I had a dream the other night. I was at home watching TV one evening and as usual switching through various channels looking for something that entertaining yet with some measure of intelligence. Flipping one channel through another, the image of Reza Pahlavi on one of the stations caught my eyes.
My first reaction was: here we go again, repeating the same lines, raising false hopes, misleading the Iranian public, the simple-minded, the absent-minded, and those who have easily forgotten the past. Yet, I did not change the channel as the first few words I heard caught my attention.
This is how his speech went:
I am pleased to appear before you today with some very encouraging news. For months I had been working behind the scenes to bring together various Iranian community, cultural, political, professional, commercial, and social organizations, in Iran and abroad, under one umbrella group to forge a renewed effort towards the establishment of a secular, pluralistic, progressive democratic rule in our homeland.
Today, I am delighted to announce the formation of Congress for Democracy in Iran, a wide-ranging coalition of patriot and expatriate Iranians. We are currently working to establish a Charter for Congress for Democracy in Iran and as you probably expect, such a charter would be broad in context and definition to allow for unrestrained inclusion of Iranians of various cultural, social and political interests, affiliations and predisposition.
We plan to establish chapters of Congress for Democracy in Iran in major cities in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia, wherever a substantial Iranian community may exist. Additionally, we plan to establish student chapters at any university around the globe where a good number of Iranian students are present.
We have invited and invite all Iranians regardless of their political and religious persuasions to join us and we will welcome them with warmth and affection. These include Iranians and Iranian organizations and institutions outside Iran as well as those within Iran.
We believe that any Iranian who is committed for the establishment of a secular, pluralistic, accountable, and transparent representative democratic government in Iran; a government of the people, by the people, for the people with constitutional guarantees, in practice and not merely in words, for freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion; with liberty, justice and equality under the law for all, has an incontestable place in Congress for Democracy in Iran.
We have also extended an olive branch to the “reform”-minded elements of current Iranian government and President Khatami. We have asked them to join us in our efforts to bring a peaceful, gradual, progressive yet rapid change towards the goals I have mentioned. We have emphasized and some elements within Iran's mainstream clergy agree with us, that to achieve the lofty goal delineated in the foregoing, a separation of Mosque and State is a must.
Such separation of mosque and state is not only good for Iran, for its future government and progress but also for the clergy and for Islam. The Iranian clergy only has to reflect on their experience of past 20 years to realize that their involvement in the government and the interference of Mosque in the affairs of the State has cost them much of public respect and trust they once enjoyed in the past.
We have also invited all other progressive political groups and parties in Iran to join us regardless of their political ideologies.
We would like to serve as mediators between the armed guerilla movements opposing the current regime, whether stationed in foreign lands or Iran, and the current Iranian government. We offer our services as good will negotiators and mediators between the two opposing violent forces.
We suggest to the current regime to extend an olive branch to opposition movements abroad by allowing the formation and free political activism of any political groups and parties inside Iran, regardless of their political ideologies, as long as those political groups and parties adhere to the strict rules of non-violence.
In return, we expect no violence from the government toward any political groups or parties in Iran that is legally engaged in political activities even when those activities are diametrically opposed to the policies of the government in power.
Furthermore, we ask the current Iranian government to issue a non-conditional, broad, unequivocal amnesty to members of any armed and non-armed Iranian opposition groups and organizations if they accept to put down their arms and abide by strict rules of non-violence and instead pursue their aims through peaceful means, political participation, non-violent activism, and dialogue.
President Khatami in recent consultation with members of Iran's parliament has admitted that he has reached a dead end in his efforts towards reforming Islamic Republic's system of government. To quote him, he has said: “I do not know what to do” [“nemidaanam che bayad kard”]. To him and Iran's progressive reformers, we offer a way out of this quagmire. We are aiming to bring about a government of reconciliation, recovery, and reform which would serve as a conduit toward establishment of a rule of secular democracy in Iran.
It is obvious that such a proposed development would not only serve Iran's national domestic interests but also its foreign interest as if Iran could achieve such a government, it would surely serve as a model for change and progress in the region where by the despotic governments of the region adversary to Iranian interest would not be able to stand the demands of their public for similar reforms and change. With such proposed change, Iran can once again join the international community of nations as a stable, reliable partner both strategically as well as economically.
Congress for Democracy in Iran would serve as a multifaceted, multi-resource, multi-tasked organization. It will aim to protect the interests of Iranians and those of Iranian-descent both within and outside Iran.
Our first political aim would be to have the Articles concerning Vali-e-Faghih (Articles 5, 107 through 112) rescinded from the current Iranian Constitution, as it is undemocratic. This should open the way for democratic reforms and change in Iran. The current Iranian Constitution provides a measure toward such an effort through its Article 59 which allows the government to hold a national referendum on any issue of grave national debate.
We propose a national referendum on whether the articles regarding Vali-e-Faghih should be stricken from Iranian Constitution. We argue that though such a clause in Iranian Constitution may have seemed sound during the heydays of the revolution, now 22 years later, we live in a post-revolutionary period where the Iranian people have through political participation and living in an Islamic Republic, as visioned by its founder, gained sufficient political maturity where there is no need for a Vali-e-Faghih as there is no need for a benevolent king to guide and direct them through history.
Our first economic aim is to lobby the United States Congress and government to remove the economic sanctions which have only served to strengthen the hands of undemocratic elements in Iran who blames their mismanagement of Iranian economy and resources in the past 20 years on U.S. sanctions.
We look to our neighbor in the west, Iraq, and see that the U.S. economic and trade sanctions have not only failed to undermine the regime of Saddam Hussein but also have properly strengthen it. Iraq has continued to snub the international community, suppress its own population, and mistreat its minority populations despite the sanctions.
Meanwhile, only the poor people of Iraq have suffered and borne the brunt of the sanctions. A man who has to worry where his next meal will come from and where his sick child may find treatment for simple common illnesses has no time to mind the political and economic state of his country.
What made the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was that under the rule of my father, a sufficient portion of Iranians had reached the level of economic welfare and security which would allow them to think beyond their immediate needs and reflect on the political and social state of the country.
One element which has assured the survival of the Islamic Republic has been the downward cesspool of Iran's economy, mismanaged by mullahs who understood nothing of modern life and economy so much so that their leader in 1980 would claim “We did not lead a revolution for economy, economy is the concerns of jackass” [“Maa baray-e eghtesaad enghelaab nakardim, eghtesaad maal-e khar ast” – Khomeini, April 1980].
Iranian population is so caught in the affairs of daily survival that no member of it can afford the time to reflect on anything beyond the immediate basic survival needs. According to IRI's own estimate at least 40% of Iranian youth are unemployed. An overwhelmingly majority of low-ranking government employees and civil servants hold one or more jobs in addition to their government jobs.
Other government employees and civil servants, those that can, have made bribery for any and simple government paper-work and redtape a means of additional income. Lifting of the U.S. sanctions would allow for trade which carries along with it communication and contacts that influence all sectors of Iranian economy and population and most the bazaar, the main financial resource of the clerics.
There is no doubt that such communication and contacts between Iranian merchants, the bazaar, and their U.S. trade partners would undoubtedly bring the bazaar the realization of how much the world's economy and governmental systems have changed in the past 20 years, with a definite and strong shift toward Western democracy.
There is no doubt that opening of the Soviet Union's market and economy to the West, during the government of President Gorbachov, played a major role in the breakdown of the Soviet's totalitarian system. There is no doubt that lifting of U.S. trade and economic sanctions on Iran would have similar effect on the autocratic rule of the Vali-e-Faghih in Iran.
Twenty-two years ago, the leaders of the Revolution heavily criticized the former regime for allowing foreign investment in Iranian economy and vowed to nationalize the entire Iranian economy.
They not only failed at nationalization but at the conclusion of the “hostages” fiasco agreed and paid more than $5 billion to international firms for dubious services, investment and developments as well as for products for which contracts had been signed but never delivered.
Now, with Iranian economy destroyed and in total disarray, the IRI has been working hard for the past decade trying to attract foreign investment, giving such grand incentives and concessions to foreign firms that is unmatched in Iran's economic and trade history.
We intend to induce the Iranian government to implement a law that requires any foreign investment in the form of contracts, production firms, trade companies, etc., to be 51% Iranian-owned. This is similar to the same requirement, which other Persian Gulf countries as well as Malaysia and others impose on any foreign investment.
Furthermore, with the lifting of the economic and trade sanctions against Iran and as we witness gradual changes toward democracy and privatization of Iran's economy, we will work to encourage investments in Iran's economy as well as technology transfer by Iranian expatriate abroad.
We know well of the immense success of Iranian entrepreneurs, industrials, scientists and engineers abroad in the past 20 years. We need to harness these accomplishments toward the goals we have outlined for the Congress for Democracy in Iran.
In closing, I would like to emphasize an important but integral part of what I have proposed. I know that this might disappoint some of my most ardent supporters who have stayed with me for the past 22 years.. But I am sure, as they are patriotic Iranian, they understand well that we have lost much time and nothing is more paramount for me, as well as for them, to see a progressive, democratic, Iran with a relatively high standard of living and growing economy at par with the developed nations, respected by its neighbors and the world.
I realize that to achieve the goal of unifying Iranians of a broad spectrum of political thoughts and inclinations toward the goals I have outlined in this speech, I must clearly state that I have no interest in a future career as a monarch. Personally, I will be more than happy to serve my country in any capacity and to my full potential and resources.
I would be more than content to be just a mere citizen of a secular, progressive, democratic Iran with successful economy and levels of economic welfare, social stability, education and industry envied by the world. I would like to leave a legacy of the Pahlavi name where every Iranian would recall it with pride and honor.
I look forward to working with each and every one of you in achieving our common goals as I narrated above. I ask you to join me and your compatriots in this historic effort. Mr. Kamran Beigi, my Media Coordinator, will provide you with contact information and means by which you can join us as well as instructions on how each and every one of you can participate.
I was so excited that I woke up to the fast beating of my heart.