Finding truth by Reading Between the Lines


Azar Nafisi says Iranian women worked for freedom via election [image: GALLO/GETTY]

Azar Nafisi author of Reading Lolita in Tehran: Shares her memories of how the Islamic Revolution in Iran affected a professor and her students. Her new book, Things I’ve Been Silent About, is a memoir of growing up amidst Iran’s political revolution. Nafisi is visiting professor and executive director of Cultural Conversations at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC she also teaches courses in the relation between culture and politics.


Interviewed following the disputed election in Iran, Professor Nafisi shares her insights into the truth of what is going on in Iran reflected by the campaigns and the elections tumultuous aftermath.

Al Jazeera shares her thoughts.

Al Jazeera: What has just happened in Iran?

Azar Nafisi: Well, what has just happened in Iran is a continuation of what has been happening for thirty years. Iranian people took up opposition and used an open space to express what they want. Their vote was not just against [incumbent President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad but what he stood for.

Al Jazeera: But it seems like Ahmadinejad has won an overwhelming majority?

Azar Nafisi:But the most amazing thing is that so many people came out into the streets to demonstrate and protest and to make their wishes known.

This is great because it disproves the myth that the Iranian people want the extreme laws imposed on them by the Islamic regime. In any society you will have extremists.

There will be always people who will support those like Mr. Ahmadinejad, in the same way that many Americans supported Mr. Bush or support Christian fundamentalists. But that does not mean that the Iranian people prefer a theocracy to a pluralistic country with freedom of religion and expression for everyone. In their slogans and demands during the elections they asked for freedom and democracy and repudiated the repressive laws. But just as important is the fact that many within the ruling elite in Iran are realizing they cannot rule the society the way they claimed they could.

A good example is Mr. Mousavi himself.

In order to win Mousavi had taken up the progressive slogans, which he had previously fought against. I was there at the beginning of the Islamic Revolution when he was the Prime Minister, and implemented many of the repressive measures which he now denounces. I (like many others) was thrown out of the university that Mousavi helped to shut down as part of the Cultural Revolution.

The fact that Mr. Mousavi or Karoobi choose to talk of freedom and human rights show the degree to which the divisions within the regime are affected by the resistance of the Iranian people. I think these are the important points about the elections and not only who won or who lost.


Al Jazeera:But don't you think this election result, the election of hardline Ahmadinejad as opposed to a reformist Mousavi, suggests that the majority of Iranians want their theocracy to continue?

Azar Nafisi: For me, elections in a country such as Iran don't have same meaning as in countries such as the US. We hardly have a choice in who we vote for anyway. There was also not one single international observer.

A sizable number of people can't even read in Iran and they will vote for Ahmadinejad. I admit that I might be wrong, but for me the real poles are not the number of votes. The real poles are what sort of platform the candidates use in order to win.
It was really amazing and interesting to see what Mr Mousavi chose as his platform to win. He didn't just campaign against Ahmadinejad but against the very foundations of the Islamic Republic. The fact that Mr Mousavi risked his political career to take up this position suggests that a sizable number of the population don't want what exists now.

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This article highlights the power of incremental change, brought about by discussion of issues one person to another. Truth and Ideals are more potent than bullets though both have their usefulness. Do not be misled into assisting the further entrenchment of Theocratic power. Know your movement & own it. Iran’s Theocracy is facing social revolution and a repudiation of the underlying source of their continuing power. The dream of a caliphate is not a national dream, rather it’s a fading dream of ideologues. You can not force anyone to believe something, humans must choose to believe. That is God given volition.

Choose to use it in pursuit of truth.

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