How the Western Left Has Abandoned Iranian Liberals


Via Arts & Letters Daily comes a sharp review of Danny Postel's recent book, Reading Legitimation Crisis in Tehran, which indicts Western liberals and leftists for silence in the face of brutal repression by an "authentic" regime that attacks the concept of universal human rights as part of an Enlightenment, imperialist mentality.

From Rafia Zakaria's review:

[Western liberals], as Postel documents, have been silent in the face of repeated student protests in Iran, imprisonment of Iranian activists and numerous other human rights violations that should have logically attracted their support. They are so locked in the singular prism of anti-imperialism that they are unable to make peace with the idea that it is liberalism rather than radicalism that is the true fighting creed in Iran. They are even less amenable to the reality that "the denunciations of U.S. Empire in Iran today are the rhetorical dominion of the Iranian Right, not the Left". As Postel states, "it is the reactionary clergy who wield the idiom of anti-imperialism and regime hardliners [who] legitimate the suppression of Iranian students". This aversion to recognising reality in Iran has exacted a huge cost; it has delegitimised the Western left and exposed its disinterest in championing the cause of Iranian liberals and pro-democracy fighters who suffer daily at the hands of an increasingly repressive regime. Postel exposes how the insistent prioritisation of anti-imperialism over all else has produced a repugnant inversion of itself—a new form of imperialism equally blind in its U.S.-centric perspective as its ugly counterpart.

More here.

In 2002, Charles Paul Freund assayed the case of Hashem Aghajari, the Iranian dissident whose death sentence sparked massive protests (and eventually gained some measure of freedom) in Iran but little outrage in the West.