Iran – People, Freedom, Rights [1]

In this contribution I would like to discuss some of the psychogenetical aspects of the recent events in Iran, as the basis of all social processes of involved, interdependent human beings are their desires and fears, their passion and 'reason', their tendencies towards benevolence as well as towards malevolence. To understand the dynamics of social processes it is therefore necessary to understand the dynamics of psychological processes which occur within the individual and which themselves can only be understood within the context of the social traditions coining it.[2] In this context, it is not so much their more conscious and articulated wishes which are of utmost importance, but rather their lesser conscious motives. This is even more important when the human aspects of freedom are to be discussed.



  •  The Central Claims of the Islamized Revolution: Independence, Freedom, 'Islamic Republic'


At the climax of the insurgence leading to the fall of the Shah's regime, the dominant claims of the masses crystallized into „Independence, Freedom and Islamic Republic“. This showed that they were conscious of their wishes without being conscious of their underlying motives as groups and individuals. This lack of motive-consciousness is one of the central contexts of origin of the 'Islamic Republic' and the post-revolutionary traumatic events in Iran. The post-revolutionary successive elimination of dissidents by the increasingly smaller core groups of power is clear evidence for the lack of motive-consciousness by the people involved in this Islamized revolution as groups and individuals.


But what did the central claims mean to the mass basis of the revolution? Did independence mean their individual independence in the sense of individual autonomy and an emphasis on their individuality and their uniqueness as a consequence of their individualization[3] and the accompanying freedom or did it mean their collective independence in the sense of state sovereignty vis-à-vis US-American influence in Iran?


To claim individual independence for these mass individuals would of course mean to try to square the circle. As masses they constituted themselves through their common identification with Khomeini as their charismatic leader, to whom they were more or less emotionally bound and sometimes even symbiotically-incestuously fixed to. Consequently they were human beings, who either haven't found themselves as autonomous individuals yet or had already lost themselves[4]. Therefore, their claim for independence could only mean independence as collective independence in the sense of state sovereignty.


In this case, 'sovereignty' usually means not being subject to any moral imperative which could restrict the free hand of the 'sovereign state'. With the constitution of the 'Islamic Republic' with an unrestrained spiritual leader at its top, for whom the 'preservation of the existing order' is even more important than the 'primary Islamic imperatives' (Khomeini), the 'sovereign' moreover changed into an unrestrained Machiavellian despot, who makes use of any means to preserve his reign which is being understood as absolute: For him and his social basis and his henchmen the end justifies any means. Vis-à-vis his subjects he does not need to follow any moral imperative, which abetted a republic of lies, fraud, moral decay and corruption.[5]


In this form of rule of an unhindered spiritual despot, which grounds on an image of man as being eternally sheep like people [6], there is no room for claiming individual independence in the sense of autonomy and self-control. Where the balance between self- and external constraints is being completely tilted towards external constraints, every claim for individual independence and autonomy equals „moharebe ba Khoda“ respectively „war against god“, which calls for capital punishment. Where each decision by the 'leader' as irrevocable 'command of the sovereign' and 'final word' and as such meaning 'god's imperative', only subservience and complete submission is expected from the subjects. In this form of rule, only regression by 'fusion into the sovereign' („zob dar welajat“) is being expected[7], thus a symbiotic-incestuous fixation to the leader embodying the 'holy law', the Shari´a and the 'Islamic Republic'.


This malign 'incestuous symbiosis'[8] claimed by Ajatollah Nuri symbolizes one of the key aspects of the 'syndrome of decay' – the quintessence of all evil – in contrast to the 'syndrome of growth', which is accompanied by an increasing individual independence in the sense of autonomy and freedom. As a character orientation of the regime's mass basis, this more or less malign 'incestuous symbiosis' not only shows the craving for love and 'motherly' protection of these mostly uprooted and disoriented mass individuals[9], but also their fear from it. “This fear mostly results through the dependence which does not allow for the feeling of one's own power and independence“. And “to the extent in which somebody is kept in his dependence, his independence, his freedom and his sense of responsibility are reduced”.[10] Thus, these mass individuals incestuously-symbiotically bound to their 'leader', which were unable to sever their emotional 'umbilical cord', become an inseparable element of their 'host'. They are unable to live without him; if this relationship is threatened they develop extreme anxiety and fear. By this emotional and imagined attachment to their 'leader', whom the mass individuals identify with the existing order – because he is the source of their narcissistic supply –, they are unable to clearly distinguish between themselves and their 'host'. This is also the reason for their unscrupulousness towards any critic and opponent of this form of rule, manifesting itself in the brutal persecution, raping and psychical and physical destruction of members of the opposition.


This fathomless malign aggression, this destructiveness and inhumanity of the 'Hezbollah' with their kiss-up-kick-down-mentality – who just distinguish between beloved powerful and despicable (perceived) weak people –, results from their necrophilia, their love for the dead and inanimate, which here mainly manifests itself in their love for the existing order.[11] It was able to emerge and persist by the turnover of their collective grief into a hegemonic frenzy, into a collective narcissism. Their lack of compassion and their merciless brutality towards all outsiders in the 'Islamic Republic' are the expression of their malicious incestuous fixation, of their narcissistic and necrophilia orientation.


This triad of tendencies of the 'syndrome of decay' – tendencies which are directed against life itself, which can build the core of severe mental illness and which can be labeled as the essence of genuine evil[12] - is the psychogenesis of the emergence and persistence of the 'Islamic Republic'. Confronted with the increasing erosion of its mass basis, it evermore rests on its brutal and merciless security forces and has thus been transformed into a bloody republic of fear.


On the other hand, the growing crisis of the regime's legitimacy and the increasing erosion of its mass basis signify a growing emotional detachment, potential independence and freedom and an accompanying sense of responsibility of increasingly autonomous citizens, who are aware of their rights. These developments manifest a 'growth syndrome'. In these people the balance between their necrophilia and Biophilie tendencies is more than less tilted towards the latter, the essence of which is love for live and the animated. It is expressed in the whole person; it is a way of life very threatening for the necrophilia establishment. “It manifests itself in the bodily processes of a person, her feelings, her thoughts, and gestures“.[13] The passive forms of resistance in everyday life by the more or less demonstrative emphasis of one's own way of life and the expanding civil disobedience as well as periodically escalating mass uprisings are manifestations of their love for life and the animated. They are the untiringly attempts of the increasingly autonomous citizens to enforce their freedoms respectively to widen their freedom of action and decision and to institutionalize them.


But the institutionalization of their civil rights and liberties in the sense of an increasing widening of the freedom of action and decision of people as individuals and groups is impossible within the framework of the 'Islamic Republic'. This is not only proven by the experience of the people since the constitution of the 'republic'. The image of man underlying this form of government as eternally sheep like people contradicts individual freedom and the ethos of human rights. As eternally sheep like people they do not have any rights, only duties. This is not only expressed by the constitutional restrictions of all the civil and human rights laid down in the constitution by the Shari´a, but also by the islamization of human rights. Instead of humanizing Islam, human rights are archaicized by declaring pre-islamic archaic patterns of behavior and sentiment as 'holy law' and accepting only this 'Shari'a' as frame of reference for all human rights.[14]




  • Freedom and Determinism[15] or the Boundaries of Freedom for Action and Decision of Muslims and Islamists


It is not only the Shari´a which restricts individual freedom for action and decision of Muslims but also their balance of Biophilie and necrophilia tendencies as well as the intensity of their incestuous fixation and of their malign confessional narcissism, which more or less restricts their ability for empathy.


The more intensive the necrophilia tendencies the more intensive the emotional numbness as an indispensable precondition of unscrupulousness and destructiveness. The more intensive the incestuous fixation the lesser the autonomy of the patterns of decisions and behavior. The more intensive the group-charismatic self-love the greater the inability to put oneself into the position of others. And the smaller the range of identification with other human beings the smaller the narcissistically engaged 'we-group' and the greater the stigmatized 'they-groups' regarded as despicable and detested outsiders.


The intensity of this triad of the 'syndrome of decay' in the case of the establishment of the 'Islamic Republic', its mass basis, and its henchmen is the reason for the deaf ears and hardened hearts for the sighs of the agonized creatures, which push each other up in a vicious circle. This escalating, self-reproducing emotional numbness and loveless ness on the one hand and the malign aggressiveness resulting there from on the other hand, restricts the freedom for action and decision even for the most powerful necrophilia people like the current 'leader' of the 'Islamic Republic', who vilified the protests against the electoral fraud as “political germ”, which would only immunize the system.[16]


Depending on the intensity of the triad of the 'syndrome of decay' and thus the smaller or greater freedom of action and decision, the necrophilia Islamists must be distinguished from the more or less Biophilie Muslims. The necrophilia Muslims' intense triads of the ‘syndrome of decay’ are their inescapable self-cnotrol which practically determine their behavior and experience in a compulsive manner. Freedom not only means freedom from constraints through others and self-constraints, and from constraints imposed by human and extra-human nature, but also freedom to promote one's own growth as individuals and groups and to foster a growing sense of responsibility. It means the increasing ability to develop and to express one's own productive intellectual, emotional, and sensual potentials. The necrophilia Islamist is not capable to develop individual freedom in the sense of positive realization of an individual self and the development of self-control and love for live and the animated, because his freedom for action and decision is severely restricted by the enormous intensity of the triad of his 'syndrome of decay'. The Islamist suicide assassins are the manifestation of extreme necrophilia. They do not only despise the lives of others but also their very own.


Therefore it is also the more or less potential ability of an increasing number of people to freedom in a double sense, which is a prominent reason for the successive alienation of former Khomeinists respectively their reformist factions from the increasingly despotic 'velajat-e Faghih', the 'rule of the scribes', and for their emphasis on the republican dimensions of the constitution, which they want the 'green movement' to revitalize.


Accordingly, the increasing unscrupulousness and brutality of the increasingly smaller core groups of power is an expression of their increasingly restricted freedom of action and decision, which they reproduce through their increasingly restricted emotional numbness, manifested in their increasingly necrophilia destructiveness. For them, the preservation of their reign and the consequential protection of their monopolized sources of power and status has absolute priority in what they regard as their life.


[1]              This contribution was written on the occasion of a lecture.

[2]              In contrast to Erich Fromm I prefer the term „social traditions“ instead of „culture“. The term „social traditions“ avoids the idea of culture as a monolithic unit and rather marks the influential constraints on the people's social habitus. (Cf. Erich Fromm, Die Furcht vor der Freiheit [orig.: Fear from Freedom], 1983, p. 7f.)

[3]              Individual independence means the emphasis of one's own individuality and singularity as it manifests itself in an increasing informalization of people's patterns of behavior and sentiment as well as in the shift of their identity's I-We-Balance towards the former. It was exactly this individualization as a by-product of modernization which was felt as a threat and which was a precondition for the emergence of the “Islamic Revolution”. That is the reason why the post-revolutionary Islamicization of everyday life strived for an increasing formalization and uniformization of the people's individual patterns of behavior and sentiments. The strict enforcement of women's veiling was only one of the more observable aspects of these attempts of formalization.

[4]              Cf. Dawud Gholamasad, Iran – Die Entstehung der „Islamischen Revolution“ [Iran - The Genesis of the "Islamic Revolution"], Hamburg 1985.

[5]              Cf. Dawud Gholamasad, Irans neuer Umbruch – von der Liebe zum Toten zur Liebe zum Leben [New Change in Iran – From Love for Death to Love for Life], Hannover 2010.

[6]              Cf. Aj. Khomeini, Der Islamische Staat [The Islamic State], Berlin 1983, p. 61

[7]              These were the words of Ajatollah Nuri, the conservative presidential candidate in his electoral campaign against Khatami, who was the reformist presidential candidate

[8]              Erich Fromm, Die Seele des Menschen – Ihre Fähigkeit zum Guten und zum Bösen [orig.: The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil] , Stuttgart 1980, p. 103

[9]              Their uprooting and disorientation is the consequence of their functional partition which resulted from the disintegration of their former units of integration, that is their tribes and the widely dispersed 55.000 villages, in the course of modernization without any alternative differentiated institutional and emotional chances of integration in the cities.

[10]             Erich Fromm, ibid.

[11]             Necrophilia people feel attracted to and are fascinated by everything dead; they live in the past and never in the future. They are cold, always trying to keep distance, and adhere to “law and order”, in this case to the Shari´a and the existing order, the preservation of which – according to Khomeini – is even more important than the primary Islamic imperatives. Characteristic for a necrophilia person is his love for violence which ultimately rests on the chance to kill. „Wer das Tote liebt, liebt unausweichlich auch die Gewalt. [Who loves the dead ultimately also loves violence.]“ ( Erich Fromm, ibid., p. 35)

[12]             Erich Fromm, ibid., p. 32.

[13]             Erich Fromm, ibid., p. 41.

[14]             The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam is a declaration of the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference adopted in Cairo in 1990, which affirms the Shari'ah as the sole source of “human rights”.

[15]             In contrast to Erich Fromm I prefer the term of scopes for decision-making and action, which under certain conditions expand or narrow, as a continuum of transformations instead of the polar terms determinism and freedom (Cf. Erich Fromm, Die Seele des Menschen – Ihre Fähigkeit zum Guten und zum Bösen, [orig.: The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil] Stuttgart 1980, p.119ff.)

[16]             Cf. the speech of Aj. Khameinei in Quom on October 23rd 2010? After this event his website attempted to relativize this statement by emphasizing: “Not all protesters are germs”.