The Gandhian Moment in Iran


Ramin Jahanbegloo


What we are witnessing since the first demonstrations against the results of the presidential elections might very well be considered as a major nonviolent movement in a Gandhian style. There is already an evident similarity between the civil disobedience movement in today’s Iran and successful nonviolent movements led by Gandhi in India in the 1920-1940s and Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States in the 1950-1960s. Post-revolutionary Iran has experienced the failure of two major political paradigms in the last thirty years: revolutionary leftism and ideological Islam. They each failed in practice as well as in theory, and the Iranian people no longer trust the groups associated with them. It is evident that nonviolent action is the new paradigm that is attempting to define itself distinctly and overcome the intellectual and political weaknesses of its predecessors. There is common agreement among the demonstrators and civil activists that the main contradiction in contemporary Iran is the one between authoritarian violence and democratic nonviolence.


Ramin Jahanbegloo is a well-known Iranian-Canadian philosopher. He taught in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto from 1997-2001. He later served as the head of the Department of Contemporary Studies of the Cultural Research Centre in Tehran and, in 2006-07, was Rajni Kothari Professor of Democracy at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi, India. In April 2006 Dr. Jahanbegloo was arrested in Tehran Airport and charged with preparing a velvet revolution in Iran. He was placed in solitary confinement for four months and released on bail. He is presently a Professor of Political Science and a Research Fellow in the Centre for Ethics at University of Toronto. Among his twenty books in English, French and Persian are Conversations with Isaiah Berlin (Peter Halban, 1992), Gandhi: Aux Sources de la Nonviolence (Felin, 1999), Penser la Nonviolence (UNESCO, 2000), Iran: Between Tradition and Modernity (Lexington Books, 2004), India Revisited: Conversations on Contemporary India (Oxford University Press, 2007), The Clash of Intolerances (Har Anand, 2007) and very recently The Spirit of India (Penguin, 2008).

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