The sham of Iranian democracy

Whenever I hear British Jews criticising Israel for defending its citizens from Kassam rockets I am deeply suspicious of their motives. I sometimes wonder if they want revenge after having had some sort of emotional conflagration with their pro-Zionist family. Roger Cohen recently wrote an article for the New York Times where he described a banner above a synagogue in Iran saying: “Congratulations on the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution from the Jewish community of Esfahan”. He also quotes an Iranian Jew who said20that Gaza showed the Israeli government to be “criminal”. Mr Cohen goes on to praise Iranian warmth and civility towards Iran’s remaining 25000 Jews. Indeed, the Iranian people I have met have always been very warm and polite which makes it more of a conundrum for me that Iranian politics is generally so brutal.

This sophisticated and cultured nation stands by and watches the oppression of many of its own people while consoling itself that it is more democratic than its Arab neighbours. In Iran women can be s toned to death for committing adultery whereas men can have up to four wives. The Guardian Council, which chooses presidential candidates based on their dedication to Islam, has proclaimed a woman cannot become President as they lack “the intellectual capacity and understanding to stand”. The Pet Shop Boys dedicated an album to two teenage boys hanged in 2005 for being homosexual and an Iranian leader has stated that homosexuals deserve to be executed. Human Rights Watch recently reported on the oppression of Iran’s Kurds. Many of Iran’s three hundred thousand adherents to Baha’ism, considered heretical to Shi’ism, have been executed since 1979. Evangelical churches and the printing of Christian literature are banned. There can only be one Jewish MP o ut of 290. Jews can vote for anyone while Muslims cannot vote for Jews.

On 12th June the Iranian people go to the polls for the 10th Presidential election since their 1979 Revolution that deposed the Shah. These Presidential elections, and the eight Parliamentary elections since 1979, give the people the false sense that the Islam of the Islamic Republic of Iran is democratic. Iranians never wished to have their lives so fully controlled by Islam. Initially the 1979 revolution was a workers’ one but soon afterwards the Mullahs brutally repressed the left once it had done its job of helping to oust the Shah. Then the Mullahs set about infusing every level of society with Islamic tenets. The imposition of Sharia law has been so complete that thirty years on many Iranians have forgotten that back in 1979 they just wanted less corruption and an end to autocracy, not a theocracy.

President Ahmadinejad and three others will contest the election o n June 12th. One disqualified presidential candidate proposed moving Israel to Hawaii. But whoever wins may well be irrelevant due to the man right at the top, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Past reformist presidents have had legislation blocked by the all-powerful Guardian Council, which is appointed by the Supreme Leader, and supporters imprisoned. Of the two reformists now standing Mehdi Karroubi states that questioning the Holocaust should not concern Iran and both he and Mir Hossein Mousavi want better relations with the west. But “democratic” Iran is likely to continue involving itself in the internal politics of other countries with continued support for Hamas and Hizbollah. Hizbollah’s deadly bombing of the Jewish community cent re in Argentina in 1994 happened on the watch of the reformist President Rafsanjani. So all in all Iran’s Jews have a solid reason for condemning Israel and for raising that congratulatory banner in Esfahan. It’s called self-survival.

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