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‘Nofuzophobia:’ The Roots and Legacy of Iranian Resentment of the West – Tablet Magazine

'Nofuzophobia:' The Roots and Legacy of Iranian Resentment of the West – Tablet Magazine

This week, Tablet appears again on 40 years of the Iranian Revolution.


On Nov. four, 2018, a day earlier than the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran, reactions on Iranian social media have been divided between criticism of the Islamic regime and numerous variations of the sentiment “Down with the USA.” In the actual world, rallies have been organized in “struggle against World Arrogance”—i.e., towards the West, particularly the United States.

This hostility to “World Arrogance” was not out of the blue induced by the reimposition of sanctions. The truth is, in November 2017, Reuters reported that since the Joint Complete Plan of Motion (JCPOA) Iran deal was signed in July 2015, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had arrested a minimum of 30 twin nationals. That is greater than double the fee of dual-national arrests earlier than the signing of the JCPOA. Most twin nationals have been arrested once they visited Iran on a enterprise or household journey and confronted extended solitary confinement and interrogations, have been denied primary visitation rights, and have been often sentenced—with out due course of—to lengthy imprisonment and even demise, on fees associated to nationwide safety and espionage.

The Islamic Republic negotiated and signed the JCPOA as a result of the financial sanctions have been suffocating the individuals, and the regime wanted to offer them some hope. Nevertheless, regime hard-liners nervous that a signed settlement with the West would sign a brand new cultural openness, resulting in an elevated expectation for human rights and consumption of Western tradition, and thereby strengthening average voices and weakening the regime. This was true to some extent; Western funding is significant to Iran’s financial system. Individuals, particularly the youthful era, embrace Western cultural affect, from Western-style malls and quick meals eating places, to underground rock live shows and events with dancing and alcohol. Social media exercise has proliferated, together with style Instagram accounts and pages that defy the Islamic gown code.

Whereas Iranians embrace Western tradition, they do stay apprehensive about overseas political involvement and interference. One of the fears expressed by many Iranians, individuals who detest the present regime however don’t take lively measures to overthrow it, is that as a result of there isn’t any clear various, they’re afraid the West would intrude once more and impose a regime they don’t need, corresponding to the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK)—the Individuals’s Mojahedin Group of Iran, an Iranian opposition group favored by the West. The MEK is at present the most lively and most organized opposition motion. It has a ready-to-launch shadow authorities and president, and has focused authorities officers, civil servants, and scientists working for the authorities. Nevertheless, as a result of of its Islamist-socialist agenda, in addition to its help of Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq struggle, most Iranians think about it worse than the present mullahs.

The extra the individuals permit the West to penetrate, the extra it worries the regime. In political speeches, Friday sermons, and press interviews, clerics and outstanding political figures have been emphasizing the want to reinforce Iran’s Islamic id and the wrestle towards the West. They worry that any compromise could also be interpreted as openness to the West. One of the first acts of the regime after the JCPOA was finalized was to move a collection of measures that violated human rights. Instagram fashions and dancers have been arrested, interrogated, and pressured to shut their accounts and confess on public tv. Younger males and ladies dancing collectively in a clip that went viral have been lashed and jailed.

In Persian, overseas penetration, interference, and political, financial or cultural affect, are referred to by the time period nofuz. The harsh crackdown in the previous few years on twin nationals and dancing-and-fashion Instagram accounts show elevated nofuzophobia—worry of overseas affect—by the regime and people recognized with the regime.


Nofuzophobia is just not distinctive to the Islamic Republic. Whereas resentment of the West was an element throughout the 1979 Islamic Revolution (revolutionary ideologues railed towards the Westoxification of the monarchy), its roots return to the starting of trendy Iranian historical past and id.

Iran is wealthy in pure assets reminiscent of oil and fuel, with fertile agriculture, and most significantly, it lies in an necessary passageway between Europe and Asia. As the Qajar dynasty started to say no in the 19th century, Qajar kings granted Nice Britain and Russia far-reaching concessions in financial system, commerce, and development in an effort to replenish their dwindling treasury. Towards the finish of the 19th century, the Iranian street system, oil business, giant elements of commerce, communication methods, and even homeland safety have been in overseas arms.

In 1890, Nasserredin Shah Qajar granted British Main Talbot a monopoly on the entire Iranian tobacco business. The Tobacco Régie affected virtually each grownup Iranian. The tobacco growers now needed to promote their produce to foreigners for a predetermined worth, which affected all the 200,000 individuals employed in the tobacco business. Shoppers now had to purchase their tobacco at a worth predetermined by foreigners. The landowning clergy, who owned the tobacco fields, seen this as a blunt invasion and a menace to Islamic values. Trendy intellectuals, influenced by the Enlightenment, regarded it as a menace to Iranian independence. The disaster united all layers of society, most significantly the clergy; the bazaari—the conventional center class; and the intellectuals—who shaped trendy society.

The Grand Ayatollah Mirza Shirazi issued a fatwa (a spiritual decree) in December 1891, declaring that tobacco that handed via overseas arms is ḥarām—forbidden. The complete Iranian nation stopped smoking—legend says in lower than every week. The concession was canceled in 1892, and Iran received into critical debt to the British, equal to roughly US$78.7 million in 2019 values. The Tobacco Revolt, and new social alignments it cast, marked the starting of virtually a century of political exercise and set the sample for different profitable ones led by the clergy and supported by bazaaris and intellectuals.

The nationwide anthem of the Pahlavi period alludes to the Qajar-period nofuz: “You were troubled by enemies / in his shade, Iran is quiet.” Shah Reza Pahlavi, in whose days these phrases have been written, revoked all concessions and capitulations granted by the Qajars, however quickly sufficient he made new ones, granting political and financial advantages to overseas governments and judicial freedoms to their nationals on Iranian soil, resembling judicial immunity, freedom for spiritual missionaries, and preserving foreigners’ properties in Iran.

Reza Shah didn’t survive too lengthy on the throne. Throughout WWII, Russia and Nice Britain wanted a hall to move items from the Persian Gulf to Russia. In 1941, they invaded Iran and deposed Reza Shah, who was too German-friendly. Reza Shah was changed by his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

A decade later, in 1951, Mohammad Mosaddegh was elected prime minister and sought to nationalize Iranian petrol. His effort was supported by all sectors of society, together with the clergy, the bazaari, and the intellectuals. In 1953, Mosaddegh was overthrown in a coup d’état, and the shah was reinstated as absolute ruler. Iranian conspiracy theories rumored overseas involvement and have been denied by the West. Nevertheless, these theories have been borne out when CIA paperwork have been declassified 60 years later and revealed American involvement in the coup. The day of nationalizing Iranian oil is an official vacation to today, and Mosaddegh is taken into account a nationwide hero by totally different and even opposing political currents, together with Islamists and nationalists, however not royalists.

Reza Shah Pahlavi, too, sought to introduce reforms. In 1963, he instituted a collection of measures meant to speed up Iran’s modernization. The different implicit objective was to strengthen and centralize the shah’s energy. These reforms have been often known as the White Revolution, or the Shah and Individuals’s Revolution. They weren’t broadly supported, and even angered highly effective teams akin to the clergy and landowners, who have been disadvantaged of their energy or wealth by these reforms. The reforms didn’t work as meant. Land reforms, as an alternative of strengthening the peasants and creating a brand new social class loyal to the shah, led to expedited urbanization with out correct infrastructure, creating a brand new, annoyed, decrease class. The clergy, particularly, have been enraged each by their decreased energy and authority, and by the elevated penetration of Western tradition.

One of the strongest voices towards these reforms got here from a Shiite cleric named Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.


The Nationwide Day of Wrestle towards World Vanity, celebrated in 2018 with protests earlier than the imposition of the sanctions, was not set for Nov. four, 2018 (Aban three, 1397, on the Iranian calendar) for that objective. It was set years earlier than the sanctions have been ever issued, and it commemorates three key occasions in the timeline of the Islamic Revolution:

On Aban 13, 1343 (1964), Khomeini was exiled to Turkey, following his landmark October speech towards the shah’s new capitulations. In his speech, he described the capitulations: “If the Shah of Iran runs over an American dog, he will be taken to investigation. But if an American cook runs over the Shah of Iran, he will not be held accountable.” He additionally stated that the People are worse than the British, who’re in flip worse than the Russians, and harassed that the whole lot that’s dangerous in Iran is from America and Israel, and Israel can also be from America.

The second occasion, in 1978, was an inner affair through which 56 scholar protesters have been killed by the police.

The third occasion was the onset of the Iranian Hostage Disaster. On Aban 13, 1358 (Nov. four, 1979), a gaggle of Iranian college students seized the American Embassy in Tehran. Khomeini deemed this occasion extra necessary than overthrowing the shah, as a result of whereas the shah was solely a logo of World Vanity, seizing the embassy was a victory over World Vanity itself. (Sarcastically, the younger hard-liners who occupied the U.S. Embassy in 1979 are immediately’s reformists, and many of their youngsters stay in the United States: Masoomeh Ebtekar’s son Isa Hashemi is one of many.)

At present, nofuzophobia exists amongst regime officers and clergy talking on behalf of the regime, however its use for election propaganda and in Friday sermons in mosques has already misplaced its efficacy. Even the Aban 13 rallies, as proven in quite a few movies on the net, have been so small, they might have been invisible if not for the indicators carried by demonstrators.

The youthful era has a brief reminiscence. Spiritual coercion has already pushed most kids away from Islam: Two widespread developments are din-gorizi—operating away from faith, that’s, assuming a religion-less (bi-din), relatively than a secular, id; and eslām-gorizi—operating away from Islam. Individuals want to maintain their religion with out figuring out with the coercive regime. Some convert to different religions, often Christianity, but in addition Buddhism, and some determine themselves as Zoroastrian. Furthermore, many of them view Islam itself as nofuz; Islam is an Arab import from the seventh century CE onward, not initially Iranian, and therefore it’s nofuz.

In the present day’s Iranians are once more disadvantaged of their pure assets and tax cash. This time it’s as a result of of the Islamic Republic’s aspiration for regional affect and dominance. Iran’s wealth is invested in wars that serve the Islamic Republic, however not Iran. The revolutionary slogan “Not Eastern, not Western, an Islamic Republic” referred to the interference of the Nice Powers in Iranian politics and financial system. The common protest slogan—“Not Gaza, not Lebanon! My soul is devoted to Iran!” (and typically additionally “Not Yemen, not Golan”) rails towards the Islamic Republic’s nofuz of different nations in the area.


Learn extra about 40 years of the Iranian Revolution in Tablet’s particular collection.

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