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Gathering Winds of Change in Iran By: Reza Bayegan
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Islamic Republic has been in a political coma for quite some time. Now this coma has become irreversible. The political system that came to power with a bang is whimpering towards the twilight. Many combinations needed to effectuate the disintegration of the clerical dictatorship are rapidly falling into place and setting the stage for the enforcement of the kind of people’s power the world witnessed in Georgia in 2003 and currently in Ukraine.

Hopeful signs have created a sense of urgency amongst opposition groups, and those preparing to present Iranians with a viable political option in the post-mortem of the Islamic Republic. The listlessness and despair of the past few years, or even few months, have given way to a heightened sense of readiness and vitality. The end of last month witnessed a significant move by prominent Iranian dissidents and human rights activists. They called for the organization of a nationwide referendum to convene a constituent assembly and draft a new constitution.


Underlining the impossibility of reforming the present political system, the signatories to this appeal champion the principle of democratic governance based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They argue that a truly democratic constitution will inter alia be able to foster a badly needed trust environment with the international community. For the first time, this move has brought together leading Iranian figures of various political persuasions, as well as Iranian citizens from all walks of life. The number of people joining this national movement from within Iran and outside is absolutely unprecedented.


The creativity and vibrancy of the opposition at the moment stands in sharp contrast with the low morale and ineptitude of the Islamic regime whose each and every vital organ is quickly disintegrating. It has fallen apart politically, economically, socially, ideologically, and morally. The country is infected by poverty, crime, drug addiction, prostitution, and human rights abuse in the hands of rulers who have based their raison d’être and legitimacy on the claim that they are the best spiritual healers the world over. In the huge gulf between the ethical high ground from which the regime has talked down to the people, and the dire reality faced everyday by ordinary Iranians, lies the ship of the Islamic state, wrecked and unsalvageable.


The discrepancy between rhetoric and reality has become evident even to the diehard band of fanatics and anti-western fundamentalists who form the backbone of the regime. They feel humiliated on account of what many of them consider to be a giving-in to the Europeans on the nuclear issue. Their disillusion was echoed last week by Ali Larijani, member of the Supreme Security Council of the Islamic Republic who referring to nuclear agreement in Paris said: “In that agreement we gave rare pearl and received a bon-bon instead.” For a regime that thrives on political bravado and was particularly using the issue of reaching nuclear capability to boost its internal prestige, that is quite a hard blow. This, and many similar disillusionments will make it much more difficult for the theocratic dictatorship to count on the support of its spiritless followers when people pour into the streets to call for fundamental political change.


That process actually began in May 1997 - the day people turned out on a massive scale to vote against the status quo by electing a President who ran on the putative platform of supplanting it with a civilized democracy. Instead of doing that however, Mohammad Khatami kept the clerical dictatorship artificially alive on the life-support machine of illusory reform, and proved that the political system of the Islamic Republic is incapable of accommodating any real change.


Today, the presence of the signature of many prominent reformists on the appeal for a national referendum is a clear sign that Iranians have gained valuable lessons from the political experience of the past seven years. They have learned that the only way they can achieve their democratic aspirations and political freedom is by moving beyond the present system. There are hopeful signs that what no military strike on selected targets by any outside power could ever accomplish in Iran, can be realized by a broad national consensus of all those Iranians who put their country ahead of their particular political leaning. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair was the first Western leader who reacted positively to this initiative when he was asked yesterday (November 29, 2004) by Radio VOA about the National Appeal for Referendum in Iran. He replied, “We support those who would like the same democratic rights as we have here.”


The momentum is building up for peaceful political change in Iran, let’s pray it moves in the right direction by those who will emerge as its leaders.

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