Panel 7c. Liberation and Reform in Iran

Chair: Pejman Abdolmohammadi, LSE Visiting Fellow

Geopolitics and The Quest for Liberation in Post-Revolutionary Iran
Gulriz Sen, TOBB University of Economics and Technology, Ankara, Turkey

This paper aims to focus on the theme of liberation in the context of Iran’s post-revolutionary transformation. The paper will specifically explore the relationship between geopolitics and the search for liberation and analyze how the crisis-laden geopolitical affairs of Iran has hampered the quest for liberty and democracy in post-1979 era. It will discuss the role of international and regional crises on the consolidation of the “national security state” in Iran, which is also marked by growing securitization of state-society relations particularly since the late 1990s. In this regard, the analysis will particularly concentrate on the deepening of Iran’s confrontation with the United States and the repercussions of US policy of democracy promotion and “regime change” strategy for Iran’s democracy and reform agenda. The paper will assess the likely implications of a potential nuclear deal on the future of reform and liberation in Iran and whether the revolutionary promise of azadi (freedom) can be fulfilled alongside the promise of istighlal (independence).

Who Governs the Reform Agenda in Iran?
Esra Dik, University of London, School Of Oriental and African Studies) Department of Politics and International Studies

It is generally known that, a new regime is often faced with both resistance and conciliation and needs to protect itself against any potential risk. As conflict of interests lead to the formation of a particular ideology, the tendency is hence subjected to experiences of dilemmas and contradictions within any framework of a new system. . It is difficult to analyse the structural changes in the “ideological state” organization that was revealed after the radical Islamic revolution. In order to understand the nature of reform movements in Iran, it is necessary to look at historical background in terms of structural dichotomies and dilemmas. In 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of revolution, and his proponents overthrew the Pahlavi Dynasty under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and inaugurated a new system in Iran. The new system is based on Shia Islamic jurisprudence and its founder belonged of cleric-mullah strata who had been undermined the power by royalty. The clerics created the multiple power centres to influence in the political and economic spheres. The Islamic regime has gained concentrated power through multiple power centres. The new Islamic regime produced the unelected bodies beside the formal political bodies in the name of the Shia Islam and protect itself. First and foremost, Khomeini created a new unprecedented structure which had never seen in any regime before; Velayet-e Fagih (Guardianship of the Jurist- is the main pillar of the Islamic Republic); The Council of Guardians (Negahban); The Assembly of Experts (Khebregan). The un-elected bodies support the policy making as long as it does not threaten the Islamic regime. However, aftermath of the revolution, it has witnessed the conflicts between economic reality and Islamic national goals. The clerics have dominated the executive power and repressed the reformist leaders- for instance Khatami-hence anxiety about the security of the Islamic state. In this framework, this study aims to examine the unelected bodies and parastatal organisations (bonyads) which can be named shadow organisation in the state organization in Iran. I will argue that “shadow organisation” was established to protect the Islamic regime and it has handicapped to reformism in terms of some dichotomies and dilemmas. Key words: revolution, reform, multiple power centres, unelected bodies, bonyads

Realism, Rationalism and Revolutionism in Iranian Foreign Policy: A Quest for Liberty
Laleh Gomari-Luksch, University of St. Andrews and University of Tübingen

Realist, Rationalist and Revolutionist currents in Iranian foreign policy constitute an ensemble that is inextricably linked to Iran’s struggle to liberate itself from foreign interference and domination. Despite internal discord and external pressures in the past century, it has maintained its anti-hegemonic stance with regard to its foreign policies. This paper argues that liberation from any form of foreign domination is the main driver of Iran’s foreign policy. The deep-seated desire for liberty is ever present in the revolutionist narratives resonated in the rhetoric of the political elites, which became strongly emphasized after the 1979 Islamic revolution. I utilize the English Schools core concepts of Realism, Rationalism and Revolutionism in analyzing selected speeches of Iranian statesmen to identify the ways in which liberation from foreign interference are translated into policy through the prism of the three traditions. Furthermore, I contend that Iran engages in the institutions of diplomacy and balance of power to achieve the goal of liberation and exercise its right to self-determination in an attempt to disentangle Tehran from Western influence. I look at the nuclear program as a case to demonstrate my arguments.

Networks of dependency and gender discrimination in Iran’s academic world
Luciano Zaccara, Qatar University, Gulf Studies Center, Natalia Borreguero, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

The Global Gender Gap Report 2014 of the World Economic Forum indicates that Iran has the worst inequality ratio in Labor Force Participation (0.23/1). This situation is even more dramatic in certain professional environments: only 3% of the Majlis members are women (ratio 0.03/1) and 10% are endowed with some political responsibility (ratio 0.11/1). In this paper we will focus on another professional environment where the presence of women is strikingly low: academia and in general higher education institutions. Although the percentage of female students that after finishing secondary school is enrolled in tertiary education is exactly equal to that of male students (55%) and the enrolment in tertiary education is thus the only indicator in GGGR 2014 in which Iran meets the equality standards (ratio 1/1), there is only a very restricted number of women in academic positions, only 15%-20%, very low if compared with other MENA countries (Algeria 41%, Turkey 38%, Bahrain 36%). The aim of our paper is to determine which factors are at play in making of it one of the most elusive professional environments for women, assuming that Iranian universities offer the same specialized and in-depth training to both men and women. We will investigate whether there are specific networks of dependency in universities that prevent the access of equally prepared women to certain positions, and whether there are other factors linked to lack of transparency in the selection of candidates or to gender discrimination in a working environment overwhelmingly ruled by men.

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