At a time when the Trump administration’s bellicose language about Iran is raising serious concerns, it is important not to equate opposition to U.S. imperialism with support for Iran’s repressive regime and its own regional imperialist wars. There is an Other Iran that needs to be defended.
Although the media coverage of the May 19, 2017 Iranian presidential election has focused on the high voter turnout for Hassan Rouhani, it is important to emphasize that many Iranians voted for Rouhani because they saw him as the only alternative to the “principalists” who are on the far right of the religious fundamentalist spectrum. Furthermore, many chose not to vote. The reasons which this part of the Iranian population gave for its decision included the following: 1. All the candidates had to be approved by the Islamic Republic’s Council of Guardians. 2. Many of those who challenged the fraudulent election results in 2009 were imprisoned and killed. 3. The number of executions and political prisoners had increased under Hassan Rouhani’s administration 4. Although Rouhani’s being in favor of the July 2015 nuclear agreement with the world powers was positive, he could not get credit for the agreement because that decision had been made by the Supreme Leader Khamenei, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the regime as a whole. 5. The main difference between Rouhani and his leading opponent Ebrahim Raisi, was that Rouhani was more open to investments by businesses from the West. While Raisi called for increasing state subsidies for his electoral base, and Rouhani supported more neoliberal reforms, both were equally involved in corruption. Neither really cared about the increasing impoverishment of the majority of Iranians. 6. Both Rouhani and Raisi strongly support Iran’s military intervention in Syria to preserve Bashar al-Assad and his regime.
Furthermore, let us also not forget that there are still hundreds of political prisoners in Iran who include student youth, women’s rights activists, labor activists, teachers, Kurdish, Azari, and Arab activists who demand self-determination for Iran’s national minorities, Baha’i activists whose religion is banned in Iran. Currently, Hengameh Shahidi, a journalist and women’s rights activist, Athena Daemi, a feminist and human rights activist, and Esmail Abdi, a leader of the Iranian Teacher’s Union are on hunger strike at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. L