Thursday, August 10, 2006

eleutheria

Or

Of Shirin Ebadi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and individual liberties


This post focuses on some points I raised in my previous post, where I wrote about semantic binaries that pigeon-hole and neuter any attempt at change or reform.
Here I would like to add to, and expand upon, a couple of points I made in the previous post.

The confusion created by ideologies that enable change was my central point. I used the examples of Chirac's oppresive measures in France and Ataturk's excesses in Turkey. I left out Iran.

The US and UK funded Reza Shah regime was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Many liberals, at the time, including Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, supported the fundamentalist Islamic Revolution against the secular Shah.

The idea, as Shirin Ebadi says here, was Liberty.
The slogans then were Freedom and Democracy and Independence.Unfortunately, we were not able to implement those slogans, but I am still interested in trying to make them a reality.

She also makes the point here that Ahmadinejad was favoured by 14 million out of a voting population of 49 million.
We have a population of 70 million. Forty-nine million can vote. Mr. Khatami was elected with 22 million votes. Mr. Ahmadinejad, during the second round of the elections, when all the other competitors had been eliminated, got 14 million votes.

She however, rightly points out that USA's involvement in Iran will only worsen things, and that democracy should, and will, emerge from within. She also has an interesting take on Bush.
People are very critical toward the government, but I think that if there is an attack against Iran, people will forget about their criticism, and they will rally with the government. Any attack on Iran will be good for the government and will actually damage the democratic movement in Iran.
...
Once in a while I have the impression that what Mr. Bush says is very much like what Mr. Ahmadinejad says. For example, when Mr. Bush says he has a mission from God to settle the problems in the Middle East. Mr. Bush sometimes wants to bring democracy through the use of force, like the government of Iran wants to push people by force into paradise.

Read the entire interview here. Another excellent interview here.


The other point I wanted to raise was about this man.


In an interview published in The Hindu, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks about 'peace and tranquility and justice', in words that would make a liberal proud. (I know that sounds ironic. It isn't meant to.)
We think that the time of weapons of mass destruction having a say in, or determining the course of, political or human relations is in the past. It is finished. And in the very near future, these existing arsenals are going to become useless. All nations very much abhor war, killing, and bloodshed. There are only a few big powers that want to speed up the arms race, and of course, the reason they are interested in this is to line their own pockets. Today, the age of thinking, of cultural exchanges and endeavours has dawned. What we desperately need is better human interaction, peace, justice, pens — people in the media, for example — that work for the greater good. These are the factors that contribute to or bring about happiness and well-being. Bombs do not provide prosperity. The money that is spent on armaments should rightfully be spent on better welfare, for the development of our various societies, and also healthcare.

Only time will tell whether these are hollow words, but the immediate step must be to hold talks with Iran. I firmly believe that his statements against the Holocaust, and incendiary speeches against the US were but rhetorical statements aimed at catching the US on the Iraqi backfoot. And he's succeeded. The US set back relations with Iran, and by extension, a possible truce in West Asia, when they declined his offer to negotiate.

I am hoping his offer will eventually be taken up. And that Lebanon's Hezbollah-backed offer of policing the disputed territory in south Lebanon, will be taken seriously and NOT
dismissed patronisingly as an interesting offer.


Related articles:
In The Hindu: Ahmadinejad keen on energy ties with India
Mike Wallace talks about his interview of Ahmadinejad here, here and here.


A note on the title:
The title is a reference to the Greek Resistance revolutionary in John Fowles' masterpiece The Magus. After hours of torture, when his gag is removed, he screams 'eleutheria!' in defiance.
Fowles was alluding to the 19th century Greek cry of Liberty or Death.

The French Revolution happened nearly 200 years ago, and may be a distant historical event for us, but its lessons (that eventually you get robespierred) must not be forgotten. In the quest for change, or reform, individual liberties must be paramount, and supercede all else. Even the objectives of the reforms/ revolution itself. Basically, Gandhi NOT Bose.


Amidst modernising monarchies, fundamentalist theocracies, revolutionary radicalism and betrayed democracies, individual liberties are often trampled upon, and one form of oppression replaced with another.


Categories: world, west.asia, USA, politics, war, rights

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