Lessons Learned (and Ignored)

Iran’s 2017 Election in Context

by Arang Keshavarzian , Naghmeh Sohrabi | published May 26, 2017

On May 23, 1997, Mohammad Khatami, who had spent most of the 1990s as head of the National Library, defeated Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, the speaker of Parliament, to become president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The election was a turning point in post-revolutionary history—the underdog beat the preferred candidate of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, successor to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as Leader of the Islamic Revolution (rahbar), with roughly 20 million votes or 70 percent of the total. Twenty years later, the incumbent president Hassan Rouhani drew parallels between that historic event and his own reelection bid, casting himself as the underdog this time and his main challenger, Ebrahim Raisi, as the man backed by the establishment.

Labor and Class in Iran

An Interview with Mohammad Maljoo

by Paola Rivetti | published May 26, 2017

Mohammad Maljoo is a Tehran-based economist researching labor issues and the transformation of capital-labor relations in post-revolutionary Iran. Widely published in several languages, Maljoo is also the Persian translator of numerous books on political economy by thinkers such as Karl Polanyi, E. P. Thompson and Albert Hirschman. The bulk of this interview took place in Tehran in August 2016; it was completed by e-mail in May 2017.

What Is Activism?

by Jillian Schwedler , Kevan Harris
published in MER281

In early 2011, the world watched as millions of people took to the streets across the Arab world to demand the fall of regimes, or at least substantial political reforms. As the weeks and then months unfolded, the broadcast media adopted split screens to show simultaneous live footage of crowds in multiple countries. Some regimes were toppled and many were seriously shaken, but no regime in the region was left untouched. The high visibility of the uprisings, together with massive street protests on nearly every continent, led Time to name “the protester” as the 2011 Person of the Year.

Release Homa Hoodfar

by The Editors | published June 10, 2016 - 11:20am

We are deeply concerned by the arrest and ongoing detention of Homa Hoodfar, an eminent anthropologist and contributor to Middle East Report, by the Revolutionary Guard Corps of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Day Tehran Shook

by Farideh Farhi | published March 17, 2016

Speaking to a journalist days after the February 26 elections in Iran, leading reformist Mohammad Reza Aref stated, “When I saw the results for Tehran coming in, I was shocked.” Aref had expected the top of the list he headed to do well in the contest for Tehran’s 30 seats in the Tenth Majles, or Parliament, of the Islamic Republic. Most pre-election polls, in fact, had predicted that Aref’s slate would come out ahead in the capital. But its first-round sweep of all 30 seats, including many wins by unknown candidates, was a stunner for all involved.

Karimi, Domesticity and Consumer Culture in Iran

by Norma Claire Moruzzi
published in MER277

Pamela Karimi, Domesticity and Consumer Culture in Iran: Interior Revolutions of the Modern Era (New York: Routledge, 2013).

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Class Reshuffling Among Afghan Refugees in Iran

by Zuzanna Olszewska
published in MER277

When I was interviewing Afghan refugee writers and intellectuals in Iran in the mid-2000s, I soon realized that there was a gulf between their occupations and their aspirations. [1] The young poets who were the subjects of my research in the northeastern city of Mashhad often earned a living as manual laborers, construction or factory workers, or small-time street vendors. Some had woven rugs or made handicrafts as children, or engaged in other piecework in small workshops. They came together to read their poetry and short stories to each other on Fridays, their one precious day off. Most of them—both men and women—had benefited from at least a secondary education in Iranian state schools, and most hoped to continue on to university.

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Whither Iranian Petrochemical Labor?

by Mohammad Maljoo
published in MER277

On November 4, 2012, there were two snapshots of a deeply unequal struggle between labor and capital in Iran—a struggle that had begun two years earlier with a strike of temporary workers at the Mahshahr Petrochemical Complex. In Mahshahr, at the head of the Persian Gulf, Faraveresh, one of the five public-sector companies at the Complex, reached an agreement with the strikers, committing to remove the private middleman who had hired the workers and to sign direct contracts with them as soon as possible.

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The Politics of Recognition

The Barefoot of the Revolution and Elusive Memories

by Fatemeh Sadeghi
published in MER277

The victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the presidential election of 2005 came as a shock to many segments of Iranian society, particularly the reformists within the Islamic Republic who believed they had pushed aside such arch-conservatives for good. Ahmadinejad prevailed thanks to the massive participation of the urban poor in the election, along with the decision of the majority of the middle and upper classes to boycott the vote with no thought that their abstention would have such a consequence. Whereas conservatives boasted that Ahmadinejad’s triumph proved the allegiance of “the people” to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the reformists explained their failure in an entirely apolitical way.

The Iran Deal as Social Contract

by Arang Keshavarzian
published in MER277

For years discussion of Iran’s nuclear program and how best to address the surrounding impasse focused on international relations—chiefly, the extent to which the United States and the Islamic Republic could and should trust each other to reach a negotiated settlement. Amidst all the conjecture, the domestic Iranian politics of the nuclear issue were often reduced to Kremlinology-style questions about the motives and capacities of hardliners in the Islamic Republic and the unknowable mind of the Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.