A Charter for the Green Movement
by TARA MAHTAFAR in Tehran
23 Jul 2009 23:53
After weeks of virtual silence following his declared intention to form a new political front, Mir Hossein Mousavi's official Web site, Ghalam News, announced Wednesday that the opposition leader would soon unveil a new "charter" aimed at "implementing the neglected capacities of the constitution."
"We are drafting a charter that transcends political groups and fronts," Mousavi said in a meeting with Iranian journalists. "It seeks to present a unified face of the people joined in the Green Movement and enable them to strengthen their unity."
He also stressed the need to act within the law. "If we deviate from the framework of the constitution, our society would face out-of-control anarchy," he said, adding that lawful action would help "minimize damages imposed by the current coup-like climate."
"Our constitution holds potentials that, if executed, can satisfy even those inclined toward structural change," the Reformist leader hinted, in a rare acknowledgment of dissidents who categorically oppose the regime's theocratic foundations.
The charter -- due to be released in coming days -- seems to be the next major step in line with Mousavi's unwavering stance of contesting Ahmadinejad's reelection within the legal bounds of the Islamic Republic. In this sense, it could serve to empower the protesting masses -- whose struggle shows no sign of abating, by consolidating their demands in a formal document. Yet such public consolidation may also curb the scope of the Green Movement's aspirations and reduce it to a set of modest, innocuous demands.
Mousavi's statements in his Wednesday meeting touched on three key issues that foreshadow what may be set down in the forthcoming charter:
1- Refusal to recognize the Ahmadinejad administration
"This government is not backed by popular vote and therefore lacks legitimacy." As he had done before, Mousavi will likely call for the election results to be annulled and for a new election to be held with the oversight of independent observers. But if he alleges a crisis of electoral fraud, will the opposition leader also question the legitimacy of the Guardian Council, the body that sanctioned the vote and thereby failed to ensure free and fair elections?
2- Release of political prisoners
"Until every last person imprisoned in the aftermath of the elections is freed, our election lawsuit will remain open." Interestingly, Mousavi only spoke of post-election detainees, rather than 'political prisoners' in general. If the charter wants to meet the protest slogan "political prisoners must be freed!" it must broaden the definition to include 30 years' worth of dissidents, journalists, and activists unlawfully incarcerated by the regime.
3- Press freedom; censure of the stranglehold of state media
"Since supporters of the election fraud have platforms like the IRIB [National TV & Radio], the press has a duty to publicize the events following the elections." Mousavi had previously attacked Iran's state broadcaster for its skewed coverage of recent events in favor of Ahmadinejad; this criticism is a direct stab at the Supreme Leader, who appoints the head of IRIB and commands its agenda. One of Mousavi's campaign pledges had been to instate private broadcast media. Ideally, the charter would restate this demand, while providing a solution to guarantee freedom of expression, freedom of information, and press freedom.
Mousavi's charter is also likely to press for the constitutional right of assembly, as this was a frequently cited demand on placards and often reiterated in his own declarations. He is sure to condemn the crackdown and resulting "militarized climate" and to call for peaceful tolerance in confronting demonstrators.
If the charter means to address the full range of civil rights stipulated in the constitution but ignored by the government, equal rights for religious and ethnic minorities (particularly the prosecuted Baha'i community, who are barred from entering university and receiving passports) deserve mention. Mousavi's wife, scholar Zahra Rahnavard, had championed equal legal rights for women during his campaign; Mousavi can redouble the trust of his support base by proposing to revise discriminatory laws against women -- a goal tirelessly pursued by Iranian women's rights activists in their One Million Signatures Campaign.
In framing people's demands into a "Bill of Rights" of sorts, Mousavi's purported charter can pave the way for other eventual reforms, effectively lessening the power of the office of the Supreme Leader -- because the legitimacy crisis now surrounds Ali Khamenei as much as it does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The charter may prove a crucial test for Mir Hossein Mousavi; it will outstrip all other moves he has made thus far in the post-election game. Undoubtedly, the opposition leader is aware of the pitfalls of failing to live up to the civil rights momentum of the Green Movement -- his emphasis on operating within regime law indicate his awareness that unless he delivers on demands, the tide for change may supersede him and veer toward wholesale revolution.
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau