How Not to Encourage Democracy in Iran

There is news of a fifth American-Iranian possibly detained by the Iranian authorities today, and the UK's Financial Times ran a story a few days ago on the nervousness with which Iranians who have grown up in the West and have links with America are living at the moment in Tehran.


The American government and human rights groups are quite rightly calling on Iran to release those detained, and pointing out how damaging this is to Iran's image.


At the same time it is a good idea not to lose sight of what has made the Iranian regime this jumpy: the constant threats from the US and its allies, as well as the $75million 'democracy fund' that the US has earmarked for pouring into Iranian civil society projects that will bring 'democracy' in US words, 'regime change' in any other.


There is no defending the Iranian action. But the pressure being exerted on Iran by America has convinced the Iranian regime that it faces an existential threat, and this has made it turn in on anyone with possible connections to the US and the 'democracy fund'.


The Islamic Republic of Iran may be hard to fathom, it may not operate in quite the same way as Western countries but there must be many advisors in Washington who knew a year ago, when this 'democracy fund' was announced, that it would in fact taint the great work being done in Iran by many NGOs and the activists who are trying to build bridges between Iran and the West, and have precisely the reverse effect than that intended.


And so it has proved. America's clumsy attempts at exporting democracy to Iran have, in fact, caused much harm to Iran's civil society, and bridge-building hyphenated Iranians now find themselves operating in an atmosphere of insecurity reminiscent of pre-Rafsanjani Iran.


The irony is that people suffering the results of this heightened suspicion are not in receipt of the funds and they are all passionate advocates of dialogue and engagement between the two countries.

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About Kamin Mohammadi

Kamin Mohammadi is an Iranian writer, journalist, broadcaster and commentator who lives in London where she moved after leaving Iran as a child. She specialises in writing about Iran, particularly modern society. She is passionate about bringing out the human elements of the stories we see, or more often don’t see, in the news. To this end she has published major pieces on the after effects of the Iran-Iraq war, drug addiction and AIDS in Iran, the innocent civilian victims of chemical bombardments, sexual politics and even the Iranian penchant for both devotion to religion and partying. She is currently writing a family memoir about Iran, to be published in 2009 by Bloomsbury and working on a cross-media project to commemorate the Iran-Iraq war. In the past she has written guide books and edited glossy magazines.

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