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Iran’s Youth is Rising Up. What Are We Doing?

July 8, 2017
Firouz Farzani
3 min read
Iran’s Youth is Rising Up. What Are We Doing?

When it comes to foreign influence, Iranian politicians have a shameless double standard – and that goes for reformers and hardliners alike.

Take the London Fire Service’s 45-engine response to the catastrophic blaze last month, which destroyed the Grenfell Tower apartment building. Immediately Iranian officials began to ask why Iran didn’t have similar equipment and procedures in place to fight the fire that demolished Tehran’s Plasco building in January. Their conclusion: The foreign, UK operation was better.

Similarly, when coaches imported from abroad lead Iran’s volleyball and soccer teams to victory, our politicians are among the first to cheer them on. In sports as in firefighting, foreign is fine. (And incidentally, no one minds that the sports themselves are foreign imports. British sailors introduced soccer to Iran decades ago in the port city of Abadan. Badminton came to us from India and the British Raj around the turn of the last century. The list of imported sports is long.) 

But foreign political systems and freedoms? That’s a different and hypocritical story.

Today’s young Iranians, connected online to foreign values and ideas, are demanding huge changes. They want fair and genuinely competitive elections, a real multi-party system, gender equality, equal rights for homosexuals, and freedom of association and of speech.

Suddenly, Iran’s political establishment line up to denounce foreign as bad.

Hardline politicians default to religious texts to “prove” that liberal values and open elections are vulgar, alien and corrupt.  They find plenty of support among the clergy of Qom, Isfahan, Mashhad and of course their conservative followers.

The reformists – having paid lip service to reform — have to work a little harder to come up with a reason to reject political ideas from abroad. The best they can do is, frankly, an insult to the Iranian people. Essentially, they argue that we aren’t evolved enough!  

“Dictatorship and authoritarianism are so deep-rooted here,” they say. “We [ie, you] need time to adjust.”

“Remember Iran’s rapid boom in the 1970s? It led to our doom. The end of stability and a surge of unacceptable violence.”

The reformists know this doesn’t wash with the YouTube generation. Millions of young Iranians don’t want to wait for so-called historical maturity before they are allowed to enjoy political freedoms. The way they see it, if they can handle foreign imports like badminton and computers, they can handle the rest. And – come to think of it – Western coaching has worked so well in sport, why not have some imported guidance on political reforms too? 

While the reformists are trying to put the brakes on, crying, “Wait. Slow down. Careful," the modern world is speeding up. Digital streaming, artificial intelligence, the internet of things – it’s all gathering like a great technical tsunami, about crash over the heads of our old, largely male politicians.  

But Iran’s youth is rising. They will take to their keyboards, social media and even the streets to normalize Iran’s relations with the rest of the world and make it into a country rather than a sclerotic, despotic theocracy. We, the old generation, should learn to help, not hinder – and to start ceding power before it’s too late. 



July 16, 2017

When Iranian immigrate to other countries , they will be adapted to the situation very fast ,,,,,
So the political system can be learned as football or managerial skills from west are imported and internalized in Asian countries

July 15, 2017

I'm not sure if young generation can really penetrate the firm guard against modernity easily but It's still a hope.

July 15, 2017

I agree more with the comment. I think the article oversimplifies the problem.

July 14, 2017

The youth is the hope of the country

July 9, 2017

There is absolutely nothing wrong with what you define as ["importing"] "political ideas from abroad". My concern is, how far would a country such as Iran, could depart from its own deep rooted religious & cultural characteristics and opt to absorb Western liberal "values" into its co re; without destroying its own [Shiite/Persian] values?

Paraphrasing your references on computer and its [afterthoughts] - Western software derivatives, or employing a foreign sport's coach is one thing. But doing away with something as fundamental as state-mosque pivotes entirely, is a recipe for eventual destruction of what we both would call, family values, social interactions and all cultural norms, which have connected [us] - you and I, to our collective identity & history.
Still, I'm not suggesting Western Liberal values are a hinderance to our Persian-collective well beings; far from it. But one has to be realistic, in the fact that, the Western societies sought re-alignment between its peoples, thoughts and pen - through [the] Renaissance and Christian Reformation; spanning almost over four centuries of social and political upheavals: None of which, us the Persians, either have the history-of nor our contemporary society in today's Iran, is capable of absorbing any of their social relevance.
Having a close look at our country - Iran, it clearly tells us: our existing problems, including those of our young people's, do [Not] persist because, we lack [The] Western style liberal practices in our society. It is by all account and overwhelmingly; driven by structural corruption and the absence of transparency. There is absolutely [No] reason for the people of Iran, to undermine the societally structured and existing socio/political norms governing our society; in favour of an alien concept. In that, our people, young and old alike are politically mature enough to understand that pivot.
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