Statement by Five Religious Intellectuals
by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles
04 Jan 2010 08:24
The hardliners' plan to exploit the events of Ashura to arrest the leaders of the Green Movement -- Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammad Khatami -- appear to have been defeated, at least for now.
After counter-demonstrations by the supporters of the hardliners on Wednesday, December 30, the nation was in a state of suspense. People were worried about what was coming next. But Mir Hossein Mousavi issued his Statement No. 17 on Friday, January 1, in which he said he was ready to die for the cause of the Green Movement and listed a minimum number of demands that must be met in order to move the country to a calmer state. The Statement has already caused considerable squabbling among the hardliners, and deepened fissures in their camp. As the outspoken reformist journalist Abbas Abdi said, "Mousavi has thrown the ball into the hardliners' court."
On Sunday, January 3, five important religious intellectuals issued a joint statement in which they declared their full support for the leaders of the Green Movement in Iran, and listed ten demands that they believe must be met in order to get the country out of deep crisis. The ten demands include the five that Mousavi had already listed and are, in fact, practically identical with what he had listed in his Statement No. 13.
The five signatories are Dr. Abdulkarim Soroush, the distinguished Islamic scholar; Dr. Mohsen Kadivar, a student of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, a progressive cleric, and an outspoken critic of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (for which he was jailed a few years ago); Akbar Ganji, the investigative journalist who was imprisoned for six years, Ataollah Mohajerani, former Majles [parliament] deputy and Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance in the first Khatami administration (a short period Iran enjoyed a relatively free press), and Abdol-ali Bazargan, son of former Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, a well-known Islamic thinker.
The statement begins by declaring that,
Six months ago millions of Iranians demonstrated [peacefully] in the streets, in order to regain their rights that, through the treacherous elections, had been taken away from them, and to protest against all the insults and belittling by the government. The security and military establishment responded to the peaceful demands of the people violently and ruthlessly, and tried to prevent people from being present in the public domain and debate, and attempted to link the Green Movement with foreign powers and aligned with their policies.
The hardliners thought that they could, by a bloody crackdown on the legal uprising, put an end to the people's protests, as they had done in the past. But, despite all of their efforts, the flames of awareness burned higher and the sounds [crying for] reforms [grew] louder; the Movement became stronger by the day.
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, who over the past five decades and particularly the last six months, had defended the fundamental rights of the citizens of the nation, and left the people under the most critical condition, shined as the spiritual leader of the Movement. His death gave new life to the Movement and revealed all the injustice that had been done to him, which angered the nation even more as the month of Muharram was coming, a month that is for demanding [people's] fundamental rights and rising up against dictatorship and oppression. People's protests, following the long historical tradition in Shiism culture, were at their height on Ashura, and the informed nation [of Iran] that has learned from the life of Hossein [the 3rd Shiite Imam and a most revered figure in Iran, who was killed in October 680 in his war against the dictator of the time] targeted the oppressor of our era [meaning the hardliners and Ayatollah Khamenei]...
The statement continued,
It is clear that the extremists in the ruling elite resort to violence because they know that they lack a broad social base of support and a secure future. They want to accelerate the occurrence of the "final confrontation" and "the day of reckoning [the day that they finally put down the uprising]," in order to force the ambivalent forces within the political establishment to accept the fait accompli, and reduce the great forces of democracy to violent rioters.
But, what this regime has done has angered and hurt deeply across a wide social strata, from young people, women, and religious and ethnic groups, to intellectuals, clerics, academics, workers, and political activists. The talk of "the enemy's conspiracy" by the unjust Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Khamenei] over the past 20 years and its [mis]use for inventing [imaginary] enemies and creating fissures among the people (such as [saying]: the press is the enemy's base; the intellectuals work for the enemy; the Green Movement is a colored conspiracy of the enemy for overthrowing [the regime]) have transformed [in the Leader's view] a great part of the nation to the enemy's front which must be oppressed by the organs of oppression.
This is a reference to what Ayatollah Khamenei has been preaching since he was appointed the Supreme Leader in 1989. Anyone or any group that has criticized him and his policies has been accused by him of being linked to an imaginary enemy that he has never described or identified. The statement then continued,
We believe, as a small part of the nationwide Green Movement, that at this point in time, the demands of the Movement can be summarized as follows, which can be used as the basis for the future mobilization of the movement and its relation with the ruling group. A part of these demands has already been mentioned by Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi in his Statement No. 17 that, in view of the difficult political condition of the country, represents the minimum demands. We fully support the positions of the leaders of the Movement in Iran (Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khatami), and believe that the optimal demands of the Green Movement of the Iranian people at this point are as follows.
1. Resignation of Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [as the president] and holding a new presidential election under the supervision of neutral organs; abolish the vetting process of candidates [by the Guardian Council] and formation of an independent election commission that includes the representatives of the opposition and protestors, in order to draft the rules and regulations for holding free and fair elections.
2. Releasing all the political prisoners, and investigating the torture and murder of the protestors over the past several months in open courts in the presence of a jury and the attorneys of their [the victims'] own choice, and compensating those who have been hurt and their families.
3. Free means of mass communication, including the press, the internet, voice [radio] and visage [television]; abolishing censorship and allowing banned publications [such as dailies] to resume; expanding non-governmental TV and satellite channels; ending the filtering of the internet and making it easily accessible to the public, and purging liars and provocateurs from [national] radio and television.
4. Recognizing the rights of all the lawful political groups, university student and women movements, the NGOs and civil organizations, and labor unions for lawful activities and the right to peaceful protest according to Article 27 of the Constitution.
5. Independence of the universities [from political meddling and intervention]; running the universities democratically by the academics themselves; evacuating the military and quasi-military forces from the universities, and abolishing the illegal Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution [that interferes in the affairs of the universities].
6. Putting on trial all those that have tortured and murdered [people], and those who ordered the past crimes, particularly those over the past several months.
7. Independence of the judiciary by electing [rather than appointing] its head; abolishing illegal and special courts [such as the Special Court for the Clergy]; purging the judiciary from unfair judges, and banning judiciary officials from giving political speeches and carrying out orders of higher officials [the president and the Supreme Leader], instead of implementing the laws fairly and neutrally.
8. Banning the military, police, and security forces from intervening in politics, the economy, and culture, and ordering them to act professionally.
9. Economic and political independence of the seminaries, and preventing politicizing the clerics to support the government, and banning the use of Friday prayers sermons for issuing [by the clerics] illegal and anti-religions orders.
10. Electing all the officials who must become responsive to criticisms, and limiting the number of terms that they can be elected.
The statement ends by declaring that,
Not meeting these [legitimate] demands of the Green Movement and increasing the [violent] crackdown and oppression will not only not help us to pass the [present] crisis, but will also deepen the crisis with painful consequences, for which only the Supreme Leader will be responsible.
Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau