Democracy or Theocracy?

Navid Nicole Nonahal

Is it possible for Iranians to obtain a democratic state within a theocratic government?

Experts argue that such notion is impossible.

“When a government is based on religion, any religion, it cannot be democratic,” said Nayereh Tohidi, professor and chair of gender and women’s studies department at California State University, Northridge.

Tohidi continues to describe how a government based on religion favors one religion over another. Therefore, it makes the state an ideological state which discriminates those who do not adhere to the religion and ideology preferred by such government.

When I asked Tohidi, then why are the people of Iran routing for Mir Hussein Mousavi when he, like Ahmadinejad, is in fact another product of the same theocratic government, she responded like all others, he could take us one step closer to democracy.

Mousavi has been a significant force behind recent uprisings in Iran, despite all the hidden agendas he might or might not have within the Islamic Republic.

Mousavi’s green movement has brought a sense of awakening to Iranians all over the world reminding them of their strength as a united community, while resurrecting their buried desire for a free Iran, an aspiration they have suppressed within themselves for decades.

Tohidi explains that Mousavi had stepped aside for the past 20 years during which time he has become a painter and an artist.

“Maybe he has reformed. He sounds like a rational, moderate person. He’s not a liberal democrat, but his platform is much better than Ahmadinejad,” said Tohidi.

But, Mousavi being the better of the two evils cannot let us disregard the fact that he, or any other individual under the rule of the Islamic government, will not be able to bring democracy to Iran. This is a notion that we are all, pro-Mousavi or not, very well aware of.

And so what is the next resolution? People of Iran have risen; the younger generation are being tortured and murdered in front of our eyes every day. Who will rise with them to deliver the democracy and freedom they are fighting and dying for?

I do not want to point fingers, name individuals or groups; because I do not believe that I am politically intellectual enough to give myself the permission to do so.

Nonetheless, I am an Iranian-American, who has been witnessing certain individuals and political parties, over the past 30 years, persuading Iranian people to rise and break their silence, promising their physical and military support once they do so.

Recently, I have been wondering when these individuals and political parties are planning to step in. When I pose this question within the community, I get responses such as, “it is not the time,” or “the people are not ready yet.” Which takes me to my next dilemma, when is the right time? Who is to decide when the people are ready? Is anyone planning to ever step in?

“At this point, if the movement gets stronger, more and more government clerics will side with the people and eventually crack the government,” said Tohidi. “We need to let the course of change happen without intervention from outside.”

But going back to the original question, will this change bring the democracy and freedom Iranians are looking for? Is it possible for Iranians to obtain a democratic state within a theocratic government?