“Freedom is not a Western product.” In the struggle for change in the struggle of Iranian reformers

For more than two decades, political activist Hossein Yazdi has been campaigning in Iran’s presidential election for resolute change in a conservative conservative theocratic state.

But now, 42-year-old Yazdi, who was born a few months before the 1979 revolution in the Islamic Republic, has been rejected by all. This time, he will not post posters or knock on doors, explaining the merits of his preferred candidate. He will not even vote.

Like many young activists, he was disillusioned with politics, and the June 18 election only strengthened that sense of desperation. Leading moderate candidates have been banned երկու The two reform candidates have yet to gain momentum. Analysts say pro-centrist President Hassan Rouhani will step down after two terms, with hardline leader ղեկավար the head of the judiciary, Ibrahim Rice, easily defeated if the turnout is low.

“The reformist movement has reached a dead end. Since the recent unrest, we have realized that this system cannot be reformed,” Yazdin said in a video call from Isfahan. Widespread protests in 2019 against the rise in fuel prices, during which hundreds of protesters were killed.

The feeling of deflation began after the then President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal in 2018, which Iran signed with world powers to impose tougher sanctions. More than 70 percent of registered voters a year ago found that Rouhani would work with the West again. But Trump’s move weakened reformers and encouraged hardliners who saw it as proof that Iran could never trust Western powers.

Hossein Yazdi has been a political activist for more than two decades. He will not vote in this year’s elections © Hossein Yazdi

As the social media campaign urges people not to vote, many analysts predict that the election will have the lowest turnout in the history of the Islamic Republic. A blow to the regime that puts its legitimacy on the participation of high voters. For many, refusing to vote is a possible act of contempt.

“We must put civil resistance on our agenda by boycotting this election, for example, to show our strength to the regime.” We do not give you the legitimacy to speak on our behalf to the world when you do not meet. “Our minimum requirements, such as free and fair elections,” Yazdi said.

This election is a time of reckoning for reformers, who first took part in the deadly war with Iraq in the 1980s. In the decade following the 1979 revolution, growing pressure on dissidents disappointed many as they sought to reform to ensure the survival of a theocratic state.

The most important point of the reformist movement was 1997. It was the election of Mohammad Khatami as president. The achievements of the Reformers include a reduction in the public demand for women to wear the hijab, as well as the sometimes successful protests by employees and retirees to improve their rights. But since Khatami’s rule, hardliners have repeatedly blocked reform efforts, with younger politicians doubting that conservatives in the elite Revolutionary Guards will allow further reforms in the judiciary.

According to Khatami, warning of the threat to democracy, the authorities’ willingness to tolerate low turnout shows that their focus is on Iran’s ballistic missile program, not on gaining public confidence.

While previous generations of reformers helped establish a theocratic state and have significant business interests, this generation is different, says Mehdi Mahmudyan. The 44-year-old political activist spent more than 10 years in prison for his alleged anti-regime activities. He was recently sentenced to five years in prison for staging protests against the downing of a Ukrainian plane by Iran last year.

“The second and third generations are striving for more structural changes, they are less connected to the ideologies of the Islamic Republic,” Mahmudyan said.

Mehdi Mahmoudian

Mehdi Mahmudyan spent more than 10 years in prison for his alleged anti-regime activities

Younger activists say there is no way to change the country from within, but they want a peaceful push for a democratic system.

“We must use social movements,” Mahmudyan said. “We need to find ways to convince people that freedom is not a luxury commodity, but that they urgently need better living conditions, better housing, more bread,” he said.

In the conservative city of Mashhad, 39-year-old reformer Eftekar Barzegaryan said that the republic’s leaders, facing a “crisis of legitimacy”, would have “no choice but to go for domestic and foreign policy reforms.”

“A change in the reformist movement may not take place in this election, but it will be based on a search for democracy, a focus on social justice and freedom in the future,” he said.

Eftekar Barzegaryan

Eftekar Barzegaryan says Iranian leaders face ‘crisis of legitimacy’ © Eftekar Barzeryan

For many reformers, the only candidate who really represented them was Mustafa Tajzadeh. Former Deputy Interior Minister Reformer զ Tajzade, a seven-year political prisoner, calls, among other things, for a “normalization” of relations with the United States. But Tajzadeh was disqualified by Iran’s strict Guardian Council, which exercised constitutional oversight.

The young reformers have already paid dearly for their resistance. Many of them lost their jobs and went to prison. “The problem, however, is our financial situation, as many of us struggle to make ends meet, relying on our families for a living. “Many activists remain anonymous in order to keep their jobs and prevent the regime from taking their families hostage,” Mahmudyan said.

Mustafa Tajzadeh և his wife while registering for the May 14, 2021 presidential election in Iran

Mustafa Tajzadeh ադ his wife while registering to run in the May 14 presidential election in Iran. He was disqualified by a distorted Guardian Council © Abedin Taherkenareh / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

For some, it will help them to think long and hard about their struggle in the context of the Iranian struggle, including the battle to overthrow the Shah dynasty that ruled the country before the revolution.

“Iranians have been fighting for democracy for 100 years. “I learned about democracy from my father, and my 17-year-old daughter learned about it from me.”

“We realize that this is a long, difficult struggle, but we have no choice but to break the current deadlock. “And the system has to choose between swallowing up democracy or collapsing from within.”

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