Home Culture Economics Iran and the Struggle with Modernity: Can Science and Reasoning Save the...

Iran and the Struggle with Modernity: Can Science and Reasoning Save the Day?


For as long as I have been alive, which is an admittedly short amount of time, there has been a looming threat of violent conflict between my nation and the nation of Iran. Thankfully, the conflict has remained mostly rhetorical. But recently, Iran has been making some rather dichotomous headlines in international news. These reports seem to show a nation stuck somewhere between a technological renaissance and bronze age law enforcement. This Week in Human Rights is going to take a little trip into this world far away in hopes of creating a better understanding of what Iranian citizens have to live in regard to foreign intervention.
Let us start with the bad.
Iran has signed two international treaties banning juvenile executions, and they went ahead and threw that right out the window this week. It is important to note that Iran is more inclined to make executions a public spectacle, and carried out 55 of them alone in 2012. This number is included in the overall number of executions in Iran last year, which is rumored to be around 400. I can save the controversy surrounding the death penalty for a later article if you wish, but for the sake of perspective, please remember that the U.S. had 43 executions within our population of over 300 million in 2011, whereas Iran has a population of around 75 million. The judicial process concerning the death penalty is monitored in the United States as well as Iran. So let us now take a look at the severity of Iran’s punitive measures.
In a non-secular society, such as Iran, a mugging can be classified as “Waging war against God,” and rather than allowing the notion of rehabilitation, the accused can be hanged in public by the neck from construction equipment. This author will add that, having been a victim of a mugging myself in Anchorage, and though I felt angry about it for some time, I still have no wish to see the perpetrators corpses dangling for the community to see and think about while they try to go on with their daily routines. This spectacle is a frequent occurrence in Iran.
The United Nations and the International Human Rights Community in general keep a close eye on Iran, and their abuses can be tracked and monitored by the public.
And now for the potentially uplifting.
I say “potentially” because Iran is showing growth in its scientific sectors, and science is a good thing. The potential for increased access to nuclear weapons however, remains a troubling indication of the everlasting potential for war in the region. Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, recently scoffed at western sanction aimed at his country, claiming that “10 times more money will head to people’s pockets through the inventions of our scientists.” which will hopefully be true for the Iranian people, because their nation depends on oil for 80% of its foreign currency revenue, and that revenue has been more than decimated by sanctions. And with an impoverished population, the people of Iran will be at greater risk of being influenced by radical groups instead of American hard power.
In 2011, Iran had the worlds fastest growing scientific output, despite any political conflict that they were having with the west. An increase in scientists and government spending on scientists could be used to encourage Iran to take a different approach to energy use. One that could potentially avoid the limitations of sanctioned oil and the naked hostility of nuclear.
Or this could all just be wishful thinking.
On the one hand, we have a nation that has threatened violence abroad, dishes out public violence at home, and has become reactionary after being abused and ridiculed by the world powers through its modern history. On the other, we have a large, culturally rich population that must find its place in modernity. No reasonable individual would assume that an all out war with Iran would benefit the world, but that still leaves a gaping question of “what then?”
Since nuclear presents a threat, I would suggest an easing of sanctions. We cannot expect Iran to rationally discuss the future of the region with us if we cripple them economically. Indeed, doing so only serves to heighten the tension. Regardless of whether or not we agree with Iran, they will be a large part of of how Jimmy Carter’s “arc of crisis” functions for future generations. So an open discussion on the security of said region will require dialogue with Iran, but when doing so, we should keep in mind the human rights of the Iranian citizens themselves.
If we are doing no harm to them economically, it may be easier to remind them of how many of their neighbors the regime has publicly hanged next time Ahmadinejad tries to rally them for a malicious cause.


  1. I am Iranian. Though some people (mostly people affected by western culture) might say they oppose executing the killers and rapists or spies for human right reasons but I think (from my first hand observations) most Iranian including at least a lot of educated Iranian do not see as human right violation and simply are ok with that (Why should I pay to send a killer to prison for life? I think executing is better and more economical option) also perhaps most people are against public execution and prefer these bussiness done just in prison.
    Iranian are not anti west or anti anyone but we feel west is anti Iranian and tries to impose unjustified double standard over us. If west changes its attitude things can change quickly.

    • The main problem is that the Iranian government is executing its own citizens for a multitude of crimes that are several tiers below murder and rape and then hanging them from construction equipment in public spaces, and they are doing this to juvenile offenders. Yes, I agree that the west tries to impose double standards on Iran, as we also do for a multitude of other countries and cultural standards. I also agree that if the west changed its attitude, that things could change on a global scale. But a stand must be made on certain issues, such as the ones discussed in this article. For if we do not make a stand against unjustified and remorseless crimes humanity, then we are perpetuating them. I thank you for responding to my article, tms, and for helping me to keep my brain sharp.

      • I don’t think there are a lot of juvenile execution in Iran. But the point here is also I think executing the people should be done after enough evidences but for cases like murder, or gun rubbery or kidnapping and similar crimes it seems a just punishment (also after a fair trail which sometimes is not the case in Iran)
        But my point about double standards is mostly related to issues like sanctions (by the way, number of really innocent people who die each year because of sanctions is by far more than all possible executions in a whole decade so if human right observers are honest they be more concerned about sanctions ) and their general treatment of our country ( 1953 coup, supporting Saddam with Chemical weopons, and now opposing our nuclear enrichment rights)

        • I think that any juvenile execution is too many. I should also probably openly say that I am opposed to the death penalty. Sometimes we here in America also do not have fair trials and we have put innocent people to death.
          I think that America should open up economic communications with your nation. I think it would be beneficial to both of us. I hope that I do not appear to be “riding a high horse” when I write these articles, because I know that my own nation is also guilty of human rights violations. But I also must remain critical of these issues that apply to both of our nations. I especially wish that certain Iranian political figures would not threaten
          their neighbors, and at the same it troubles me when American political figures threaten Iran.
          I would also like to say that it would be very unique for this blog to have an Iranian voice. I would like to encourage you to write an article for us that is critical of my article. Most Americans don’t know any more about Iran than what we hear on the news, and the news is often bad. If you like, my next article could be on the troubled relations between your country and mine (the coup, supporting Saddam, Ben Affleck). Your voice could provide unique insight that I am not capable of providing. We do take guest writers. I feel like this discussion we are having could be an article in itself. Thank you again for talking with me about this controversial subject.

          • sure, I am a little busy right now but I can write a short article about some the issues that I think are really blocking any progress and are more underlying than everyday things that we hear on the media I will put it in my calendar to this next week.