The Reformist Movement in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Past, Present, and Future

The Ezri Centr for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies hosted a lecture by Prof. Ali Akbar Mahdi, titled "The Reformist Movement in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Past, Present, and Future" on the 8th of January, 2006.


The lecture was held at 14:00 at the Hecht Lecture Hall.


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During the presidency of Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, 1997-2005, the Islamic Republic of Iran experienced a social movement variably called “The Second Khordad Movement,” “Reform Movement,” and “Civil Movement.” The political forces and personalities involved in this movement were in one way or another affiliated with the current or past institutions of the Islamic Republic. As an opposition movement from within, this movement changed the Islamic Republic more than its opposition from without could have ever done. Despite its tremendous achievements in the first 4 years of Khatami’s presidency, the movement began to weaken in his second term so much so that it ended in electoral failure for reformist in the second City Council elections, the 7th parliamentary elections, and finally in the 9th presidential election. Despite all its achievements, the movement failed to fundamentally change the nature of forces and institutions making up the Islamic Republic. Since the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the president last July, the movement has lost its appeal and momentum. Its proponents and participants have begun studying the reasons for its failure and its future.


Where would this movement go from here? Will it ever again see moment of glory? Do reformists have any potential to re-emerge on the political scene as an affective force? If so, what kind of force will they be and what kind of changes will they advocate? Can the movement succeed in generating change while still working within the framework of the constitution of the Islamic Republic? What would be the likely response of conservative forces to such a re-emergence? How do the expectations, goals, and strategies of this movement match, correspond to, and relate to structural constraints and needs of the Iranian society? This talk will attempt to explain the anatomy of this movement, the identity of forces involved, the discourses employed, and the goals and objectives followed. It will attempt to assess the success and failure of this movement in the past 8 years and its prospect for re-emergence in the future.



ALI AKBAR MAHDI is Professor of Sociology at Ohio Wesleyan University and previously has taught at Michigan State University, Adrian College, and Central Sate University. He is a recipient of Excellent-in-Teaching Citation from Michigan State University, The Sears-Roebuck Foundation Teaching Excellence, and Outstanding Teacher Award from Michigan Sociological Association.  He has served as the President of the Michigan Sociological Association (1987-1988), the editor of the Michigan sociological Review (1989-1994), and the Executive Director of the Center for Iranian Research and Analysis (1993-95). He is the author of Teen Life in the Middle East (2003), Sociology in Iran (1994), Sociology of the Iranian Family (1975), and Iranian Culture, Civil Society, and Concern for Democracy (1989). He has written over 70 articles and reviews in various scholarly and popular journals. He appears weekly on Yaran TV/Radio with Farhang Farrahi and is consulted regularly on Iranian issues by BBC, Voice of America, Radio Australia (SBS), Radio Farda, and other Persian media outlets.


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