The political gridlock caused by infighting between conservative and reformist forces in Iran has fostered what analysts in Tehran characterize as a "crisis of legitimacy." Growing popular apathy towards the political process is preparing the ground for a possible authoritarian alternative, some observers go on to warn.
Payman Morteza, a 26 year-old graphic designer, is one member of Iran's legion of disillusioned. Morteza recalls how he was optimistic about Iran's future after attending a 1997 campaign rally for the reform-minded cleric Mohammad Khatami, who went on to capture the presidency. "He spoke of freedom, of individual choice, of toleration," Morteza said. "It was an entirely new language for the Islamic Republic. We were so accustomed to hearing talk of revolution and sacrifice and foreign enemies."
Morteza, along with a group of friends, began campaigning for Khatami in his neighborhood. "We went into shops. We talked to people. We said:
Afshin Molavi, a Washington-based journalist and frequent EurasiaNet contributor, recently returned from a three week reporting trip to Iran.