Baluchistan’s Rising Militancy

by Sonia Ghaffari
published in MER250

Baluchistan, a region long associated with instability and armed conflict, straddles the borders of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan is home to the largest number of Baluch, at 5 million, and the largest province of Baluchistan, at 43 percent of the country’s land mass. In Iran, the Baluch, who are mainly Sunni Muslims, share the province of Sistan and Baluchistan with ethnically different Persians and Sistanis, who are mainly Shi‘i Muslims. There are Shi‘i Baluch, as well, living in Makran, as the southernmost part of the province is known, especially in a region called Bazman. The province comprises 11.5 percent of Iranian land and has around 2.5 million inhabitants, around 4 percent of the national population.

The Reformist Moment and the Press

by Ramin Karimian
published in MER250

The story of Iran’s “reformist moment” of 1997-2005 can be told through the story of the Iranian press in this period. Previously, the Islamic Republic had severely restricted freedom of the press, issuing permits only to newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets that mimicked the hard line of state-owned media. With the second appointment of Mohammad Khatami as minister of culture and Islamic guidance in 1989, the restrictions loosened and the number of newspapers published in Iran rose to about 550 in 1992-1994. These new publications included bestselling Hamshahri, the first newspaper printed in color, and the independent Salam.

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.