Saturday, 20 June 2009

In fear of the people - 7

Updates on the Iranian regime’s attacks upon their people today:
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Today I heard two unconnected friends in London say they thought Ahmadinejad probably had the support of the majority in Iran, though perhaps not to the degree claimed in the official results. However the suggestion that the protests are just by a well-to-do urban elite, and that there’s an unseen rural majority supporting the regime, has been repeatedly debunked. Some of these articles have been linked to on other blogs, but for anyone who missed them here they are again:

On monday The Washington Post published an article arguing that telephone poll data showed the election results might actually reflect the will of the Iranian people, in  The Iranian People Speak by Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty. But Gary Langer, Director of Polling at ABC News demonstrates why their conclusions weren’t supported by the poll data, and points to the fact that they had earlier reached conflicting conclusions based on the very same poll.

The same flaws in the Post article are highlighted by Juan Cole, professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan and author of  “Engaging the Muslim World.”

Iran’s Rural Vote and Election Fraud by Eric Hooglund, professor of politics at Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, and editor of the journal Middle East Critique. An expert on Iran, his most recent publication is “Thirty Years of Islamic Revolution in Rural Iran” in Middle East Report, no. 250, Spring 2009.

Ahmadinejad’s Rural Votes by Nate Silver, a statistician whose predictions during the 2008 US campaign outperformed every established pollster. He demonstrates that Ahmadinejad’s core support in the 2005 election was urban, not rural. For more graphs comparing the 2005 and 2009 results, see The Guardian News Blog (scroll down).

Why Tehran Matters by Laura Secor of The New Yorker. An excerpt:
It is true that the movements of American reporters in Iran are controlled and curtailed to the point where Tehran is the main, if not the only, point of access, apart from the hard-line holy city of Qom. I cannot speak for all American journalists who report from Iran, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who is acutely aware of, and frustrated by, the lack of insight into the rural heartland this affords us. The best that we can do is to familiarize ourselves with the full spectrum of urban life, across class and cultural boundaries. Most Iranians, after all, live in cities, of which Tehran is only the most gigantic.

It is from this reporting that I have written, in this magazine and elsewhere, that the urban poor had ceased to be a reliable constituency for Ahmadinejad. They were in 2005. But by 2006, it was hard to find a South Tehrani who was pleased with the outcome of that vote or prepared to vote for him again. Why? Because under Ahmadinejad, the country’s economic crisis deepened in ways that hit urban populations—both the poor and the middle class—harder than anyone.

Ahmadinejad’s 2005 mandate was an economic one. Those who wish to argue that Western reporters, in their narcissism, have simply overlooked the widespread enthusiasm for the incumbent, need to explain the outcome of the 2008 parliamentary elections, which were carried by conservatives who were fiercely critical of Ahmadinejad’s economic policies and worked hard to distance themselves from him. These were elections that did not even include any reformist candidates, let alone lure a large North Tehrani vote.
Read the rest here. Again Juan Cole covers similar territory, with additional detail, here.

8 comments:

Gordon said...

Part 1
You seem to be, dare I say, obsessed with Iran at the moment. Western supporters of Palestinians are often asked why they choose this particular issue over the many other (even worse) injustices in the world – the implication being that there is a hidden agenda (anti-Semitism or political fashion etc etc). It may be an unfair or irrelevant question but it is still one supporters of Palestine should ask themselves. & so I’m asking the same question of you in relation to Iran. Please don’t just bombard me with links to other websites. I’ve followed up quite a few of these links & at the beginning of this Iran debacle I was hoping that some proof would be produced but many of the links are basically reiterations of hearsay & anecdotal evidence & much hysterical hyperbole about a “green revolution” and a great deal of attention on the brutality of the Iranian secret police. What is getting some of these people very excited is the idea of the Iranian police showing sympathy to the protestors. Neither of these things are in anyway remarkable & can be found in virtually every state during moments of serious civil unrest & compared to what happened after the real revolution in Iran it is being rather restrained. It is worth noting that these protesters are not just west-friendly attractive youngsters in green face paint - images of which can be found on a number of your links – but, as one would expect, violent and angry people attacking the (sympathetic) police, destroying buildings and looting.
Much of this “green revolution” seems to be playing to a Western audience – the green-faced hijabed girls who look like something from a mobile phone ad are holding up signs in English not farsi and as Obama said “the world is watching” meaning, in that very Western concept of the world “the west is watching”. For sure the middle east is watching too but with a different gaze – and from Obama’s point of view it is only how the Middle east is watching America watching Iran that matters. He is being very cool about this, adopting a hands-off wait and see approach but we all know what he’s hoping for. The same, I suspect, you are hoping for – the implosion of the Iranian Islamic Republic.
For surely you are not a supporter of Mousavi who is only a slightly nicer version of Afterdinnerjaz (as Jon calls him)? I’m not going to argue with you about the evilness or otherwise of the Iranian regime but I think you could be a bit more honest about your investment in this “green revolution” – all this sentimental guff about the will of the people is making me queasy (rather than just plain sick as it did when the “coalition” were bombing the fuck out of Iraq for it’s own good).
Your democratic fundamentalism is beginning to look increasingly irrational which is perhaps not such a bad thing – I find it easier to take the rhetoric of supporters of wars and revolutions when it comes from an emotionally charged position rather than dressed up as pure reason. There is something distinctly evil about the rational apportioning of pain and death. It is only the suffering of others that seems to be a price worth paying for… well, take your pick – freedom, democracy, the people, the nation, the party…

Gordon said...

Part 2
I went to a talk between Eric Hobsbawm & Donald Sassoon the other day. It was organised by Independent Jewish Voices (as opposed I assume to the Dependent Jewish Voices). They are both brilliant historians & were very good at debunking many of the fundamental Zionist myths as one would expect. All rather predictable. They are both very disheartened by the disintegration of the Israeli left which represented to them the only rational, secular & democratic hope for the country & for the Palestinians. The problem – which they didn’t go in to was that the left in Israel has for some time only represented a liberal elite who have been increasingly alienated from the increasingly powerful Mizrahi working classes. At the same time the military have become even more entrenched and influential within the political elite. The Mizrahi, who have been treated very badly in Israel associate left wing & liberal politics with the Ashkenazi elite and the left in Israel have, up until recently, effectively been the ruling class in terms of political power and economic privilege. It is democracy that is leading Israel further to the right and making a just peace less and less possible. The irony is that it is Israel’s western democratic system that is driving it towards the status of another unstable rogue state in the middle east. A similar thing has happened among the Palestinians – the secular left have also been associated with the upper classes and intellectual elites and given the opportunity to vote the people made the “irrational” choice.
In respect to your very patronising post below on the “kindergarten politics” of the term “imposing democracy” I must admit I agree that democracy is always imposed on somebody but it is precisely this undemocratic aspect of democracy that seems to be a blind spot among fundamentalist believers such as yourself. For example in the Iraqi elections only 2% of people in Sunni regions voted at all – but of course that is their democratic choice… But you will say that they are the “terrorist thugs” or have been scared off by said thugs. Perhaps when these thugs and other detractors of democracy have seen the error of their ways or have been killed off democracy will reign supreme. Just hypothetically, I wonder what the Iraqi people would have voted for if it had been possible to have had a referendum on the war? I have no doubt whatsoever what their choice would have been if it were a matter of simply getting rid of Saddam but a full-scale invasion? And to use the fact that they voted in elections after the war as evidence of success is ridiculous – they had to deal with the reality of the present situation, not voting would have made all that death and destruction even more pointless & it isn’t at all surprising that people would vote when so much is at stake.
Meanwhile in Iran we have another failure of democracy whether it is a corruption of the process or a refusal to accept a result we do not yet know but your mind is clearly made up. Of course when the millions of people in Britain and around the world protested against the destruction and invasion of Iraq they were just plain wrong. The democratic western governments weren’t “in fear of the people” just utterly indifferent to them.

Gordon said...

& Another Thing. This blog appears to be part of a network of ex-lefty neocons, liberal baters, democratic fundamentalists and such like-minded folk. Nothing wrong with that (apart from the fact I tend to disagree with most of it) but rummaging around in your fellow bloggers’ posts there is a common trait among a lot of them. It is a kind of overweening rationalism – as though everybody else (especially such contemptible creatures as Guardian reading lefty-liberals) are dumb (kindergarten politics?), mad or bad. It is noticeable that these soft-brained liberals who blindly follow their soft-brained newspapers are given as much or even more hate-space on the blogs as evil tyrants and terrorists. What’s eating you lot? How come so much self-righteous fury is aimed at such soft targets? But then again I’m often surprised at what gets fundamentalists going.

kellie said...

No comment.

kellie said...

On Sunni participation in Iraqi elections, raised in one of the comments above, here's a BBC report on the January 2009 election in Iraq:

Turnout in Saturday's vote was 51% - lower than the 55.7% seen in 2005 polls, the Independent High Electoral Commission said on Sunday.

The figure was lower than some predictions of about 60%.

But turnout shot up in some Sunni-dominated parts of the country, such as Ninevah province, where it is thought to have reached at least 60% compared with 14% four years ago, Iraqi officials told news agencies.


Here's a report from the LA Times on turnout.

kellie said...

On the comment above speculating as to what the result would have been had the people of Iraq been able to vote beforehand on whether they would support an invasion: while this is unknowable, a BBC poll one year after the invasion found that more Iraqis (49%) still believed that the coalition invasion was right compared to those (39%) who thought it was wrong.

A simultaneous BBC poll of UK public opinion found that one year after the invasion 48% believed the war had been right, as opposed to 43% who believed it was wrong.

kellie said...

On violent and angry people destroying and looting:
here and here.

kellie said...

More on "violent and angry people attacking the (sympathetic) police, destroying buildings and looting" see The Guardian News Blog today at 6:37 pm:

This video clip shows the devastation security forces wrought on what looks like a quiet street in Tehran.

Youtube commentors offer these translations:

Basically: last night several man in military uniforms with arabic accents attacked this building and several others in the same street. They broke the door, and made their way into the building all the way to the rooftop, and broke the a/c units, throwing some of them to the street. They also broke the cars in the street."
'Did you call the police to report?"
'No, the police are the ones who did it."
'Is there anything else you would like to say?
'No there is nothing else. We need to be armed to defend our selves."