Ataollah Mohajerani
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on : Thursday, 27 Jun, 2013
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Opening Doors, not Wielding Blades

The election of Rouhani marks a decisive break with the Ahmadinejad years

SAFFRON blog: A highly prized spice native to Iran, historically used in ancient Persia to medicate, dye, weave, and beautify. Today it gives Iranian cuisine its distinctive yellow pigment. ‘Saffron’ flavors the discussion of all things Iranian.

Iran's president elect Hassan Rouhani waves at the domestic and international press during his first press conference on June 17, 2013 in Tehran, Iran (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)

Iran’s president-elect, Hassan Rouhani, waves at the domestic and international press during his first press conference on June 17, 2013 in Tehran, Iran. (Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)

In his first international interview, Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani said that he has come with a key, not a sickle. With this statement, he sent his second strong and clear message to both Iranians and the whole world. But what was his first message, the one that shocked both politicians and the people? It was something he said in his TV debates: he stated that he is a man of law, not a colonel!

Now, he says he has a key, not sickle. On the one hand, there is a man of law holding a key, and then there is a colonel with his sickle on the other.

This means a new chapter in our current history has begun. After eight years, Iranians finally have a new president who talks politely, wisely and with modest language, is obviously cultured, and has a smile on his face. This is in stark contrast to the past eight years, as Ahmadinejad not only destroyed the body politic and economy, but culture and morality as well. He was a president who would use slang and impolite words, and he had a strange manner.

Naguib Mahfouz, the Nobel laureate Egyptian novelist, wrote a very famous book titled The Harafish. Harfoosh, the singular of Harafish, means “scoundrel.” The novel narrates the story of the rule of Harafish in Egypt’s streets. It is the story of government in the East. Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi were Harafish.

Saddam and Gaddafi did not have any keys in their hands—all they had were sickles, to cut and slash. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people were imprisoned, executed or forced to emigrate to other countries. Despotism in the East, especially in the Middle East, has an ugly face; it is the face of Harafish.

Another, clearer, example is how Ahmadinejad treated the experts in Iran. Every country and nation spends significant amounts of both money and time to train experts to become ministers or high-ranking civil servants and executives. When Ahmadinejad was appointed—I do not believe he was elected—as the president, he dismissed all experts from their jobs. He claimed he wanted to establish a pure Islamic cabinet. In other words, he had a big sickle in his hand, and, with his eyes closed and his mouth open, he destroyed everything by dismissing all the experts from their positions. Recently, reformists coined a new term for Ahmadinejad’s era: They call it “the winter of culture and morality.”

When a reporter asked Rouhani, ‘Will you cut all of Ahmadinejad’s supporters from the cabinet and administration?’ Rouhani responded: ‘No, I have come with a key, not with a sickle’!

It is indeed upsetting that most of those who governed our country came with a sickle, not a key. Most of them were colonels, not men of law. This is why we could not really understand them and their unstable attitude. They would quickly change their minds and attitudes as they saw fit. With logic absent, everything they did was accidental. In his masterwork, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, the philosopher Wittgenstein says that in logic nothing is accidental. But in the Harafish government, if you see a butcher in place of a heart surgeon, then you should not be surprised.

In the Holy Qur’an, there is a thoughtful story about two trees:
“Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, making a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches high in the sky?
“It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded.
“And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability.” (Surat Ibrahim 14.24–26)

The good tree’s branches are full of fruit, and the bad tree’s is completely dry and has no fruit or blossoms on its branches. It does not even have a proper shadow.

What we are witnessing in Iran is the spring of hope. It is not a continuation of the Arab spring; it is the resurrection of Iranians’ hope and happiness. The people came out in the evening after Rouhani’s election to celebrate their victory. The squares and streets were filled with people who were singing and dancing. People were shouting, ‘O Mousavi! We retook your votes!’

They have retaken their votes by law, by tolerance and by wisdom.

To be honest, it seems to me our history can be summarized into these short sentences, the eternal contradiction between men of law and colonels, and the endless conflict between keys and sickles.

Ataollah Mohajerani

Ataollah Mohajerani

Ataollah Mohajerani entered the Iranian parliament in 1980 and served as vice president for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs under President Rafsanjani, and minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance under President Khatami. He holds a PhD in history from Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran, and is the author of several books on Iranian literature and culture and Islamic history. He currently lives in England.

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