July 6, 2000
Thank you Mr. Jamshidian ["Serious
omissions"] for taking time to react to my article ["Wake-up
call"] on the student movement in Iran. You have raised several
concerns to which I would like to respond.
1. Let me begin by saying that the article is about the student movement
and not Soroush or Khatami. An assessment of these individuals' politics
and performance deserves a separate examination. This article was written
for a scholarly journal, thus had to focus on the topic and avoid any issues
marginal to that topic. One of requirements of journal articles is to stay
focused on the main topic and within the page limit given by the editor.
Thus, it was not my task to deal with Soroush and Khatami, and activities
of all groups.
2. Soroush's statement about lack of enthusiasm was made in 1991. His
participation in the Council of Cultural Revolution was in the early 1980s.
The conditions governing the Iranian universities in the early1980s were
not the same as the early 1990s. Nor was Soroush's position relative to
the Islamic Republic. An assessment of this change requires a different
inquiry and was not my task.
3. With regard to the fact that Khatami "ordered the ban and the
crackdown on the student demonstration," I should mention that the
order was issued by the National Security Council of which Khatami is a
member. He certainly did want the disorder in the streets stopped. Some
of his supporters have argued that he knew that the disorder was created
by the hardliners in order to create a sense of national urgency for crushing
the student movement. His opponents take the statement by the NSC and Khatami's
comments as indications of his willingness to crush the movement. Both
these agreements have merits and flaws.
My task in this paper was not to settle this matter. The issue was not
pertinent to the nature of discussion in the paper. His order did not matter
much anyway. If he had not issued the order, the crackdown would had taken
place, as had happened in previous confrontations between students and
the Ansar. As a president, he had to say something. His presidency was
on line and no serious politician expected him to get away with the situation
without making some gesture or compromise. Surely he managed to survive
and the students were the losers in that particular battle. However, his
and all other battles continue in Iran and we need to stay tuned!
4. With regard to the DTV (The Office of Consolidation of Unity), you
are right that they were involved in activities associated with the Cultural
Revolution. I have mentioned that the Islamic Associations were engaged
in these activities and the DTV was a part of the association.
Ali Akbar Mahdi