AUC Forum Examines Recent Changes in Iran

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AUC Forum Examines Recent Changes in Iran

Iran has seen many extraordinary changes in the past year. The election of a moderate, Mohammed Khatami, to the presidency of this conservative Islamic nation stunned the world. Winning over 70 percent of the popular vote and being the favored candidate of the youth and women of Iran, Khatami's victory signified the possible emergence of a "new" Iran to the international community.

Recent changes and reforms in Iran were considered on May 28, 1998 by a distinguished panel of speakers at the AUC Forum "A New Iran?" Over 120 guests including AUC trustees, friends, and alumni attended this luncheon event sponsored by Antranig Sarkissian ('57) in New York City.

The panel, moderated by Moataz Al-Alfi, AUC trustee and vice chairman and CEO of E.C.I.T.P.(Americana), consisted of special guest speaker Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent for CNN; scholars Farhad Kazemi, professor of politics and Middle Eastern studies at New York University, and Ali Banuazizi, professor of cultural psychology and modern Iranian history at Boston College; and former ambassador and current senior fellow for the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard W. Murphy.

Amanpour opened the Foram by giving her observations on the new spirit and excitement surrounding recent events in Iran, particularly the presidential election of Mohammed Khatami. Having made eight trips to Iran in the past year, Amanpour noted concrete changes, especially in the area of women's rights where, in an unprecedented move, Khatami appointed a woman as vice president. As she described the changes in Iran, Amanpour pinpointed the interview Khatami gave to CNN as one sign of the president's desire for reform. By expressing his respect for the American people and an understanding of the democratic process, Khatami took the first step toward developing a friendly relationship with the United States. Amanpour, however, questioned the United States' reaction to Khatami's "new" Iran and stressed that there now exists "a historic window of opportunity" for U.S.-Iranian relations.

Farhad Kazemi identified women as a significant pillar of the "new" Iran, characterizing them as "the real harbinger of change." He attributed current women's rights reforms to the development of organized Muslim women's groups, the complexity of the current Iranian society, and the logistics of the Iran-Iraq war, which forced the reintegration of women into the system. Kazemi argued that the Islamic Republic has had a "mixed record" of inclusion of women into Iranian society, but conditions are now improving. During the early days of the Islamic Republic of Iran, an ideology of "naturalness" was adopted by the state, which established men as superior to women. Women experienced restrictions in education and in occupational choices. Changes in both the criminal and family laws limited women's rights and legitimized their treatment as second-class citizens. …