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Saeed Rahnema

About the author
Saeed Rahnema is Professor of Political science at York University in Toronto, Canada.


Today, democracy prevails all over the Middle East: people freely elect their leaders, a vibrant civil society is active in all aspects of life, intellectuals and artists have enshrined rights to free expression, trade unions actively participate in collective bargaining, the media are free and independent, women can wear whatever they choose, and full and equal citizenship is bestowed on women and ethnic and religious minorities. Massive oil and gas revenues provide for free education, public health and social services. The MENAU (Middle East North African Union), which includes Israel and the Palestinian state, takes full advantage of economic integration and the free movement of labour and capital. Museums display relics and garments of religious fundamentalisms, along with Slabs from the Israeli wall. 

It is unimaginable that only forty years ago, dictators of all kinds roamed the region, foreign powers were engaged in multiple wars, and Islamic fundamentalists imposed their obscurantist views. Israel was ruled by a coalition of hawks and fundamentalists, and Palestinians were engulfed in internal strife, corruption and religious fanaticism. 

A series of events changed that situation. The American superpower, along its neo-liberal ideology, weakened. Iranians toppled the Islamist regime. In Arab countries secularism flourished and Islamism, along with authoritarian rules backed by western powers rapidly waned. Palestinians and Israelis signed a peace deal and created two states within the 1967 borders.   

Nearly 40 years ago, in 2011, it would have been (political) science fiction to imagine any of this happening.


Photo of a rural landscape in Shiraz, Iran (uploaded by on Flickr)

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