Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reformists; "good or bad"?

Macbeth vs Macduff

Often I read discussions in Facebook and on Twitter if Iranian Reformists are good or bad. We are used to search who is the good one and who is the bad one. May be it is because it makes us easier to decide whom to support and whom to fight. Or it is because we are use to it, because it is so in the literature an films: we need an antihero like Macbeth or Joker and a hero like Macduff or Batman. In the real world, things are more complicated. There are dictators that we want to fight, there are freedom fighters which we want to support and there are politicians with their good and bad properties. Politicians are always not so easy to judge as they must receive compromises and additionally, we don't know what really is going on behind the scenes. And it gets more complicated if we want to judge Iranian Reformists.

Differences within Reformist Groups

In my eyes, the biggest problem is to generalize Reformists. The reality is, that many different groups and parties are called reformist; from Association of Combatant Clerics to Participation Front. And what is with Freedom Movement of Iran? Are they reformists at all or not? Participation Front at least have always called people to vote for reformist candidates, although it's own members have always been disqualified by the Guardian Council to participate in presidential elections. An then, Mousavi Khoeiniha is also a reformist who wanted to forbid political activities of the Freedom Movement of Iran. Additionally, there are for sure differences between the members of each of these political organizations.

Often, when Iranians discuss about Reformists, they talk about ex president Khatami's (not to get mixed up with the Friday Prayer) era. He was for 8 years Iran's president. Somehow, he is the symbol of reforms. Even about him, I cannot say if he just has done a good job or a bad job. Let us take look at what Khatami did a little bit more precisely.

Khatami; Pros and Cons

Economic Policy:
- Khatami allocated $5 billion to the private sector for promoting the economy.
- The government, for the first time in the history of Islamic Republic, authorized the establishment of two private banks and one private insurance company
- Unemployment was reduced from 16.2 percent to less than 14 percent
- The country's external debt was cut from $12.1 billion to $7.9 billion
If one considers that the nominal oil prise was just something between 15$/bbl and 40$/bbl, we can speak of good economic policy.

Foreign Policy:

- Introducing Dialogue Among Civilizations
- Meeting with influential figures such as pope, Chirac and Matsuura, former Director-General of UNESCO.


People, specially the youth had elected Khatami with big hopes for more freedom. In the first three years of his era, many newspapers came out. His administration didn't close them as it is now the case in Iran. But as the judiciary closed many of the newspapers, his administration remained quiet. As many students came out to support him on july 1999, they expected more support from him. The students asked to meet him, but he didn't accept it. The students of that time were disappointed from Khatami. On the other hand, his administration supported student organizations, although the student movement turned against him. After the second period of his administration many of student organizations, such as Office for Strengthening Unity, the country's most well-known student organization, called for election-boycott. It was also a result of dissatisfaction with Khatami's era (read more in Wikipedia). In the runoff election, the turnout was 59.6%.

Khatami's reform policies led to repeated clashes with the conservative Islamists in the Iranian government. He lost almost all those clashes. Many people questioned if reforms are possible in the system at all, or was it Khatami's weakness undecidedness.

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