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Why Rafsanjani is so important for the Greens

Six months ago in Mashad, Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani delivered a speech to a group of Iranian student activists saying: “If people want us, we will govern; and if they don’t, we will have to go.”

This might have seemed like nothing new, but it wasn’t coming from just anyone — it was said by Hashemi Rafsanjani,  Iranian cleric and a two-term Iranian president.  Still to this day known as one of the most powerful individuals in Iranian politics, Rafsanjani leads the body that has the power to unseat the Supreme Leader.

This one statement, coming from Rafsanjani, cracked the entire foundation of Velayat- e- Faghih — the rule of God’s representative over man and country.

Just a few days ago, Rafsanjani reiterated his statement when delivering a speech at the anniversary of a religious ceremony in Tehran. After welcoming his guests, Rafsanjani started speaking about the will of the people and how people are in charge of their own destiny. He said God will not take anyone to Heaven by force who doesn’t want to go himself; each person has the right to choose for him or herself the path he/she will take.

“We have to find the path of God ourselves with our own will. Our own will and that is what is important.”

These subtle political messages are common among Iranian clergies, and they regularly communicate with each other through speeches at different sermons, which can be extremely frustrating to an outsider. Rafsanjani later said:

“The path of good vs. evil has existed since the beginning of time and will continue to be around until the end of time. Humans have been and must continue to be responsible and free to choose their own path in this world.”

No wonder the hard-line conservatives have been severely attacking Rafsanjani lately. He has been around even before the Iranian revolution and has actively been one of the main pillars of the Islamic Republic establishment since its inception. At this point in time, though, he is coming to realize the incompatibility of the current establishment with the new Iranian generation and the democratic world.

He is aware that significant reforms will be needed in order for modern Iran to survive, which is exactly what the Green Movement has been saying for the past year. If the system does not bend with the demands of its people, then it will be just like what Rafsanjani said, but perhaps much harsher.

  • 7 May 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Who is Mousavi Challenging in His New Statement?

Mir Hossein Mousavi issued a statement just a few days ago calling for the implementation of each and every article of the Iranian constitution. According to Mousavi, the full implementation of the law is the only peaceful solution to the existing crisis in Iran, and he commits to this path forward.  His English translated statement can be found on his Facebook page. Mousavi’s official site – Kalameh – provides the full text in Persian.

Every single ignored or abandoned article of the constitution should be implemented

Mir Hossein Mousavi stressed that the full implementation of the constitution without any personal interpretations against the clear rulings of the constitution is the only solution for achieving national unity and reinstating the rights of all ethnics groups and said: “Every single ignored or abandoned article of the constitution should be implemented and if there is any issue in this matter that should be put to a referendum.”

Which abandoned articles of the Iranian constitution is Mousavi referring to, and what are the road blocks that he sees in this proposed path forward?

He is most likely challenging the full – unquestioned -authority of the Supreme Leader which even under the existing Iranian constitution is supposed to be monitored by the Khobregan Council; a council that because of the nature of its appointment by the bodies under the control of the Supreme Leader himself is unable to make a sound judgment in questioning the Leader himself.

Mousavi almost never talks about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly. The two have a history of a ferocious political fighting in the early days of the Iranian revolution, and it appears that neither of them is ready to move away from that history.

After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution, the Iranian constitution was amended and voted on. That was when the Absolute Guardianship of the Islamic Jurisprudence – Velayat e Motlagheye Faghih – was inserted into the Islamic Republic’s constitution. Almost overnight, Khamenei, a Hojatoleslam back then and  a man who was a subordinate of Mousavi in government was elevated to a position of an Ayatollah, and became the sole absolute power in the Islamic Republic. Thereafter, Mousavi disappeared from the political arena for twenty years.

Although the principle of Velayat Faghih is enshrined in the constitution, there also exist other chapters and articles that are supposed to monitor its performance.  But these articles are never enforced.

Being absent from the political arena in Iran, Mir Hossein Mousavi, “felt a sense of danger” as he called it, and re-entered politics to challenge the existing absolute authority. As opposed to American political culture — which can be much more direct or blunt —  the Iranian way of conducting politics is hidden beneath loads of sarcasm, metaphor, poetry, and peculiar Persian literature, which is another reason why it is so difficult for foreign governments to understand the Iranian side of the story.

But now Mousavi is back, and is challenging a twenty year old – undisputed – stronger-than-ever, absolute authority that appears to be more frustrated with its own inability to contain popular resentment.

Mousavi never refers to this personal authority by its name, but his subliminal messages appear more and more transparent as his movement progresses.

Letter from a Tehran Jail

In the New York Times today, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett–both of whom I deeply respect–argue that the protesters in Iran make up a small, demographically isolated minority of Iranian society, and their activities therefore have very little chance of enacting real, substantive change in Iran’s political system.  For evidence of the protest movement’s weakness, the authors pose three questions:

“First, what does this opposition want? Second, who leads it? Third, through what process will this opposition displace the government in Tehran?” 

Needless to say, none of the potential answers proves satisfactory.                                                                                                

The Leveretts are entitled to their opinion, sacrilegious as it may be to some.  But in downplaying and even denigrating the activities of Iran’s dissidents, I fear that they will have justified the accusations that are sure to be flung their way–accusations of acting as apologists for the government, of disparaging a courageous and non-violent protest movement, and even of siding with Iran’s violent regime. 

I am reminded of the Letter from a Birmingham Jailthe famous essay by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in which he decries the so-called “white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice,” more concerned with the negative peace of the status quo than with bringing about that which is right through urgent action.  By action, of course, Dr. King was talking about civil disobedience. 

Like the “white moderate” in King’s letter, the Leveretts do not dare pin their hopes on seismic changes righting Iran’s political injustices.  Instead, they recommend the US acknowledge the movement’s futility, embrace Iran’s current leaders, and secure America’s strategic interests through rapprochement.  But their cynicism, which dismisses a popular movement without a manifesto, charismatic leader, or strategic playbook, ignores the plain and simple fact that repressive governments are inherently unsustainable. 

People who have awoken to the dawn of a freer and more open society cannot be pushed backwards and kept permanently in darkness.  Like Dr. King, the Iranians who take part in the protest movement–even if they are a minority–engage in civil disobedience in order to “bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive” in their society.  Iranians have not always lived in fear of roaming militias or cyber-surveillance teams watching their every move online; nor have they been closed off to alternatives structures that value individual liberty over ideological fealty.

“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever,” King said. 

The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained.

In the case of Iranians, the “something within” is the long and arduous journey toward a democratic system of governance–a journey that began with the Constitutional Revolution in 1906, caught a fleeting glimpse of success with Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953, erupted chaotically in 1979, and has been brewing once again since June 12.  The “something without” is their forebears: Gandhi, Mandela, King, and Walesa.

I agree with the Leveretts’ conclusion that Iran’s government is not about to crumble under the pressure of the protest movement.  But I believe now more than ever before that democratic change in Iran is bound to occur eventually.  The events of the past seven months have revealed a conflict embedded deep within Iran that will not go away.  It might be suppressed for awhile, but it won’t be extinguished. The struggle for rights will continue, and, to paraphrase President Obama on the night of his election, the Iranian people will “put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”

NIAC Applauds House Members for Introducing 2 Pieces of Landmark Legislation

Both the “Stand with the Iranian People Act” and the “Iranian Digital Empowerment Act” Introduced Today

Contact: Phil Elwood
917.379.3787

For Immediate Release 

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council welcomes today’s introduction of the Stand with the Iranian People Act in the House of Representatives, and applauds the bill’s sponsors Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and William Delahunt (D-MA). As policy makers evaluate how best to resolve the nuclear issue and change the Iranian government’s behavior, it is imperative that the Iranian people not get lost in the debate.

Also introduced today was H.R. 4301, the Iranian Digital Empowerment Act, by Representatives Jim Moran (D-VA), Bill Delahunt (D-MA), and Bob Inglis (R-SC). This vital legislation will ensure that the Iranian people are not denied access to necessary tools for bypassing government spying efforts and communicating with each other and the outside world as they continue to make their voices heard.

CLICK HERE TO TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES TO SUPPORT THESE HISTORIC BILLS!

(Click here for a summary of SWIPA – English Version, Persian Version)

(Click here for a summary of IDEA – English Version, Persian Version)

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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