then began a dramatic decline.

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The US and the Iranian Nuclear Impasse

by Aslı Bâli
published in MER241

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) underwent its most recent five-year review in May 2005. There were numerous proposals on the table for strengthening the global non-proliferation regime. None were adopted. Perhaps even more puzzlingly, in an age when the White House repeatedly invokes the specter of suitcase-size nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists, the United States did not send a high-level delegate.

In the Heart of Iran

The Electorate of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

by Bernard Hourcade
published in MER241

The first round of the 2005 Iranian presidential election was rich in lessons regarding the country’s political life, in general, and regarding the political comportment of diverse sectors of the population, in particular. Contrary to what is often said, electoral fraud alone does not explain -- or only partially explains -- the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His incontestable win over one of the most eminent members of the clergy, former President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, had deeper causes that require an analysis borrowing from various social sciences.

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Iran: The Populist Threat to Democracy

by Kaveh Ehsani
published in MER241

The August 31 UN Security Council deadline for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program passed with the Islamic Republic, not unexpectedly, refusing to acquiesce. In the summer of 2005, the newly inaugurated President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reversed his predecessor Mohammad Khatami’s voluntary suspension of enrichment, claiming that Iran had received nothing substantial in exchange for the unilateral confidence-building measure. Iran’s official position since August 2005 has been to seek unconditional negotiations with the West, presumably not just over its nuclear program, but over a wide-ranging security and economic package as well. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon, openly supported by the United States, hardened the Iranian regime’s attitude into truculence.

Activism Under the Radar

Volunteer Women Health Workers in Iran

by Homa Hoodfar
published in MER250