The Washington Times
By Dr. Assad Homayoun **
Iran's People Have Been Struggling for Democratic Change, But Khatami and the Mullahs Represent the Continuity of Clerical Tyranny
May 15, 2001
The Western media has called the group of Iranian officials around President Mohammad Khatami "reformers", and those around Supreme Leader Khamene'i "hardliners", but they all share the common belief that Iran should remain a rigid ideological state built around a "revolutionary Islam", opposed to the West, bent on the destruction of Israel, and with the fundamental freedoms of the Iranian people denied.
We want to believe that the "reformers" are moving toward the kind of democracy for which the Iranian people have struggled, but they do not; they represent merely another face of intolerance.
Do not let the forthcoming Iranian elections give a respectable international face to the oppressors of the Iranian people.
The Azadegan Foundation, which stands for freedom and democracy in Iran, calls:
To the American People, the US Congress and US Government, who have always supported and promoted Human Rights worldwide, to draw their attention to gross violation of the human rights, the destruction of the press, the mass arrest of opposition figures and liberal writers, and harsh treatment and torture of political prisoners, by the repressive regime of clerics in Iran;
To Iranian Expatriates throughout the world, beseeching them to put aside their factional differences in the cause of unity, to help the people of Iran in their struggle for freedom; and, most importantly;
To the People of Iran especially the youth and students, who have risen against the tyrannical rule of the clerics.
Instability is growing at a rapid pace inside Iran and the political situation is changing. Due to the revolution in information technology, the Iranian people, especially the youth, are gaining voice in their struggle against the radical regime of the clerics. The force of demography is now working against tyranny and the balance in Iran is changing. This trend has been met with increasingly widespread repression, massive political imprisonment, gross violation of human rights, and the ever-increasing dictatorial nature of the "Supreme Leader", Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i. And all this is aggravated by a worsening economic condition which has brought Iran to the verge of major change.
The elections do not represent choice, and the Iranian People know it. The majority of Iranians and particularly the younger generation are trying to stay away from the ballot box in the June 8, 2001, presidential election, because of its undemocratic nature. It does not matter, to them, whether it is again Mr. Khatami or another person who becomes the nominal "President" of Iran. It will not bring any change since the Council of Guardians, which is appointed by the Supreme Leader, decides who should run for office, and what they can do upon election. It is indeed a selection rather than election. Everybody in Iran knows that whoever becomes president will be a part of the system and has to obey the Supreme Leader, and that the real power resides with The Leader. Four years ago when the majority of the people participated in the election and voted for Mr. Mohammad Khatami, they wanted to give a chance for the regime to bring about a change with peaceful means. But it did not bear fruit, and they know the next elections will be equally meaningless.
President Clinton's Attempts to Appease the Clerics Failed.
The former US Clinton Administration, since the election of President Mohammad Khatami, tried unsuccessfully to have a rapprochement with the clerical regime, but Mr. Khatami proved repeatedly that he does not possess sufficient power to bring this about, and has lost many opportunities. He has been subservient to the Supreme Leader and more supportive of Velayat-e-Faghih (rule of the supreme theologian as absolute authority and guardian of the people) than those whom voted and brought him to power.
During the past four years of Khatami's presidency, political assassinations of opposition figures, persecution of religious minorities, suppression of students, mass arrest and torture of political opposition figures and journalists, and the closing down of all independent newspapers, took place. On the subjects of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and support for terrorist groups (especially Hizbollah, HAMAS, and Islamic Jihad and the undermining of peace movement in the Middle East), the position of Mr. Khatami is the same as that of Khamenei.
The real difference between them is that Mr. Khatami, being aware of coming political earthquake in Iran, would like to proceed to some degree with superficial reform to save the system. Even on that, radical clerics disagree and will never let it happen.
For 22 years, the ruling clerics have been grossly violating the people's basic rights. With establishment of the rule of Velayat-e-Faghih, the regime has totally suspended the bill of fundamental rights, abolished rights of habeas corpus and destroyed the cultural and educational foundation of Iran.
This novel doctrine of Tehran's theocratic government, which was initiated by Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini, based on the infallibility of the Supreme Theologian, is rejected by the great majority of Islamic and Shi'ite scholars. This system is neither government, nor republic nor Islamic. It holds that sovereignty belongs to God, to the Supreme Leader that is appointed by God and the people have no rights but only a duty to obey. The undemocratic election that they hold is nothing but a distraction for public consumption and to deceive the western societies. This doctrine is founded on continuity, not rapture. Therefore it would be wishful thinking to assume that the ruling clerics will moderate themselves, or their domestic and foreign policies will change.
A New US Government and Congress: Opportunity for Meaningful Progress.
Now that a new US Administration has come to power, it should try to understand the new forces, particularly the revolt of the youth, and the new political realities m Iran today. The future of Iran will be decided by the people, especially the younger generation which wants to replace the theocratic regime with a secular democratic one at any price. The US Administration should know that in the very near future it is going to deal with the people, and not a minority of self-serving clerics.
The new US Administration should know that the theocratic regime of Tehran will not change its strategy. It will neither change its support of terrorism, nor its domestic policy of violation of human rights. The Clerical Government will continue its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and handle them irresponsibly. It will do its best to undermine any activities for the peace movement in the region, and will continue to give political, financial and logistical support to radical groups and Hizbollah in Lebanon to destabilize the region. Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i, Hojat-ol-Islam Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, and other top clerics, as well as President Khatami, have repeatedly called for eradication of the "cancerous tumor" of the State of Israel.
On April 24 and 25, 2001, the Clerical regime sponsored and held the "International Conference For Support of Intifada and Islamic Revolution in Palestine" in Tehran. In this conference, in which some 35 Arab and Islamic nations including Islamic Jihad, HAMAS, Hizbollah of Lebanon and others participated, Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i and President Khatami both promised to provide all necessary support for all who fight with Israel for liberation of Palestine.
The US Public and Government should know that the main initiator and secretary of the conference was Hojat-ol-Islam Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, who is presently majority leader of Majlis. Mr. Mohtashamipour is the one who founded Hizbollah in Lebanon and backed the suicide truck bombing of the US Marine barracks in October 1983, killing more than 250 Americans. The Islamic regime of Tehran is ever increasing its political, financial, military and logistical support, not only to Hizbollah, but to all terrorist groups who are ready to fight with Israel.
The US should know that the Iranian people are totally against the clergy's policy of support for anti-peace movements in the region.
The US should support the Iranian people who are trying to establish a democratic government. It is encouraging that US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell emphasized the importance of the Iranian people and their thinking. The people desperately want good relations with the US but they do not want the US to give legitimacy to reinforced clerical repression of Iran.
Riots and Protests Continue: So Does the Repression.
In the past several months there have been riots and demonstrations in many Iranian cities. They were repressed brutally. Pro-democracy students of major universities are constantly demanding that the regime should put an end to its arbitrary rule, and to free political prisoners. Their struggle will continue and will intensify until the retreat of the ruling clerics to mosques, and the ultimate transfer of power to the people. This will indeed happen, but it is hoped that the ruling clerics are wise enough to let it happen peacefully. Today, persecution of religious minorities continues, almost all pro-democracy newspapers have been shut down, and editors and writers have been imprisoned. Student leaders and all nationalist opposition leaders are being arrested and mercilessly tortured in prison, and women (even pregnant women) are stoned to death. It would be a mistake for the US not to pay attention to the powerful new political and social forces.
Iran's population is now 70 million with 45 million under 20 years of age. The economic situation is getting worse. People live in misery. Discontent among the military, even the Revolutionary Guard which was created by the regime, is ever-increasing. Religious leaders and religious foundations totally control the economy. These foundations are run by senior clerics, their sons and the bazaari merchants who are allied with the clerics.
Avoid Short Term Thinking On the Oil and Gas Resources. The oil and gas of the Caspian and Persian Gulf regions and the stability and access of pipeline routes remain vital to the US. Continued clerical rule, which is unstable, undermines and risks the value of these vital assets to both the Iranian and US peoples. Short-term support for the clerics to control the oil is just that: short-term.
The Azadegan Foundation believes that there will be no risk to those nations giving moral and political support to Iranians in their struggle for freedom:
* No need for covert action * No need for US funding. What is needed from the international community is its enthusiastic, open and direct support of the Iranian people to establish democracy. We call for the international community's direct appeal to the ruling oligarchy to peacefully resign its position and allow a tranquil transition of power to the people.
** Dr. Assad Homayoun is President of the Azadegan Foundation, a registered tax exempt, nonprofit organization [501(c3)] of Iranians and others, dedicated to the freedom and democracy and establishment of a freely elected secular Government in Iran. It seeks the support of all expatriates in this objective at this critical moment in Iran's history.