Let the people decide
Thank you, Asian Affairs, for an informative and balanced February edition on Iran. Your articles and editorial perfectly sum up the nature of these latest series of uprisings across the country, looking at the very real human grievances that underlie the politics. The Iranian people appear to have a growing sense that their government does not care for them, in light of the ‘unpopular foreign causes’ Nicholas Nugent alludes to (in Lebanon and Syria, to name just two), high unemployment among the young, skyrocketing fuel and food costs and inequality that many are facing under the Rouhani administration.Despite ‘some economic dividend’ from the nuclear deal, the benefits, as Kim Sengupta notes, have certainly not spread nationwide.
Now it looks as though many Iranians are heartily fed up with the tired old ‘moderates versus conservative’argument, and have lost all confidence in the establishmentas a whole, including the so-called reformists. For them, it is not a choice of ‘either-or’ any more; the entire political system has to changeto allow greater freedoms and opportunities for all. As your editorial succinctly points out, the first step towards such change would be to ‘free up the press, allowing citizens to engage in an open debate about the kind of government they want’.
The West can help by not applying sanctions to worsen the plight of the Iranian people, and by refraining from comments on social and other media against the regime, as this could backfire and bring about a clampdown on freedoms. But in the final analysis, Iran’s leaders have to acknowledge that it is not ‘foreign enemies’ who are stirring up trouble at home. It is their own people, demanding to be heard and insisting on change.
Barriers to understanding
As a person of mixed (Korean-American) heritage, I was happy to read about the attempts at a detente between North and South Korea (‘Skating on thawing ice’, Asian Affairs, Feb. 2018).I applaud Maxwell Downman’s very cautious optimism that the improving relationship can extend beyond the Winter Olympics, but I am not sure I share it. Look at the news of recent struggles over a language barrier between members of the joint women’s ice hockey team, despite the north and south both speaking Korean. The language has mutated over time, following the post-Korean War split, resulting in the South Korean Hangugeo and North Korean Chosŏnŏ, which differ in vocabulary (unlike the south, the north is resistant to the influx of foreign words) and in their written form. The cultural and political divide between the two Koreas is encapsulated in these language differences,which makes me wonder how far the relationship can be taken beyond the common but narrow interest of the Olympics.
Los Angeles, CA
A disgrace to democracy
The contempt in which Malaysia’s incumbent and opposition leaders hold the country’selectorateis enough to make one weep (‘By fair means or foul’, February edition).That voters should be left with the choice between these corrupt, dishonest (and, in the case of Mahathir Mohamad, racist) factions is a disgrace to the name of democracy. Is it too much to hope that the global trend for protest is followed by a global trend for meaningful reforms, where human welfare counts for something with politicians?