06/03/2013 03:50 pm ET Updated Aug 03, 2013

The Iranian Presidential Election Is Relevant More Now Than Ever


The struggle of the Iranians for democracy with upholding the ancient and very long tradition of the line of monarch's absolute power in all aspects of governing the society, and even the domestic aspects of the people's lives, started in early years of the 20th century. The constitutional revolution formally began in August 1906, when the king, Muzaffar al-Din Shah, signed a royal decree that called for the election of a Constituent Assembly. This day is known and acknowledged as "Constitution Day" in Iran to this date.

Despite the fact that Iranian Constitutional Revolution did not have the long-term success that was hoped for, the financial reforms of the pre-existing feudal system, as well as the appearance of significant liberalism in the political system, were byproducts of the constitutionalists' efforts. The granting of greater civil jurisdiction in the courts, involvement of women in political demonstrations, and the future option of having a parliament as a check against both domestic politics and foreign intrusion all remained after the revolution's demise. Many different groups fought to shape the course of the Revolution, and all sections of society were ultimately to be in some way changed by it. The old finally died, to be replaced by new institutions, new forms of expression, and a new social and political order.

A near repeat of this configuration occurred, with greater success, in 1979. The revolution of 1979 was a backlash to the lack of any political and intellectual freedom and growing social injustice in Iran under the Pahlavi king.

The new constitution of the Islamic republic voted for in a referendum, has been called a "hybrid" of "theocratic and democratic elements." While articles one and two bestow sovereignty in God, article six "mandates popular elections for the presidency and the Majlis, or parliament."

Iranians have marched through an arduous path and a rocky road to arrive at the point they are at the moment. The election process per se is an invaluable achievement that cannot be allowed to vanish in vein just because a totalitarian ideology wants to occupy all sectors of the power. The recent effort to prevent popular reformists candidates to be nominated in the election has been seen as efforts to diminish as much as possible the participation and the significance of the presidential elections in the public opinion. Allowing two reformist candidates expected to face a pale welcoming, is also an effort to portray the reformist discourse as defeated and expired in the public thought. Boycotting the election will only waste the difficultly gained achievements of the challenging and dangerous path of seeking democracy in Iran and proving the false idea that reformist discourse has lost its attraction and significance in Iran.

In case one institution had the ultimate power over all branches of state and government, we would have not witnessed all the significant and altering changes during the reformist government of president Khatami who entered office with the overwhelming of the majority of the votes of nearly 20 million.

Many of us who are far from Iran, by choice or force, still imagine our homeland with the sweet nostalgia of days of Khatami's government. Free newspapers and magazines, tremendous increase in publications of books, the willful return of the many activists, writers and artists to Iran, and a vibrant and hope-filled environment of the universities. Days when the world knew Iran with the message of the "Dialogue Among Civilizations" and not solely the nuclear rhetoric. Days when mutual understanding, tolerance, peaceful coexistence, international cooperation and security were preached. The mistakes and mismanagements of the past eight years have brought up the toughest and most brutal sanctions of history to the ordinary Iranian people, extended to essentially the entire Iranian economy. Sanctions that are taking their toll on the lives of thousands of innocent Iranians and have had a devastating effect on many lives.

Indeed my personal journey has been a fruit of the reform days when the doors of universities and research facilities opened up to the international scholars and collaboration between Iranian scholars and their foreign colleagues heightened. I had the opportunity to work and collaborate with my American professor in an archaeological site in Iran that provided me with the opportunity of continuing my higher education in in an American university. An opportunity that is now a days almost impossible for an Iranian student in any branch of the humanities especially a female one.

A great portion of Iranians, especially the young generation born after the revolution, believe that they are responsible for all the opportunities they would lose as a result of boycotting the election. If the reformist candidate will be able to reduce the back breaking economical burden on the people and if he can ameliorate and repair Iran's damaged relationship with the rest of the world; if they can improve the stifling environments of the universities and press, and many other "ifs" although as petty as they might be, then it would be absolutely wrong not to participate in the elections. No one has the right to ask people living in Iran to close their eyes on all the economic hardship they are facing everyday. Accepting all that is going on in Iran as a prewritten destiny and avoiding them by boycotting the election simply because these problems cannot be solved in a short matter of time, prevents everybody from solving even a tiny portion of these problems. A great share of the young generation of Iran do not look at their world solely as a subject for judging, they see themselves engaged in this world and they look at it pragmatically aiming to find a solution for their problems. Many want to face this election "actively" once again. Voting for a reformist candidate is the least someone can do.

The Iranian society has not broken away from the reformist discourse. Many of those who strive for freedom and justice in Iran are not idealists, detached from reality like many of the opposition groups who have been far from the reality of the Iranian society for many years now. These activists are fully aware of the deep roots of religion and tradition in the Iranian society and believe in a slow, nonviolent and consensual change. The reformist discourse has made the majority to strongly believe in nonviolence and rational action and denounce revolution as an irrational, violent act. A reformist government is Iran's best bet for an exodus from the current economic hardship, for changing Iranians' political status from duty-bound minors to full citizens, and to establish a democratic regime worthy of such citizens.

We vote, therefore, we are!