Don't Put the Genie Back in the Bottle!!
I am sure everyone has heard of the story of "The Fisherman and the Jinny" and a few years ago, I wrote a short note about it:
I think the democracy in the Middle East has been very much like the genie in the above story. In 1977, Jimmy Carter unleashed it in Iran when actually his primary intention was to use the issue of freedom to challenge the Soviet system. Regardless of what he intended it for, the opening of the bottle meant that the genie or ghoul of democracy got out of the bottle in Iran and in a short time, during hostage-crisis, the ones who were oppressed all those years, attacked the very government of Jimmy Carter that had actually freed the genie of democracy and human rights in Iran.
I remember the shabhAyeh sher (poetry nights) in Tehran in 1977 where everyone was talking about the breeze of human rights of Jimmy Carter and all those who had suffered all the years of dictatorship of the Shah since the 1953 CIA coup, made no attempt to disguise their hatred for the U.S. support of the Shah's tyranny and his Savak, during all those years, and said regardless of genuineness of the breeze, they considered the U.S. responsible for what they had suffered, and they did not care to differentiate between the government of Carter, and its caring for human rights, and that of Nixon or others who had chained democracy in Iran by helping to create Savak of the Shah and all these hatred poured out after the Shah's regime fell and when IRI masterfully used the anti-American sentiments of Iranian democratic forces to establish the Khomeini's theocracy in post-Shah Iran..
The other side of the coin after the savage hostage-taking and the support of most of the Iranian opposition of that savage act, was that many in the U.S. government who genuinely cared for human rights and democracy in the Middle East, were ridiculed by their colleagues in the U.S., and were admonished for their alleged error in helping the fall of Shah's regime; and as IRI did more atrocities in the name of independence and freedom, the more the U.S. opponents of human rights in the Middle East justified their support of the Shah in the past, and the more they justified their desire for the return of monarchy to Iran.
Today, in a way, the same kind of situation is happening in many other countries in the Middle East, from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf sheikdoms to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. This time the goal of those who are talking about human rights is *not* Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Far East, or Latin America. The goal *is* the Middle East because that *is* the place where freedom, human rights, and democracy have been in chain for centuries, while the Western democracies had looked the other way, as long as the despots were keeping the flow of oil intact.
Now there is a fear of this genie which is coming out of the bottle. On one side it is true that this genie may again and again try to destroy the very fisherman who really has sincerely freed him from the bottle, as hostage-taking in Iran is still remembered. And on the other side, those who actually had put the genie of democracy in bottle in the first place, meaning the reactionary dictatorial forces of the Middle Eastern countries, and their collaborators in the West, try to use the crudeness of the genie of democracy, to say that it should have never been freed in the first place, and they try their best to convince all the world that this genie should be returned to the bottle.
Moreover there are those who actually show themselves as friends of the genie of democracy, but want to get the genie back in the bottle, because they are also scared of this unleashed force of change in the Middle East, and they use the past to tell the genie that all fishermen are the ones who have put him in chains, and they encourage the genie of democracy to do more ill-actions like the hostage-takings, where the likes of Rafsanjani follow such occasions to show themselves as the saviors of the West in the Middle East, by containing the genie in Lebanon's hostage-taking scenarios and similar shows.
On one side the likes of Rafsanjani act as the choice for the West and on another side the likes of Iranian monarchists preach going back to the Shah's era, as the solution for the Middle East. If it was not because of the monarchy's dictatorship, secular political organizations would have existed when the Shah's regime fell, and the the field would not have been left unchallenged to the traditional mosque organization of the Islamists. If it was not because of them in the first place, this genie would not be so crude when getting out of the bottle, and would know to work with those who support democracy and not destroy them by blanket attacks of the West.
Both of these dictatorial regimes, namely monarchy and IRI are the ones who had put the genie of democracy in chains in the Middle East and have prevented the proper modern state of affairs in the Middle East to develop. There are those in the West who are friends of democracy in the Middle East, and in contrast, there are those Middle Easterners who are enemies of the democracy in the Middle East. The biggest error is to see the Middle East problem as Middle East versus the West. The problem is democracy versus dictatorship and both democracy and dictatorship have supporters and enemies in both Western forces *and* Middle Eastern forces.
Let's hope that we do not get used by dictatorial forces of different colors under the flag of fighting foreign aggression to put the genie of democracy back in the bottle again, and also let's hope not to be used by other dictatorial forces under the flag of fighting chaos to put the genie of democracy back in the bottle in a different way. Both the Islamist forces in the Middle East and the monarchy of Saudi or the past monarchy of Shah's regime wanted to keep the genie of democracy in the bottle. The attempts of Reza Pahlavi to form an alliance with some disgruntled ayatollahs of Iran and forming an alliance similar to the alliance of monarchist mollahs with the Shah in the past, is not the way to freedom in Iran.
If successful, the above scheme of Reza Pahlavi will only put the genie of democracy back in the bottle like it had been kept in the bottle for centuries in Iran and the Middle East. It is now time for full secularism and a fully democratic federal republic in Iran and the games of return of monarchy with all the nice wordings are nothing but some wit and trick to get the genie of democracy back in the bottle under the guise of supporting democratic monarchy, and the Iranian people who have become very social-aware in Iran will not fall for these tricks.
Times have long passed the days of the Shah when it was like blasphemy to read and write about political issues in Iran and the Shah's Savak would kill you for even thinking about political matters. Genie of democracy will not return to that bottle and those who try doing that, whether Iranian or American, will only get their own credibility lost. Middle East is on the same path as that of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Block and that is the path of democratic and secular republics. Anything short of that is selling the sacrifices of democratic forces of Iran and the rest of Middle East for too little.
Finally I need to note that those in the Iranian opposition who try to call all Western forces as the supporters of dictatorship in the Middle East are not only wrong but they are helping the supporters of tyranny both among the Western forces and among the Middle Eastern forces. Their black and white view of the West, and not seeing the Western forces that do care about human rights in the Middle East, created the tragedy of their support of hostage-taking and their attack on Carter's human rights in the past, and doing the same today, will end in another tragedy, or perhaps a comedy, because their position is helping those who scare the West about the prospect of instability and disintegration in the Middle East, and they help such dark forces in their attack on federalism and full democratic republics in the Middle East.
They are mostly unconsciously helping the dark anti-democratic forces by not understanding that the genie of democracy is crude after centuries of being in the bottle, but the solution is to learn to differentiate between the supporters of democracy and its enemies, both among one's country men and women, and among the Westerners, and not just treating all the Westerners as enemies of democracy in the Middle East, which is very very far from the truth. All forces who care for democracy and human rights in the Middle East, whether Middle Eastern or Western, should work together to keep the genie of democracy out of the bottle, and to help it to come to terms with the new realities of the world and the Middle East.
Sam Ghandchi, Publisher
Oct 22, 2002