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‘Freedom is not a western thing’: In the midst of the war to change the Iranian people

For more than two decades, Hossein Yazdi, a political activist, has been campaigning for elections in Iran, determined to change the law.

But now, 42-year-old Yazdi, who was born a few months before the events that made up the Islamic state in 1979, has failed. This time, they will not be putting up posters or knocking on doors to explain their candidate’s credentials. They can’t even vote.

Like many other young people, she has been frustrated by politics and the list of candidates for the June 18 by-elections has only fueled despair. Guide candidates for a few choices is banned and the two reformers have no power. With President Centrist Hassan Rouhani’s resignation in two positions, the dynamic leader and chief justice, Ebrahim Raisi, should easily win if the shortcomings are few, according to experts.

“The reform movement is on the verge of death and since the last riots we have realized that this system cannot be changed,” Yazdi said in a phone call from Isfahan More shows in 2019 against the rise in oil prices in which hundreds of protesters have been killed.

The weakening force began to stabilize after then-President Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with the international community and imposed sanctions. Last year, more than 70% of registered voters voted when Rouhani resumed in the west. But Trump’s move weakened reformers and strengthened the courage, who saw it as evidence that Iran could not rely on Western powers.

Hossein Yazdi has been involved in politics for more than two decades. They are not voting in this year’s election © Hossein Yazdi

While the media campaign is urging people not to vote, many observers say the election will be one of the lowest in Islamic Republic history – which will undermine a coalition government. For many, refusing to vote is an important mockery.

“We need to focus on boycotting the elections, for example, to show our strength and tell the government, ‘We do not give you the opportunity to speak to the world when you meet our limited demands such as free and fair elections,” Yazdi said.

The election is a moment of reckoning for reformers, who gained their advantage in the 1980s as a result of the Cold War in Iraq. The steady growth of disunity in the next decade following the 1979 revolution left many desperate and eager to change for the survival of the theocratic government.

A key element of the reform movement was elected Mohammad Khatami as President in 1997. Changes in the reform process include the repeal of the law requiring women to wear the hijab in public and in some cases the successful protests of workers and retirees to improve their rights. But since Khatami’s rule, activists have repeatedly banned reform efforts and young politicians have questioned whether members of the Revolutionary Guard and the courts will allow changes.

With Khatami’s warning of a threat to democracy, the willingness of the people to tolerate minority shows that their goal is to increase Iran’s power and arms program, rather than relying solely on the people, experts say.

While previous generations of reformers helped establish a theocratic government and have more business, this generation is different, says Mehdi Mahmoudian. The 44-year-old politician has been in jail for more than 10 years for alleged wrongdoing. He was recently sentenced to five years in prison for staging protests against the shooting of Ukrainian and Iranian aircraft last year.

“The second and third generations want to change the structure a lot and do not really agree with the Islamic ideology,” Mahmoudian said.

Mehdi Mahmoudian

Mehdi Mahmoudian spent more than 10 years in prison for his opposition to the government © Mehdi Mahmoudian

Youth activists say there is no way to change the Republic from within, but they want to peacefully promote the establishment of democracy.

“We have to use relationships,” Mahmoudian said. “We need to find ways to reassure people that freedom is not a precious western thing, but it is important for them to have a good life, good housing and plenty of bread,” he said.

Eftekhar Barzegarian, a 39-year-old reformer in the restraint city of Mashhad, said facing a “legitimate problem” the republican government could have “no choice but to change internally” in domestic and foreign affairs.

“The transformation of the reform movement will not happen in this election, but will focus on the pursuit of democracy and a strong focus on human justice and freedom in the future,” he said.

Eftekhar Barzegarian

Eftekhar Barzegarian says Iranian authorities face ‘legal problem’ © Eftekhar Barzegarian

For many reformers, the only one represented was Mostafa Tajzadeh. Former interior minister and political prisoner for seven years, Tajzadeh called for “cooperation between them” and the US, among other things. But Tajzadeh was fired by Iran’s Guardian Council, law enforcement officials.

Reformers have already paid exorbitant prices for their refusal. Many of them lost their jobs and went to prison. “The problem, however, is our financial crisis, as many of us struggle to make ends meet and rely on our families for survival. Many protesters have not yet been identified to retain their jobs and not allow the government to take over their families, “Mahmoudian said.

Mostafa Tajzadeh and his wife registering for the Iran elections on May 14, 2021

Mostafa Tajzadeh and his wife to register for the Iranian elections on May 14. He was banned by the strict Guardline Council © Abedin Taherkenareh / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

For others, it is helpful to take a long-range view, seeing their struggle during the war against Iran, including the war to seize the Shah line that ruled the country to the point of change.

“It has been 100 years since the Iranian people fought for democracy. I learned about democracy from my father and my 17-year-old daughter learned from me,” Yazdi said.

“We know this is a long and difficult war but there is nothing we can do but to end the current crisis. And the system has to choose between swallowing democracy or collapsing inside. ”

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