PARIS, 7 Apr. (IPS) “The events in Georgia, Ukraine and recently in Kyrgyzstan have spirited the people on Iran, mostly the young generation and dispirited the authorities, mostly the leadership that is thrown in full crisis, as it sees similar dictatorships relying on the bayonet have crumbled in one night and evaporated”, confirmed a dissident students leader.
Speaking with the Iran Press Service from Tehran during a short leave from prison, Mr. Amir Abbas Fakhravar of the Confederation of Independent Iranian Students (CIIS) that fights for a secular, democratic system based on a freely elected Parliament expressed support for the proposal of boycotting the coming presidential elections and turning the occasion into a referendum for changing the present Iranian political system, as suggested recently by Mr. Abbas Amir Entezam.
Mr. Fakhravar was Sentenced by Bench 26 of the Revolutionary Court on November 2002 to eight years in prison for criticising Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the Islamic Republic in his book Inja Chah Nist ('This Place is not a Ditch'), short listed for the 2001/2002 Paolo Coelho Literary Prize.
When one reaches the conclusion that nothing can be reformed under the present political system, the only answer is boycotting the elections and pushing for referendum.
Following a period of leave from Evin prison he was ordered to appear in court on 18 March for an appeal hearing. When he appeared he was denied representation by his lawyers. After an argument with the judge he was beaten in front of Bench 26 before being transferred to prison. It is thought that he may have been targeted for writing an open letter to the authorities on 4 February 2003 criticising the Iranian government and demanding a referendum on the future government of Iran
Bellow come large excerpts from the interview:
Iran Press Service – What is your appreciation of the proposal from Mr. Abbas Amir Entezam concerning the boycott of the elections and turning it into a national referendum?
Amir Abbas Fakhravar – We have a great esteem for Mr. Amir Entezam. Not only he is a man of principle, but he has also the merit of expressing his views clearly, as seen from his latest proposal, and firm on his positions. More over, he has always been one step ahead of the others.
We at the Confederation of Independent Iranian Students have proposed two years ago the boycott of all elections and for this reason, we fully support Mr. Amir Entezam.
When one reaches the conclusion that nothing can be reformed under the present political system, that the regime has no capacity and potentials of accepting any change, the only answer is what Mr. Amir Entezam has proposed: boycotting the elections and pushing for referendum.
However, knowing that the rulers would not accept the project and would not allow international observers to supervise the referendum, knowing by experience that this regime has no respect for the wishes of the people, we in turn must concentrate on the referendum, a project difficult to achieve, but not impossible. Not only boycotting the elections is also our position, but we shall work hard for getting the best of this action.
IPS – Students have made the “Referendum, referendum, this is the slogan of the people” a generalised, national slogan. Nevertheless, for most of the people it is not clear what is the purpose of the referendum; what is going to be demanded from them?
AAF - That is quite right and this is one criticism we also have, asking why we should not express our goals clearly to the people? In 1979, people voted massively for a referendum without knowing exactly what was the Islamic Republic? They voted and less than two months latter, they badly regretted, because they (new leaders) had abused from people’s sentiments. This is no more possible, because people are awake and aware. The question asked from them in the referendum now must be clear: Do you accept the Islamic Republic, yes or not? This is the question people would be asked.
Because Iran is at the centre of world’s attention, because the world is looking at Iran, we have a historic, but very short occasion to be on the world’s stage. It is upon us to make the best use of this unique occasion to expose our aspirations, our demands and our wishes. In one word, to tell the world that by referendum, we want liberalism, pluralism, democracy, human rights and secularity.
IPS – Do you think recent events in Ukraine and in Kyrgyzstan can affect Iranian people and authorities?
AAF – Have no doubt on that. Already we can see the impact in the streets, on the people, on the youngsters as well as on the officials. One of the latest jokes is this: “Let’s go choose colour”, in reference to the colours of these recent revolutions. These events have spirited the people, mostly the young generation and at the same time dispirited the authorities, mostly the leadership that is thrown in full crisis, as it sees visibly how similar dictatorships relying on the bayonet have crumbled in one night and finished.
When a regime has not a popular backing, it can fall or melt like snow in the sun.
This shows that when a regime has not a popular backing, it can fall; it can melt like snow in the sun. These lads know that in order to live and survive a regime must have both domestic and international legitimacy, something that this regime has neither.
As I said, these colourful revolutions have a deep impact on the Iranian leadership, they have warned them that if they continue to discard and ignore the wishes and demands of their people, they should pack the soonest possible and leave for a country that would give them shelter.
IPS – Don’t you think that if in Iran people do not move quickly, there would be no colour left?
AAF – Concerning the colours, I have to say that if in some nations where the colourful revolution took place and succeeded, it was because a minimum of freedom and space existed for the opposition to air its views while in Iran, there is no freedom at all for the opponents. In May 1997, one tried to bring about a peaceful change and we, students, we were among the front runners in experiencing the first colour revolution in the region.
By standing behind the reformists and President Mohammad Khatami, we offered them the occasion to start and advance a peaceful, non violent revolution, but the leadership took the hard line and threw so many stones that now, they should expect harvesting what they planted: violence.
The repression that exists in our country is unparalleled. Where people would be jailed for an innocent open letter, for an interview with a foreign-based radio station, for writing an article or simply for screaming out?
When crackdown culminates such peaks, the possibility for the people to make a colourful revolution become impossible.
In Iran, prison is always the first choice, not the last. Don’t you remember how a prosecutor (Sa’id Mortazavi) killed a photo-journalist (Ms. Zahra Kazemi) without daring to answer anyone? Few days ago, after the soccer match between Iran and Japan, I saw myself riot police charging people for no reason. Why?
When crackdown culminates such peaks, the possibility for the people to make a colourful revolution become impossible, leaving them no other way than violence, the one that the Iranian leadership, thanks to its mistakes, have placed in front of the Iranians. When the great majority of the nation calls for radical changes, if the authorities do not respond positively, they would face the wrath of the people.
IPS – What is your expectation from the international community?
AAF – First, we have to explain them our demands, speaking clearly and with one voice. The world is watching us carefully and follows closely the developments here. When (State Department Secretary) Ms. Condoleezza Rice speaks about Iran, I have the impression that she has lived in this country for many years, that she knows Iran like the palm of her hands, that she knows our youngsters, that she is aware of our demands.
Of course, we know that some European nations have economic interests in Iran, that they have made great investments here. But these countries should be told that a free, democratic and secular Iran ruled by wise leaders can be a much better partner for them, as it would be a connecting bridge between a productive Europe and a consuming Asia. Our brothers and sisters in Europe and in the world must be told that in Iran lives children that born sad and depressed and live miserable. That school children in the Islamic Republic are brainwashed, instructed to kill others, to shed blood, to register for suicide operations.
Such an Iranian individual will not permit them to live in peace and security. If they want to live in peace and security, if we also have the right to live in peace and security, they ought to think other wise about their relations with the present Iranian regime, starting by putting aside their short term economic interests.
If this regime had been able to survive it is because it jumped into the arms of the Soviet Union during the cold war period and now Russia and Europe. Therefore, it is to the interests of the free world to act together and unify its action in not permitting this regime to continue repression. If it does so, there would be no need for military intervention.
IPS – One major problem that is worrying the world and Europe, which is discussing with Iran, is the question of the Islamic Republic’s efforts to get nuclear weapon. Does the Iranians in general and the students in particular also thinks that this regime needs this arm in order to consolidate its power at home and its hegemony over the region?
AAF – First of all, one must ask what need do we have for such a weapon. What those that have this weapon have done with it? To day’s world does need nuclear warfare…
IPS … Why then the Islamic Republic is accused of doing its best and tries hard to get this arm. Why it can not convince the world that it is not after this weapon, as it claims?
AAF – This brings us back to the question of legitimacy. When a regime has no legitimacy at home and abroad, in order to survive, it has no other choice but to equip itself with weapons of mass destruction.
Besides, we live in a country filled with plenty of natural resources. To provide out people a decent, prosperous life, we even don’t need out oil. We can be a major tourist destination; we can use our natural gas, we can profit from our strategic geographic situation…
IPS – Does Iranians believe the authorities claim that they are not after the nuclear weapon, that they want atomic energy for peaceful, civilian uses only, like producing electricity?
AAF – I can tell you very frankly that if the present rulers come out in broad daylight telling people that it is noon time and the sun is shining, people would not believe them and go saying it is full night. They have so much lied that if they explain that 2+2=4, the people would say the result is five, or three. By the way, do you know what nickname the people have bestowed over the spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry? (Hamid Reza Asefi): Mr. Takzib, or deny, because he always denies everything.
In one word, not only the people do not believe the claim, (that eh nuclear technology is for civilian use) but also are of the view that we don’t need nuclear weapons.
IPS – Several political figures and analysts are of the opinion that in case Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani enter the presidential elections, he would win the race and once president, one can tell a requiem for referendum, for, according to these people, in order to consolidate the system, he has already made some behind the scene arrangements with the Americans like normalisation of relations in the one hand and on the other, to appease the people, he would give some limited freedoms. What is your assessment?
AAF – I don’t have such a worry. A quick look at the world’s developments confirms my view. What kind of deal Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani can ink with the Americans? What he can offer the Americans against their clemency towards the Islamic Republic?
What is important for the United States is its security and that of its allies and here I have to repeat once again and loudly that this regime is exporting terrorism, that youngsters in this country are being brainwashed and prepared for suicide operations, that they are taught to consider all does who do not think like them as an enemy that must be killed.
The other point is that like us, America and the free world’s time period to solve their problems (with the Islamic Republic) is also very short and like us, if they do not make the best use of the massive investments they have done in this region, the stink would be propagated to the entire region, making them loose whatever they have achieved. I seriously think both they (the Americans) and the world are well aware and would not sacrifice their gains to minor benefits a Hashemi Rafsanjani would offer them. ENDS FAKHRAVAR 7405
Editor’s note: Born in 1975 and single, Mr. Amir Abbas Fakhravar is serving an eight years imprisonment, on charges of insulting the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i.
He experienced his first jail when 17 year old and was imprisoned 18 times since.
He has been exiled several times to remote areas in Iran, abducted and thrown in unknown prison in Oroumiyeh (north-eastern Iran) and tortured.
Students at law faculty, he was forced to abandon studies. Evin is my residency.
Has collaborated with several reformist newspapers, wrote three books, including “Here is Not a Ditch”. After newspapers in Iran reported that the book was presented to the Paulo Coelho Literary Award, security forces raided his house and office and took all the copies, but a diskette was saved, sent abroad, where the book was translated into English and published.
“Lost Prison Papers” is a collection of life and tortures in Iranian prisons.