IRANIANS COLD TO THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC

PARIS, 11 Feb. (IPS) The Islamic Republic marked on Wednesday the 25th anniversary of its foundation by Grand Ayatollah Roohollah Khomeini amidst general indifference in Iran and anti-regime demonstrations by the Iranian Diaspora in several American and European cities.

Contrary to the Iranian media, mostly the official and the semi-officials that hailed "the mass participation" of Iranians in the celebrations, independent journalists observed the "quasi indifference" of the public for the ceremonies, preferring to use the extended week end holiday to go to sunny and warm cities on the Persian Gulf or the popular Caspian Sea’s resorts.

"Despite streets being illuminated by colourful lanterns, crowns of flowers and gigantic posters, the majority of the Iranians remain indifferent to the festivities", Ms. Delphine Minoui, the correspondent of the French centre of the right newspaper "Le Figaro" said in a lengthy dispatch from the Iranian Capital.

"I refused to go to the ceremonies because I realise that all the promises made by this regime from the start up until today came to be a big lie", the brother of a martyr killed on the battlefront of the bloody War against Iraq told "The Irish Times" of Dublin.

In a speech pronounced on the occasion, the embattled Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami warned that "if pressures on the people became insupportable, one not only has betrayed the people and the Revolution, but also provoke damages that would be difficult to compensate, if not impossible".

Repeating accusations and criticism against the West and defending the Islamic Revolution for "teaching the world about real and true democracy and freedom" as well as the action of his government, Mr. Khatami also called for "free and fair" elections.

However, he avoided touching the recent electoral crisis that had marred the commemoration of the victory of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 as well as addressing the slightest criticism to the leader-controlled Council of the Guardians for rejecting the majority of incumbent reformist lawmakers from running for the seventh Majles.

To protest the decision, more than a hundred deputies of the reformist faction of the Majles staged a sit-in and cabinet ministers threatened of mass resignation, but not only they faced apathy from the public, but were also abandoned by Mr. Khatami, now dubbed by many Iranians as "the Judah".

As A result of the stand off, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the country’s largest political formation that is led by Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami, the younger brother of the powerless President and one of the disqualified candidates decided not to take part in the polls.

"Badly deceived by the Islamic justice, democracy and freedom promised by Grand Ayatollah Roohollah Khomeini, the Iranians have now serious doubts about the religious-based government as well as about the compatibility of religion and democracy, as defended by President Mohammad Khatami", observed the relatively authoritative American newspaper "The Christian Science Monitor".

"Times have changed", she quoted Massoumeh, a former Moslem militant, remembering that at the time, Khomeini had succeeded in uniting all groups (opposed to the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi). "Even my friends of left were bewitched by the leader's words" she says, adding: For us, he embodied this model of wisdom that one was looking for a long time. I still have difficulty to explain this magic attraction that all would have for him".

Today, Massoumeh stood back. She has exchanged the black chador against a simple scarf and she enrolled, four years ago in the class of Mr. Abdolkarim Soroush, a religious intellectual, a former member of the Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution in charge of the islamisation of the universities turned one of the theoreticians the more in vogue of "post-Islamism".

Defending a "personal Islam", he now rejects in block the embodiment of the religion and dare to question the concept of velayate faqih, or the corner stone of the Iranian theocratic system based on the supreme jurisdiction incarnated by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i after the death of the Grand Ayatollah in 1989, she wrote.

He is not the only one, Ms. reported, adding: In the holy city of Qom as well as in Tehran, many thinkers dare to question the narrow relation between politics and the religion. "We come back from afar", she quoted Mr Hamid Reza Jalaïpour, professor of social studies in Tehran.

"Twenty-five years ago, many of us would believe that theocracy could solve all problems. But one can see that since the revolution, the number of faithful didn't increase, the mosques didn't become more popular and the State is not more efficient", Mr. Jalaipour, the publisher of several reformist dailies all shut down by the leader-controlled Judiciary says.

Many of the former radicals are now among today’s reformers. Abbas Abdi, to mention him only, one of the "mentors" of hostage taking at the American embassy Tehran in November 1979 reached fame more than a year ago by the publication of a "shock" poll that revealed that three quarters of the Iranians were in favour of the resumption of the dialogue between Iran and America. His investigation provoked the grumbles of the conservative justice that sent it behind the bars.

"This revolution allowed us to experiment the religious fundamentalism. This is an important achievement in relation to our neighbouring countries that discovers it only now", Mr. Jalaipour went on, noting that "today, the opening on the world and democracy is unavoidable in Iran".

"It is the fight of the ideological Islam against the cultural and tolerant Islam", commented Mr. Masha’llah Shamsolva’ezine a writer and journalist who, according to Ms. Minoui, "even dares to skim the word of "secularism".

"This activist of the reformist press who now heads the Association for the Defence of the Rights of Journalists knows what he talks about: He has just been again called by a tribunal to give some accounts for "spreading of untrue information". The man, who knew the jail during eighteen months says, "After this painful experience that was the Revolution, the Iranian society is reaching its maturity", Le Figaro said.

But, according to Mr. Qasem Sho’leh Sa’di, a former Member of the Majles, "from reforms as promised by Mr. Khatami, Iranians are now demanding radical changes". ENDS 25 ANNIVERSARY 11204