Iran's veneer of democratic processes and institutions is cracking over the political landscape. It suffered its most traumatic blow last June, when the government's response to questions about the fairness of the presidential election led to a brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors. Since then, the institutions of democratic civil society have been under unrelenting attack: the elements of a free press dismantled; journalists, human rights defenders and women's rights activists arrested; dissenting clergymen imprisoned, the rule of law disdained and disregarded.
In her recent address on democracy and civil society in Krakow, Poland, Secretary of State Clinton noted that behind the exercise of sheer power politics which leads certain governments to repress civil society activists and institutions, and to refuse to hold themselves accountable to their citizens, is an idea that true democracies everywhere must challenge:
"It is a belief that people are subservient to their government, rather than government being subservient to their people."
True democracies, said Secretary Clinton, "recognize that no one entity – no state, no political party, no leader — will ever have all the answers to the challenges we face. And depending on their circumstances and traditions, people need the latitude to work toward and select their own solutions."
Hillary Clinton says true democracies do not "fear their own people." Iran's democratic veneer is crumbling because the government in Tehran can no longer hide the fact that it does.