Sunday, March 21, 2010
Khiaban No. 63: Compromises Up Above, Struggles Below
Translation of a lead article from Khiaban newspaper's latest issue (#63).
Big Compromises Up Above, Great Struggles Down Below
by Amir K.
In the last days of the year 1388 [in the Iranian calendar], two small but important pieces of news regarding the media world were published: the suspension of the bans on two newspapers, Sharq (East) and E'temaad (Trust). At first glance, this news could be interpreted as good news. After all, isn't freedom of expression an important demand of the people? So, maybe we should march forth ecstatically to a new phase, one of retreat by the dictatorship in the face of the people's demands. Maybe we should join the bandwagon of [reformist journalists] and hum along, "Little by little, our caravan shall arrive." [paraphrase - trans.]
But if we look at the recent events from the point of view of the people [and not from the viewpoint of the reformists], we see a different face. Although the recent crackdown on the media in Iran has severely restricted the distribution of news compared to the past, as it has further revealed the oppressive face of the regime, it also brought with it important revelations for the people. Every day that brought the news of banning and chaining of yet another media outlet also saw the postscript news of the social positions/connections of the publishers and managers of the banned newspapers and magazines. Everybody saw that these outlets belonged to this or that relative of some major reformist figure, or renowned member of some reformist party or organization. People saw how even these 'freest' of the media in Iran had an intertwined relationship with different factions of the regime. We never heard of any media outlet belonging to an independent association or institution. We never heard of any journalists independent of these factions, nor heard of one or more intellectuals from the dominated classes or groups having publishing rights for any media in Iran.
Against this background, the resumption of the publication and distribution of [reformist] media can be a barometer for many things, but not for freedom of expression. We can speak of moving toward [an atmosphere respectful of] freedom of expression only when subjugated groups in society, as well as journalists and media activists independent from power, have the right to publish newspapers or periodicals in the society.
But if the lifting of the ban on E'temaad and Sharq is not a sign of retreat by the regime, then what does it signify? It seems that a big transformation is in the making regarding the regime's politics. Although many political analysts are still focusing on the huge schism at the heights of the regime and believe that the deepening of the fight between the Islamic Republic's factions have reached an irreversible phase, the signs tell a different story. The events of the last nine months in Iran have led to the complete ruin of the regime's legitimacy in the eyes of the people. No government, lacking the consent and approval of a majority of the society, is capable of staying in power in the long run. Ahmadinejad's faction has maximally used short-term tools to ensure the continued existence of the regime: generous use of undisguised violence; shooting bullets straight at the hearts and throats of dissidents; macabre, fascistic detention centers; imprisonments, the beatings [and the tortures], and the executions. But the persistence of the people in fighting back destroyed regime's legitimacy on a societal scale. The hidden, black history of the regime has been exposed: the mass killings of the 1980s, the mass executions of the political prisoners in 1988, the discriminatory and oppressive laws against women, workers, sexual minorities, oppressed national minorities, and ... became the topics of discussion all throughout the society, and the demands for changing the ruling political system became ubiquitous. For the people downstairs no longer want this regime.
The inability of the security forces to quickly defeat the dissidents on the streets pushes the regime toward a big compromise at the top. They must not allow the people to continue getting the news on their own, or to analyze things themselves, or to distribute hand to hand what they deem necessary. Paper factories must once again produce and distribute social conformity in accordance with the necessities of keeping the Islamic Republic alive. The reformist faction, in return, can keep its power seat in Tehran, and continue to be patient and struggle on, and not have to move its seat of power, like others in the opposition, to France or Iraq. The ruling regime knows that Khamenei's television is incapable of restoring to it any legitimacy. However, perhaps the 'free' Green media can do that. Especially when there is no obvious alternative that could stop the growth and spread of organizational activities among the people. Big compromises are in the works up above. But, down below, in the depths of the society, great stirrings of struggle are brewing.