Date: Thursday, August 5, 2010
We are in the midst of the anniversary of the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, which has emphasized the need to restrain the power of the monarchy for more than a hundred years. Aside from demands for justice, freedom and the establishment of law, the achievement of this restraint is the result of our ancestors’ struggle and self-sacrifice. The [various] institutions that appeared along with the movement were constrained by Reza Pahlavi’s so-called “modernization” campaign and were ultimately closed down despite the many lives lost [in the process]. The movement that put people first had been obstructed and the dark era of the first and second Pahlavi Dynasties came to overshadow its fundamental values. However, the values that had surfaced with great sacrifice continued to live on in the people’s constant struggle to free themselves from despotism and authoritarianism, as well as through their inclinations toward freedom, justice and the demand to control their own destiny.
The martyrdom of those like Sattar Khan, the General of the People, and the brave member of Parliament, Moddaress, as well as the murder and imprisonment of many other freedom-seeking activists are historical facts that are evidence of the difficulty of this path. The movements that later nationalized the Oil and organized the People’s Rising on June 5 and, later, the harsh struggles of the following two decades, all show that what was achieved in terms of restraining power not only failed to fade away but also remained as a constant model for people to look up to in future struggles.
The victory of the Islamic Revolution with the leadership of Imam Khomeini in February 1978 was the result of a century of ups and downs for our nation. Today, witnessing signs like chauvinism, escaping the rule of law, and an establishment of lies instead of laws indicates that despotism is reintroducing itself and that the path we have walked has not yet achieved its goals. [The legitimacy of] oppression is doomed to fail, whether it be during the rule Naser-al-Din Shah a hundred years ago, during the Pahlavi Dynasty or during the Islamic Republic. Oppression during the Islamic Revolution was even more sinister because it was committed in the name of Islam. We all know how, even in those early years during the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, intellectuals and religious scholars considered religious despotism as the worst of its kind. The experiences of the last century, as well as of the last year, indicate that among the key concepts of the movement such as freedom, justice, and the rule of law, the issue of restraining power has the most important effect on our destinies.
Today our nation is constantly asked to obey [various] systems of power in the name of religion without any allusion to the people’s right to control their own fate and without any talk of respecting innate human dignity and the basic rights of citizens. There is no mention of arguments like that of the Imam, who spoke with the utmost clarity of speech and logic regarding the people’s right to choose their own destinies in the great cemetery of Tehran, Zahra’s Heaven. Instead of answering to the atrocities they committed on the streets on the 25th and 26th of June, as well as during Ashura and in the universities and prisons, the authoritarians only seem to become more angry, more violent, and more insulting, while accusing others of lies. They close down the newspapers and turn the national television into their own tool for propaganda. They create armies to counter the freedom available online in the virtual space that has emerged from the creativity of our youth as a last resort to communicate within a free medium. They cannot even tolerate this last remaining hole in their wall, blocking freedom and then keeping it well away from rules and laws. If we looked carefully, we would easily notice that there are no obstacles today which could come in the way of the development of despotism. This is why the Constitutional Monarchy Movement teaches us that the most important tool that could restrain power is non-violent struggle – something that our nation has recently started. Some of the demands of the Green Movement clearly reveal this side of resistance.
Rights such as the ability to stage demonstrations, freedom of the press, and the acceptance of national pluralism are facing serious opposition by the authoritarians, because they clearly limit their unlawful influence. Moreover, their reluctance to fully abide by the Constitution demonstrates the extent of the difficulty for those in power to abandon their throne and answer to the public. We all know that the first step in agreeing to implement the Constitution would be for the rulers to declare that they recognize the people’s right to choose their own destiny. To ignore such a right is, in fact, to turn one’s back on everything that the nation of Iran has accomplished with great struggle throughout the past century, especially during the Islamic Revolution.
Among all of the demands and resolutions that would lead to the people’s control over their fate as well as the restraint and accountability of power, laying the foundation for a free and competitive election is the most important – an election that would not compromise our national legacies with the prohibitions of the Guardian Council and their illicit supervision. It is for this reason that anyone who believes in pluralism in Iran must campaign for a free and competitive election.