The Constant Friction between Tradition and Modernity in Iran: The Rise and Fall of the Iranian Reformists

Seyed Mohammad Sadegh Emamian[1]

Seyed.Emamian@Sharif.Edu

Saeed Nariman[2]

Hannaneh Akbari[3]

Abstract

In Iran, there is a long history of a constant friction between Islamic-Iranian tradition and the concept of “western modernity” including civil liberties and democracy. This friction was first manifested almost two centuries ago during the “constitutional movement”, when some aspects of “western modernity” were infused into then monarchical political system at the expense of the marginalization of Islamic-Iranian tradition. Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution was a focal point in this challenging history. The post-revolution governance structure was arguably based on a mix of Islamic concepts and democratic aspects of western modernity. Nonetheless, by no means, the revolution was able to put an end into the this long-run friction. While the first decade of Islamic revolution reflected a relative dominance of Islamic concepts, the rise of reformists in late 1990s during the government of ex-president Mohammad Khatami dramatically shifted the balance in favor of western-flavored civil liberties and democracy. This paper investigates that period of time, 1997-2005, when tendencies towards pro-western policies, civil liberties, and western models of democracy was on the rise within the government, the parliament, and large parts of media and civil societies. Ironically these tendencies led to the full collapse of the reformists and their marginalization from the Iranian political sphere for almost a decade.

Keywords: Tradition, Modernity, Iran, Reform, Reformist Movements, Radicalism.


[۱] Director, Governance and Policy Think Tank, RISTIP, Sharif University of Technology.

[۲] Governance and Policy Think Tank, RISTIP, Sharif University of Technology.

[۳] Governance and Policy Think Tank, RISTIP, Sharif University of Technology.

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