On January 25, the Islamic Republic of Iran closed down Hamshahri, the nation's largest-circulation daily. In just the first three weeks of this year, the regime had already shuttered five other reformist dailies. Robert Ménard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, commented, "At this rate, the non-conservative press will simply disappear in Iran." Over five years into President Khatami's reign, not only has he yet to implement a single reform, but Iranians are less free than they've ever been since the cultural revolution, purges, and prison massacres of the 1980s.
The Iranian people's
struggle for freedom and democracy faces two primary obstacles. Inside Iran,
the vast majority of students, workers, women, and, increasingly, even the
clergy are confronting a brutal regime that has no respect for human rights
and dignity. And outside the Republic, Iranians must face interest-driven
governments, lobby groups with shady funding, and an American journalistic
and academic community far more interested in access than in honest reporting
and scholarship. Taken together, these groups help to legitimize the Iranians'
Iranians have been imprisoned, tortured, executed, and stoned to death. Ironically, public executions have risen proportionately with European trade. Nevertheless, just as disenfranchised Polish shipyard workers once arose to challenge a brutal dictatorship, today we are seeing ever more frequent protests by tens of thousands of Iranians who are using every opportunity to show their hatred for the Islamic regime. Just as Hungarians, Czechs, and Poles were willing to stare down their dictators' guns for freedom, Iranians are coming out to say with an almost unanimous voice that they no longer have any faith in the Islamic regime's so-called reformist movement. They want a secular democratic system, not a watered-down theocracy.
For over two decades
including in recent weeks Khatami himself has asserted that
he will only accept "an Islamic democracy." Nice-sounding words
to English-speakers, perhaps, but the Iranians themselves know better.
In the pages of the official newspaper Keyhan, Khatami explained
that in an Islamic democracy, only those with a seminary education should
be allowed to participate fully. If only Vatican-approved priests with
a long seminary education were allowed to run for the U.S. presidency,
would anyone in their right mind call the United States a democracy?
Mohammad Parvin is an adjunct professor at the California State University and director of the Mission for Establishing Human Rights in Iran.
P.O. Box 2037
P.V.P., CA 90274
Tel: (310) 377-4590
Fax: (310) 377-3103
MEHR is a tax-exempt,
501 C (3), organization and
all contributions are tax deductible
MEHR's Home Page.