Iranians cannot build democracy in the shadow of war

Akbar Ganji writes: The vast majority of the Iranian people aspire to have democracy and, thus, want to make a peaceful transition from an Islamic theocracy to a democratic state. They deserve to have democracy and no one should put obstacles in their way. The Iranians know that they must build democracy in Iran. They also know that they cannot walk on water, or create a peaceful democracy in the shadow and threat of war.

But there are western governments, as well as members of the Iranian opposition in diaspora that want Iranians to go through hellfire to achieve their aspirations. More Iranians reject this, because they have closely followed the experiences of other nations in their region over the past decade or so, and see that the Middle East is soaked with blood. They know the fates of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen – nations that were either invaded by the United States, bombed back to the Medieval age (Libya) or destroyed by a sectarian war instigated by US allies in the Middle East (Syria).

None of these nations has become a democratic state. The state of human rights in all of these nations is far worse than before their crippling wars. Their national security systems have collapsed and terrorism has spread. The only “fruits” of the military intervention in the Middle East and North Africa over the past 15 years have been civil wars, terrorism and disintegration of nation states. Since the attacks of 11 September 2001, at least 1.3 million people have been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Millions of people have either been injured or have become internal refugees within their own countries or abroad.

Iranian people want democracy, but they are keenly aware that security and peace are the prerequisites for building democracy and respect for human rights. Iranians rejoiced after the joint political statement by Iran and P5+1 was read in Lausanne, Switzerland by Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, outlining the framework of the agreement between the two sides over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Why were the Iranian people so happy and celebrating in the streets? Was the announcement a great victory for their nation? It surely was not politically, because Iran made many concessions, and received comparatively little in return.

But it was indeed a great victory for Iran and Iranians, if we look at it from a democracy angle. In the view of Iranians, the negotiations between Iran and P5+1 was a “wrestling match” between war and peace. War was defeated by peace, and its threat was destroyed. It was a hopeful sign for Iranians everywhere.

When a nation such as Iran is threatened by the US and Israel for over two decades, and suffers from the most crippling economic sanctions in history, democracy becomes an impossible dream for its people, who live instead in terror and fear of war. Even now, after the announcement of the Lausanne agreement, Israeli leaders continue to threaten Iran with military attacks. [Continue reading…]

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