President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address, applauded those in Iran pressing for change. But the people of Iran continue to yearn for democracy and freedom, even though Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the hard-line Muslim clerics who rule Iran, has had many who speak out arrested. Some are released; others continue to be held in prison. Patrick Clawson is deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He says that the desire for real reform has been growing in Iran for years.
Clawson: If we look back over the last eight years, what's happened is that every few years, issues which once upon a time were controversial now become widely accepted. And every few years a new set of issues, which would have been considered absolutely beyond the pale, get raised. So now we see some of the prominent figures, both in the student movement and among the intellectuals, asking themselves, can there actually be such a thing as an Islamic republic? Or is the association of Islam and democracy simply incompatible? Genieve Abdo is former Tehran correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, and co-author of the forthcoming book "Answering Only to God: Faith and Freedom in 21st Century Iran." She says that government crackdowns have to be expected Abdo: When these periods of expression happen, in the form of protests or in other ways, [for example] when newspapers are opened, there's always a crackdown. So you have to measure the progress that's made against the crackdown which immediately follows. Recently, reformist newspapers have been closed. People who conducted an opinion poll showing that a vast majority of Iranians want dialogue with the United States, they were put on trial. So there's always a crack-down in response to whatever expressions of protest occur.
Roya Boroumand is the director of the Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran. She says that the crackdowns have not broken the movement for freedom and democracy. Boroumand: Even if there is a crackdown afterwards -- and unfortunately the crackdown affects more people that we don't know than people we know -- but each time you see a better-articulated movement, more interesting debates coming out of it. So, in a way it is true that there is a crackdown, but it is also true that each step is a step forward. And if we don't speak up and we don't say the truth, and if the students don't say and don't make some kind of a movement to show their anger, there will be no changes.
Public discontent has grown so great that even many Shi'ite clerics are speaking out against the clerical authorities. On the Line