In spite of all the injustice committed against people from the beginning of the [1979 Islamic Revolution] till now: many of political dissidents were assassinated or killed without committing any crimes; many were detained; many university students and professors were expelled from universities because they opposed the official ideology; many were executed due to political reasons. In the past decade, many students were deprived from education because of their opposition to the official ideology. Many girls and boys were arrested in the streets and were taken to the police detention centers. In the basements, they were lashed due to their dress code. Many were detained because of their writings, or speaking, or attending a gathering; they are oppressed.
In the past, a revolt happened; some climbed up the walls of the US embassy and showed their aggression. They took some Americans as hostage and the world became frightened by Iran. Universities are closed down; they are purged; some of the professors and some of the students who are against the official ideology are expelled from the universities. The [Iran-Iraq War] starts; anyone opposing is hushed down and the country is facing with many economic challenges. In 90’s, a new generation of students enter universities in Iran with different demands than their previous generation. Iran-US diplomatic relationship came to a halt and Iran was sanctioned due to its nuclear ambitions. And people’s life became hard. In spite of all these, people in Iran are very hopeful. This hope was instilled in the society; people lived with this hope and stood firm to their belief. As we saw recently, in the past few months, the Iranian government gave in to people’s demand and allowed a different voice to be nominated in spite of all the imposed limitations.
Nowadays, a new generation has formed in Iran which is really different from its predecessor who were radical and loyal to Khomeini, the leader of the Revolution. Indignation, aggression and confrontation with the modern world; confrontation with the modern lifestyle; however, now things have changed. Because a new generation in Iran has formed with different desires and dreams. Hope will push the government back. This is what happened in 2009 in Iran, the Green Movement.
We know pretty much without any doubt that major fraud took place for his reelection in 2009, when we had the Green Opposition Movement rise up against that election result that so many people clearly detected to have been fraudulent.But in the first election he had in 2005, there were people who genuinely had the sort of hope somewhere that maybe, just maybe we can go back and fix what we set out to do, maybe this utopia we promised people at home, looking inward and fixing things for ourselves and creating jobs and making sure everyone’s got enough to eat and to drink and all the rest of it, there were people who had hopes that Ahmadinejad could deliver on that. And he tried to do some of that and he was in many ways extremely lucky because of circumstances.
So Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when he takes over in 2005 ’til he leaves office in 2013, pretty much overseas Iran earning something like $700 billion in oil export revenue. That $700 billion, roughly, is more than Iran had been able to receive from selling crude oil to the world from the day oil was first discovered in Iran in those preceding decades. So he had so much money and that money allowed him to go out there and buy, you know, through patronage, buy friends and allies that would be with him when he needed them, and they were there in the initial years. But this was not a very efficient way of running an economy. This was about basically the corruption that he had promised to eradicate mushrooming in ways nobody had imagined because of that oil money that he got through 2005 and onwards. And what it does is, if you were upset about the socioeconomic conditions and the lack of equality in society in 2005, you were much more likely to be ten times more upset by the time Ahmadinejad left in 2013, because he had made matters so much worse. Because he wanted to keep political friends close to him.
Through a number of major corruption scandals, we’ve come to learn how the Ahmadinejad presidency worked. I mean in the history of Iran no one had ever overseen such large corruption scandals the way Ahmadinejad did, including a $2.7 billion banking sector scandal where the Ahmadinejad Administration, people within it, were firsthand involved in milking the states’ coffers.
During the Green Movement. It was called “Disturbing Public Opinion”. And disturbing public opinion is a crime in Iran so they can arrest you for disturbing public opinion, which is a vague thing and because art and thought, I think, are supposed to disturb public opinion. Otherwise, what would they do? Just follow the public opinion? And there were tons of artists who had created anything that would disturb public opinion in different ways. One was disturbing public opinion as a charge as the regime sees it.
So, for instance, you know that Iranian exhibitions for more than two decades are full of women in [speaking foreign language] with senseless calligraphies on it and everyone does that, nearly everyone. And so but the problem was that compulsory hijab is a problem, but how you perceive it and how you represent it matters. So what I showed there was 84 slides of by Jahangir Golestan and four by Kaveh Golestan who was killed in a landmine in Iraq. And so they showed an actual demonstration by men and women, mainly women. After the revolution they protested against this new law, and that’s how you confront.
So that’s the serious way to confront. They protested against compulsory hijab and there were four slides that even someone attacked them with a knife, a young man, a very young man. And so this is how you – how one should deal with such things because it’s a law. It is turned to a law and this is how one should confront it, not estheticize this hijab, right? I know you have examples, hundreds of examples. The third criterion was disturbing public opinion as putting the audience in exile. So many other exhibitions had simplified sociopolitical dilemmas. …But we put books in three or four languages so people could sit down and read and understand. For instance, this fabulous Persian poet, Forough Farrokhzad, who many artists have used as the – many female artists see her as their alter ego but they are not doing her a favor. Doing her a favor is to write a treatise on her poetry, not talking to her in mirror. That’s what many, many artists have done. So what we showed, some part of it was about her. And we even had activists like the feminist school of Iran. It’s a website and a Facebook page.
And we had a colleague from the school who gave a lecture about what they do because I used to and I still do. I used to write in, for instance, for the feminist tube of Iran and I always took part in the women’s movement of Iran, especially during hard-timers prison because afterwards it was nearly possible – impossible. And so what we showed was no ornament, no knickknacks, no … nothing easy. And so I wasn’t well received. It was not. We showed it in Gothenburg in Sweden in Rodestein, the Red Stone.
Dr. John Vafai
The recent uprising in Iran has a powerful message: eliminate economic injustice. In this respect, it is more potent and enduring than the wave of demonstrations in 2009 seeking “where is my vote.” The 2009 revolt was primarily carried out by young university students, intellectuals, urban dwellers, and those who had the experience of life under democratic systems. In that year, young Iranians’ overwhelming vote, for a semblance of a representative government, was answered with guns.
Iran’s problems could not be explained without referring to the paradoxical fabric of its society, and its government. Iran has one of the highest adult education in the world— 97 percent among young adults— well ahead of the regional average. Further, a considerable percentage of the student body, in Iranian universities, is female. Telegram, an encrypted social media app is used by more than 40 million Iranians. It was a prime means of sharing information and videos during the antigovernment demonstrations. President Rohani solicited, and received, a substantial number of women’s vote who voted for him in the hope that the curbs on them will be modified. Yet after his re-election President Rohani’s new cabinet excluded women (and Sunnis). Further, he has left most obstacles on women in place including a ban on their presence in the stadiums.
This year’s demonstrations concerning “the price of eggs” reflects not only a deep and widespread economic outcry of the students and intellectuals, but also the ordinary people, tired of the financial autocracy of the few against the economic hardship of the mass. Official figures indicate a pronounced economic impact from the demonstrations. According to Mohammed Javad Azari, Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology, within two weeks of unrest, bank transactions fell by 40 percent and the national postal services income fell by 18 percent. Further, while (according to the World Bank report) after the nuclear deal, the economy has registered a strong bounce back with an annual headline growth rate of 13.4 percent, unemployment among the ordinary people increased nearly 13 percent (up from 12.4 percent) in the spring 2017. The core dissatisfaction lies in economics and preferential system of distribution of wealth. The post-sanction economic diet with increased funding for the extra-constitutional entities and ideologically oriented groups in the Middle East, at the expense of the ordinary Iranians, has not worked.