By Akbar Ganji
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Additional info for The Road to Democracy in Iran (Boston Review Books)
Threats, coercion, or violence cannot create belief; nor can a belief be washed away from minds with these tactics. For this reason, the democratic reform movement has come to accept that cultural changes are a primary goal. But culture has deep roots. 28 Much of what needs to change in Iranian culture relates to the superstition, dogmatism, conformism, and prejudice that have permeated our society, particularly in the Shia seminaries. Rejecting these aspects of the dominant religious culture in no way implies rejecting religion.
But we do not believe that those rights are fixed; they are not limited to those specified in the Declaration of Human Rights. The concept of human rights remains open to change: new rights might develop, or old rights might lose their relevance. This mutability has two sources. As humans gain more knowledge about their condition, their self-perception evolves and expands. New understanding of causes of suffering may emerge, and thus require new rights. In addition, as life becomes more developed and more complex, new problems arise.
And we are referring to the kind of experience the people themselves consider painful, rather than those declared to be painful by ideologies and doctrines. We must bear in mind that in their attempt to take societies to a utopian future, free from any suffering, radical social and political projects tend to inflict great suffering on living individuals. 11 We believe further that human rights have a hierarchy, and at the top stand the rights to well-being and to autonomy. In a sense, we consider all other rights to derive from these two.