A Referendum for Iran?

By M. Parvin
FrontPageMagazine.com | February 22, 2005

The Islamic Regime of Iran knows well that it is not wanted by the majority of the Iranian people. It is true that it has survived for twenty six years by repression and help of the interest-driven Iranians and western power. But, in spite of all these obstacles, the freedom-loving Iranians have resisted and have not allowed this brutal regime to stabilize. The Iranian people are still resisting, and that is why we are witnessing daily imprisonments, tortures and executions by the Islamic Regime. This regime knows better than anybody else that is hated by the people and will never yield to a referendum request expressed by some of the so-called “reformists.”

Of course, referendum can be used as a challenge to the Islamic Regime of Iran (IRI) and all those who consider any legitimacy for it.  When we claim that IRI has no legitimacy and does not represent the majority of Iranians, we can qualify our claim by challenging those who think otherwise to an internationally monitored referendum. 

To avoid any misunderstanding, we also need to emphasize that IRI will never dare to accept such challenge. At this stage, referendum is just a tactic and nothing more.    The type of referendum that is introduced by Sazgara, et al, is not of this nature. Sazgara, the main architects of the referendum, was a close ally of Khomeini and an advocate of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He was one of the founders of the Islamic regime's Elite guard , and a former candidate of the Islamic presidency. In recent years he has turned to a critic of the hardliners and was arrested in June 2003, during a wave of student unrest in Tehran and was detained for 114 days.

At first, he and others proposed the “referendum”  as a means of changing the Iranian constitution. It was argued that this referendum would be an alternative to violent actions.   When the obvious question was raised as to how this bloody regime would yield to the will of the people expressed by internet clicking, the architects of this referendum and other supporters resorted to contradicting arguments and finally ended up saying that we just want to have a “dialog about referendum.” 

Proposing a referendum, as a practical alternative to violent action and reducing it to dialog, has the dangerous potential of diverting the attentions from the real alternative, which is civil disobedience. In fact, such diversion could be the only outcome of this referendum. 

Considering the above argument, it should not be surprising that the main architects of this deadly project are people like Sazgara, Maleki, and those from the Unity Consolidation Office (the real name is Office for Consolidation among students and shia’ clerics). At best, and even if we assume that they have been “reformed”, what they are seeking is a watered-down Islamic regime.   They have articulated their wish for transformation of present theocracy to a “good” one in many writings and interviews as I have referenced in my recent Persian articles. 

And, as to the supporters of referendum outside Iran , all those who supported Khatami have found another excellent avenue to pursue their non-action policy, and leave it all to the will of the regime itself. You can hardly find any of the Khatami’s supporters not to be among the supporters of referendum. It brings me sorrow to say that, in my opinion, the rest of the referendum supporters are some frustrated politicians, writers, poets, and “intellectuals” who have no idea how to deal with the Islamic Regime. 

Fortunately, the supporters of referendum have been left isolated and people inside Iran have not shown much interest at all.  Contrary to what I was afraid of at the beginning, they have learned a lesson from the 2nd Khordad event, and they won’t be manipulated and deceived by another one. The number of signatures announced has no credibility because the Internet method adopted for voting is not verifiable.  One can create thousands of Yahoo accounts and vote as many times.  For example, signature numbers 24188 (Ali Kaazeb) and 24189 (Mohammad Kaazeb) on the 60000000.com site are both me! You may send e-mails to alikaazeb@yahoo.com and mkaazeb@yahoo.com, and I will respond! 

Contrary to what some people have suggested, I don’t believe that President George Bush should endorse this referendum to demonstrate his sincerity about real change in Iran .  To put his words into action, all he needs to do are a few simple things: 

·          Acknowledge the fact that the freedom-loving Iranians want a secular democratic regime and are against the entirety of the Islamic Regime, its constitution, and any form or shape of the interference of religion in state. 

·          Impose a smart sanction against the Islamic Regime of Iran. This sanction should be a real one and not of the type that would exclude 200 American companies such as Halliburton and General Electric.   A sanction that does not have any loopholes and does not allow Halliburton or GE to stay in Iran for another five years to finish their current obligations (obligations to whom?). 

·          Reduce the diplomatic relations with the Islamic Regime to the lowest possible level. 

·          Apply the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act indiscriminately and do not allow the IRI lobby groups such as AIC and individuals like Senator Biden to legitimize a terrorist regime. 

If the U.S. wants to show support for the Iranians, it should respect the above few wishes.  It is achievable and comes at no cost to the American people. The rest will be done by the Iranians.  If the Iranian people see that they have to confront only the Islamic regime and not the entire world, they will be more encouraged to organize and learn how to use the weapons of nonviolence actions and civil disobedience more effectively against their enemy.  There are people like those in MEHR group, who have spent several years to learn the philosophy and techniques of the nonviolence actions and love to share it with all the Iranians who struggle for a secular democracy in Iran . We had actually started our workshops on civil disobedience, but “Dialog of referendum” undermined that activity.  We will start again. 

As Gene Sharp, the pre-eminent authority on strategic nonviolent struggle articulated in an interview that I had with him last week, referendum, at best, falls within the category of negotiation.   And negotiation can never persuade this monstrous regime to abdicate its power. So let us start from where we all know the referendum will stop and stage a real fight. It is a hard one but Iranians can do it.

Mohammad Parvin is an adjunct professor at the California State University and director of the Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran (MEHR) - http://mehr.org

Original Source: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=17094

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