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Iran: The Bad and Good
Israel - Middle East
Friday, July 09, 2010
Alf Cengia

I now see many things in black and white. However, there was a time when I was circulating in the New Age and had adopted liberal viewpoints. Many of my opinions were not based on factual data but more on emotion and I'd lost the Christian perspective. Consequently I had a problem deciding on what was bad or good.

But that's another story.

Now that I consider myself to be a little more informed than I had been, I find that I'm passionate and vocal about what I perceive to be wrong or evil.

Take Iran for instance. Here is a regime that wants nuclear capability. Its president seems, at least sometimes, to be confused as to whether Iran wants nuclear power for peaceful purposes or to blow up Israel and initiate Armageddon. If Ahmadinejad appears to be confused so, too, are some of his supporters who claim that he's never threatened aggression.

Is it just rhetoric?

Be that as it may my guess is that the fact that there are UN sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program means that some people lean towards this not being a good thing. The Iranian leadership was apparently so unhappy that Armenia. Az reported that Iran sent a scathing letter to European Union foreign ministers warning them about the consequences of the decision by the EU decision to impose tougher sanctions.

In that letter, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said:

"Undoubtedly, such a confrontational approach may have dire consequences in the relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the European Union. The EU's decision, will definitely cause far greater losses for the European Union itself rather than for the Islamic Republic of Iran as this is amply demonstrated in all previous statistics."

I'm not sure what those "dire consequences" are nor am I familiar with any "previous statistics" but I'd worry if I was an unwelcome neighbor. Rhetoric again?

There is an organization in Iran called the Student Basij or Basij-e Mostaz'afin which literally means "Mobilization of the Oppressed". The group was founded by the late Ayatolla Khomeini and is now subservient to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. It is the largest organization in Iran with a presence in schools, universities, factories and the government and private sector.

According to IWPR Iran Editor Ali Reza Eshraghi:

"The Student Basij has a presence in 54,000 of the country's 150,000 primary schools and is expanding fast. One major new development is that its attention has broadened to take in young children as well as adolescents. Since last November, 6,000 "Basij centers" have opened in primary schools across the country."

The commander of the Student Basij, Mohammad Saleh Jokar claims that 4.6 million of the 14 million school children have been signed up. This infiltration of schools has been designed to raise and deepen early religious awareness, political understanding and strategic ideological warfare. Student Basij training also has a military facet that involves the use of weapons such as Kalashnikov rifles.

Infiltrating schools, now there's a clever idea!

Basij students have been utilized in a variety of ways from helping quash anti-government protests and to reporting on breaches of general Islamic conduct and dress code violations by Iranian women. I'm reminded of the Hitler youth of Nazi Germany.

Eshragi also observes that:

"At the start of the Israeli offensive in Gaza last year, the Basij began a campaign to sign up squads of school-age martyrs to go and fight. A website was even launched to register names of volunteer fighters, one 15-year-old girl spoke for many when she told reporters, "Should it be necessary we will go and fight Israel, so as to defend the Palestinians."

To illustrate this mindset, Student Basij day on October 30 commemorates the death of a 13-year old boy who strapped grenades to himself and jumped under an Iraqi tank in 1980. At the time of the incident, ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini referred to the teenager as Iran's real leader.

And this is a regime that is seeking nuclear power for peaceful purposes?

Given all this it's a simple matter for me to label Iran a tyrannical regime propped up by an expanding and repressive movement manipulating the population's ideology and threatening at least one of its neighbors with annihilation.

Yet sometimes there are little flecks of white in the midst of all that black. There's also an underground resistance in Iran. It is secular and often describes itself as an "Intellectual Revolution" while others refer to it as an "Underground Revolution".

Some outside observers believed this movement had been quashed but Lisa Darfati reports that this is not the case. Tired of the beatings and imprisonments the movement has left the streets but is still very much active.

Maryam is a 34-year old radio producer for Iran's state media who wants a change of regime and a secular and democratic Iran.

Despite the appearance that the movement has been suppressed in the absence of demonstrations, intellectuals and politically active Iranians like Maryam and her friends are opting to sit home to think, write, publish, and discuss politics.

While the "Underground Revolution" is a secular movement, Iran also has many Christians who suffer silently for their faith. I say silently because apostatising from Islam has grave consequences for the new Christian. A good case in point is an Iranian called Illyas in the article "In Iran, Covert Christian Converts Live With Secrecy and Fear."

According to Voice of the Martyrs:

"Christians make up less than one-half of one percent of the population. The open witness of the Good News is banned and government spies monitor Christian groups. Believers are discriminated against in education, employment, and property ownership and also face arrests, imprisonment, and sometimes even death."

So I'm able to see some good facets stirring within Iran as well, regardless of how small they are and regardless of how superficial my commentary was in addressing them here. It's most important that I remember this. Too often I forget these secular people and my Christian brothers and sisters in Iran.

Of course, so too does most of the media that reports on Middle East affairs. They're usually too busy focusing elsewhere.

About Alf Cengia

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