The road to reform in Iran will be long and difficult


POSTED: Wednesday, July 01, 2009

By now, Iranian security forces will have all but extinguished that country's post-election protest movement, at the cost of dozens killed that we know of, and hundreds, if not thousands, of injured and detained.

Although the parallels between Iran and China's violent suppression of 1989's Tiananmen Square protests are not identical, Tehran's clerical hardliners have, much like their communist hardliner counterparts in Beijing, planted the seeds for their eventual displacement from political dominance. It remains to be seen if the Iranian atrocities against their protesters will draw the same global outrage that followed the Tiananmen Square massacre, but the Iranian opposition's adroit use of social media — e.g. Facebook, twitter and e-mail — brought the regime's brutality to global eyes.

In addition to the images of pro-regime militia killing of demonstrators, the world has watched in horror as the injured were dragged out of hospitals, being beaten as they were loaded into vans for transfer to fates as yet unknown but well imagined. Neighbors have posted videos of the militia hauling people out of their homes and setting fire to their possessions.

However, the regime's actions will have a far greater and more enduring impact within Iran. The protesters initially believed they were protesting corrupt elements within the government that were undermining the clerics' governance of the country. Supreme Leader Ali Khameni's call for harsh retribution against the protesters has swept away any delusions about the real power behind the fraudulent election results, exposing the reality of Iran's limited democracy.

Iran's educated population now realizes there is “;No power of the people in Iran.”; The days ahead will see the tide of the protest movement recede, but the underlying currents of discontent will grow in the years ahead. Reform will come to Iran, albeit slowly, and future regime responses to the coming changes will determine whether it is a peaceful and relatively inexpensive transformation, or a violent and costly regime change.


Carl Otis Schuster lives in Kailua.