Human Rights

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Vox Video Whitewashing Iranian Elections Sparks Backlash

Fresh on the heels of its widelyderided video of the modern history of Israel, Vox, the website known for its often incorrect explanations of complicated issues, mocked as “Voxsplaining,” has just released a video “explaining” how Iran can be a dictatorship and democracy at the same time.

In the three minute video, Vox’s explanation that Iran is a limited democracy is repeatedly undermined by its reference to Iran’s “supreme leader,” a ruler of unchallenged power who is, by definition, not subject to checks and balances.

The video, which was posted on Vox’s Facebook page, prompted dozens of critical comments. “The Supreme Leader controls the elections by allowing only his own candidates to run. This creates an illusion of democracy for the gullible westerners and strengthens the supreme leader in return,” one commenter wrote.

“Vox I just wonder if you are the news agency of Islamic Republic of Iran!!! and the reason is that, exactly like the Islamic regime leaders you ( deliberately or in-deliberately) tried to hide the important role of the Guardian Council of the Constitution,” added another.

The narrator in Vox’s video, which is embedded below, emphasizes that there will be two elections at the end of February. One election will be for the country’s parliament, and another for the body that chooses the next supreme leader, known as the Assembly of Experts. The video claims that “moderates” or, as they are sometimes described, “reformers” in Iran are “rapidly rising,” and may have a chance to select a new supreme leader if the current one, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is rumored to be in ill-health, dies during their term. According to the video, this could “change Iran as we know it for a generation.”

However, Vox’s narrator leaves out an important detail. In the video, viewers can see a text box labelled “Guardian Council,” which is never explained in the narration. The Guardian Council, an extremely influential body in Iranian politics, vets candidates for ideological purity and determines who may run for public office. Six of its 12 members are Islamic theologians who are appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, while the others are jurists who are chosen by parliament from a pre-selected pool.

A few weeks ago, 99 percent of the candidates for Iran’s parliament who were associated with the reformist camp were disqualified by the Guardian Council. The body also rejected 80 percent of all candidates for the Assembly of Experts, including Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the Islamic Republic’s founder.

An appeal by Khomeini, often described as a reformer, was also rejected by the Guardian Council. While the council reversed a limited number of its earlier bans, Reuters reported that the final list of candidates for the Assembly of Experts “makes it clear that the Guardian Council intends to keep reformists and moderates away from this crucial clerical body.” By leaving out any mention of the Guardian Council, Vox fails to inform viewers that Iran’s supreme leader has the means to ensure that only someone he approves of succeeds him.

The idea that a government headed by a dictator could, in any way, be described as a democracy, is almost as absurd as the classic Saturday Night Live “commercial” about Shimmer, which was both a floor wax and a dessert topping.

[Photo: Vox / YouTube ]