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35 Years On, It is Time to Return to the Democratic Spirit of the Iranian Revolution

Abolhassan Bani-Sadr with Ayatollah Khomeini. Bani-Sadr was the first elected president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He now lives in exile outside Paris.

 

PARIS – The Iranian Revolution 35 years ago has two conflicting impulses   exemplified by what could be called the legacy of “the two Khomeini’s”  -- the democrat and the despot. These dual legacies still underlay the tensions within Iran today.

 

In its initial phase, the Iranian Revolution was a departure from the violent and armed models of 20th Century revolutions in Russia, China and elsewhere because it introduced a non-violent model of change(which came to be known as the ‘victory of flower over bullet’). The Shah was overthrown, freedoms were restored and the first democratic elections took place. The soft revolutions in Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War followed this model.

 

But then the “coup within the revolution” that followed the overthrow of my presidency left a bloody legacy of intolerance and repression. The roots of the political violence across much of the Islamic world today  -- in which different religious based groups vie for control of the state in order to impose their beliefs –can be traced to this second act of the Iranianian Revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini was the first figure in modern times to sanctify and glorify violence in the name of Islam.

 

“Ayatollah Khomeini was the first figure in modern times to sanctify and glorify violence in the name of Islam.”

 

As a Grand Ayatollah, Khomeini knew well that, according to the Koran, the murder of one innocent person is equal to “the murder of entire humanity.’ He also knew that one of the main principles of Islamic jurisprudence is that it is better to let 100 guilty people escape punishment than to punish an innocent.

 

Yet, in pursuit of total power over society, Khomeini appointed ‘hanging judges’ who rationalized that they could execute anyone since -- if a mistake were made and they were innocent -- they would nonetheless end up in paradise. By the lights of this twisted wager,  Khomeini ordered the execution of thousands of prisoners, turned a blind eye to the systematic use of torture in Iranian prisons and prolonged the Iran-Iraq war in which over two million people were killed, maimed or injured. 

 

Surely, the violent ideologies of groups like Al-Qaeda that are so active today  are nothing but Sunni versions of Shia-based ‘Khomeinism’.

 

KHOMEINI THE DEMOCRAT

During the revolution, Khomeini had identified himself with democratic principles to such an extent that some in France described him as the ‘ayatollah libertaire’.  In over 120 interviews, he described Islam as a belief system of liberty in which political authority lay with the people. He once famously stated that ‘the criterion in Islam is the people’s vote’.

At the time, he also pointedly said that he would play no leadership role in Iranian politics, that the clergy would not interfere in the government and the empowerment of the people would result not only in the guarantee of democratic freedoms, but in  the equality of genders  as well.

 

To a large extent, all these commitments were reflected in the first draft of the country’s  constitution in 1979, which he undersigned and even asked to be put to a referendum. 

 

In those early days, he evinced nothing but the guiding principles of the revolution: independence, freedom, democracy, justice and development, and a commitment to the non-theocratic spiritual Islam which embraced all of these principles. 

 

One reason for the extremely high level of participation in the revolution was that a majority of people identified with these principles and could see a better future through their implementation.

 

KHOMEINI THE DESPOT

The fatal turning point which pitted the democrat against the despot came in the heady days of 1981 as we sought to create political order out of the chaos of the revoultion.

 

When I exercised my constitutional right as president to call for a referendum so that people could decide whether they supported the democratic principles of the revolution, which I advocated, or religious despotism, which the ruling clergy favoured, it was clear I would win.

 

Fearing the marginalization of the clergy in a democratic state, Khomeini reneged on his commitments. He stated that even ‘if 35 million (referring to the population of Iran at the time) say yes, I say no.’

 

 In June 1981, before the referendum could be put to the people, Khomeini, after some hesitation, blessed the coup against me on behalf of the power-hungry clergy. Acting as the final authority, he cast his single vote against the power of the people.

 

AFTER KHOMEINI

Although Khomeini is now long gone, his legacy and methods of control remain.  The disastrous political turmoil which has perpetually afflicted Iran and led the country from one crisis to another -- of which the nuclear weapons showdown with the West is only the latest episode --  has been created by despotic forces which have always had little social support. 

 

From the time of the revolution to the present day, they have sought to fill this legitimacy deficit by maintaining an atmosphere of crisis with the West, presenting themselves, much like Fidel Castro in Cuba, as defenders of the motherland.

 

 Given the history of the ruling clergy and presence of a powerful military-financial faction within the regime,  there is little doubt that after resolving the nuclear issue the regime will need to create another crisis. This pattern will continue until Iranians decide to wrench the country out of the hands of the clergy.

 

“Economic sanctions on Iran need to be removed. These only weaken Iran’s middle class and civil society – the social force behind democractic aspirations.-“


In order for such a move to happen, several conditions need to be put in place.

First, the economic sanctions on Iran need to be removed. These not only weaken Iran’s middle class and civil society – the social force behind democractic aspirations -- but enrich the Revolutionary Guard generals beyond their wildest dreams through their ability to exploit black market trade.

 

Second, the threat of foreign military intervention needs to be completely removed.  Iranians will not move against the regime, no matter how much they despise it, as long as they feel the territorial integrity of the nation is threatened.

 

 

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/abolhassan-banisadr/abolhassan-bani-sadr-iranian-revolution_b_4746509.html

Balatarin

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VisforVoy

Visfor Voy Voy! Is an Iranian expression of great frustration. A play on the film and comic book adaptation "V is for Vendetta". Get it? Object to Iran, and put energy into Pragmatic (not reckless, dangerous or foolhardy) Opposition to it.

I would grudgingly suggest that 35 years on, may be too late. We're talking a generation taught and trained to fear individualism, freedom of choice, sexual equality, and that there is a better way other than direct total complete social control by a single person, rather than groupthink and civic participation.

I would argue (and am myself totally guilty and complicit in this), that the ideal time to change Iran to democracy was 2-3 years after the revolution when it became all too clear what the ulterior motives and ill-intentions of the religious class were, and the great damage they were doing to Iran's image and reputation.

We don't take hostages.

People take us hostage.

mahmooddelkhasteh

mahmood delkhasteh

بنی صدر در کتاب نفت و سلطه در قبل از انقلاب، بعد از تحلیل وضعیت اقتصادی، سیاسی و اجتماعی شوروی و آمریکا و نیز پویاییا و قوانین حاکم بر قدرت، پیش بینی کرد که این دو ابر قدرت دوران انبساط را به سر آورده و وارد دوره انقباض شده اند. در این تحلیل پیش بینی کرده بود که به علت دینامیسم درونی شوروی عمر این ابر قدرت زودتر به پایان خواهد رسید و آمریکا به عنوان ابر قدرت( نه به عنوان قدرت اقتصادی-سیاسی) نیز توان ادامه پرداخت هزینه ابر قدرتی را از دست خواهد داد و دوران ابر قدرتی اش به پایان خواهد رسید

واقعیتها به ما می گویند که قسمت اول پیش بینی بنی صدر به وقوع پیوسته است و بخش دوم پیش بینی در مورد آمریکا مدتها می باشد که موضوع بحث متخصصان امر می باشد. زمانی بود که آمریکا با اشاره انگشت رهبر در کشورهای تحت سلطه خود می آورد و می برد و حای می بینیم که در عین حال که به بزرگترین مقروض دنیا تبدیل شده است، ضعف بزرگ نظامی اش در عراق و افغانستان بیش از هر زمان اشکار شده است و وضعیت سیاسی اش بگونه ای که حتی عربستان که همیشه مانند موم در دستش نرم بود دیگر حرفش را نمی خواند و در سیاستهای منطقه ای این ابر قدرت را به چالش می کشد و...و خلاصه اینکه تمامی شاحص های اقتصادی-سیاسی- ایدئولوژیکی بما می گویند که آمریکا بمثابه ابر قدرت بسیار ضعیفتر از ده های قبل گشته است و البته این به اهل فن می گوید که دوران ابر قدرتی آمریکا نیز در حال بسر رسیدن است و این در حالیست که ابر قدرتهای دیگری در حال سر بر آوردن هستند و وضعیتی مانند قرن نوزده و اوائل قرن بیستم در حال شکل گرفتن است با این تفاوت که برای اولین بار مرکز ثقل قدرت اقتصادی و نظامی در 5 قرن اخیر از غرب به شرق در حال حرکت است

این واقعیات و بسیار دیگر فاکتها بما می گویند که تحلیل بنی صدر در آن زمان بس شجاعانه و علمی بوده است

Anglo_Phile

Anglo Phile

جناب دلخواسته



با تبریک فراوان به مناسبت سی‌ و پنجمین سالگرد انقلاب شکوهمند اسلامی که جنابعالی و مرشد ارجمندتاج جناب بانی‌ صدر در به ثمر رسیدن آن زحمات فراوان کشیدید توجه شما را به یکی‌ از فرمایشات ناب آن جناب و پیش بینی‌ انحلال آمریکا به وسیله این عالم عالیقدر جلب می‌کنم. انشا‌الله که مبارک است:

mahmooddelkhasteh

mahmood delkhasteh

بنی صدر در کتاب نفت و سلطه در قبل از انقلاب، بعد از تحلیل وضعیت اقتصادی، سیاسی و اجتماعی شوروی و آمریکا و نیز پویاییا و قوانین حاکم بر قدرت، پیش بینی کرد که این دو ابر قدرت دوران انبساط را به سر آورده و وارد دوره انقباض شده اند. در این تحلیل پیش بینی کرده بود که به علت دینامیسم درونی شوروی عمر این ابر قدرت زودتر به پایان خواهد رسید و آمریکا به عنوان ابر قدرت( نه به عنوان قدرت اقتصادی-سیاسی) نیز توان ادامه پرداخت هزینه ابر قدرتی را از دست خواهد داد و دوران ابر قدرتی اش به پایان خواهد رسید

واقعیتها به ما می گویند که قسمت اول پیش بینی بنی صدر به وقوع پیوسته است و بخش دوم پیش بینی در مورد آمریکا مدتها می باشد که موضوع بحث متخصصان امر می باشد. زمانی بود که آمریکا با اشاره انگشت رهبر در کشورهای تحت سلطه خود می آورد و می برد و حای می بینیم که در عین حال که به بزرگترین مقروض دنیا تبدیل شده است، ضعف بزرگ نظامی اش در عراق و افغانستان بیش از هر زمان اشکار شده است و وضعیت سیاسی اش بگونه ای که حتی عربستان که همیشه مانند موم در دستش نرم بود دیگر حرفش را نمی خواند و در سیاستهای منطقه ای این ابر قدرت را به چالش می کشد و...و خلاصه اینکه تمامی شاحص های اقتصادی-سیاسی- ایدئولوژیکی بما می گویند که آمریکا بمثابه ابر قدرت بسیار ضعیفتر از ده های قبل گشته است و البته این به اهل فن می گوید که دوران ابر قدرتی آمریکا نیز در حال بسر رسیدن است و این در حالیست که ابر قدرتهای دیگری در حال سر بر آوردن هستند و وضعیتی مانند قرن نوزده و اوائل قرن بیستم در حال شکل گرفتن است با این تفاوت که برای اولین بار مرکز ثقل قدرت اقتصادی و نظامی در 5 قرن اخیر از غرب به شرق در حال حرکت است

این واقعیات و بسیار دیگر فاکتها بما می گویند که تحلیل بنی صدر در آن زمان بس شجاعانه و علمی بوده است

Anglo_Phile

Anglo Phile

با تبریک مجدد میشود لطف کرده توضیح دهید که جناب بنی صدر چگونه چنین قدرت خارق العاده‌ای کسب کردند که ایشان می‌‌توانند پیش بینی‌ هایی به این دقت و درستی به عمل بیاورند ولی‌ اغلب اقتصاد دانان برنده جوائز نوبل از این کار عاجزند؟

mahmooddelkhasteh

mahmood delkhasteh

اینکه به چه علت برندگان جایزه نوبل توانا به این پیش بینی نبوده اند را باید از خود آنها پرسید. ولی اینکه چگونه بنی صدر و با استفاده از چه روش و تحلیل و داده هایی موفق قادر به چنین پیش بینی شده است، پیشنهاد می کنم که کتاب نفت و سلطه ایشان را مطالعه کنید. متفکران خود را قدر بدانیم
http://banisadr.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=17:2013-03-03-06-17-50&catid=9&Itemid=141

Anglo_Phile

Anglo Phile

والا ما که دستمون به برندگان جوائز نوبل نمی‌ رسه ولی‌ شما که از شارحان فلسفه و اقتصاد بنی صدری می‌‌باشید لطف کرده خلاصه‌ای از افاضات ایشان را برای ما توضیح دهید که هم ثواب اخرت نصیب شما گردد و هم ما بی‌ نسیب نمانیم. در ضمن اگر می‌‌خواهید به "متفکران" خود ارج بگذارید بد نیست برندگان جوائز نوبل اقتصاد را از این پدیده شگرف جهان اقتصاد آگاه کرده و ایشان را از این تاریکی بیرون آورید.

مجددا سالگرد انقلاب اسلامی را به شما و جناب بنی صدر تبریک می‌گویم. ملت ایران هرگز خدمات انجنابان را به انقلاب خمینی فراموش نخواهد کرد و انشا‌الله پاداش خواهد داد.

آمین یا ربّ العالمین!

argebam

argebam

Iranian revolution is classified as a classical Revolution, just like French, Russian etc. Classical revolutions never get to the promise land, French revolution with all the intellectuals and top philosophers such as Voltaire took 90 years to get where they are today. Iranian revolution was considered the most backward and pure 'Stupid" classical revolution.

Terminology such as "democratic principals" does cannot co-exist with religion. Khomeini did not fool anyone, there was no coup, he did exactly what his world view was in 1963. Banisadr and others got fooled because they wanted to be fooled. There was no intellectual in true meaning of the term in Iranian society in 1979, they were more like educated middle class, whose emotions and hatred overcome the logic. If you look back at the slogans 6 months before the revolution, you will understand it.

The opposition was not democratic and to this day they are not. Democracy is not measured by a vote, voting is tool in democracy. Liberalism is what drives the democracy, other wise it was the vote only, it would become the dictatorship of the majority.

Sugar Coating pure stupidity (revolution of 1979) will not get us anywhere. We must face the realities, learn from mistakes and move on. Fossils like Banisadr, Meli Mazhabi (oxymoron term) are and should be irrelevant.

از کوزه همان تراود که دروست
It is the story of all those who participated in the revolution, pretty much majority of the people. As a society (those who governed and those who were against it) we made a political suicide, that generation was politically ignorant and full of emotions, their left overs are still writing articles and try to portray themselves as intellectuals.

Babak
Denver

G.Rahmanian

G. Rahmanian



Dear Dr. Delkhasteh,

Former president Banisadr was a trusted close confident and advisor to Ayatollah Khomeini. That is the important part of the Wikipedia excerpt. He can write as many books as he likes.

Banisadr was forced out of office as a result of the power struggle that saw many of the original players "eliminated." The bombings that killed Ayatollah Beheshti and other IR authorities, and Banisadr has also talked about, were part of the factional warfare which began the day the Islamists came to power.

When it come to sources, no source is entirely reliable on its own simply because every source follows certain agenda. Official sources are no exception.

And as personal accounts go, they too can be altered and distorted easily over any extended period of time.

aaa3636

aaa3636

It is waste of time to discuss a lunatic that teaches molestation of children and writes procedures for having sex with wild and domestic animals. Khomeini was a free loader and lazy ass like other Akhonds. He came to power with the help of his master to accomplish their mission and will be eliminated whenever they wish.

NiloufarParsi

Niloufar Parsi

The background argumentation is not so strong and shows a lot of bias, but the conclusions are sound.

The key to internal reform is in lifting foreign pressure on Iran.

Iranian expats who truly want to help Iran move in a more liberal or even secular direction should spend all their efforts on undermining the sanctions and ending foreign aggression.

maziar58

maziar 58 Maziar

Once an Iraqi friend(acquaintance ) of mine who also spoke persian thanks to his mother;Asked me how you sayفصاحت و بلاغت in English?
Coulde'nt grasp Eloquence &Rhetoric
Simply said Sugar Coating the Bulshits!
Now the analytical case of1979 and so on Both in English & Persian
Brings me to that Simple definition :Sugar Coating the…
Come on guys admit y'all Screwed it and
Got Screwed in Return.

G.Rahmanian

G. Rahmanian


"During the revolution, Khomeini had identified himself with democratic principles to such an extent that some in France described him as the ‘ayatollah libertaire’. In over 120 interviews, he described Islam as a belief system of liberty in which political authority lay with the people. He once famously stated that ‘the criterion in Islam is the people’s vote’." Banisadr
"The fatal turning point which pitted the democrat against the despot came in the heady days of 1981 as we sought to create political order out of the chaos of the revoultion." Banisadr

So, even Banisadr, the son of an ayatollah close to Khomeini and himself a Shi'ite, did not know what Khomeini was about?

Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:

"Banisadr had participated in the anti-Shah student movement during the early 1960s and was imprisoned twice, and was wounded during an uprising in 1963. He then fled to France. He later joined the Iranian resistance group led by Khomeini, becoming one of his hard-liner advisors.[3][4] Banisadr returned to Iran together with Khomeini as the revolution was beginning in February 1979. He wrote a book on Islamic finance, Eghtesad Tohidi, an Arabic phrase that roughly translates as "The Economics of Monotheism."

And a book on Islamic governance:

The fundamental principles and precepts of Islamic government, Mazda Publishers, 1981

mahmooddelkhasteh

mahmood delkhasteh

I have already skimmed through Mr Nikar's extended article. He writes well but there are numbers of methodological problems with his arguments, which I have not time to get into one by one. However the major problems with his argument are that he fails to differentiate between the different phases of the revolution and collapses the different political forces within the structure of the regime into one narrative. Hence, he creates blind spots for the reader.
Furthermore, without spelling it out, it is obvious that he sees the outcome of the revolution as having been inevitable, and then tries to argue around this point.
He also sees the revolution as an event which happened in the past, so that after the post-revolutionary power struggle was settled, its destiny was as well. Many theoreticians of social revolutions, though, see revolution as an open-ended process - I belong to this school of thought. Looking at social revolutions from this perspective creates a paradigm shift, and instead of perceiving ourselves as passive and bitter spectators of a revolution which happened to us and shaped our lives for worse, we find ourselves as active agents who are able to decide to continue the revolution so that Iranians can become citizens of a republic whose duty is to protect the human and national rights of Iranians, to eradicate poverty and actualize people’s talents.
We should not forget that the French revolution also looked as though its ideals and goals had been defeated during a period of massive social terrorisation and bloodshed, during the Robespierre era, under the slogan ‘the despotism of democracy’. Here is how Robespierre justified it: “If virtue be the spring of a popular government in times of peace, the spring of that government during a revolution is virtue combined with terror: virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country ... The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny.”
After that, the French revolution went through the dictatorship of Napoleon, to the extent that the use of the word ‘democracy’ became illegal. Yet there were generations of revolutionaries who did not give up on the ideal of the French revolution, who continued the struggle and passed on the light to future generation, and eventually after many setbacks they reached their goals - which still form the bases of political struggle in France. If we have to learn anything from others’ experiences, I suggest that we learn from their tireless persistence to continue their revolution.
Here is part of my research which might help to shed light on this argument:
“ ...As easy as it is to date the end of the Pahlavi regime in 1979, it is difficult to determine the terminus of the Iranian revolution, if such exists. This problem is not specific to the Iranian revolution. For instance, there is a range of competing opinions about how to determine the terminus of the 1789 French revolution. Francois Furet analyses this ongoing disagreement by trying to identify the different endpoints of the French Revolution as posited by different historians. He sees these opinions as spread between two poles dividing past and future, from those who see the end of the French revolution as being synonymous with the termination of the old regime, since “the essential features of the Revolution’s final outcome was fixed, when the final page of the ancien regime was turned” to the present time, when “the discourse of both Right and Left celebrates liberty and equality”. For Furet, if there is a consensus among contemporary scholars, it is only because “the political debate has simply been transferred from one Revolution to the other, from the revolution of the past to the one that is to come”. There are also other dates which are reasonable candidates for the revolution’s end, the most of which range from 1794, when Robespierre was executed, to 16 May 1877, when republicans defeated the monarchists. Even between in between these, there are other possible “stopping points” at 1799, 1815, 1830, 1848, 1851, and 1870.
The Iranian revolution is much too young to provoke such a wide range of disagreement about its terminus. However, we can recruit insight from the widespread disagreement about the French revolution by recognising that the “touchstone, in identifying the terminus of the French revolution is the realization of the guiding principles of the revolution”. That is why today such disagreements have subsided drastically since, as pointed out earlier on, “the discourse of both Right and Left celebrates liberty and equality”. A similar criterion is used in this thesis as a methodological device for defining the time period under inquiry, and classifies the outcome of the revolution according to its initially stated guiding principles of “freedom” and “independence”.
Francois Furet, Interpreting the French Revolution, transl. by Elborg Forster (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 3.
Ibid., p. 5.
Ibid.
Ibid., p.5.
It should be noticed that during the revolution, the word azadi meant both “freedom” and “democracy” and was used interchangeably. It was only years later that the word mardomsalary was introduced into Persian to mean “democracy” and differentiated from freedom. Hence, it is important to understand what the word azadi meant within the context of the Iranian revolution. Because it does not now necessarily imply democracy, could be argued that someone using discourses of freedom is not necessarily also a democrat. The best method for demonstrating that the word azadi meant both “freedom” and “democracy” is the contextual analysis of its use during the early years of the revolution in the slogans and resolutions issued by demonstrators and strikers, but particularly in the speeches and interviews of the leadership. The analysis demonstrates that during the revolution Khomeini used the word azadi to mean both freedom and democracy, and that in various interviews he used the English word “democracy” to emphasise his meaning of azadi. This was particularly the case when he was repeatedly arguing that the implementation of Human Rights and democracy were the main goals of revolution. See, for example, Ruhollah Khomeini, Sahifeh-ye nour [The Book of Light], vol. 5 (Tehran: Markaz-e Madarek-e Entersharat-e Eslami, 1999 [1378]), p. 353 and vol. 4, p. 199.