There is election fever in the air, not in Iran but on Iranian.com. The mounting excitement transmitted through a number of consecutive articles and a barrage of favorable comments has been contagious. Iran’s reform movement has been mobilized to silence the critics and downplay the significance of daunting issues.
The showdown, however, doesn’t appear to be between the opposing candidates from the conservative camp and the Reforms Front. Here, on Iranian.com, the face-off is between those seeking to rehabilitate the Islamic Republic of Iran and the political activists in quest of overthrowing the regime. After all, the prevalent fear amongst the reformists isn’t losing an election by large or small margins. Quite to the contrary! What keeps the reformists awake at night is the forfeiture of the underlying premise that a theocracy can be morphed into a democracy by gradual reforms imposed through theatrical elections.
The missing ingredients as advocated by the reform movement are patience and perseverance, but an ironclad commitment to the unconditional survival of the Islamic Republic of Iran is also evident. The benefits of such approach are explained to be multifaceted, the least of which is the peaceful transition of power from one camp to another.
Accordingly, after every election cycle, the fate of our nation is placed either in the hands of the hardliners or the reformists, resulting in revolving periods of death and destruction followed by relative redress and recovery. This solution, we are reminded, is preferable to the alternative: total death and destruction without periods of relief or, God forbid, contemplating a secular democracy without the mullahs.
Since the former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, in an article published on Iranian.com, pledged to safeguard and protect human life and dignity, his ability to uphold such a commitment based on past performances has been scrutinized. As a result, the reform movement is hampered by those disheartening bygone years as it struggles to thread its way through the current election. Amongst the controversial subjects brushed under the rug is a pair of inconvenient reminders that refuse to fade away: The leaders of the reform movement are not dissidents but rather government insiders whose career trail leads to the massacres of political prisoners in 1980’s while their financial interests are traceable to the daily looting of our national wealth.
Unable to address such issues, the reform movement has either downplayed the enormity of such crimes or simply asked the critics to comprehend the circumstances under which such crimes have occurred. Nonetheless, whether out of sheer incompetence, absolute helplessness, or blatant criminality, the reformist leaders have become a material liability for the movement.
To revitalize the public persona of its leaders, the reform movement has capitalized on Iran’s current state of affairs only to remind the nation that last time one of their own held the Office of the Presidency, the conditions were more tolerable and prosperous. Not surprisingly, after hailing Ayatollah Khatami’s era, the reformists are dumbfounded by any attempt to spoil his accomplishments or dispute his effectiveness. Although the historical conditions that necessitated the emergence of the reform movement in Iran are often overlooked, in the light of the current election, a rudimentary understanding of those years is long overdue.
In essence, there were two political and social circumstances that attributed to the rise of the reform movement in Iran: First, the mounting opposition and discontent with the regime amongst the upper and middle class Iranians became apparent to Shi’a intellectuals who feared for the future of Islam in Iran. Second, the brutality of the regime after the massacres of 1980’s and the chain killings of 1990’s left absolutely no room whatsoever for possible expressions of political dissent.
Consequently, any twinkle of opposition had to emerge from within the establishment to withstand mullahs’ wrath, to boast of any likelihood of survival, and finally to live to tell the tale. Once this phenomenon was born, political activists seized the opportunity to form NGOs and human rights organizations to combat the regime. As a result, the successful election of Mohammad Khatami to become the fifth president of Iran was not the cause but rather the effect of the reformists’ mobilization.
Another controversy plaguing the reform movement is the vetting process through which presidential candidates are permitted to enter the race. Deriving the selection criteria from Article 115 of Iran’s constitution, the Guardian Council hand-selects only candidates with “religious and political personalities” who have demonstrated their belief in “the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the official religion of the country.” Simply put, with a single stroke of their pen, the members of Guardian Council eliminate all opposition candidates but retain “the faithful.” Believe it or not, even the reform movement is struggling to legitimize this mockery as an election but stops short of withdrawing from it.
Regardless of the upcoming election’s outcome on June 12, 2009, the reform movement remains to be a decisive force in reining the masses on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran and in shaping the regime’s chances of survival. As hardliners eye the Office of the Supreme Leader and consolidate the Faqih’s hold on the armed forces, Iran’s moderate Shi’a clergy is pushing the limits to test our nation’s resolve and thirst for fundamental, meaningful changes in economic, social, and political arenas. At the same time, the reformist leaders are assessing the tolerance of the hardliners with cautious overtures to share the levers of authority before it is too late. In other words, the reformist candidates are asking our nation to place one of them at the helms of power out of sheer desperation and utter apprehension of the alternatives.
Today, running on a reform agenda but hand in hand with the hardliners, the leaders of the reform movement, having benefited from the imprisonment and murder of political activists throughout the country, have apparently emerged as the only viable alternative to the merciless inquisitors of Tehran. Simultaneously, in league with their blood brethren, the reformist leaders have also looted the country lock, stock and barrel and pocketed the fruits of our labor while the populace is destitute and distraught.
Once again, Iranian political activists are outwitted to follow the mullahs’ lead. Once again, the nation is bamboozled into placing their fate and future in the hands of the Shi’a clergy. Once again, Iranians are told to choose between the bad and the ugly. Once again, we are gambling with our future and blindly settling for a change, any change.
Meanwhile, the temporary, lax and jubilant election environment has been seized by few political activists to form a coalition encompassing grassroots organizations that represent pro-democracy groups from all walks of life. The Solidarity for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran (SDHRI) has brought together organizations dedicated to the causes of women and workers while unifying secular movements such as the United Students Front, the Association of Liberal and Nationalist University Students, and Democratic Front of Iran. Additionally, our nation’s best and brightest legal scholars, human rights advocates, and seasoned patriots have joined forces to offer an alternative to those disillusioned by the breadth of poor political choices available.
The seed for this solidarity was planted by Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh in 1944, but the sapling was axed down long before it poked through the darkness. There, in obscurity, it lay dormant, spreading its roots silently but determinedly. Sixty five years later, after the failure of all flavors of Islam in Iran and after the collapse of all communist organizations, our path has taken us full circle to that seed, to that sapling, to that dream.
It is due time to nurture this sapling with light and guard it with our blood…
I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Dr. Masoud Kazemzadeh for his informative and timely article: “Prospects and Obstacles: Solidarity for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran”