PARIS While the international attention is focused on Iran’s WMD program and the phoney presidential "election", most observers seem to be missing a veritable seismic popular movement for radical change.
With every passing day the number of people who dare to add their signature to those who are openly challenging the present Iranian political system and are asking for total boycott of the elections, scheduled for 17 June 2005, mounts. The mood of the country is rebellious. Last Sunday I was invited by VOA’s Persian language program to speak to a live interactive audience calling in from all parts of Iran. While everyone knows that these programs are recorded by the dreadful agents of the regime, no one seemed to care. They were unequivocally calling for a regime change. I was truly surprised by the universal vehemence of their condemnation of the ruling Mullahs.
People are unequivocally calling for a regime change in Iran.
Today practically every respectable Iranian political leader, in or out of jail, has condemned the forthcoming fraudulent exercise and has asked for a massive boycott. The university students throughout the country are holding sit-ins and teach-ins in support of the Boycott and the Referendum Movement.
After the massive disqualification of more than a thousand candidates by a group of non-elected Mullahs, there are eight hand-picked individuals left in the race. None of these candidates have any basis of support among the population. Half are present or former commanders of militia or other security forces accused of numerous acts of brutality against the dissidents. The candidate picked as “the most likely to succeed” is the former president Hashemi Rafsanjani who is re-running for the same office he vacated in 1997 while under international and domestic pressure for questionable financial, civil and criminal acts.
Akbar Ganji, the famous Iranian journalist who has been in Jail for the past six years for his daring investigative reports about Rafsanjani’s alleged criminal and financial activities has attracted a great deal of attention with his frequent news conferences. He is temporarily out of jail for medical reasons and as a result of a prolonged hunger strike. In his latest pronouncements, Ganji has asked the Supreme Leader, Ali Khameneh’i to stand for election as a presidential candidate. He says: “….after 15 years of absolute dictatorial rule you should not expect to keep your status for the rest of your life without testing your legitimacy in a free and fair election”. Ganji is openly calling for civil disobedience and challenges the opponents of the regime in their readiness to pay the price of dissidence.
There is a new sense of hope and determination in the air. Judging by the unprecedented open nature and the boldness of those challenging the ruling religious establishment, one can clearly see the impact of recent international as well as the regional events as an important factor in encouraging resistance. The opposition to the regime is gradually overcoming traditional political feuds and rivalries among various groups of dissidents inside and outside of Iran. The Referendum Movement with its simple and powerful message calling for joint action by all democratic forces under the banner of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights seems to be gaining ground.
Another newly organized internal group calling itself the “the third way,” is calling for the formation of a “democratic front.” Such movements within the country are using the occasion of the so-called “election” as a basis for the necessary organizational network for future acts of civil disobedience.
Their message is emphatically clear:
Aim: Regime Change
Method: Non-violent civil disobedience
Goal: Democratic Government. ENDS IRAN ELECTIONS 9605
Editor’s note: Dr. Fatemi is a senior professor of Economics at the American University of Paris and is the Editor of the Paris-based internet news service Iran va Jahan (Iran and the World).
This article was published in Iran va Jahan on 7 July 2005
Some editing and highlights are by IPS