What We’re Reading: Z-Mag’s Piece on Ahmadinejad

What we’re reading: This piece from Z-Mag is making the rounds among our members, and we want to highlight it here. Enjoy!

Ahmadinejad: Anti-Imperialist Or Deceptive Populist?

By Saeed Rahnema

[This presentation was given at a debate organized by the Iranian Human Rights Society at York University, Toronto, Nov. 25, 2010.]

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 with its original demands for national independence, democracy, political freedom and social justice, was one of the most important events of the twentieth century.

It was initiated by secular intellectuals, men and women, writers, artists, academics, students, civil servants and workers. Yet, paradoxically it gave rise to a repressive and religious obscurantist regime.

Years of suppression by the Shah’s regime had left a vacuum which was effectively used by the clergy. We were fooled by Khomeini’s rhetoric from exile that the clergy would be engaged only in religious and spiritual matters and that the democratic demands of the Iranian people would be respected. The takeover of the American Embassy by his followers and the Iraqi invasion created an illusion that the clerical oligarchy was progressive and anti-imperialist.

In the incredible and lengthy three decades of Islamist rule in Iran, the country regressed on all aspects of life — politically, socially, culturally, and economically — and the Islamic regime itself went through various phases of transformation.

In the first phase that coincided with the Iran-Iraq war and the increasing influence of Islamist militarists, the regime consolidated its power by co-opting or eliminating all opposition.

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