Bicycle Diaries: The strangling of Iran...

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The strangling of Iran...

empowered women
in an historical

To anyone who thinks that the local and widespread demonstrations against the recent Iranian presidential elections are starting to fail, I have one word: WOMEN! Certainly, much has been made of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and a host of other web-based, social networking tools being used by the Iranian protesters. It reminds me of the students in Tienanmen Square who, 20 years ago, communicated by fax with the rest of the world and the young Bosnians who did the same thing in the early 90s using email and web-pages. But tools they only are. It's who wields them that really matters. As Anne Applebaum wrote yesterday in The Washington Post,
Not Obama, not Bush and not Twitter ... but years of work and effort lie behind the public display of defiance and, in particular, the number of women on the streets -- and their presence matters. Their presence could strike the deepest blow against the regime ... Its leadership is legitimate, as is its harsh repression of women, because God has decreed that it is so. The outright rejection of this creed by tens of thousands of women, not just over the past weekend but over the past decade, has to weaken the Islamic Republic's claim to invincibility, in Iran and across the Middle East.

I can't agree more. To understand this, you should be reading W. Morgan Shuster's The Strangling of Persia. Published in 1912, it recounts his 8 month assignment as the Treasurer-General of the Persian Empire. He and a small group of American treasury experts had been invited by the new constitutional government in 1910 to strengthen the country's finances. It was hoped this would help resist the 1907 Anglo-Russian Entent that effectively divided Persia into two spheres of influence. Needless to say, neither Great Power was happy with Shuster's work. They supported a royalist insurgency against the popular constitutional government that successfully brought it down in 1911. Several months later, Shuster resigned and left Persia. After his return to the US, he wrote his damning indictment of Russian and British meddling in Persia affairs, stating:
[I]t was obvious that the people of Persia deserve much better than what they are getting, that they wanted us to succeed, but it was the British and the Russians who were determined not to let us succeed.
If you've ever wondered why Iranians are particularly paranoid about the Great Power influence over them, this book will give you great insights. What is especially tragic is that at the beginning of the 2oth Century Iranians strongly supported their constitutional democracy and fervently hoped the US would protect it against Russian and British encroachment. What is most surprising, though, is that Shuster's book includes a small section (pp. 191-199) on the significant role played by Iranian women during and after the 1905-11 Constitutional Revolution. Except for its antique language (as well as attitudes) and the different personalities, it could easily describe the political role Iranian women are playing today.
The Persian women since 1907 had become at a bound the most progressive, not to say radical, in the world. That this statement upsets the ideas of centuries makes no difference. It is the fact.
You can read this section as well as the rest of The Strangling of Persian over at Google Books. I highly recommend that you do so!

For what is liberty
but the unhampered translation of will into act?

Cyril Connolly

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