Last night I brought you the news that an Iranian man was executed for insulting the Prophet Jonah. And a day before that I brought the news that an Iranian was convicted and sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Mohammad. This caused many people on Twitter and Facebook to notice, as they should, and as it is natural, because the news is so horrifying. This also caused so many people to question whether or not the west should normalize its relation with the West, some people even specifically mentioned the meeting between Rouhani and David Cameron, saying that while a man was being executed in Iran, Cameron was shaking hands with Iran’s president.
As the person who brought you this news – and as an ardent atheist, as you can easily see from a cursory look at my blog – please, don’t. If you care for the people of Iran, don’t use my blog to bash the reformists, including Rouhani’s administration, and please, don’t use it to push an agenda that opposes normalizing the relations.
The meeting between Rouhani and Cameron was the first meeting between an Iranian president and a British PM since 1979, the year the Iranian Revolution happened. This is good news. This is good news for Iran. This is good news for the very people who are being victimized by the very same regime that is committing these crimes.
You may not believe this, but people who are happy for these kinds of executions and human rights violations agree with you. They don’t want Iran to be on good terms with the West. I mean the fundamentalists. The far-right. The most intolerant theocrats. They mercilessly bash Rouhani and his efforts to normalize the relations with the West. You know why? Because a hostile environment is good for them.
Iranian regime, horrible theocracy that it is, is not a monolith. There are reformists and moderates, and fundamentalists, and conservatives in between. The reformists and the moderates want to make Iran freer and more democratic, and the other side wants to make Iran a more violent and merciless theocracy. The reformists also want Iran to be on good terms with the West, and the fundies want to make the situation hostile.
One reason for that is the fact that those who support the reformists – the middle class, the youth, the academia, the secular and religious moderates, and the intellectual elite – demand normalizing relations with the West. But those who support fundies – the very religious, the basijis, etc – think of the West as the Great Satan and see themselves in a holy war against it. Of course both sides need their base and its popular support. The reformists need their base even more. The other side has the whole hearted support of the military, the Supreme Leader’s office, and all the powerful undemocratic forces. So, making the supporters of the reformists angry and disappointed will reinforce only the fundies. Reinforcing the fundies makes the human rights situation even worse.
If the relations are normalized, then Iran’s doors will be open and foreign investment will come in, and the economy will be improved. Now I want that simply because I care for Iranians’ welfare, but a better economic situation will inevitably make the human rights situation better too. People who are busy not starving to death, people who do not equate losing a position with starving, etc, will be more likely to fight for human rights. A better economy reduces the cost of fighting for human rights.
A friendly environment makes immigration easier, makes students coming and going easier, makes academic relations easier, and makes using companies like Google and Facebook easier for Iranians. These are all spaces that can be used by Iranians to fight for human rights.
Iranian want the relations to be normalized. That’s the main reason they voted for Rouhani, and that’s why Zarif is probably more popular among young Iranians than any foreign minister in any countty.
Finally, Rouhani has no jurisdiction over executions. Not on paper, and not in action. They increased sharply after he became president, because they wanted to weaken him. Rouhani’s base faces a lot of fears to support him. They want to scare them. They want to show that a reformist (or a moderate) taking power doesn’t mean anything. So blaming Rouhani for the executions is exactly like blaming Obama for the filibusters of the Republicans.
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