Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei recently criticized the US’ for faults in the justice system, and some have risen to support Khamenei, despite him being one of the most ruthless dictators on the planet to date.
There’s been a rise in pro-oppressive regime rhetoric among progressives in North America, namely under the vise of such nations being ‘postcolonial’ nations or undertaking reformative efforts.
Much of this rhetoric is ill-founded and seriously problematic, as everything that is not colonial is not immediately postcolonial, at least in the academic sense of the word. Positive postcolonialism moving beyond oppression and the degradation of women and other minorities as a result of colonialism, not just reframing this oppression as postcolonial movements under a non-Imperial power.
Anti-imperialism is not a blanket positive thing, and it is often used to define or explain states that are far from in line with the values that anti-imperialism is meant to promote. Replacing an imperialist state or government with a government that is autocratic and oppressive does not make this new government anti-imperial. It’s simply not the classic British imperialism, which does not make it any better or less detrimental.
There’s a very popular Facebook group called “Postcolonial Memes for Oriental Minded Teens”, which, for the most part, serves as a digital medium to share funny or satirical jokes on postcolonialism and neocolonialism, largely in North American contexts. Sometimes, these jokes are taken too far, and end up being far from funny.
Recently someone posted a photo with screen grabs of Ayatollah Khamenei criticizing the US’ justice system, essentially saying they are hypocrites for condemning other states for their human rights abuses while they themselves have such a poor history and current reality of mistreatment of African-Americans.
The post was followed with several comments angry at the post and making the obvious points that criticisms by an inhumane authoritarian leader should not be taken seriously. However, they were also met with remarks of support, with one person saying “Here come the liberals trying to compare an outstanding revolutionary anti-imperialist state like Iran with the United States”.
Such comments are clearly problematic. For one, anyone referring to Iran as an outstanding state either equates ‘outstanding’ with murderous and inhumane or has a very skewed understanding of Iran and its problems. Being aware of the terrible practices of the Islamic republic and its continued oppression of Iranian peoples, and still believing it to be an “outstanding” state is more frightening than it is problematic. The alternative, that whoever made this comment is simply not well-informed on Iran and the government’s treatment of its people, is more plausible and an easier to address issue. Regardless, such comments bring to light the very problematic new trend among ‘revolutionary’ postcolonial thinkers to equate all non-Western movements with positive postcolonial movements.
Iran is only a revolutionary anti-Imperial state in the very literal sense that its current government was the result of a revolution, which overthrew the monarchy which had arguably close ties to Imperial Britain. I’m certain few would use such adjectives when describing Iran, or rather, if they did, it would be from a place of ignorance rather than complacent belief.