A Dictatorship or a Democratic System
The Choice of the International Community
The fraud in Iran’s presidential election led to the people’s widespread protests. Despite the continued and rampant repression by the regime in the last five months, these protests have maintained their momentum in such a way that people, and especially young people, use every opportunity to express their dissatisfaction. In the current situation, in which the regime is faced with an internal crisis and has lost its popular legitimacy, the main question that comes to mind is whether or not the international community should support the Iranian people’s non-violent and democracy-seeking movement.
In answering theses questions, we must first ask: in what way can foreign countries assist a social movement like the Green Movement so that their assistance 1) can bolster the national interests of both countries; 2) does not lead to interference in our country’s internal affairs; 3) and is accepted by the movement’s leaders?
Iranian civil and political activists remember well that, in order to undermine the foreign policy of the Iranian regime, Bush’s government encouraged projects to strengthen and improve the situation of democracy and human rights in Iran; at times, it even granted funds and assistance to some of these programs. Since democracy and human rights are recognized by the majority of countries as two universal values and their promotion is emphasized as a fundamental principle in American foreign policy, one can argue that the advancement of these values is in the interest of the United States and should not necessarily be regarded as interference in the internal affairs of other countries. But the troubling track record of Bush’s administration and the Iranian government’s crackdown on civil activists—under the pretense that they are American agents—have forced these activists, to reject foreign support—both financial and rhetorical—for the Iranian struggle for human rights and democracy.
It seems that Obama’s administration prefers to abstain from activities that the Iranian government considers interference in its domestic affairs because of its interest in negotiating on the nuclear issue. But Obama’s administration must remember that because of the rift that has emerged between the Iranian people and their government, they risk losing the trust of the Iranian people during nuclear negotiations. This conjures memories of the coup d’état against Dr. Mossadegh, the Prime Minister of Iran. The Green Movement has also made demands of the international community. This demand does not run counter to the national interests of these countries, but rather, will secure their interests in the long run. Second, this demand does not seek foreign interference in Iran’s internal affairs or foreign influence on the actions and decisions of the Green Movement. Third, not only is this demand voiced by the movement’s leadership and body, it has actually become a pillar of their agenda. What is this demand?
During the last five months, which witnessed the birth of the Green Movement, social and political activists have asked the West again and again not to recognize the illegitimate coup government of Iran and stand by the side of Iranian people in establishing a democratic system based on human rights. As an authentic, national, independent and energetic phenomenon, the Green Movement continues its activities creatively by relying on its resources, despite many constraints. Although this movement is not dependent on the outside world for its viability, it expects the international community to respond to its demands. And if the international community really believes that democracy and human rights are universal principles, it should exert all its efforts to ensure their establishment in Iran. The international community should engage in the following endeavors:
1-The Development of Resources for Information Dissemination
Widespread dissemination of information is one of the most important needs of this movement. Today, there are various methods for disseminating information and the internet has functioned as one of the most efficient tools in this respect. The Green Movement must employ both traditional and new methods of information dissemination, but it needs technical assistance in both of these fields.
2-The Creation of Technical Groundwork for a Radio and Television Network
The majority of activists within the movement have an intense need for an independent radio and television network. Since the state-run media distorts the truth unrelentingly and broadcasts lies ceaselessly, the Green Movement needs an independent radio and television network to thwart the psychological warfare that the coup government has waged against it. Besides, this medium of communication will contribute to the deepening of the Green Movement and its objectives in all parts of the country.
As we know, social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, played a significant role in disseminating information during the election campaign and the protests that followed. The significant advantage of these social networks is that they are free and easy to use. This positive experience should serve as a paradigm for creating the technical groundwork for a non-internet-based radio and television network. As was mentioned, the leaders and activists of the Green Movement are trying to launch a radio and television network that can put them in direct contact with people and counter the coup-makers’ psychological warfare. But a short-wave radio station, in addition to its monthly high costs, requires the technical and physical support of foreign governments so that the activists can broadcast their programs and pursue the movement’s goals.
The experiences of BBC Radio, which has broadcast Persian language programs for decades, and Radio Farda, which plays a crucial role in informing the public about events in Iran, have been positive. However, because these radio stations belong to foreign governments, they are not able to serve as independent outlets for the Green Movement. Iranians need an independent network—similar to social networks like Twitter and Facebook, but reaching a wider audience with less technical difficulty—that can serve as a platform for achieving human rights and democracy-seeking goals.
3-The Creation of a Technical Groundwork for the Internet
By slowing down the internet speed and filtering political websites and other online social networks, the Iranian government has imposed its control over the internet. In the last month, the Iranian government sold 50+1 share of the country’s telecommunications to the Revolutionary Guards so that this military institution, in addition to reaping astronomic profits, can further control information dissemination in Iran and cut off the virtual connection between the activists inside and outside the country. Therefore, we will witness more hindrances to the use of the telephone and the internet in the coming months. That is why it is absolutely necessary that the international community prevent the disruption of connection between the activists inside and outside Iran by creating the required technical groundwork. This move will enable the Green Movement to enhance and reinforce democracy and human rights in a much easier and accelerated way. This technical supports can equip the activists with a new technology that increases the internet speed and disables filtering systems. The government will then have less control over the internet. We at least expect that foreign companies will be prevented from selling filtering technology to Iran.
4-The Long Distance Training of Civil Society Activists
Civil society activists must receive basic and professional training according to their field of work. These trainings should include familiarization with international relations and fundamental rights, methods of administering a successful non-governmental organization, job creation, promotion of tolerance and peaceful coexistence of different groups and ethnicities, methods of combating filtering, etc. Supporting these activities and their proliferation will boost the values of democracy and human rights in Iran.
Human rights and democracy are the most important values in the world that, although proclaimed to be universal values, do not seem to have found their true place in practice. The historical struggle of Iranians against dictatorial regimes has shown that they are a people who long for human rights and democracy. But the struggle against a military-religious and repressive government, which sustains itself with billions of dollars of oil revenue that belong to future generations, is a very costly and difficult venture. It is a rational and logical demand that the West assist the establishment of democracy and human rights in Iran by providing the Green Movement with technical and technological support in the spheres of information dissemination and training. This policy can serve as a prelude to the democratization of the whole region. This assistance will produce the necessary groundwork for creating better conditions in Iran. A free and democratic Iran will profit the region, the West, and especially the United States in the long term much more than a dictatorial and military-security regime.