On Tuesday Iranian students at Sharif University held an antigovernment protest. The cause for the protest was the controversy with the current president of Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There are beliefs that he unjustly swayed the election in his favor. The Minister of Science and Higher education, Kamran Daneshjoo, was supposed to pay a visit to the University on Tuesday morning, but due to the protests, the visit was cancelled (for more information please click this link: nytimes article)
The acts of the students and the steps they have taken closely resemble the steps Dr. Martin Luther King outlines in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. The first resemblance would be the simple fact that, as to this point, the protests held by the students have been non-violent. The four steps addressed by Dr. King are the, “…collection of facts to determine whether injustice exist; negotiation; selfpurification; and direct action” (page 2, 2). In the article it is implied that the government has done some unjust, and what seems to me as Machiavellian, things. Soon after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election hundreds of former government officials and activist were thrown in jail. Although not for the most thorough of reasons, the Students have collected enough facts and witnessed enough unfairness to say that injustice exists. The students achieved self-purification by openly accepting their punishments of jail time and being banned from attending class. They took the direct action of nonviolent, persistent protests; something Dr. Martin Luther King was an activist for, as long as injustice was proven.
I would also like to take the time to point out the Machiavellian actions the Iranian government has taken. The article states, “Dozens of student activists were jailed or barred from attending classes this month, according to student Web sites, in an effort to intimidate students” (1). In chapter eight of “The Prince” Machiavelli explains the need a ruler has for cruelty (3). In my discussion session we talked about why Machiavelli believes a ruler must use cruelty from time to time. A majority of the class agreed it was a way of establishing and maintaining power. If you kill someone who committed a crime such as theft, then that is an example to all others what will happen to them if they commit the same crime. Cruelty is a way to ensure that as a ruler you have the upper hand and keep your legitimacy as the authority. The Iranian government seems to be following this same idea; if they put some of the student protesters in jail it will send a message to the others what they will face if they continue their actions. The second Machiavellian action taken by the government is that once the new President came to power he made sure to get rid of those who were in power previously, “More than a hundred activists and former government officials were arrested after the election” (1). In chapter seven of “The Prince” Machiavelli lists the things a ruler should do when they come to power, among other things he lists “…destroy one’s enemies…” (page 21, 3). According to Machiavelli, by imprisoning the former officials President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad secured his power as the new leader and showed his people the control he has.
- Fathi, Nazila. “The New York Times Log In.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 29 Sept. 2009. Web. 29 Sept. 2009. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/30/world/middleeast/30iran.html?hpw>.
- King, Martin L. “Letter from a Birimingham Jail.” Letter to Fellow Clergymen. 16 Apr. 1963. Historicaltextarchive.com. Historical Text Archive, 2001. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. <http://historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?op=viewarticle&artid=40>.
- Machiavelli. “The Prince.” Ed. David Wootton. Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub Co Inc, 2008. 9+. Print.