Taiwan Foundation for Democracy Fellow, Afsaneh Seifinaji, discusses her research on youth political participation and socialization in Taiwan and Iran
Seifinaji’s research compares youth political participation and socialization in Taiwan and Iran. According to Seifinaji’s research, a significant portion of Iranian youth lack political awareness and do not partake in political activities. Seifinaji emphasized the differences between the 2014 Sunflower Student Movement in Taiwan and the 2009 Green Movement in Iran. Taiwanese students’ utilization of social media to mobilize and nonviolent civil disobedience in the Sunflower Movement was characterized as being polar opposite to the Green Movement in Iran. According to Seifinaji, tensions easily boiled over and led to violent clashes between protesters and police. What was noted was the destruction of property by a number of protesters which does not work to their benefit, as this alienates other members of society who may also share grievances against the Iranian government leadership.
In Seifinaji’s research, David Easton’s Systems theory is applied in order to view these social movements as a science through a behavioral approach. Through this method, Seifinaji intends to analyze politics as a whole and not as a group of different issues. Seifinaji concluded from her research that Taiwan functions more democratically and that the student protesters’ success in having some of their demands met was a strong indicator of this. Her research also notes how 74% of 20-29-year-old Taiwanese voted in the 2016 presidential election. In contrast, 83% of Iranian youth stated that they never participated in political speech and 87% never participated in a political gathering.
To conclude her presentation, Seifinaji discussed various implications for Iran regarding Taiwan’s youth political participation and socialization. The Taiwan government’s youth support through its National Youth Policy was emphasized as a strong initiative which Iran could learn from. In addition, youth organization in schools would need to be revived in Iranian schools. Non-violent communication and anger management training must also be provided to Iranian youth. Seifinaji shared her experiences as an anger management and non-violent negotiation trainer to over 1,000 Iranians to highlight the need for Iranian youth to develop a culture of peaceful demonstration.
Seifinaji’s research provided NCCU faculty and students a great opportunity to see how Taiwan’s democracy influences political movements and other forms of political participation abroad. Her future research will certainly be something to keep an eye out for as research on youth political participation is an important topic discussed globally in a more interconnected world.