DoctorZin Note: This referendum proposal is dividing the Iranian expatriate community. Please also see 70000000.com
We Support Democracy in IranDecember 21, 2004
Iran va Jahan
Foad Pashaie and Pooya Dayanim
Today the authors and the organizations they represent will lend our collective credibility and political weight to an appeal that calls for a national referendum in Iran under international supervision to draft a new constitution and adopt a new system of government that is in compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all its associated covenants by adding our signatures to this appeal
The appeal for a national referendum has won support from almost all strands of the political spectrum. The signatories to the appeal include intellectuals, clerics, students, liberals, republicans, those who seek reform of the current Islamic Republic, and supporters of a constitutional monarchy. The referendum was drafted in vague terms on purpose to win the support of the various groups. The appeal has also been signed by some controversial figures, including a founding member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Several genuine leaders of the monarchist, nationalist, and student movements have boycotted this call for a national referendum. They correctly point out that several of the signatories to the appeal are individuals who supported the Islamic Republic early in its inception or continued to support the regime as so-called "reformers," who wanted to reform the system under Khatami to save it. They see this idea of a referendum as another trick by the regime's propaganda machine to buy themselves time, just like they did when Khatami was elected president in 1997. They do not want the opposition or opposition figures to be tainted by signing onto the same appeal that bears the signatures of these figures.
To us, however, the terms of the call for the referendum are clear. The referendum calls for a new constitution and a new system of government. We view and interpret this language to mean one thing and one thing only: an end to the Islamic Republic of Iran. This interpretation is shared by the overwhelming number of the other signatories to this national appeal. It is under this interpretation that we are signing this appeal and lend our weight and credibility to it.
We will not allow this national movement to attempt to peacefully change the regime to be hijacked by the regime itself. Nor should the call for a national referendum be boycotted because of the signatures of several controversial characters. The people of Iran, once they are free, will decide what to with these figures. To change the regime in Iran, we have to allow those who initially supported the Islamic Republic (there were many) who have now been disillusioned by the regime to also participate in an attempt to bring about its demise.
We are not naive and are under no illusion that the Islamic Regime will accept the referendum or its results. However, we believe, that it is appropriate to support peaceful means of political expression such as a call for a national referendum.
Our support of a referendum is to spur and continue a debate on the future of Iran. Our support for a referendum will not divert us from other actions that must be taken in the months that lie ahead such as a call for the Iranian people to boycott the upcoming sham presidential elections in Iran in May of 2005 to show the whole world the illegitimacy of the Islamic Regime.
We also wish to make it clear that if the will of the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people to have a different system of government is not honored, we will support (as we have in the past) other means of political expression such as: peaceful civil disobedience; marches and protests; and strikes by students, laborers and other social groups.
We, along with the rest of the pro-democracy movement, support President Bush's vision of a democratic Middle East. In return, we wish to have the president's support for a free and democratic Iran. The president, however, has been quite quiet as of late. What we want from the Bush administration and Congress are not words but action. The Bush administration must engage Iran's pro-democracy movement and support those who are fighting for a free and democratic Iran. A genuine support of the Iran pro-democracy movement in all its permutations (students, political prisoners, journalists, religious freedom and human rights supporters, women's rights activists, etc.) is the only legitimate Iran policy that can be adopted by this administration.
Foad Pashaie is the Secretary General of the Constitutionalist Party of Iran, the largest political party outside of Iran. Pooya Dayanim is the President of the US-based Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee (IJPAC). The views expressed in this article are solely those of its authors and not necessarily of the respective institutions that they represent.