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Iran and the Hourglass - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance accused Iranian newspapers of plotting a so-called “soft revolution” to overthrow the regime. The problem with the relationship between the government and the press in Iran starts with the ministry’s name itself as the ministry of “culture and Islamic guidance,” as the concepts of guidance and culture are diametrically opposed.

Sharing the parental aspects of custody and care, guidance constitutes preaching, prohibition and direction and regulates the acts of society as a whole. In other words, the function of guidance means an official body to restrict awareness.

Culture, on the other hand, implies broader horizons and a public’s right to know based on freedom rather than restrictions. When freedom is available for poetry, music, drama, expression and forums, there exists creativity and enrichment. Fiction, for example, is based on freedom rather than the guidance of a ministry.

Pre-revolution Iranian intellectuals are credited with achieving international fame on account of their creativity and literature. It was not wars, conflicts or sectarianism but rather creativity that won Omar Khayyam worldwide recognition, even if through translation.

This, however, is not limited to Iran. It is a characteristic of all totalitarian regimes and mobilization states that people are deemed incompetent and need guidance. Abdul Nasser’s Egypt had a ministry of national guidance that, as we have previously stated was characterized by restriction of awareness, direction and narrow minds that function by order rather than through thought, examination, investigation and by asking questions.

In the Arab situation, guidance and restriction are not exclusive to political regimes. The Muslim Brotherhood, for instance, has its own guide! The takfir groups hold that people are deviating from the right path and therefore need guidance. This is contrary to culture, which is that people are mature and the state is to provide them with the tools and means of knowledge.

Another point that was raised in the statement by the Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance regarding his concern about the Iranian press – which he described as creeping towards overthrowing the regime – is that totalitarian regimes do not even tolerate “creeping” criticism. Those who reject change are even aggravated by a silent hourglass.

The Iranian press is dying and the Iranian horizon that was known for literature and culture does not tolerate its arts and diversity. The well-known truth is that the press cannot overthrow regimes and the Iranian press, in particular, would fail to even depose a cabinet minister. After all, Iran is not a democracy and the Iranian press has been massacred since 2000.

To best describe the situation of journalism in Iran, we quote Shahla Sherkat, the Editor-in-Chief of the monthly ‘Zanan’ magazine, who told a Asharq al Awsat reporter that, “Journalism in Iran is like walking a tightrope; if your balance falters you could fall.”

The predicament of the Iranian leadership is that instead of performing its duties of bringing about security, creating job opportunities, providing the people with a dignified life, promoting culture and industrializing the nation, it has occupied itself with preaching and guidance whilst Iran suffers a real crisis both internally and externally.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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