Ahmadinejad the progressive

The best recent article i've read on Iran is this one. As strange as it seems, Ahmadinejad might be the best thing that could have happened to Iran. Not only is he consolidating power at the expense of the clerics, he's also taking a stand for women's rights. Here's some strange rhetoric to hear coming out of Iran: "Unfortunately, whenever there is talk of social corruption, fingers are pointed at women," Ahmadinejad said. "Shouldn't men be blamed for the problems, too?"

Of course the actual best thing that could happen is the rise of a feminist, secular, anti-imperialist, pareconist mass movement. But given the constraints of reality, I'd be pretty satisfied if Ahmadinejad can pull a Nixon going to China and both democratize Iran (accumulating power in the presidency, an elected position, would be a step in the right direction) and improve the place of women. This isn't to excuse Ahmadinejad's far-right positions on religion in government or the existence of the Holocaust. But, as painful and strange as this is, it seems like he might be the most progressive leader in the Middle East today.


Chris said...

For all these reasons (aside from anti-Semitism) i'll be rooting for Iran in the world cup. they're showing the Iran-Mexico game on network TV in chicago, although i imagine this has more to do with Mexico than Iran...

jenny said...

it's really sad that his comment could be considered feminist.

i think these are all calculated stunts to grab at the chance for fame and world acceptance of the iranian state. he established his identity in iran with widely popular anti-semitic statements. then he sent the letter to bush that got a lot of press around the world. it makes sense to me that he would promote women's issues, since women have voting power and they're very eager for change--and the outside world looks favorably on it. any small amount of leniency on social regulations makes a huge difference in the lives of women, without any substantive change occurring for them politically or economically.

i don't trust this guy. it sounds like he makes a lot of promises to the poor that he won't be able to keep. why would you think they're not just appeasements? plus, any reforms he makes are just as likely to be continued as they are to be erased by the next leader.

jake, i think you should send ahmadinejad a handwritten letter about parecon. he needs some ideas.

Chris said...

while you certainly shouldn't trust him, and you're probably right that his policies are "calculated," these things would be true of any and all politicians, in iran or in the U.S.

i think the bigger point is that precisely because of his status as a conservative and supporter of the regime (he even participated in the 79 revolution as a university student) he is able to make reforms that others wouldn't be able to. of course there's also the matter of Khamenei's support of his reforms, which i find a bit puzzling.

i don't think that he's necessarily "appeasing," i think his image as a supporter of the lower classes is pretty solid (not to say that he's a socialist or revolutionary.)

on the other hand, he's an anti-semite. did i mention that?

he's got a good image-development team, i've felt better disposed towards him ever since i saw a picture of him in work-out pants kicking a soccer (football) ball. and i like the jacket-with-no-tie thing. very modest.

Jake said...

well, i wouldn't exactly call ahmadinejad a feminist. and i don't think he's trying to get international approval. but you're right, he's a politician and shouldn't be trusted. and he's more than proved that in many respects he's far right-wing.

still, i believe in giving credit where it's due. in the US we get a very one-sided picture of any leader who defies the US - a totally predictable process of demonization in the media unfolds. and as i've noted before, ahmadinejad has a side that is worth praising.

of course i wouldn't look to him to advance very much any of those things i mentioned: feminism, secularism, anti-imperialism, parecon. well, maybe anti-imperialism. but i think we need to complicate our view of him, and of the social groups that are contending in iran.