Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Two Men of Forgotten Qualities: Khatami & Carter

Mr. Khatami former president of Islamic Republic of Iran, whose election marked emerge of reform movement in Iran; will enter United States as a private individual tomorrow. He is accompanied by family members and staff members and is due to speak in National Cathedral at Washington DC. Washington Post reports that former President Carter has agreed to host Iran’s former president.

It is ironic to notice that President Carter carrier came to an end partially because of Islamic Revolution and hostage crisis, however President Khatami’s career began because of Islamic Revolution, otherwise he would have remained the quiet and intelligent head of Hamburg Islamic Center in Germany. The two could smile at this irony.

Little is known about the trip except for President Khatami scheduled talks in Washington DC and Chicago and his visit to Thomas Jeferson’s house at Monticello. However the diplomatic significance of President Khatami’s visit is lost on no one. Since his departure from office he has been acting as an unofficial envoy. In his recent visit to Japan he was engaged in negotiations with Japanese officials.

President Carter also is not unfamiliar with such functions. He has been doing the same thing since his departure from office. His role during Clinton administration and his activities as an observer of free elections at different countries across the globe are well known. Certainly two have much to discuss and both are credible enough to transfer and to correspond messages intended by Tehran and Washington. An unofficial way of offering & discussing unofficially what cannot be offered or discussed officially.

On the side the trip would spark some demonstration by opposition, human rights groups and Iranians in exile. Some usually attack any figure that comes from Iran, some attacked any official or former official of Islamic Republic and some want to use this opportunity to transmit their own agenda through public media. There will be some angry faces on TV, mudding the water and harming a peaceful mission.

Certainly one can criticize President Khatami and his time in the office. But one also must remember the very fact his failures were not because of his lack of qualities and decency. He initiated Dialogue of Civilization ideas and took firms steps to bring back Iran into global community. He did welcome relations with USA and tried his best to jump over the high wall of “distrust” between two countries. There is no doubt that he is a good man. There also is no doubt that he is most suited for the role of an ambassador of peace.

Today President Khatami and President Carter represent qualities of American and Iranian identities that are forgotten amidst war against terrorism and nuclear discussions. One is an adherent advocate of human rights and a hospitable Georgian, the other an advocate of peace and diplomacy. Their meeting is historic because who they are and what they represent, being in or out of office is irrelevant. The two certainly have a lot to talk about.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Social Evolution in Iran: Fate of an Economist

Had you been an economist in Iran 40 years ago and been fired by government, you would have been considered a leftist. Nobody would have noticed your departure. Had you been fired 30 years ago you would have been a graduate of an American university and would have been considered a capitalist agent. Still you would not have been missed. 20 years ago, people would have been surprised to see an economist still employed at a government position. But anyhow it would have gone unnoticed, had you been dismissed. 10 years ago… well 10 years ago nobody would have fired you, had you been an economist in first place.

Things have changed since then. When recently Dr. Mohammad Tabibian, a graduate of Duke University and a former deputy of Iran’s Management and Planning Organization[1] (MPO) and former head of its Macroeconomic Planning Office was retired, Shargh newspaper allocated two full pages in two issues to letters and articles by his colleagues and students, written to remember his services and to criticize administration decision to let him go. Society did take notice of the fact that an economist who had dedicated 30 years of his life to serve Iran was dismissed.

This is a remarkable evolution in a society where being dismissed used to mean the end of one’s social life and career. Many who observe and follow Iran’s domestic affairs are surprised to see how many things have changed during last three decades. The changes are not limited to covering news about individuals such as Dr. Tabibian. The changes are everywhere, in education, female participation, fertility rate, social sciences development, private sector and etc. And unlike Pahlavi era these are not some cosmetic changes in the appearance of the society. The very fabric of Iran’s society has changed and it still is evolving. It is sad to see that many politicians and state men on both sides of Atlantic do not appreciate this fact and still treat Iran the way colonists of 19th century did.

[1] Formerly known as Budget and Planning Organization or BPO.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Privatization in Iran: FORWARD!

Although the media have been most generous covering Iran’s nuclear programs, for many who follows country’s developments closely the most significant news in past months has been the decree to privatize public sector enterprises. Although privatization process in Iran started roughly 16 years ago during the first term of President Rafsanjani in office, government still has monopoly rights in several economic sectors according to constitution.

Drafted in a time when socialist and Marxist sentiments were at their peak, Article 44 of Iran’s constitution states:
“The economy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to consist of three sectors: state, cooperative, and private, and is to be based on systematic and sound planning. The state sector is to include all large-scale and mother industries, foreign trade, major minerals, banking, insurance, power generation, dams and large-scale irrigation networks, radio and television, post, telegraph and telephone services, aviation, shipping, roads, railroads and the like; all these will be publicly owned and administered by the State. The cooperative sector is to include cooperative companies and enterprises concerned with production and distribution, in urban and rural areas, in accordance with Islamic criteria. The private sector consists of those activities concerned with agriculture, animal husbandry, industry, trade, and services that supplement the economic activities of the state and cooperative sectors. Ownership in each of these three sectors is protected by the laws of the Islamic Republic, in so far as this ownership is in conformity with the other articles of this chapter, does not go beyond the bounds of Islamic law, contributes to the economic growth and progress of the country, and does not harm society. The [precise] scope of each of these sectors, as well as the regulations and conditions governing their operation, will be specified by law.”

Thus constitution puts government in charge of foreign trade, heavy industry, steel manufacturing, banking, insurance, telecommunication, aviation, shipping and almost every significant economic activity.

In the past this article provided those who opposed privatization of Iran’s economy with a magnificent line of defense to halt any proposals to privatize heavy industries or government enterprises as unconstitutional. The law and its tradition were so strong in Iran’s bureaucracy that the first private airlines in early 1990’s were established by semi public organizations and free zone administration organizations. It also must be noticed that any administration was able to shut down any private enterprises using this article, should their activities be in the fields identified by this article. On several occasions government officials used Article 44 to dominate the markets and corporations. There has been no doubt in Iran and among Iranian economists that any serious attempt to establish a competitive market in Iran and to expand private sector in country has to address the barriers raised by Article 44.

Thus it was most welcome news when on July 2nd, it was announced that Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has used his power to order government to transfer up to 80% of total shares of its enterprises to the people. According to IRNA, Iran News Agency, the executive order has been issued according to Iran’s 2020 Economy Vision. Supreme Leader also has expressed that this measure would help Iran to meet WTO requirements. The executive order applied to all public enterprises but for Iran National Oil Company, a few banks and some hi tech firms. It also calls for transferring defense related industry to individuals, approved by the Commander-in-chief, a role Ayatollah Khamenei has in his capacity as supreme leader.

No doubt this has been a large step in Iran’s development process. Should government transfers 80% of total share in these corporations, its role will become of a regulator and not an owner. It also must be noticed that management and leadership of these companies would be determined by shareholders. Certainly government officials would seek to influence these choices, but their power to do this would be declining, given the increasing role of Iran’s private banks in financing domestic firms.

To avoid transferring these enterprises to government officials and their appointed managers, this executive order allows only 5% of total shares to be transferred to staff and management. This also would prevent government from dumping failed and bankrupt operations to private sector and retaining profitable ones. However one cannot undermine the potential of networking and networks in Iran to deviate such measures from fulfilling their objectives.

Surprisingly it seems this measure has been welcome by only economists and technocrats. Iran’s intellectual and media, still dominantly left in their economic perspectives, have paid little attention to this order and some ever recklessly have criticized it. But there is no doubt that Article 44 Executive Order has opened the gates toward a more active presence of private sector and has limited government role. In midst of all nuclear debate, there couldn’t be a more obvious signal that Iran and her leadership are ready for business. A country that goes for privatization cannot possibly be anything else but a tough negotiator. All in business are.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

No Comments

I have no comments, but read others comments. (click no comments!)

A Photo From Tehran

Check the link. It shows Jewish ceremony in Yousef Abad Synagogue in Tehran. Iran has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East after Israel.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Quote of Day

Enough politics, It is great to have economics to think in constructive terms. Here is quote of the day I borrowed from a friend. Professor Prescott said once:
Progress! Do not Regress.

well i for one need regressions to make my progress!

Iran Offers to Negotiate Immidiately

ISNA, IRNA, Mehr and BBC Persian reported that Dr. Ali Larijani, Iran's principle negotiator in talks regarding nuclear program, has presented ambassadors of Germany, French, United Kingdom, Russia, China and Switzerland, who represents the United States interests in Iran, with Iran’s answer to the package offered by EU.

It is reported that the answer emphasizes on Iran’s right to enrich Uranium, however it offers several solutions and compromises to start a new phase in this negotiations. Iran has announced that negotiations could begin tomorrow regarding this matter. Dr. Larijani has emphasized that he wants to avoid any accusation that Iran wants to buy time. He added that government's approach has been to consider the package very positively. And Iran has answered as was announced by August 22.

Although no details is known at the moment, but Iran’s readiness to start talks as early as tomorrow indicates that country is determined to receive enough assurances as soon as possible. However one could not help noticing the tone of injured pride. While Iranian president has announced a deadline and package apparently did not have a deadline at the beginning, the developments in Security Council have not helped moderates stand in Iran. It seems the issue for Iran still is the trust. And it seems in this round she feels rightous since she has done as she announced.

At moment it seems that moderates are sincerely making an effort to get the negotiations to a point where a peaceful solution becomes plausible. Enrichment would be the key issue, over which Iranians are ready to accomodate the others, however accomodating is very different from surrendering. They would not let this look like a surrender. It does not mean accomodation would be a lesser thing in concept or context. Let's hope peace be preserved.

What Would Be the Answer?

There is suspense in the air. What is the answer? Positive out of question, negative may be. All predict it to be a conditional positive. However that will not be good enough for the White House and they will continue to force everyone to join them in a path that leads to destructive confrontation. What is the pre-condition to the talks could be achieved by negotiations, but there is no patience for that on this side of the table…. Sometimes I think that it would serve western diplomacy very well, if its diplomats spend an apprenticeship in Tehran Bazaar. One needs to be patient to get the first condition going.

Monday, August 21, 2006

An Article Regarding Deporting 80 Iranian Professionals

It also is interesting, since Mr. Memarian shares his own experience. It makes an interesting reading.

A Strange Coincidence

There are some ironic events in history. Shaban Ja'fari known as Shaban the Brainless, who was the major mob leader and organizer in 1953 coup died on the anniversary of that event 2 days ago in California. Two years ago he said his story to Homa Sarshar, and denied doing things most people saw him doing in the coup.
He lived a privileged life before Islamic Revolution and after that became a hunted man. He left the country and lived in exile in Turkey, Israel, England and eventually he came to the United States. His years in exile were years of loneliness, isolation and poverty. Timing of his death couldn’t be more ironic, he died on the day he made himself infamous for rest of his life.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

All The Shah's Men

This is an excellent book to read about 1953 coup. It includes several interviews and the stand is not biased.

A Day on Our Conscience

August 19th in Iranian calendar is the 28th of Mordad; the fifth month of zodiac calendar and the second month of summer. For last half century this day has its stamp on Iranian conscience and has influenced Iran’s relations with the USA.

At dawn Dr. Mossadeq was prime minister, media were free and some full of insults and personal attacks on the very person of the head of the government. Oil industry had been nationalized and British had left, their embassy was closed. But Iran was under sanctions and Iranian government had failed to secure a deal to restart oil export. Short on cash, unable to import products situation had become desperate. Unfortunately for the world trapped in the Cold War game, Iran had become a danger zone, where Russians were able to make a move southward. British diplomacy had concentrated so skillfully on this issue that none cared or dared to ask them of the millions that they had lost during oil nationalization.

In the USA Truman was gone Eisenhower was the new President. The decent and noble soldier wanted to go ahead by granting a $10 million aid to Mossadeq, however Dulles brothers thought differently. Looking at the world with black and white glasses of McCarthyism and fresh with Eastern European experience they did not have time for passionate liberals in countries rich with oil neighboring USSR. They willingly accepted British approach and the way the issue was marketed. In their eyes this was not a nationalist liberal who constitutionally was elected by an elected parliament and to save the country from poverty had canceled the most unfair concession Iran had done giving away millions of its oil wealth. In their eyes this was the preface to a red coup. No one cared to remember Iran's fame for its conservative clergies and traditional people. The choice America made on that hot day of summer 1953 formed the Middle East we have today.

CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt and USA military attaché bribed whoever could be bribed and recruited General Zahedi, nominated to step in as prime minister. He received his Firman from Shah. The first attempted failed, Zahedi went to hiding and Shah did what he was best at it: he ran away piloting his own aircraft. Hadn’t been for Kermit Roosevelt’s efforts history would have been different. A second putsch was organized, mob attacked Prime Minister’s house, chief of staff of armed forces, who was loyal to government, was arrested in his office. Nobody could organize a resistance, the columns rushing to defend prime minister were diverted. Mossadeq was left alone to fight it with a handful of guards, they fought on. By dusk Mossadeq became a hunted man. Old and alone he escaped to a neighbor house and surrendered himself to Zahedi. The man who was the symbol of a democratic Iran and nationalized oil industry without shading one drop of blood stood trial and went to live under house arrest until his death.

Many judged that day by remembering how Mossadeq fans disappeared from streets by noon and anti Mossadeq mobs ruled the street in the afternoon. Many Iranians use that day to blame Iranians for lack of unity. All blame USA for ruining the only chance Iran had to become an independent liberal democracy. There is no doubt 28th of Mordad paved the way for Shah to become the absolute ruler of Iran. Many realized this ironic fact too late, General Zahedi the leader of coup was sent into exile 2 years later himself, when he was appointed ambassador to Switzerland. Iran became a "one man" show.

Coup sealed the fate of Shah as well, since that day a growing number started to see him as an American puppet, the legitimacy he had in days before coup was all lost in 25 years. In the absence of a functioning democracy, true election and political parties nobody dared to warn him of the days ahead. He was surprised by spreading social unrests of 1978 followed by Islamic Revolution.

1953 also holds on to Iranian mind with a mixture of anger, regret, guilt and hopelessness, Iranians neither forget nor forgive 28th of Mordad. Why should they? Democracies are not achieved by try and error and there are not many opportunities to achieve them. Iran had its chance in 1953. When that was lost, Middle East of today became a certainty.

Today lessons of 1953 are more than ever necessary. The developing countries realties are quite different from the image a few elites in London and Washington try to sell to the world. The dynamics of domestic politics is as delicate as any developed one and any short run solution could be followed by dramatic long run consequences, as we witness in Iraq today. Democratic governments do not say or do what others want to hear. They say and do as the people they represent want them to do and to say. That is not always pleasant or desired but it is better than shaky lies that dictators say and believe. The most important lesson of that day still is the same: do not mess with nations, they intend to have a very very long memory.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Publishing in Economics

In graduate school the difference between hell and heaven is not much. Those who are in hell suffer as well as those who are in heaven. The difference is that people who are in heaven get published. When one publishes a paper, it is equivalent to several drafting and re-drafting, editing and testing. Then one can submit to journals. Then waiting begins. Usually lucky ones get a revise and resubmit which means they need to go an extra mile to please the referee or to meet the standards. The unlucky ones are rejected and they need to repeat the process somewhere else.
There are a number of journals that a graduate student does not expect to get published there; those are for faculty with years of experience and a number of publications in their record. However there are a number of decent journals where graduate students and doctoral candidates publish. No matter where one publishes, it is an enormous joy to see it in print. Here is a link to an interesting paper regarding ranking of academic journals and institutions in economics. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Q&A Regardin SUTA Gatherings

Dr. Hojabri has sent out a mass email to all SUTA members answering some general questions regarding 2006 reunion. The deportation of dozens of individuals who were granted visas to attend this event in Santa Clara was widely covered by BBC, Iranian Media, different radio stations and Bloggers. Iranian government also expressed its dissatisfaction to Switzerland embassy in Tehran. Dr. Hojabri has kindly permitted me to share his email. here it is:

Q. Why the Reunion 2006 was held in US?
A. SUTA’s Reunions are for all members and not for members in a specific country. In the last two Reunions many members living in US were not able to attend the Reunions because they had visa problems too! Graduate students and young professional members with F, J and H visas were not able to travel outside US, because for reentering they had to apply for new visa. For this reason it was natural for SUTA, as a California based organization, to have another Reunion in California.

Q. Didn't SUTA know that traveling to US is very costly for members in Iran?
A. Yes, but the same is true for members living in US to travel, e.g., to Europe. Apparently cost was not a decisive issue, as during the first two weeks of registration more than 300 registered to participate in the Reunion 2006 from Iran.

Q. Did SUTA promise to get visa for participants?
A. No, from the starts we told the members that USA is different from Canada and Germany. While we had the cooperation of the Canadian and German embassies for Reunion 2002 and 2004, we had no contact or promise of cooperation from the State Department or the US consulates, although we had written to them and informed them of our gathering in Santa Clara. We said that we would only provide the participants with an invitation letter to apply for visa. We were naturally very pleased when we saw that the consulates accepted more than 150 visa applications from our participants.

Q. Were participants from Iran detained because they were coming to SUTA’s gathering?
A. The concern of US security agencies about Reunion 2006 was not because of SUTA, but because of participation of large number of members from Iran. But according to the Bylaws, membership in SUTA is open to all associates of Sharif (Aryamehr) University of Technology and we SUTA cannot function in any other way.

Q. Didn't SUTA expect that US will not allow participation of members from Iran?
A. No, all indications up to the last few days before the Reunion were positive. We don't think that anybody could predict Lebanon war, UN Security Council’s Ultimatum to Iran, and the discovery of terrorists attack in UK, all just a few days before the Reunion 2006!

Q. Why SUTA that was aware of the visa problems, has invited members from Iran to participate in Reunion 2006?
A. We cannot imagine organizing a Reunion without participation of our members in Iran. What would our members say if we had excluded members in Iran from Reunion 2006?

Q. Can the US Government be sued for physical pains, psychological stress and financial loss of the deported participants?
A. Lawyers advising us on this issue believe that the deported participants have to initiate any action, but the chances of success are not great. The security laws passed recently give the Federal Government free hand to bar any visitors, and at anytime, from entering US for national security reasons. Such a law suite will be very expensive and takes a long time. The Iranian Government has also recommended that the deported participants file suite in Iranian courts.

Air Traffic Delays and Customer Willingness to Pay

(I love economcis and the fact any event could be observed from different points. This is a summary of research i found interesting regarding air traffic delays, their economic impact and demand consequences. )
Air traffic delays are both a major source of passengers’ complaints and a topic of discussion for authors of different disciplines studying the aviation industry. They also cost airlines dearly; it is predicted that by 2010 the cost of air traffic delays would reach $7.8 billion in the United States (Kostink, Gaier, Long 2000).
Morrison and Winston (1989) estimate the effect of flight delays on airline demand; they discover that an increase in the length of delays reduces passenger’s willingness to pay.
The question of service quality and competition is not new; Spence (1975 and 1976) studied the effect of competition on service quality and established the relationship between competition in market and service quality. Mayer and Sinai (2003), Mazzeo (2003) and Rupp, Ownes, Plumly (2003) studied the relationship between service quality and competition in airline markets, considering air traffic delays a signal of service quality. While Mayer and Sinai find that delays are longer in more competitive markets, Mazzeo and Rupp et al conclude the opposite. Suzuki (2000) found out that market shares are positively correlated with on-time airline performance, thus an airline with too many air traffic delays is less likely to retain its market share.
Januszewski (2004) also studied the relationship between air traffic delays and airfare pricing taking into account the level of competition present in the market. He estimated the price responses to longer flight delays in competitive and non-competitive markets. He found out that the prices fall sharply in competitive markets but not in non-competitive markets. He also pointed out that although air traffic delays affect the demand for air travel as well as its costs, he has observed no reduction in the number of flights on a route when flight delays increase. He suggests that each minute delay reduces the willingness to pay by $2.92. These findings are consistent with those of Borenstein (1990 and 1992) which highlight the market power and competitive advantage that can result from airport dominance. Borenstien work on the relationship of market structure and pricing behavior is remarkable. He adds the delays to market power an airline exercises in its hub.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Very Good Article

This is an article regarding Reading Lolita
The writer is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. I just found it controversial and I share it to show that there are some other points of view. Personally I like the book, although I won't be generalizing Azar Nafisi's experience to the whole society.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

First Cloning in the Middle East

Iranian researchers at the University of Isfahan have carried out the cloning of a sheep. The newborn lamb lived only for 5 minutes. However there is no doubt that this is a first time in the Middle East region that local researchers have performed cloning. The research center in Isfahan will continue its activities in this regard according to Dr. Montazeri the director of the center. The project was initiated by Dr. Ashtiani who passed away before seeing its results.

An Alumni Gathering and Realties of a Policy

For Iranians Sharif University of Technology (SUTA) is Iran’s MIT. The university ranked first in many fields particularly communication, electronics, mathematics, physics and mechanics. It is the first choice of many but only a few can enroll. Out of a few hundred thousands high school graduates with mathematics and physics diplomas only 600 are qualified to enroll in its departments each year. The school annual advertisement in daily papers warns the new freshmen of the school high standards and advises them not to choose this school if they lack sufficient background in mathematics and physics. No wonder its students receive admissions from almost any school in the world, more than once they came first in the qualification exams at Stanford University.

Today school alumni in Iran include several thousands of professionals and businessmen who are the finest in their trade. Most run their own firms and constitute the core of Iran’s small hi-tech private sector. Its large alumni outside Iran include several academicians and researchers as well as highly skilled engineers. For last few years its alumni have been more active in organizing reunion and creating a bridge between Iran’s most renowned academic center and outside world. This year the fourth annual gathering of this sort took place in Santa Clara, CA.

Expecting a turn out from Iran, board of directors of SUTA Alumni went through hideous paperwork with State Department and its Consulates. They advised their members to apply for their visas ahead of time. All applicants went through security check and other necessary procedures. At the end 150 of the alumni and faculty members received visas to attend the gatherings. Many also came from Europe and other states to attend this reunion of so many friends and classmates. The generations who silently try to build a better Iran were coming together. But the outcome of all those careful preparations and paperwork came to nothing. Several of attendees denied entry upon their arrivals and informed that their visas were revoked. Some put in detention over night to board a later return flight. The bridge broke again. The authorities chose to be silent.

Despite their tight lip "no comments" policy, One couldn’t help remembering what they said in their interviews and comments before. It is an officially announced policy of this administration to expand cultural and academic ties with Iranians, with real people of Iran, with democracy lover people of Iran. It does not get more real than an engineer, who has worked, studied and started his/her own business in Iran. And in reality he or she is deported when he or she participates in exactly that cultural exchange announced by administration, but organized by some root grass NGO. The truth is no where else a larger discrepancy could be observed between announced policies and exercised ones than the treatment Iranians receive. So would it be too much to ask the officials to kindly stop telling American public that they support cultural ties, academic relationships and want to connect to real people of Iran? The reality couldn’t be more different.

100 Years Ago A Romantic Time for Desperate People

They say that Mozafarr-o Din Shah was dying. The old monarch had spent most of his time to come to the throne, compared to his father he was soft. His father Naser-o Din Shah had ruled Iran for 50 years before being assassinated…. much had changed in those years.

When Naser-o Din Shah came to power, Iran had already lost her territories north of Aras River[1] to advancing Russians. These were Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, but still this was a vast empire even by the 19th century standards. Herat[2] was an Iranian city and princes of Herat, Kabul and Qandehar would consider Iranian King their protector. The Khans of Central Asia paid homage to him with taxes. Weak and beaten, Iran was still a threat to Ottoman Empire. Iranians had not lost the air of protectors of peace and faith; there was still a chance for the old days of Safavid glory to return.

“What has happened?” A telegraph from merchants and people of Tabriz[3] asked Mozaffar-o Din Shah. By the time he came to power Herat had been lost, so was Central Asia and so were parts of south east of Iran. Iranians merchants and producers had lost domestic market to Russian and British competitors, who were benefiting from several trade agreements and monopoly rights given (sold is the more accurate word) to them by government. Government rule hardly reached outside Tehran. Everyday a new incident humiliated the nation. Mishandling of popular demands by a brutal chancellor caused a nationwide movement. Iranians demanded ‘Justice’ from their King.

The initial demand clergies' and merchants' initial demand for a judiciary or a ‘House of Justice’, to address people’s concerns, became the nationwide demand for a parliament, a constitution and a government approved by parliament. French educated intellectuals joined clergies and merchants. August 5th 1906 King signed a Firman, a royal decree, to establish a parliament. Iranians called it: Majlis. Since then it has been an inseparable part of Iran’s politics. Although movement reached the initial goals of establishing a parliament and drafting a constitution it failed. There were many reasons for it.

First it was the new king: Mohammad Ali Shah. An old school king, he did not like commoners discussing his orders. His Russian brigade did not waste time to bombard Majlis. A civil war broke out. King lost and escaped to Russian embassy. His brothers leaded rebellions in his name in following years. Russians added to the difficulties by objecting to the government’s appointments and invading Iran. They occupied Tabriz and Mashhad and Northern Province of Gilan. The chaos dragged on, local chieftains raised their own standards in North, West and South. The First World War doomed the fate of constitutional movement.

Iran's neutrality was ignored by both sides. Iran became a battlefield, where Russians fought Ottomans and English hunted down German spies. Government had to evacuate Tehran and so did Majlis. By the time war ended Iranians were tired of 15 years non-stop domestic unrest and civil war. Government was bankrupt and so was the economy. 1920 coup brought to power a new face: a young Iranian Cossack named Reza Khan. In his way to become the absolute ruler of Iran and Reza Shah Pahlavi, he attacked and abolished what was left of constitutional movement: free media and election. Some of its finest leaders were killed or sent to exile. Except for a short revival in post WWII era, previous to CIA backed 1953 coup, Majlis for most its existence during monarchy was an institute with little initiative. The elections did not help Iranians to organize political parties and its predetermined results discouraged any attempt to address the nation’s concerns.

There is no wonder why there is an ongoing discussion about Constitutional Revolution in Iran and many political groups benefit from it in their legitimacy; clergies remind everyone that they initiated it and actually the first blood in it was that of a seminary student. Intellectuals consider it their first achievement. It was the first move in a country ruled for 30 centuries by unquestionable kings and it started by a question: “What has happened to us? Less than 20 years ago Emirs of Bokhara and Samarghand paid taxes to his majesty government, today one can not travel without harassment from Tabriz to Tehran, and people of Khorasan and Gorgan are selling their children for food to Turkmen. The foreigners are more respected in the business and his majesty government is incapacitated of supporting Iranian merchants and goods, we ask you: Your Majesty! what has happened to Iran?[4]

[1] The river which marks Iran’s northwestern frontier.
[2] Today the main city of Western Afghanistan, even now Iran and Iranians play a crucial role in the life of city.
[3] Located in Northwestern of Iran, the city is most identified by its role in constitutional revolution.
[4] Parts of Tabriz telegraph to Tehran.