The role of civil society in Iran and NGOs
Many of the individuals interviewed spoke of the need to allow civil society to flourish and play its natural role in the country. They noted the huge electoral win of Rouhani in the presidential election of 2013 and the extent to which this reflected the hopes of much of Iranian society for a more inclusive and participatory environment in which there was dialogue and exchange between civil society and the Rouhani administration.
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There was a frequently noted sense of hope that civil society, effectively eviscerated under the previous Ahmadinejad administration, could and should now play a vital role in addressing the nation’s problems. Many spoke of the extent to which civil society, as a vital two-way conduit of information between society and the administration, could help Rouhani achieve the kind of reforms he had promised during his 2013 presidential election campaign.
I was one of the people who voted for Mr. Rouhani and after voting for him, I thought now that he is here at the helm, we should start moving forward. We should start posing our demands and the ones he promised to deliver. It is the people’s responsibility to pursue these demands. A relatively small and open space has emerged and we cannot say that this administration is like the previous one….We must start working, instead of grumbling… “why didn’t Mr. Rouhani do that thing he promised,” we must continue to pursue our demands and start working. A minimal environment has developed, and the Iranian society has always used these minimal environments to move. Civil organizations have developed in this minimal environment. I think people should focus on this. They should start creating civil organizations. NGO’s should start working. During Mr. Ahmadinejad’s tenure all these things were destroyed, but I think they should start working again.
–Pegah Ahangarani, Actress
The role of public opinion, which would manifest itself through organizations such as the media, NGO’s, and political parties, deserves attention. Civil organizations can play a pivotal role, if they have a podium. Social networks on the Internet play an important role in affecting decision-making through citizens’ expressions of opinion. Surveys of public opinion can help the administration in determining its priorities and acting accordingly.
–Fakhrossadat Mohtashamipour, Civil Activist, Wife of Political Prisoner
[We need] a softer approach by the Ministry of Culture towards cultural and press-related issues and censorship, and NGO’s.
–A Journalist in Tehran and Former Political Prisoner
All we can do is to write and to warn. There is no other way. The government is not unaware of these articles.
–Mohammad Aghazadeh, Journalist