Iran

By Clifford R. Barnett; Wendell Blanchard et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII DEFINITION AND ENFORCEMENT OF PUBLIC ORDER

Iranians regard themselves as sincere believers in public order and safety, but to them it means something quite different from what it does to Americans. By "public", the Iranian means only his own people, whether family, clan, tribe, or political group. Thus the government is not primarily concerned with protecting the public, in the sense of all people, but only itself. Conversely, a political party competing for power may indulge in the paradox, all in apparent good faith, of staging a public riot in the name of public protection.

Each individual is also responsible for harmony within his community. If two men begin to fight in the street, the street crowd immediately separates the two. The contestants make a great show of wanting to resume the fight. Part of the crowd surrounds each man, pretending to support his argument, but really to keep the peace-disturbers apart. A glass of cold water is given to each with the object of cooling his fury. It is a sin to see individuals fight and do nothing about it. Each person is a mediator to resolve differences between individuals and groups and to bring them into harmony.

Police do not represent law and order to Iranians. They are rather regarded as the most hated and ruthless force in Iran. Yet the "good" policemen are simply carrying out their duty as followers of their own leaders.

Each group of leaders, whether in political parties, tribal units, or village communities, have their strongmen followers who carry out their commands. Such a follower appears tensely alert, like an eagle, but his function is much that of a sheepdog: to see that none "drag behind" or conduct themselves incorrectly, and above all to guard the leaders themselves. He metes out punishment on the order of the leader for the "good"

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