The State of Iran

The painting is a Persian miniature from 1330, which can be viewed amongst others here.

Paulinus has a very powerful piece today on the state of modern Iran. He points out three things which my reflections at the start of the year on what a deflation-related oil decline will do to Iran missed.

Firstly, he notes the massive demographic slump into which Iran has fallen in the past twenty years. It is not having enough children, its population is falling, and its growth has not been great enough to provide a comfortable landing in the form of investments or social services for the present ageing population.

Secondly, he notes a study that suggests some 90% of Teheran's prostitutes have passed the university entrance exam. Prostitution is a desperate choice, whatever escort agencies are keen to say to young women, and we can only surmise that poor women are suffering even more.

I dimly remember women reputed to put it about when the rent came due when I was young, and, though people judged, they often understood. Prostitution is a feature of tragedy, not liberation. Even those foolish young men and women who thought it some easy way to make money and validate themselves at Oxford were soon--well, I can't think of the word. I viewed the pieces from afar, and was glad when some turned away.

Thirdly, five per cent of Iran's adult, non elderly population is apparently addicted to opiates, and the country has become a major conduit for heroin from Afghanistan.

There's more over at In Hoc Signo Vinces. Iran is in deep trouble.

In these circumstances, and given that elements within it are so determined to cause a war with Israel or to destabilise Iran's neighbours, or us, the west faces a choice. We can surround Iran with the ring of steel, the vast armada that now sits off its shores and on runways around it; in fact, we should. That's quite clear. We can expect elements within it to provoke, and issue all sorts of dire warnings.

But surely, and I hope that it isn't a clever-clever point, isn't beyond our wits to find some way to boost that beast that seems more mythical than real, Iranian civil society? Iran is not an uncivilised place; that is why the adamantine badness of the Islamic republic is such a tragedy. Can we use some joint venture, or regional structure, at the expense of a little of our moral consistency, to draw Persia back in?

I suspect a few readers of this blog will think this folly or weakness. I find it hard to believe that people aren't people--bad as sin, but in need of families, food, and peace in which to talk rubbish anywhere in the world. I fear that I am deluding myself, and that enough of Iran has given itself over to a cult of death. Germany was a civilised country too, during its dark times.Yet one of the main lessons of history, I have found, is that the last lesson is wrong as a template for a present problem.

As Martin Kelly told me on his blog, today, sometimes, you just have to hope.

Here's a gentle video called 'celestial peace'.


Anonymous said…

might be of interest to anyone wishing to learn a bit about prostitution in Iran, although it isn't particularly meaty.

Iran is a weird place. When considering how educated it's prostitutes are, there is merit in also considering alternatives to education and prostitution for women there.

I didn't read through the linked bibliography, mainly for lack of time, but the first questions I would ask about Iran and "moral decline" would be about the female workforce.
Martin Meenagh said…
Hi Anonymous

I don't normally allow unsigned anonymous comments, but I checked your link and you seem to be writing in goodwill, so I've put it up. Thank you for the comment.

I don't think I used the words 'moral decline'; I noted demographic and oil revenue declines, and what suggested itself to me as a fairly desperate situation in the cities.

But I don't pretend to expert knowledge, whereas you seem to hint at something nearer that, so I'm happy to have my eyes opened. Most of all, I don't want to see human beings blown apart or burned by bombs, anywhere.
Anonymous said…
No need to post this. I'm by no means an expert on Iran, just fascinated by it, and entirely on board with your peaceful sentiment.

Don't get your hopes up but consider this encouraging news for a discouraging time.
Martin Meenagh said…
I went to the link, and people should follow it to a discussion of some of the things that lie behind current initiatives in the middle east.

Many thanks anonymous. I'm grateful for the link.