Recently the conservative speaker of the Iranian parliament wrote a dissertation on the philosophy of Kant which was published in a supplement to a mainstream newspaper.
 In some areas of mathematics and physics, Iranian research is amongst the best in the world. But the question is: why isn't this new cultural and academic energy being translated into pro-democracy political energy?
 Democracy has increased but has also been manipulated by the regime in Iran. In 1997, Mohammad Khatami (a reformist Shia imam) won a landslide victory in the presidential election. He even defeated a conservative candidate backed by the supreme spiritual leader Ali Khamanei. Khatami won with a 70% majority. His election rhetoric was about the rule of law, the status of women and the need for "dialogue among civilisations".
 Iran has comparably more real democracy than other Middle Eastern or Arab states. Two heads of state have stepped down after completing their set constitutional terms and are now living peacefully in their homes. This kind of stability is almost unheard-of in the Arab world.
 Since the fall of the Shah, there have been 9 presidential elections and 7 parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, there is still serious vetting of candidates by the ulama.
 An entire generation of Iranians has grown up with ballots and promises from politicians. The democratic groundwork is there.
 The minimum voting age under Iranian law is 15.
 "The Iranian constitution vests sovereignty in God, but Iranian politicians look to the people for their mandate ... The problem is not with the embrace of democratic practices but with their full and effective enshrinement in politics."
 The "Tehran Spring" - by 1998, 740 newspapers were in circulation.
 Khatami didn't live upto the expectations of many reformists. His emphasis on the rule of law without constitutional reforms merely allowed unelected 'clerical' rulers to tighten their grip. During his 8 years in office, the Guardian Council blocked one third of Khatami's legislative agenda.
 30% of Iran's population is between 15 and 29 years. Unemployment is close to 20%. Income per capita is a quarter of what it was in 1979.
Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf