Arien Mack, Editor
The decision to organize this issue on Iran was made a little more than one year ago, during the first time of Khatami’s presidency. This was a time of genuine optimism in Iran, when the possibilities of liberalization seemed to be within reach. The country seemed on the verge of changes that would increasingly relax the grip of clerical orthodoxy which took hold soon after the 1979 revolution. In the context of this atmosphere of hope, we wished to provide our readers with a picture of life in Iran twenty years after the revolution that deposed the Shah and brought the Ayatollahs to power.
This article offers a look at the promotion of civil society and the rule of law under Iranian President Said Mohammad Khatami's reform program. The dominant trend in the politics of Iran is undoubtedly constitutional. The revolutionary power struggle, the politics of war mobilization, nationalization and privatization, regionalism, clerical control and factionalism have receded to the background since Khatami's landslide victory in the presidential elections of May 1997. Constitutional politics have come to the foreground, as they were in 1979, the first year of the Islamic revolution and the making of the new constitution.
This article focuses on the image of the civil society in Iran under the leadership of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. In the aftermath of Khatami's rise to power, Iran witnessed an explosion of public speech. Within a few weeks, the political discourse burst through the narrow framework of the official revolutionary language. Expressions like freedom of thought, pluralism, and civil society filled the air. This is how civil society entered the Iranian political stage as a concept, as a project, and as an ideal.
A quasi-mechanical sketch of society and its institutions is presented which precludes the allegiance of a social agent to an authority. It is argued that this sketch captures the ideal of the social agents which the Enlightenment, at least in Kant's view of it, envisages. An investigation of prominent theories that have been advanced within the last century in Iran to characterize institutional government show a remarkable similarity between them on two counts. They all display 1) an insensitivity to specify an idea of social agents with whom and for whom the state machinery is supposed to be organized; and 2) an insistence on placing a human authority on top of this machinery. This clearly goes against the Enlightenment idea. Yet the bodies that in these theories are charged with running the state machinery resemble, in formal respects, those that are the products of the Enlightenment. It is argued that this gives rise to an incongruence that lies at the root of the failures of institutional government in Iran. To remove it, a consensus on the view of society in terms of the units that comprise it is necessary, which is not at hand.
Political Decentralization and the Creation of Local Government in Iran: Consolidation or Transformation of the Theocratic State?
This article explores the extent to which the political development and institutionalization of political democracy in Iran represents a consolidation or potential transformation of the Iranian theocratic regime. The author does this to better understand the nature and scope of political discourse in contemporary Iran with respect to the reform of political institutions, efforts at decentralization of state power, and the dilemmas and controversies surrounding the notion of civil society in an Islamic context. The addition of a third power center, the possibility of sharing governance with nonstate actors, and the greater capacity for regions to respond to ethnic and local interests are factors.
This article traces the history of women's roles and status in the society in Iran since 1979. The birth of urban mass politics during the constitutional revolution of 1906-1911 saw women's first political activism, which continued after World War I, though that independence was eventually much diminished under the new Pahlavi dynasty of Reza Shah. Reza Shah forcibly unveiled women in the 1936-41 period and took steps promoting women's public education at all levels. Women's rights are in a context where very different forces hold significant power. The presidential elections of 1997 gave an overwhelming victory to reformist president Mohammed Khatami, based largely on the votes of women and young people.
This section presents a chronology of events regarding women in Iran since the revolution of 1979, including the announcement that women cannot be judges.
This article offers a look at the issues regarding gender, Islam and politics in the Middle East. Islam and gender is a controversial problem for scholars and analysts of the Middle East. Unfortunately, the debate on this issue has at times become highly acrimonious and not always placed in its proper historical or sociological contexts. From one point of view, Islam is praised for its historically liberating role for women in Arabia and elsewhere. Broadly speaking, two related gender issues exacerbate the problem: one is attitudinal and based on beliefs and values, the other relates to legal doctrines.
This article looks at the state of Islamic Ideology in Iran following the sixth round of the February 2000 parliamentary elections that gave a reform mandate to President Mohammad Khatami. On the 18th of February, 2000, the Iranian electorate, the young men and women in particular, were called on to rescue the beleaguered presidency of Khatami, whose landslide victory in May 1997 caught the entrenched vested interest of the religious right by surprise. This parliamentary election reveals beyond any shadow of a doubt the cataclysmic moment when the long and arduous history of Islamic Ideology has finally come to an end.
The experience of the Islamic Republic of Iran offers historic lessons about the universality of human rights. Official slogans to the effect that international human rights are Western and are unsuited for use in Islamic milieus had some resonance in the immediate aftermath of the Islamic Revolution. However, Iranians subsequently suffered greatly from the post-revolutionary regime's policy of running roughshod over human rights in the name of following Islamic culture. The overwhelming electoral support for President Khatami and his reform program are proof of how skeptical Iranians now are when clerical hardliners admonish them that demands for more rights and freedoms are incompatible with Islamic law and morality. Iranians have come to perceive the political motives behind the cultural and religious pretexts offered for denying them rights and degrading their freedoms. Two decades after the Islamic Revolution and with their heightened awareness of the malign consequences of according priority to what are supposedly local cultural standards, Iranians seem ready to move into the vanguard of those articulating why protections for human rights need to be universal.
This article looks at the status and condition of the non-Muslim religious minority known as the Baha'is in Iran's society. The Islamic Republic of Iran proclaims Shi'i Islam as its state religion, and recognizes only Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism as other true religions. The three minority faiths are legitimized by the Constitution and accorded certain legal and political rights. The Baha'is, however, are not mentioned in the Constitution and have the status of unprotected infidels. Since the onset of the Islamic revolution in the fall of 1978, more than 200 Baha'is have been put to death.
This article discusses the history of the principles of modesty as practiced in the Iranian cinema. It also provides an account of the institutionalization and evolution of these principles in cinema as offered in the context of the emergence of women filmmakers, particularly that of Raskhshan Banietemad. What is unique is the inscription of modesty rules and what is unexpected is that more women feature film directors emerged in a single decade after the revolution than in all the preceding eight decades of filmmaking, and this in a patriarchal and traditional society, which is ruled by an Islamist ideology that is highly suspicious of the corruptive influence of cinema on women and of women on cinema.
This article provides an account of domestic political reforms and private sector activities in Iran in 2000. March 20, 2000 marked the beginning of the current Iranian year. It was also the starting point for the so-called Third Five-Year Development Plan which sets the framework for Iranian development policies until March 2005. The commencement of a new set of policies within the framework of this plan has generated some new hope in a more successful liberalization of the Iranian economy after 21 years of unbalanced economic structures. A closer look at the stated objectives of the Third Five-Year Plan indicates the new emphasis of the Islamic Republic of Iran on private sector economic activity.
This article argues that Iran's demographic transition has entered a critical phase as of June 2000, in which the role of the family may shift from procreation to production of human capital. The author shows that with the right social and economic conditions, this shift can propel the country onto the path of continuous growth. The framework for the analysis is rooted in economic demographic literature. John Caldwell has described the most significant change that takes place when a country moves from an underdeveloped to developed status in terms of the intergenerational transfer of resources. Caldwell shows how parents residing in underdeveloped countries draw upon their children to improve their own circumstances.
This article identifies the key events and political decisions that influenced the economic situation in Iran since the Islamic revolution of February 1979. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has advocated democracy and the establishment of a civil society since taking office in 1997. His foreign policy aims at ending Iran's relative isolation and integrating it into the world community. He has initiated domestic political reforms, with some success. His concept of freedom and democracy can well provide the needed foundations for a thriving private sector market economy. Ever since the revolution, Iran's private sector has had a second rate, subordinate status in the Iranian economy.