email us

US Transcom
US Transcom

Shahin & Sepehr

Iranian Online Directory

Sehaty Foreign Exchange

Advertise with The Iranian


Copenhagen conference
Opposition groups meet to express their latest views

November 18, 1998
The Iranian

A first-hand report from a member of Columbia University's Gulf/2000 -- an internet-based forum of Middle East experts around the world:

Rainy, cold Copenhagen hosted seven Iranian opposition groups who had announced a multilateral meeting to discuss "Civil Society, Rule of Law and its relevance to people's rule" in Iran. The meeting was held in a hall not far from the Iran-Denmark Society at Blagardsgade in a mixed and highly populated area near the center of the city. The meeting turned out to be something between a conference with its conceptual limits, and an opportunity to declare some new positions about Iran.

Some of the representatives of the opposition groups claimed they didn't know that other groups would br talking and declared that their presence did by no means imply that they were in a kind of alliance with other groups. Almost all groups implicitly or explicitly distanced themselves from the Mojahedin Khalgh Organization (MKO).

The number of Iranians present at the meeting was around 150-160 which was above average for this kind of meeting in Nordic Countries. As announced weeks before, the following groups were supposed to take part: The Constitutionnalists Movement of Iran (Sazeman e Mashroute Khahan e Iran), Organization of People Fedayin - Majority faction (Fadayan e Khalgh - akssariat), Democratic Party of Kurdistan (Hezb e Democrat e Kordestan), National Front of Iran (Jebhe ye Melli e Iran) , National Republican Movement of Iran (Hezb e djomhourikhahan e Melli e Iran), Democratic Party of Iran (Hezb e Democratic e Iran) and Socialist Party of Iran (Hezb e Socialist e Iran).

Dr. Mehran Barati from the National Republican Organization of Iran (Sazeman e djomhourikhahan e Melli e Iran) was the first speaker. He emphasized that his presence should not be taken as an approval or rejection of other opposition groups. He said he did not mind who was listening and to which kind of political trend he or she belonged. He said he was just explaining his points of view.

Then he explained the meaning of "civil society," national sovereignty, citizen and citizenship and other terms from a conceptual point of view. He said clerics in Iran had created an organization independent from the government which enabled them to rise against Shah. But today, he said, the ruling clerics in Iran did not have legitimacy. They had created a despotic religious system, one that is for the first time based on clerics under Vilayat-e Faghih. The clerics have created a constitution of their own based on religious rules which has had difficulties in coping with the civil society.

Barati said a civil society should be anti-religion or use religion as a base, but in Iran neither was the case. "We do not have civil institutions in Iran," he emphasized. Khatami's perception of the civil society was something unique to himself. In the end, Barati mentioned that one of the most important problems in Iran stems from its multi-ethnic and minority composition and not just because of democracy.

The second speaker, Farhad Farjad was not present at the first day of the meeting. Instead Amir Mobeini from the Organisation of People's Fedayin - Majority faction (Fadayan e Khalgh - akssariat) gave his speech. He was the only speaker with a written and distributed paper in two pages which he explained while speaking. Apart from his theoretical approach, he said the Islamic Republic of Iran was controlling people's private lives. He admitted that religious power and rule exist in Iran, but that the government and the religious establishment should let people create their own independent institutions. There must be a limit to religious power, he said. He also said economic development had direct links with democracy. The principle problem in Iran, he said, was the relationshuip between society and the government.

Dr. Khosro Akmal of the Constitutionalist Movement of Iran (Sazeman e Mashroute Khahan eIran) who had come from the U.S. for the meeting, was the next to explain the positions and views of his organization. He said today, 20 years after the revolution, people want a civil society. Iranians outside Iran should try to give more strength to the people inside and at the same time use the contradictions inside the Islamic regime to fight against the intervention of religion in government. He applauded student demonstrations against Vilayat-e Faghih, the people's passive participation in recent Assembly of Experts elections, Mayor Karbaschi's trial and the weakness of the regime in dealing with such events. He hoped these kinds of events would result in the collapse of the regime. He asked all groups to act on their commonalties to help the people inside Iran.

Hossein Montazer Haghighi from the National Front of Iran (Jebhe ye Melli e Iran , united fraction) was the next speaker who had come from Germany. His emphasized the need to support democratic organizations and institutions rather than crying "Down with... Long live..." He criticized the MKO for being dependent on foreigners and foreign countries.

Abdullah Karimi from the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK)(Hezb e Democrat e Kurdistan) believed that civil society finds its appropriate form in any society. This may differ from one society to the other. In each society there should be small forces that can check and balance the central power. At present the Islamic republic of Iran neither had the ability to develop nor the power to change. He believed that self-determination and autonomy for Kurdistan would be a first step toward democratization in Iran and change towards federal rule for all other minority groups. He believed the creation of a civil society would be the last phase of such a process. However, he said such developments would happen only by "a miracle." The Islamic Republic of Iran was not able to change. He concluded that the DPK supports the separation of religion from politics.

Dr. Mansour Bayat Zadeh from the Socialist Party of Iran (Sazeman e Socialisthaayeh Iran) was the last to speak. According to him "Democracy is not to be found within an ideologist and religious regime, because such a regime does not believe in the equality of human beings. However, the opposition should follow a process of dialogue with the Islamic regime and even with the people of Iran. The constitution can not be changed unless there is a new revolution. In the present constitution, people's rights have been recognized, but they have not been implemented. We should support the implementation of the constitution. If the old constitution, which was the result of another revolution 90 years ago, had been implemented , no revolution would have happened 20 years ago."

Bayat Zadeh said, "Some accuse us of being political Guardians of Vilayat-e Faghih! We believe religious intellectuals in Iran have worked with more depth than the laic and non-religious ones. We have always wasted our time with slogans. We, the socialists, believe any regime which is not dependent on foreigners is national regime. The Islamic Republic of Iran is not a dependant regime, but it is a suppressive and undemocratic one. Those who run newspapers, such as the publishers of [the now-banned] Tous, were members of the Revolutionary Guards who were involved in the Iran-Iraq war. We should see the realities of this society." He said his organization supported a "common language" and avoided an absolutist approach. "We are in opposition to Khatami and should not insult him. We should not try to increase our distance with the people inside Iran and should try to acquire a legal position and to ask for the implementation of the constitution. The implementation of the constitution can be the best we can fight for."

The meeting started at 3 P.M. and finished at about 8. There were very few women in the audience, 6-7 only.

Copyright © 1997 Abadan Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved. May not be duplicated or distributed in any form