From 5 to 16 January 2008, Jérôme Monod, Honorary Chairman of the Fondation pour l’innovation politique, and Franck Debié, Chief Executive Officer, travelled to Iran. Their goal was to look behind prejudices concerning insecurity, hostility toward foreigners and the role of women, and to explore emergence of a brilliant modern culture in Iran. This Special Report presents their initial findings.Jérôme Monod and Franck Debié returned from their trip to Iran with numerous first-hand accounts and impressions of a society out of step with its political leaders. The arbitrariness of power and complexity of its structures are omnipresent, creating a climate which is not very conducive to economic development or to the flourishing of civil society.
A public opinion does seem to exist in Iran — one fascinated by the American lifestyle, curious about what is going on beyond its borders and open to the market economy, being well aware of its individual and collective benefits. Iranian patriotism and a certain “Iranishness” remain very pervasive. There is also, in public opinion, a desire for a lasting peace and hope for a less restrictive daily life. Criticism of incompetence is commonplace.
Conversations with religious, political and intellectual elites revealed that they are also wondering about their great country’s future: can true modernization be expected without more democracy? How can the need for more democracy, transparency and competency be reconciled with maintaining the “achievements of the Islamic revolution”? Despite the Iranian leaders’ automatic suspicion of anything not originating from themselves, and despite the complexity of a society that has its chosen and its misfits, it will become increasingly difficult for Iran to contend with today’s status quo. It will need to identify and sustain forces capable of ushering in a new form of modernization.