Citizens Against the State in Iran

'A specter is haunting Eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called 'dissent.' . . . It was born at a time when this system, for a thousand reasons, can no longer base itself on the unadulterated, brutal, and arbitrary application of power, eliminating all expressions of nonconformity. What is more, the system has become so ossified politically that there is practically no way for such nonconformity to be implemented within its official structures," wrote Czech dissident writer and later president Vaclav Havel in his seminal 1978 essay "The Power of the Powerless."

Havel's essay proved prophetic. State control of citizens did not last for long. The very moment that ordinary citizens risked trouble with the police and refused to follow the party line at every turn--the humble grocer in Prague, for example, took down the party slogans he'd been displaying over his onions and carrots--the very foundations of Communist regimes began shaking.

For the past six months, the foundations of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been shaking. No longer spellbound by Islamist ideology, hundreds of thousands if not millions of Iranians are listening to their consciences rather than the tune of opportunism or fear of the mighty state. Iranian citizens demand answers in the aftermath of a fraudulent presidential election. Rather than shouting "Death to America" at Orwellian "Hate Weeks" and rallies of the state--designed to create hatred for imagined "enemies of the revolution"--Iranians shout "Death to the Dictator."

In its response to anti-regime demonstrations of the Ashoura days of mourning, the Islamic Republic had to "order" all public-sector employees out to pro-government rallies Tuesday and Wednesday. But the "epic demonstrations" hardly lived up to the language of the official propaganda--they were small, revealing that the citizens are breaking the rules of the game. Many could be found attending another demonstration, the one summoned to by the opposition Thursday, ignoring threats of the Law Enforcement Forces and the Revolutionary Guards. It is as if the citizens have no fear of the oppressive state. Prevailing over this fear marks a new chapter in the struggle of citizens against the state in Iran.

Ali Alfoneh is a visiting research fellow at AEI.

Photo credit: Flickr user .faramarz/Creative Commons

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Ali
Alfoneh
  • Ali Alfoneh's research areas include civil-military relations in Iran with a special focus on the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the Islamic Republic. Mr. Alfoneh has been a research fellow at the Institute for Strategy at the Royal Danish Defence College and has taught political economy at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.

What's new on AEI

Making Ryan's tax plan smarter
image The teacher evaluation confronts the future
image How to reform the US immigration system
image Inversion hysteria
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 01
    MON
  • 02
    TUE
  • 03
    WED
  • 04
    THU
  • 05
    FRI
Wednesday, September 03, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
From anarchy to Augustus: Lessons on dealing with disorder, from Rome’s first emperor

We invite you to join us for two panel discussions on how Augustus created order from chaos 2,000 years ago, and what makes for durable domestic and international political systems in the 21st century.

Event Registration is Closed
Wednesday, September 03, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Multiple choice: Expanding opportunity through innovation in K–12 education

Please join us for a book launch event and panel discussion about how a marketplace of education options can help today's students succeed in tomorrow's economy. Attendees will receive a complimentary copy of the featured book.

Thursday, September 04, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
How conservatives can save the safety net

Please join us for a luncheon event in which our panel will discuss what conservatives can learn from how liberals talk and think about the safety net and where free-market economics, federalism, and social responsibility intersect to lift people out of poverty.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.