Nature of the Iranian Reform Movement: Existence and Causes
The third chapter documents the emergence of a reform movement in Iran in the late 1990s. The first section raises a number of more general questions pertaining to such a movement in the context of an authoritarian political regime. The first question relates to the issue of whether we can indeed speak of a social movement in the context of Iranian society in the post-revolutionary era. The second section assumes the presence of a reform movement in Iran in the second half of the 1990s and then proceeds to “prove” its existence by referring to the noticeable increase in non-governmental organizations, the noticeable increase in the independent press, the diversity of narratives reflecting different ideologies, policies and lifestyles, powerful counter-movements, dramatic changes of individual appearance in public, dramatic decreases in youth appearances in religious places in the hands of people who represent ideologized religion, and electoral successes by reformist candidates.
The second section of this chapter reviews different explanations for the nature of this movement. The main issues, theory of state, distinguished group, theory of citizenship and expected outcome will be examined in each possible explanation. This section is an attempt to set out different social movement theories as explanations for the Iranian scene. Leadership, success and political implications such as destabilization are discussed in the following sections. The conclusion is an attempt to relate my empirical findings to a broader conceptual and interpretive agenda.
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