Human Rights in Iran: The Abuse of Cultural Relativism

By Reza Afshari | Go to book overview

Afterword

The Class-Culture Divide, the Failure of Islamization,
and the Reaffirmation of the “Other” Iran

To the educated young women of Tehran whose defiance on the streets
in 2009 has brought me back to this book

In the summer of 2009, the Islamic Republic faced an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy on display for global audiences. A few hours after the last paper ballots were cast in the presidential election of June 12, the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was hurriedly declared the winner in a landslide. Three days later, more than 2 million distraught people poured into Tehran’s streets, asking, “Where is my vote?” The Western media reported with awe, forced to revise the post–September 11 notion of an “axis of evil.” Few Western investigative journalists who witnessed the events noted the spontaneity of the young urbanites, whose views and dispositions showed little affinity for the scripted denunciations of the “Death-to-America” crowds. The widespread manifestations of discontent and defiance in the streets have brought into sharp focus the historical context within which the past thirty years can be properly analyzed and understood. The Afterword addresses this context.

This book is about the use and abuse of cultural relativism, and one of its main conclusions is that the Islamic Republic has retained power by resorting to state instrumentalities which were routinely used by other authoritarian states of the twentieth century. In the concluding chapter I observed that the culture that prevails in the Intelligence Ministry of the Islamic Republic has less to do with Islam as a religion than with the authoritarian state’s modus operandi, thus requiring universal rights to curb its abuses. It is also symbolically significant that the black-clad, motorcycle-riding, batonwielding young men have become the Islamic Republic’s street enforcers. The Islamist authorities have often disregarded laws that were based on their own sacred paradigm. They have instrumentally used every Shiite

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