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Fanciful presidential flight
What Khatami's words really mean

By Reza Bayegan
September 6, 2002
The Iranian

Ladies and Gentleman,

I am reporting to you from Happily Ever After Khatamiland. I will be your host today on a fanciful flight sponsored by the United Nations.

On this imaginary journey, President Khatami's special contribution which has just been published in the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Human Development Report 2002 will lift us up in the air like Peter Pan. We will leave behind the world of unpleasant facts and grim reality. As your host I will try to unveil the true meaning of Mr Khatami's 'graansang' words. 'Graansang' of course is the President's favorite expression meaning sophisticated and momentous. So close your eyes, relax and let's take off.

The title of the contribution: The world's future belongs to democracy

Translation: The word 'future' here signifies an unspecified number of years or decades succeeding the present, and its arrival in every country varies and depends on time zones, climate, levels of gullibility, temperamental and gastronomical habits of the people, etc.

Khatami: Humanity, anguished by its journey through the 20th century, marred by bloodshed, calamities and discriminations, is eager for a better future in the new century - a future guided by justice illuminating the gloomy skies of the past and present and based on the dignity and rights of all human beings.

Translation: An anguished humanity eager for progress and justice should take its cues from the Islamic Republic on promoting peace, tolerance and women's and minority rights.

Khatami: Much has been said about the pains and sufferings of humankind. Too often have victims of all ages paid the price for the power, wealth and deceptions of a privileged few. In one corner of the world people may have attained acceptable living conditions. Yet the rupture between form and content and the ensuing spiritual anguish have tormented their lives. In other far more populous parts of the world people struggle with a multitude of afflictions - ranging from poverty, ignorance and exclusion to undemocratic rulers who are often subservient to the world's major powers.

Translation: It is not good for my health to dwell on the pains and suffering of humankind, however I should say that if our economy is in shambles, if we suffer from poverty, crime and ignorance it is because of those rich plundering Americans. We pay the price for their beer and
skittles. But do not worry. If they are rolling in dough, their lives are only form without content, materialism without spirituality. We on the other hand have got the content; the deep moral meaningful life.

Translator's note: For a pictorial illustration of morality and spirituality in the Islamic Republic of Iran, please see the 8 page spread in Paris Match of 15 August 2002 entitled 'Sex drugs and rock 'n' roll in the land of the mullahs'.

Please also note that the President says that undemocratic rulers who are often subservient to the world's major powers. He uses the word 'often' and does not say 'always'. He leaves room for undemocratic rulers who are not subservient to major powers and are only subservient to themselves.

Khatami: Over the past century democracy evolved as a value, inspiring new models of governance. In an age of awakening for people and nations, rulers must come to terms with this value - and allow human beings to realize liberty, spirituality and dignity.

Translation: Since the time of Roman and Athenian democracy 'in the past century' democracy has evolved as a value. In the Islamic Republic we are trying to figure out whether the price is right. Our supreme leader here for instance thinks the value ain't worth his while at all. He prefers to be expired rather than inspired by democracy. As far as the age of awakening is concerned, the world should know that in Iran we are not morning persons. We enjoy a good snooze. Besides, we have many kinds of awakening including rude ones. We do not want to unnecessarily frighten our people by awakening them to the reality of their lives. Others have realized their liberty, we have realized liberty, dignity and spirituality we are two ahead of every body else. Three to one. We have won.

Translator's note: Don't forget the Paris Match pictures.

Khatami: The main features of democracy - which should be clearly distinguished from its various manifestations - include people's right to determine their destinies; the emanation of authority, particularly political authority, from the the free will and choice of the people and its
Submission to their continued scrutiny; and the institutionalization of such accountability

Translation: Mr President, talking like a second hand car salesman recounts the main features of this contraption called democracy. These main features he says should be distinguished from other manifestations. Other unimportant aspects that do not matter any way. They are just fancy gadgets and luxurious features like freedom of the press, freedom to form political parties, freedom to choose your religion, freedom to decide what you want to wear when you get out of the house in the morning.

Khatami: No single form of democracy can be prescribed as the one and final version. Hence unfolding efforts to formulate democracy in the context of spirituality and morality may usher in yet another model of democratic life.

Translation: We have our own form of democracy in our country. Like we have our own Islamic beer that looks exactly like beer without all the harmful effects and the hangover. In our democracy people are absolutely free to make decisions the authorities deem they should make. In our country we are ushering in a brand new model of democracy which includes spirituality. (Don't forget the August issue of Paris Match)

Khatami: Democratic principles have become the criteria for good governance domestically. They deserve to become the new norm governing global interactions.

Translation: Having successfully put our own house in order, achieving freedom and democracy for our citizens, we think now it's time to expand and spread the seeds of our attainments throughout the world. The rest of the world is welcome to use us as a model. Our domestic achievement can serve as a norm for global interactions.

Khatami: Thus the exigencies of a few power holders should not supersede the interests of humanity through now-familiar practices of endorsing undemocratic governments, unresponsive too the will and needs of their people, and applying double and multiple standards in response to incidents around the globe.

Translation: Americans should learn lessons from us and support democratic governments like Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Zimbabwe who are responsive to the will and needs of their people.

Khatami: The structure of power in our contemporary world must be reformed.

Translation: Contemporary Iran can provide valuable lessons on how to implement reforms.

Khatami: In a global society whose constituents are nations with equal rights and dignity - much like equal individuals within nations--diverse cultures and civilizations should work together to build a moral, and humane world with liberty and progress for all.

Translation: To create a moral and humane world with liberty and progress for all, nations should start treating each other in the same, fair equitable way we treat individual citizens of our own country.

Khatami: The global community ultimately requires the emergence of a responsive moral society, avoiding the use of force and coercion in national and international disputes.

Translation: By 'ultimately' the president means a glorious time hereafter when the whole world will turn into one great Islamic Republic eschewing coercion and embracing peace, dignity, morality and spirituality.

Khatami: Values and norms that are not codified into laws, and laws that lack enforcement mechanisms, will have no tangible effect. Thus globalization is intertwined with the articulation of new collective rights and ethics, and the ensuing impact on national and international norms and institutions.

Translation: Since the codification into law of the values and norms in our country has been a guarantee for their successful implementation the President recommends a similar codification on a global level. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights being only a declaration and not codified into law will have no binding force or tangible effect and will remain unheeded by the government of the Islamic Republic.

Khatami: The world's future belongs to democracy at all levels of governance, advancing ethical, legal and political values based on dialogue and the free exchange of ideas and cultures.

Translation: Our country's governing system with one omniscient, infallible supreme leader at the top is a magnificent proof of the aptitude we have for dialogue and free exchange of ideas.

Khatami: Let us advance the United Nations to promote the equitable participation of all nations and civilizations in tomorrow's global governance.

Translation: We are willing to participate in global governance with the Americans if they follow the example of some banned Iranian newspapers and choose a new name for their country, SUA for instance or UAS or SAU. Anyone will do. We will welcome that as a watershed and a major shift in their foreign policy.

Our journey is over and we have to return to the world of facts and inescapable reality. Again we have to face the truth that although the world's future belongs to democracy but Iran's theocracy belongs to the world's dark and primitive past. Mr Khatami's disingenuous yarns have ceased to be believed even by the most gullible minds within Iranian society. By promoting Mr Khatami's rhetoric of fiction the United Nations does not help the cause of peace but degrades its own image to the level of a dreamy ivory tower out of touch with reality.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for Reza Bayegan

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