Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Women Can Go To Stadiums…. They cannot?

In midst of nuclear agenda, hardening the regulations regarding veil and collecting satellite dishes from residential areas, President Ahmadi Neghad announced that women must be welcome in Stadiums and sports events. He ordered one of his deputies to make necessary arrangements.

The reactions could not be more contradictory. On one side of political spectrum some reforms said with a sigh that he could do it because he has the support of the system. Others said that this was a good move. Many were happy because there was one sensible, visible change at last. People started to talk about it in buses and taxis[1]and women hold their breath for one brief second waiting to see the outcome.

Clergies, traditionalists and radicals alike, opposed such policies in most determine language. The most interesting part was the reaction of radical faction of Iran’s Parliament (Majlis). Some of its members openly told the residents of Qom that their Fatwas[2] are not law, and won’t be obliging until becoming so. Loftier heads had been lost expressing such thoughts in the past. More surprisingly the radical faction of the house is constituted by those who are there because of the support of the same clergies they defied for one brief moment.

At the end of the day, President caved in. There won’t be any women in stadium for a while. Another episode in the Presidency of Dr. Ahmadi Neghad is over. But why?

There is no observer of Iran’s politics who does not appreciate the role and influence of clergies of Qom and their radical figures. Mr. Ahmadi Neghad is supported by one of the most uncompromising figures Qom has to offer. However despite his teacher’s ideals and conventional wisdom he went for a bridge too far. There are several explanations each of them favored by some. However looking at Mr. Ahmadi Neghad’s actions from point of view of incentives might be more revealing than other approaches.

Mr. Ahmadi Neghad has come this far, not because he has been lucky or pragmatic, or modern. He has offered millions of frustrated low income families in Iran some hope. They might have seen him as an alternative to clergies rule, tired from Khatami’s indecisiveness and others’ economic gains, Ahmadi Neghad was an appealing figure indeed. He needs to keep the momentum of this support in order to stay in power and to remain controversial. He has not delivered any of his promises. There has not been any oil-revenue-surplus check for any one from south of Tehran. There has not been any free loan for recently married couples. Thus there must be another promise, another piece of hope to rally people to his standard.
Although it is not appreciated by the West, in Iran people’s opinions and support are counted on by different political factions. It is not the majority of people in this country, where population could be divided along so many lines; economically, culturally, intellectually, religiously, politically. There are groups, who form minorities but they can come together and form a decisive minority or a majority. Ahmadi Neghad has the incentives to act like he did; he needs these minorities to have some hope, even false ones. He needs to play women’s against hardliners and hardliners against women. And when he cannot deliver, this was “The others who did not let him to deliver”. In conspiracy oriented mindset of my esteemed compatriots that seems to be the final and unchallengeable excuse for lack of achievements.
[1] Taxis are the most active political discussion clubs in Iran, moderated normally by the cab drivers. They know everything.
[2] A religious decree which must be obeyed and followed by all true believers, in contemporary history an instrument for clergies to rally people to oppose un-Islamic policies of governments

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