Date: Tuesday, February 2, 2010
First and foremost, I want to congratulate everyone on the [upcoming] 31st anniversary of our [victory in the] revolution, specifically the families of our martyrs, our [war] veterans and our [former] prisoners of war [with Iraq]. Analysis of the Islamic revolution has not yet come to an end. There have been thousands of books and articles written about it and many still to come. It is interesting that the recent elections – as well as the events that followed – have brought forth new critiques of the revolution.
Some of these analyses focus mainly on the similarities between [the Islamic revolution and the aftermath of our recent elections], others explore the similarities along with the differences, and others seek the roots of the green movement in the Islamic revolution. In any case, these critiques are very beneficial, particularly for the younger generation who are the primary force of the green movement. There were many factors that contributed to the unification of our people – particularly the marginalized – under the brilliant leadership of Imam Khomeini and lead to the [victory of the] revolution. There is much to say about this, but what I think is particularly relevant to our current situation and what I would like to mention now at the beginning of this interview, is that in 1979, all of our people had united and were active in the shaping of the revolution. This unity was so strong that it even overtook the military bases. The historic picture of the air force officers saluting Imam Khomeini on the 8th of February is important in documenting this detail. In the days leading to the revolution, we did not have two groups, a majority and a minority, in the streets. But, because the Shah’s unpopular and dictatorial regime had completely lost the roots of legitimacy, it had no base left – even among the military. In those days, even specific political groups with very distinct positions overcame their differences and [even those who were reluctant] joined millions to demand “independence, liberty, [and an] Islamic Republic.”
The regime had completely lost its legitimacy. Of course, the [regime’s forces] killing civilians on the streets had a lot to do with this. The murders of 17 Shahrivard [September 8th] were a defining moment. Looking back, we see that if the Pahlavi regime had not betrayed the achievements of the Constitutional Revolution [which saw the establishment of parliament], the monarchy would have survived and continued to rule with the role that the Constitution had carved out for it, along with the backing of the people’s vote. From the beginning, many warnings were given to the Pahlavis regarding [their disregard for the Constitution] and someone like the late Modarres sacrificed his life for this goal. But all these warnings and reminders were useless and within a few years of the Constitutional Revolution, despotic governance had taken over once more, although this time with a modern façade. The relatively long rule of the Pahlavis shows that the roots of despotism were not completely destroyed during the Constitutional Revolution. Moreover, these roots have continued to live on within cultural, social and political structures. I remember that in those years, one picture which the Shah constantly used to promote his image was the photo of a farmer kissing the Shah’s feet. In his view, this demonstrated the deep love that the people had for him. But of course, wise men saw much more in that photo.
In the first years of the revolution, people were convinced that it had completely destroyed all of those structures through which despotism and dictatorship could be reinforced. And I was one of the people who believed this. But today, I no longer do. Today we can identify those very structures which have lead to despotism [in the past]. We can also identify the resistance people have shown against a return to dictatorship. This is the invaluable inheritance of the Islamic Revolution, clearly demonstrated today with the people’s intolerance for deception, lies and corruption. Similarly, the tight control of newspapers and [other] media outlets, the overflowing prisons, and the brutal killing of innocent people who are peacefully requesting their rights all reveal the lingering roots of despotism. The people are after justice and freedom. Moreover, they are aware that the arrests and executions are politically motivated and unconstitutional. They despise the monarchy but are also aware that people may be condemned to death based on frivolous accusations and without even being subject to a legal trial.
[The people know that these executions are only carried out] so that a brutal, ruthless leader of Friday prayers – one who has constantly defended corruption, violence and deception – can applaud them. It matters not to him that there are abundant [instances of] forced confessions, and he does not care that [those executed] have had nothing to do with the election. For him, what matters is the power of the executions to generate fear. He is ignorant of the power of innocent blood. He doesn’t know that it was the blood of martyrs that caused the Pahlavi regime to collapse. From the revolution onwards, people have believed in freedom, independence and the Islamic Republic. The courageous resistance and the strength of our people and our soldiers during the eight year war was a sign of the fundamental changes that had taken place in our society. We should remember that parts of our country were [entirely] lost in the wars, crises and political games present during the time of the shahs [kings]. The courageous resistance of our people during the eight-year war ended this vicious cycle. And now, in the courageous, defiant and green rows of people who demand their rights, we see a continuum of the very struggle we saw during the war and the revolution.
However, we can conclude that we were too optimistic. We can see today that the government, its newspapers and its national broadcasting network [are able to] lie easily. Our people can see that in reality, the security and military forces are in control of legal cases; that the judiciary itself has become an instrument of the security forces.
I believe that the martyrdom of men like Beheshti, Motahari and others during the Islamic Revolution was [a result of] the extended despotic roots of the previous regime that had not been destroyed completely. Therefore, I do not believe that the revolution has achieved its goals. The Fajr festival held each year is, in reality, [a medium for people] to be vigilant and reinforce [their] strength in order to remove the remaining roots of despotism. Today, people are actively present on the scene to pursue justice, freedom and [the right] to rule their own destinies. We should remember that our nation has produced hundreds of thousands of martyrs in the pursuit of these goals.
The Islamic Revolution is the result of the efforts and sacrifices of our great nation. [Even] a slight ignorance and retreat will lead us towards a darker dictatorship than [the one we had] before – because dictatorship in the name of religion is the worst kind.
On the contrary, [the pursuit of] knowledge as well as the primary goals of the Islamic Revolution – [which include] serious demands for freedom and justice – will carry us from a dark past to a bright future. This will destroy the remaining residues of dictatorship and pave the way for life in a free [society] where diversity, pluralism, freedom of speech and human dignity are all respected. I believe that the understanding of Islam which encourages calling people goats and is responsible for social divisions is [actually] influenced by pre-revolution dictatorial culture. The right thing for the judiciary to do was to pay attention to these roots and [influences] instead of executing a number of young men and teenagers amid serious rumors regarding the ways in which they were forced to confess.
However, as I mentioned before, we have lost all hope in the judiciary. A system that imprisons an intellectual, freedom-loving and religious son of martyr Beheshti, as well as others like him, sitting him under his father’s photo in the hallways of the courtroom, has moved far away from the ideals defined during the revolution.
Today, the prison cells are occupied with the most sincere and devoted sons of this nation: students, professors and others. [Security forces] are trying to prosecute them with espionage or charges related to financial or sexual misconduct – charges based on expired formulas – while the real criminals and thieves who steal public money are free. Instead of looking for the real spies, they accuse decent religious people. I should take this opportunity to express my regret that all of my advisors, who are decent, honest and educated individuals, have been arrested; that I am not with them. These days, there is not a [single] night that I do not think of Imam [Khomeini], martyr Beheshti and others. I whisper to them that what was achieved is far from what they sought. I did not name any of my advisors in order to pay my respects to all political prisoners. Iran will remember their names and their sacrifices.
One can see the influence of this mentality as well as the remains of the despotic regime [that was in power before the revolution] alongside the spirit of awareness and freedom everywhere. But perhaps the best example we can observe is the distortion of logical and legal relations between [different] branches within the system. It is very obvious now that Parliament does not have enough sway over the government in matters that fall under its jurisdiction. This is not an argument made solely by those who oppose the government. Moderate conservatives who are aware [of problems] also complain about these issues. Unresponsiveness regarding issues raised by the Supreme court of Audits, lack of transparency in oil sales and revenue spending, disregard for the fourth [development] program, destruction of the budget office to avoid audits and reviews, and so on – all are clear examples of a return to the pre-Pahlavi era. There is no need to look too far. A few days ago it was in the media that a minister objected to a question asked by reporters about teachers’ incomes by saying that it is no one’s business how much they earn or if that figure is low. You can hear similar comments from other officials as well as security forces.
Also, while Parliament has [openly] discussed the unprecedented atrocities committed in Kahrizak, one official says that the issue has been blown out of proportion unnecessarily. Another example given these days is the relationship between the Judiciary and its so-called ‘forces’. It is a question of whether the judges make the decisions or the security forces do? To what extent can the Judiciary exercise its privileges when, in the Constitution, a great emphasis has been placed on its independence? In my opinion, one of the obvious cases that demonstrates the persistence of a despotic mentality is the injustice done to the [roles of] the Judiciary and the Parliament. Can both divisions exercise all the power bestowed upon them in the Constitution? The similarities between today’s elections and those held during [the time before the revolution] are another sign. Compare the voting process for Parliamentary elections during the early years of the revolution with that of today’s, to see if we have moved forward or backward.
During the Constitutional Revolution, people were demanding justice. In the history of human thought, the desire for justice has always existed, to the point where some scholars and philosophers believe that it is above all virtues. I do not believe we must choose between justice and freedom. Take a look at our society and you will see that the $850 poverty line and the simultaneous existence of both inflation and unemployment are limiting the pursuit of freedom.
It is exactly at this point that power-hunger, as well as the repression of people’s demands for freedom shows itself. It is because of declining family budgets that distributing potatoes and welfare turns into a means of attracting votes. An examination of the country’s current situation shows that the demand for (especially economic) justice is tightly connected to political freedom; that is, there is a necessary connection between the two.
Before the revolution, there was a consensus that the revolutionary forces and academics should defend the working-class, composed of labourers and government employees. It was an honor for the former to be friends with the latter. In my opinion, we should all have in mind the support of the working-class. This is not for the purpose of using them as instruments , but with the idea that the destiny of the movement will be tied to the destiny the whole nation and, specifically with the two classes that are productive in economy and science: the workers, the teachers and the academics. It’s regrettable that severe political problems have resulted in decreased attention to the rights of the working-class. When people’s standard of living improves, the roots of freedom deepen. People are more united; they grow and flourish.
Today, those who are responsible for the misery of our people, and the backwardness of the nation; those who are responsible for inflation, unemployment and the country’s [overall] economic ruin; those who are responsible for closing huge projects and setting us back [greatly] compared to our neighbors, are misusing this situation by carrying out distorted, deceptive policies that are similar to injections of pain killers [into a body]. They are taking the country to the brink of ruin with the way they are handling the justice shares and pensions, as well as the erroneous means with which Article 44 of the Constitution [regarding privatization] is carried out. The future of the Fourth Development Plan and the yearly budget is of great concern.
Especially with the [government's] incompetence, all this has resulted in the probability of increased sanctions. In any case, the disadvantaged classes, [which are composed of those] who care for Islamic values, likely have the same demands as the green movement. Those who seek a national consensus for change should become more involved with these groups while also pursuing their concerns and demands. In addition, we should all follow and be sensitive to economic news and analyses [in general], because the economy has such a decisive and crucial role in the fate of our country. These days, the quantity of social and economic reports [about Iran] that we see in the news is far fewer than those regarding politics, and people are not as informed as they should be regarding these issues.
God-willing, all of us entered the arena for the cause of reform, not for the sake of revenge or power or to destroy things. Solutions which involve a transition beyond the Constitution are fraught with difficulties. The first of those is that the proponents of such a request do not have the capacity to attract the interest of the majority of our people. Without attracting the interest of the majority and, I have to say, without the creation of a consensus, we should not expect any fundamental or meaningful changes. For this reason, some of the slogans which lean toward moving past the Constitution have been treated with suspicion by the devout and by traditionalist institutions. And, unfortunately, it must be said that sometimes these kinds of extremist slogans harm the movement more than the extremism of the authoritarians [who repress it]. That you are opposed to superstitious leanings and petrified beliefs and practices is a good thing. That, however, in the middle of battle a debate is opened up that is incompatible with the religion and faith of the people, is something of dubious value.
Another reason why moving beyond the Constitution is problematic is that with such a solution we are simply stabbing in the dark. If we lose hold of this connecting cord – the product of the struggles and efforts of past generations – we will be turned into little fragments without any character. Then, naturally, we would see ordinary people turning away from all this disorder and blind movement. Those who are pursuing objectives based on moving away from the Constitution may well have control of the loudspeakers today, but in the heart of society their ambitions are viewed with deep suspicion. In particular, because alongside the heralds of [this solution] are found – whether their presence is wanted or not – the repugnant figures of some monarchists who have seized the opportunity to display their hatred for the people and the revolution. Those who include monarchists in the programmes they announce have apparently forgotten that the people have an extremely good memory. In any case, everyone should expect to be accepted in accordance with his or her weight in society, and not more.
The slogans that are useful today are those which unequivocally help to clarify the aims of the movement, or which attract the sympathy of ordinary people to stand alongside the elite and the middle classes. They have to know that a decisive majority considers 22 Bahman and the Islamic Revolution as belonging to the hundreds of thousands of martyrs [of the revolution and especially the 1980-8 war with Iraq]; that the history and character of our nation is, in cities and villages, bound to the yesterday of the revolution by the chain of these martyrs.
Seven months of television programming coming from abroad – which has unfortunately become important due to media restrictions inside the country and the excesses of state television – has had its effects. Yet these effects are too weak for the people to surrender the interests of their nation and their religious and historic demands, just as [the authorities] should not exploit the [claims made on foreign channels] as a weapon and a pretext for accusations and the suppression of the realities of our society.
In my opinion, efforts to push people to chant limited and pre-prepared slogans are an insult. Slogans must swell from the heart of popular movements in a spontaneous manner, not an autocratic one, in the same way that the slogan “Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic” surged naturally from people’s hearts in ’78-9.
I have said before that the Constitution is not something that has been set in stone. It was changed before in 1988, and it can change again. By considering what people think and demand and what their collective experience as a nation dictates, we can take steps to improve the Constitution. Nevertheless, we must be aware that by itself, a good Constitution is not the answer. We must move towards a [political] structure that imposes costly consequences on those who attempt to disobey or ignore the laws.
I believe that the Islamic Republic is meaningless without the Constitution. In addition to safeguarding against violations, we must also consider lack of attention towards or ignorance of its rules as a violation of the Constitution. It is exactly for this reason that the demand of ‘unconditional execution of the constitutional rights’ is one of the determining demands. For the same reason, we must remind those who advocate for the endurance of the Islamic Republic, that if significant parts of the Constitution (especially those articles in the third section [on freedom and other rights]) are ignored, other alternatives will arise. We must all be vigilant. Violating the people’s rights as outlined in the Constitution, and failing to recognize people as masters of their own destinies, could lead to the distortion of this invaluable national legacy. For example, those who promote spying and surveillance to the extent that makes [such a thing] normal, are destroying the establishment [right] from its roots. Those who constrain the media, and assume exclusive control over National TV help destroy the pillars of the Islamic Republic.
In the 17 statement I had alluded to springs [of clear water] that could calm the strong currents and clear the muddy waters of the turbulent river they flow into. One of these clear paths is to officially announce that we want to return to the Constitution.
Rallies and non-violent demonstrations are among the people’s rights. I do not think that anyone – men, women, middle-aged people or seniors – holds a grudge against the basij and the security forces because they are seen as equals. [However], conflicts break out when these forces stand against a calm movement. You can produce a documentary out of the thousands of photos and video clips from the days of Ashura (as well as the days prior to it), that would demonstrate how these conflicts and tense environments are formed. My advice to the basij and to the security forces is to be calm and kind in their treatment. My advice to followers of the green movement is to reduce their identifying features, whether they are used to help them stand out a little or a lot. This movement has grown out of a people and it belongs to them. Everyone should be extremely mindful of beliefs, values, and traditions. But we should never forget our final goal – to create a developed, independent, free and united Iran. This goal can only be achieved with the collaboration of all men and women from all layers of society, of all opinions and [political] appetites. Let me stress this point: when we say Iran, we must take into account all Iranians inside and outside who promote our land with its [ancient] culture and religious beliefs. God willing, the green movement will stop at nothing in its moral and non-violent methods to fight the revival of our nation’s rights. This movement has always benefited from its choice of green: the color of the prophet and his family as well as the symbol of an Islam of love and affinity. The green movement respects human dignity, freedom of speech and the people’s right to hold different opinions. It welcomes all movements that aim to promote our nation’s development. It represents the [civil and constitutional] rights of citizens, among which is social justice.
In the green movement, every citizen is a media outlet. But the green path does not have a representative or spokesperson outside the country. This is one of its beauties. Everyone can talk about their ideas and the movement expands within a collaborative environment. As one of the members of the movement, I, too, will express my comments and suggestions within it.
My pieces are written by me and issued through very few websites. I do not have a personal weblog or anything of that sort. The items you refer to are an inevitable result of virtual environments and I am not associated with any of them.