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Iran, as supporter of self-determination, a thorn in imperial Washington’s side

Iran’s unapologetic self-determination, including its ballistic missile and nuclear energy program as well its resistance to economic imperialism, make it a constant thorn in Washington’s side

by Randi Nord

Part 4 - Iran is not a “Shia” Saudi Arabia

The barrage of negative press surrounding Iran serves two purposes: defaming Tehran and normalizing Riyadh.

Yet the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are nothing alike — even before considering the obvious religious differences.

Iran is a theocratic republic with a constitution containing democratic elements. Citizens, both male and female, elect leaders and representatives into office through a well-defined electorial process. Despite media portrayal to the contrary, Iranians are guaranteed human rights through their constitution, including the freedom to practice any religion, freedom of assembly, and a legal presumption of innocence.

Iranians also enjoy a robust social welfare system which either provides or subsidizes housing, higher education, food, healthcare, unemployment insurance, and physical training. Many of these benefits are constitutionally guaranteed: a constitution designed on the Islamic principle of a fair and just economic system.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for citizens of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It’s true that a subset of Saudi citizens enjoy social welfare benefits on the back of a lucrative oil economy, and do not pay taxes, benefits which have kept the Saudi population relatively docile. This, however, will likely change soon as Riyadh moves towards pervasive privatization.

Saudi Arabia does not have a constitution nor does it guarantee even basic human rights. Instead of a constitution, the Kingdom employs “basic law,” a concept that’s typically utilized on a temporary basis. In the Kingdom, basic law is determined by the country’s hardline Sunni interpretation of the Qur’an and the Salafist interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law) and Sunnah (traditions).

Citizens are not free to practice any religion — even Shias, and Sunni Muslims who do not adhere to Wahhabism or Salafism, face persecution. In Saudi Arabia there are no synagogues as all religions other than Islam are banned. Iran, on the other hand, has about 60 synagogues for its Jewish community, the largest in the Middle East outside of Israel.

Perhaps the most striking contrast between the two countries is the status of women. Women comprise 70 percent of Iran’s science, tech, and engineering students. In fact, Iran enrolls more women in manufacturing, engineering, and construction than any country in the world — nearly double that of the United States, despite having a much smaller population (323 million total population in the U.S. and 80 million in Iran). As of 2012, 476,039 Iranian women were enrolled in higher education in these fields compared to 262,840 women in the United States.

Women in Saudi Arabia may not leave home without a male guardian’s explicit permission at the risk of draconian punishments such as beheading or stoning. Adultery is a death sentence for Saudi women, who won’t have the right to drive until recent reforms are enacted later this summer. The rights of women are mentioned 12 times in Iran’s constitution, while Saudi Arabia’s basic law fails to mention word “women” even once.

As Osman told MintPress News, the Iran depicted through popular media tropes is a far cry from reality: “The reason behind this behavior is that the Western mainstream media knows that the easiest way to gain support with their audiences back home and abroad for all the hostilities against independent nations that are opposing them, is to smear and demonize them. In the eyes of many people, Iran is a nation of Islamic fundamentalists with a sole purpose of destroying ‘Western’ and ‘civilized’ values. … News stories about the country are often accompanied by photos of burka-clad women walking past a graffiti illustrating the Statue of Liberty with the face of a skull on the wall facing the former U.S. Embassy. But this is not the real Iran. I have been to Iran and have one thing to say about it: Pack your bags and go see it, you can thank me later for the great experience you will have, the amazing and generous people you will meet and the astonishing history you will learn about the country.

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