European Press Review: Protests in Iran | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 16.06.2003
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European Press Review: Protests in Iran

European papers commented on the protests in Iran on Monday, comparing circumstances to the Iranian Revolution 25 years ago and looking at U.S. policy there. They also wrote about the European Union's draft constitution.


For nearly a week thousands of people have been protesting against the slow pace of reforms in the Iranian capital Tehran.

Mayn of Europe's papers looked at the ongoing demonstrations in Iran, where progressive students are demanding the country speed up social and political reforms.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung from Munich carried an editorial entitled "Iran’s Hot Summer" and compared the current situation with the start of the Islamic revolution 25 years ago and pointed out certain similarities: "In both cases a system had lost its backing from the majority of the population -- back then it was the regime of the Shah, now it is the Ayatollahs’ system. And again there are public demonstrations." The paper, however, said there was one major difference: "A quarter of a century ago there was a powerful opposition with a fresh ideology, political Islam, a charismatic leader, Ayatollah Chomeini, and an organized network. There is nothing comparable today," the paper wrote, adding: "Without being pushed from outside, the Islamic republic will not collapse."

By openly backing the protesters in Iran, the United States was pursuing a counter-productive policy, the British daily The Independent said. The effect was to strengthen the Iranian conservatives, the paper warned. “They are able now to portray the students as pro-American which -- given Iran’s history and the current state of Muslim politics -- is not how reformists want to be seen.” For that reason President Bush’s best course would be “simply to allow the internal dynamics of Iran to play themselves out.”

In Russia, Kommersant noted that more than two-thirds of the Iranian people were below 30. The country’s youth longed for a life in prosperity, the daily wrote. Young Iranians wanted to study abroad. They “oppose[d] the isolationist policy” of their government and were demanding instead an “orientation towards the west.”

The Dutch paper De Volkskrant focused on the new draft constitution for the European Union adopted by the Convention on the Future of Europe. “The way the convention has been handling things gives one an appetite for more. For the first time the reorganization of the European house wasn’t discussed behind closed doors, ” it wrote. But there should have been a real public debate among ordinary people about the future of the EU, the paper claimed. This lack should be compensated by putting the final draft to a referendum in all member countries, it suggested.

La Croix saw a gap between a tremendous historic goal on one hand and the apathy of the population towards European integration on the other. The French paper considered how EU citizens could be convinced to support Europe. “The institutions, in which 25 countries soon will have to find common decisions, must be simplified,” the daily wrote.