The Paradox of Nationalism in Contemporary Iran:

There is a daunting challenge facing the democratization process and the consolidation of the constitutional liberal democracy on the contemporary Iranian political scene : “the paradox of nationalism in multinational states”. The observance of the nations' right to self-determination, guaranteed by the liberal democratic constitution, international law and the doctrine of human rights prima facie, paradoxically, justifies the national minorities' claim to self-determination in the multinational states. Does national minorities’ right to self determination in Iran permit a right to political divorce from the existing nation-state?

The demarcation of the nation and the establishment of nation-states however have not come about as a voluntary process. The nation-building however, in most cases, has not been a successful pursuit. The forceful nation-building therefore has historically sowed the seeds of a crisis in the soil of the multinational states. Minority nations within multi-national states have constantly attempted to pursue their right to self-determination in various ways (Eisenstadt and Rokkan 1973; Gellner 1983; Anderson 1991).

Some theorists argue that secession is indeed the most appropriate response to the crisis of multinational states. (Philpott 1995; Buchanan 1991). Secessionist struggles are often assessed from an ethical perspective, in terms of either justice based, or autonomy/self-determination based arguments. Justice based theorists argue that there is a right to secede only when a secessionist group is a victim of injustice (Seymour 2007). In this sense the right to secede is conceived as a remedial right only, as a right through which a group may have to remedy an injustice imposed on them. The proponent of the autonomy-based position, by contrast, typically defend the right to secede based on the significance of collective identity to individual self-respect and the exercise of autonomy (Raz 1990; Wellman 1995; Moore 1998).

In this paper, we intend to examine the national minorities' claim to self-determination in Iran. We will, first, investigate whether national minorities in Iran have any justified claim to self-determination. This is to be established by determining whether they would fit into a definition of nation available in the literature and whether they have been subjected to the unjust process of nation-building. We will then assess the possible responses to national minorities' claims to self-determination, while primarily focusing on the question whether their allegedly justified right to self-determination entitles them to a right to secession.