May 25, 2008

Minorities in Iran

Here is my comment to a post in MEY about Minorities in Iran, which tries to maintain that Islamic Republic of Iran is systematically and deliberately persecuting religious/ethnic minorities.
Some of the details you mentioned in this post are probably incorrect or exaggerated (namely gang-raping Zoroastrian girls and ban on music, respectively). In addition some improvements have been made in recent years, for example in the case of 'Bill of Retribution' which finally made the blood money of a non-Muslim equal to that of a Muslim. Moreover officials usually shut their eyes to some of the laws passed by authorities, for example about liquor or pork; you may easily find them in Christian-dominated districts (last week prices of Isfahan: a pork-burger, just 4 dollars).

By the way, I generally agree that minorities (either religious or ethnic ones) are being systematically mistreated in Iran. However it should be noted that socio-political phenomena often follow a continuous pattern throughout both history and region. Therefore if one focuses on one certain episode while ignoring the broader historical and regional contexts, his conclusion is susceptible to flaw.

Firstly, with regards to broader historical context, I have to mention that such discriminations are usually a legacy of the past. (This, however, does not mean that IRI did not contribute to them.) For example about Shiite-Sunni conflict, a balanced view has to consider the events of even 7 centuries ago, even including Safavid-Ottoman wars. Long standing conflicts and lack of dialogue have made such harsh sentiments among Shiite people toward Sunnis that even if IRI decides to remove legal bans, social discrimination continues to exist. And though such 'harsh sentiments' does not usually turn into violent acts, they often translate into political, systematic discrimination thanks to lack of a democratic temperament in Iran (neither socially nor politically). To an extent, same analysis applies to Bahai faith.

Secondly, with regards to broader regional context, it should be noted that regional or even global interactions somehow affect the issue of interest. For example, people rarely distinguish a Jewish businessman from soldiers who allegedly shot Muhammad al-Dura. Or when they hear of rumors/stories of Shiite being persecuted in Saudi Arabia, they can hardly endorse a Sunni mosque in downtown. I know that this is not fair. The solution, however, does not flow from the upward.

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