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A Charter for the Green Movement

by TARA MAHTAFAR in Tehran

23 Jul 2009 23:537 Comments

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

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It seems two essential element missing here are:

- Action against the Supreme Leader for his hasty embrace of a fraud election.

- Disciplinary action against Guard-e-vijhe and Basiji militia for excessive use of force (including: possibly, the right of martyrs' families to Ghesas).

Without these two conditions, at lease mostly satisfied, a the Islamic Republic system will be identified as IMMORAL, UNJUST, ANTI-DEMOCRATIC AND INVALID.

Arash / July 23, 2009 10:02 PM

I would love for some of your "smart" readers to enlighten me. Isn't this the same person who was the prime minister of Iran under Khamenei? Did we not have political prisoners when he was in the office? Were his political freinds, Rafsanjani and Khatami not once presidents of Iran for 16 years? Did't the government of Iran torture and execure political prisoner during their time in the office? Did they do anything then? What is wrong with this picture? Why are you people following another Khomeini worshiper into the desert looking for water? Why are you trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit?

Masood Nazemzadeh / July 24, 2009 8:52 AM

Yes he's the same person and yes we had political prisoners then. but it seems that you don't know many thing about Iran do you?

almost EVERYTHING has changed. and by the way do you what people of Iran are fighting for???? (ah yes I know that you're Iranian your name, Masood Nazemzadeh, clearly indicates that.)

GG / July 24, 2009 10:51 AM

As a westerner studying Iran political history and dissident treatment I am in full agreement with Masood's question. Unless this guy has RADICALLY changed, I would be very suspicious. I think he may be taking advantage of his popularity and the opportunity of the moment rather than being genuinely concerned for the people.

Arash is also right. There are some major issues still not addressed. Is Khamenei going to be allowed to just "walk away" and take a jet out of Iran to go on a year vacation at one of his expensive vacation homes? or is he going to be held accountable with Ahmadi for the bloodshed and military coup??? Is someone keeping track of all the millions of $$s leaving Iran through overseas accounts?? This money was stolen from the Iranian people. It should be returned!

Still watching and waiting while those in the battle die daily.

Deveney / July 24, 2009 11:29 AM

1- It should be noted that Ghalam, which is referred to here, is the personal website of Mousavi. This is important in journalism.

2- It is stated that the Tehran Bureau is an independent source of news on Iran. However, a search on its name reveals that in fact, it is under the Harvard Nieman Reports. This seems to mean that it is funded and operated by this Harvard organization and foundation and is hardly an independent source of news.

3-All the pictures and writing are supporting the "Green Movement" headed by Mousavi. There are pictures of the Green flag flying, and interestingly enough, even though the news is about Iran, there is no flag of Iran anywhere.

It seems reasonable to conclude that this Tehran Bureau is, at least at this time, strictly a propaganda tool for the "Greens".

4- It should be pointed out that the Green color of the Mousavi campaign represents his descent from Prophet Mohammad. It has nothing to do with the environmental movement.

5- The above report states that Mousavi, "... 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,'", Mousavi is quoted. Then it goes on to say that the first demand of the Mousavi group is "Refusal to recognize the Ahmadinejad administration".

The Constitution provides for presidential elections every four years. The law places the responsibility for carrying out the election on the Ministry of the Interior. The Guardian Council (headed by Rafsanjani, the strongest supporter of Mousavi) certifies the candidates and then certifies the election.

Despite the disagreements about the result, those who want to carry on a movement within the law and constitution have to follow the law and accept the Constitution. For example, in the US 2000 elections, many members of the Democratic Party believed and still believe the election was stolen. However, once they followed the legal process available to them and the Supreme court approved the election of Bush, Gore conceded the election and the Democrats called Bush president of the country. They continued their opposition to Bush policies via legal means. Mr. Mousavi claims he respects the Constitution but does not accept the ruling of the Guardian council, which for Iran elections, operates as the Supreme Court.

6- It is claimed here that "Mousavi's wife, scholar Zahra Rahnavard, had championed equal legal rights for women during his campaign".

First of all, why is the position of a candidate's wife relevant? It is the platform of the candidate that counts. This would especially be the case in a country like Iran, where the wives are not traditionally a part of the campaign. Even in the US, Betty Ford had a pro-choice position while her husband, President Jerry Ford, did not.

In addition, Zahra Rahnavard has been a strong proponent of compulsory Hejab. After the Revolution, she published her book _Hejab, the message of a Moslem Woman_, translated into English as _The Beauty of Concealment_, where she writes about the political importance of Hejab and states that the Islamic women should wear the Hejab as a symbol of their opposition to Imperialism.

In addition, since there has been no clear platform by Mousavi on the rights of women, the general statement does not mean anything. Which rights are they going to expand?

During the last 4 years:

The law of inheritance has been changed so that wives now inherit real estate. Previously, the wife only inherited personal property from her husband (it should be pointed out that daughters do inherit real estate from their father). The inheritance law is based on Sharia which was the law of inheritance in Iran before the Islamic Revolution as well. This is the first time that the law has been changed to the benefit of women.

The punishment of stoning for adultery (although very rarely practiced in far away small towns or villages), which had been codified in the Islamic Republic Law, has been recently repealed.

Homemakers' work has begun to be recognized the same way as other work for purposes of social security (a more progressive law on this than the US, for example, has).

7- With regard to the claim of fraud in election:

We have yet to see any specific complaint, data, or information regarding the "fraud".

However, there are some facts that can be seen as good evidence that the election was honest. We know for a fact that there were fourteen observers at each polling place, including candidates' representatives and local people of good repute, who checked the empty boxes at each polling station, observed the sealing of the empty boxes, were present during the voting, the opening of the boxes and the counting, and signed off on the propriety of each step and the correctness of the tallies. The Interior Ministry publishes the on its web site, the vote counts, polling station by polling station. If there were any discrepancies between the published numbers and the numbers agreed by the observers in any polling station, any of the observers from that station could speak up. Yet we have not heard one such charge by any of the almost 60,000 election observers.

Simin / July 24, 2009 2:34 PM

Commentator "GG" says, in response to a comment by Masood-e-Nazemzadeh, ". . . and by the way do you [know] what [the] people of Iran are fighting for???? (ah yes I know that you're Iranian your name, Masood Nazemzadeh, clearly indicates that.)"

Well, GG, perhaps Agha-ye Nazemzadeh, because of his Iranian name, does know what the Iranian people are fighting for. However, other readers, such as myself, for example, might not know. Would you please enlighten us?

And are all the people fighting? And are all the people "fighting" or striving for the same objectives? Maybe the vast majority of the poor have used their vote as their means to work for what they want, and are not using violence. And maybe they want the "justice stocks" and the other economic leveling measures advocated during the campaign by Ahmadinejad.

(For some more points on the controversy related to the election, please refer to http://women4peace.org/ ).

Jack W. / July 24, 2009 2:53 PM

For the past thirty years, those of us whose love for the "true Iran" and the Persian heritage has remained free of stains inflicted upon our souls by the descendants of the Arab conquers of the Arabian Peninsula, have witnessed the depletion of our treasury, the destruction our culture, and the murdering of our youth by the followers of an ideology who cares very little or none for human dignity. Just as their master deceiver (Khomeini) filled the naive and thirsty minds and hearts of the Iranians with lies and promises of an "Islamic Republic", human rights and respect, and economic equality, his pupils Khamenei, Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Ahmadinejad, have proudly fulfilled his dream of deceiving the Iranian people into believing that Islam and democracy can actually coexist. He must be dancing in his grave with the result of the so called Presidential election, and could not be any prouder of his legacy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

With 1.2 billion believers, in 44 of the 194 countries in the world, Islam is the second largest faith. Ironically, since the founding of this religion nearly a millennium and a half ago, not one of these countries has been able to establish, promote, and nurture a political system that would even slightly resemble a democracy. More importantly, this "dark age" belief whose roots are so deeply embedded in the nomadic tribal traditions of the Bedouins of North African and the Arabian Peninsula is inherently incapable of granting individual freedom to its people. The recent Arab conquers of Iran, following the tradition of their ancestors, without any regard to the human dignity of the Iranian people, have continued the path (set forth by their master deceiver) of destruction of Iran and its cultural heritage. Iran meant nothing to Khomeini, nor does it to any of his pupils. Ahmadinejad, having just stolen the presidential election from his rival (Mousavi, the "accidental leader" of the movement) is the poster child of this barbaric regime whose thirst for power has resulted in the importation of commanders of the Lebanese Hezballah to quash the freedom movement in Iran and to kill our Nedas. What we are witnessing in Iran right now is nothing short of what our ancestors endured at the hands of Omar and his thugs. The killing of the innocent freedom seekers in Iran today is no different than the annihilation of the entire population of Iranian towns and villages by the Arab armies nearly a thousand and a half ago. Words spoken by the head of the Revolutionary Guards ("we will crush the movement") are the words uttered by Omar at the eve of invasion of Iran. The taking of the wounded from the hospitals today is the repeat of the public display of the bodies of the brave Persians who refused to live under the oppression of the Arabs yesterday. Just as a leopard is incapable of changing its spots, so is the nature of this brutality. The Arab conquerors, the Mongols, the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge, the Serbian nationalists, and the Islamic Republic of Iran all have the same spots. Many times in the past, they have appeared in different locations, but their presences have resulted in the same agony, despair, destruction, and human suffering. Omar, Genghis Kahn, Hitler, pol pot, Milosevich, Khomeini, Khamenei, and Ahmadinejad, are the children of Cain whose hunger for power drove him to madness and the slaying of his own blood. Streets and the back alleys of Iran today are filled with the cries of ghosts of innocent freedom seekers of the ancient Iran, the Jewish Ghettos of the Nazi Germany, Kosovo, Neda and her likes, and every soul whose voice was once silenced by oppression. The events of the past few weeks in Iran have revealed the true nature of the Iranian regime to the world. The EU and the U.S. can no longer claim their neutrality. These countries must seize their dealings with a regime whose future is as clear as the printed history of their own pasts. The typical "lip service" to the Iranian people is no longer the option. The wait and see attitude is not acceptable. We owe it to our fallen heroes to carry their legacy until total freedom from this oppressed ideology is achieved. We must continue to engage others in this discussion. This is our fight, but it is a fight in which others much at stake. We will continue to fight against the butchers of Iran with our pens and our voices until the day when the world will once again recognize that the motto of Iran is Good Thoughts, Good Words and, Good Deeds.

Forever Iran

Masood Nazemzadeh / July 25, 2009 9:15 AM