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"They have a saying in Tehran that when the women take part in a chaluk (riot) against a cabinet of the government, the situation has become serious."
Morgan Shuster- The Strangulation of Persia

Hojatol-Islam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami will take office on August 1, 1997 as the fifth president of the Islamic republic with a list of hot issues before him to tackle.

In the previous issue of Focus on Iran "Presidential Election In Iran", we discussed the seven power centers in Iran, all working around the gravity of the Supreme Theologian (Velayat-e-Faghih). These centers are: office of the Supreme Leader with its assortment of religious foundations and security apparatus, the President and his office, Rafsanjani-as chairman of the newly expanded Council for Discernment of Expediency, the Majlis (parliament), the Military, the Bazaar and, the People who are the most important emerging force since the May 23rd, presidential elections. In each of these seven centers, various clergymen belonging to different competing groups within the system exert their influence through their own clique. As long as the Supreme leader has control over those centers and the military obeys him, the status quo will remain un changed, bu t if one or two of those centers develop a centrifugal force the pillars of the system will loosen and the balance will be disturbed. For some time there would be a triangular power in the Islamic Republic, due to coming to office of Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, who was, for the first time elected with 70 percent of vote. Although the election took place in an undemocratic atmosphere and in the absence of freedom, the people, especially the youth and women, opposed Ayatollah Khamenei's favored candidate (Nateq Noori) and chose to vote for Khatami who when compared to Noori, seemed to be a moderate. Therefore, if in the May 23rd elections, Natcq Noori was preferred by the Supreme Leader, Mr. Khatami, on the other hand, was not the disfavored one, for he was not an outsider; he was among the 4 candidates screened, filtered and chosen by the Council of Guardians out of the 238 individuals registered.

We do not believe that the three top leaders (Khamenei, Khatami and Rafsanjani) could have a working relationship for long, and due to new circumstances.

namely the awareness of the people and change of the situation which developed in this election. the status quo could not remain stable.

How Mr. Khatami can handle the affairs of Iran is unknown. At present, Iran faces horrendous economic problems and is internationally isolated as an outlaw state due to - the political behavior of the present theocratic leadership, its support of domestic and international terrorism, its subversion of the peace process in the Middle East and its undermining of the moderate states in the region. The eighteen year rule of the Islamic Republic has proved to be a complete failure in domestic and international affairs of Iran, because of, The politico-religious system of the Supreme Theologian (Velayat-e-Faghih) and the Islamic Republic's Constitution which is squarely based on this undemocratic system; The oppression and violation of human rights and especially the rights of women;
The various Bonvads (foundations) under the sole control of various religious leaders who are subservient to the Supreme Leader.

Many are of the belief that the new president ought to establish meaningful relations with the West and especially the United States, ending the isolation of Iran and preparing a sound ground for rebuilding its shattered economy, but foremost, he must repeal the Fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini placing a bounty on Salman Rushdie's head, discontinue supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, abandon Iran's activities in acquiring or building of weapons of mass destruction and abrogate the Russian contract for building the nuclear power plant. Nobody can predict what will happen if the views and policies of the newly elected president contradict those of the Supreme Leader. Whether he can remain in power as subservient to the Leader or be removed. is yet dubious. If he is an integral part of the regime, which he indeed is, he may try to help the prolongation of a shaky, corrupt, and unpopular system .

The people of Iran have strongly indicated in their vote that they indeed are rejecting Velayat-e-Faghih. and will not permit the present situation - the dictatorship of clerics, to persist. One thing is certain - the time has come for the people to shape their destiny.
There are three possible scenarios in Khatami's presidency:

The system of government subsidies for basic foods, medicine and other essentials that cost $US 15 billion annually;
And the 3 percent population growth with a mere 1.5 percent economic growth;
fill in all, with continuing capital and managerial flight, there is no hope unless there is meaningful, real change.

How Mr. Khatami deals with these domestic and foreign policy problems of Iran and his attempts in solving them remains to be seen. How Mr. Khatami deals with different religious dinosaurs, each at the head of an important foundation which are governments within the government, how he will end Iran's isolation and improves the economy, how he terminates support to radical terrorists groups like Hezballah and deals with international communities, how he can terminate the training and indoctrination bases for terrorists situated in different parts of the country, how he intends to fight with corruption, and finally how he dismantles different religious foundations that control great parts of the economy, remains ambiguous.

1- Although Mr. Khatami, on the surface, seems to be a moderate, he is a cleric and most probably does not want to dismember the system and its Constitution which, he is an integral part of. The fact that the Guardian Council, a 12 member body appointed by the Supreme leader, permitted Mr. Khatami to run as a candidate, proves that he is committed to the theory of the Supreme Theologian or the Absolute Leader. Indeed several years ago he had authored an article entitled: "A Look at the Foundations of the Velayat-e-Faghih" . Mr. Khatami could not possibly wish to take actions which could result in the disintegration of the Islamic government. It may be suicidal for him to go against the system in which he served as a cabinet minister for a decade. Therefore, he could well remain loyal to the system and the ideology that was introduced by Ayatollah Khomcini. He might act according to wishes of Ayatollah Khamenei, or at best imitating the Communist China, carrying out paltry reforms along with a firm political control. It seems that, dissatisfaction of the people, the verdict of the Berlin court on the involvement of the Islamic Republic's top leaders regarding the assassination of Iranian kurdish leaders in 1992 in Germany, and the ongoing investigation of June 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, have been a source of great concern to Tehran's leadership. To divert attention of the domestic and world public opinion, Tehran regime has probably decided, at least temporarily, to modify its tactics for strategic gain, buying time and building its weapons of mass destruction, then continuing to promote the ideology of a radical Islam via hiding behind Khatami, the newly emerged "moderate".

Also, the clerical Government is hosting the December summit for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Iran. The leadership in Tehran has decided to hold this conference in a self-serving and pompous way to impress the Islamic world and establish the legitimacy of the Islamic revolution, with itself as the leader of the Muslim World. They desperately need the participation and the blessing of Saudi Arabia as the leader of Sunni Islam. This is another reason for Tehran's untiring attempts in devising a temporary rapprochement with Riyadh. That is precisely why Rafsanjani embraced Crown Prince Abdollah in March in Islamabad, and why the foreign minister, Velayati, visited Saudi Arabia to invite King Fahd to participate in the December Summit. Here we must recall the words of the Chinese strategic thinker, Sun Tzu, he proclaimed:
"when your rival's envoy comes and speaks in humble terms, but continues his preparation, he will advance".

It is possible that prior to the new president taking office, the clerical establishment could create a foreign crisis or form a new alliance to advance its goals as well as silencing Khatami, in essence forcing him to follow the policy of the Supreme Leader, Khamenei. The last diplomatic activities amongst Syria, Iraq and the Islamic Republic, indicate, as previously noted in Focus on Iran, that these three regimes are heading for the creation of an axis. In June 19, Tehran dispatched its health minister, Dr. All Reza Marandi to Iraq in order to pave the way for an entente between Tehran and Baghdad. Marandi also extended an invitation to Saddam Hossein to participate in the Islamic Summit which is going to be held in December in Tehran.

Saddam Hussein's incursion in the Iranian soil in September of 1980, and the consequent 8 year war, has resulted in the loss of life for over 500,000 Iranians, leaving more than 1000,000 others maimed, wounded and disabled, and last but not least, it has amassed an astronomic financial damage to the Iranian economy, estimated to exceed one trillion Dollars ($US 1,000,000,000,000). It is indeed incredible that
the Islamic Republic's leadership, knowing the extent of such severe sufferings, finds itself shamelessly seeking accommodations with Baghdad, without any compensation from the latter. It clearly demonstrates that the ruling clerics are prepared to advance their ideology, to stay in power at any cost, thus blatantly sacrificing the national and security interests of the nation.

2- Khatami might try, through minor reforms, to strengthen the Islamic system. This means economic reform with some degree of political change. His decision could and most probably will lead to more demands for broader reforms and the eventual disintegration of the system of Vclayat-e-Faghih and its Islamic Republic, consequently, the establishment of a secular government. This could bring a real threat to his survival from extreme conservative elements. Here, before the realization of any meaningful mutations, and any loss of control, radical clerics and specially the Supreme Leader might remove and/or sack him. The fate of the former president Banisadr, who left the country to save his life, might await him here.

3- Mr. Khatami may try to keep his promises and may take the side of the people and confront the Spiritual Leader and the radicals. In this situation, he might act according to the "Role Theory", namely, cease to be a "yes-man" of the Spiritual Leader, and modify his political behavior to meet the expectations of the people, and fight to the hilt to establish democracy and freedom as he promised Iranians during his election campaign. He knows that over 70 percent of the ballots, amounting to over 20 million people, were cast for him to play an independent role, to prepare the ground for freedom and participation and finally to bring an end to the gross violation of human rights. If he acts according to the Role Theory, two things could occur.

A- He will either be killed, or be forced out and replaced with a radical cleric who would be subservient to the Supreme leader.

B- Courageous and feeling loyal to his national mission, he could turn to the people and ask their support to "stay and fight". First of all, he has no organizational base to depend on. All powers are concentrated in one person, the absolute leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.
Secondly, it is very risky and may finally bring about instability and possible civil war. In that event, one must consider the role of the military, depending on which way the latter may go. If Mr. Khatami is successful, in theory and practice he will turn Islamic Republic to a secular system, in essence ending the clerical rule in Iran and himself as a historical figure. If Mr. Khatami understands his mission and the mandate that he has received, he will act decisively. If he understands the importance of the public opinion and new social and political forces that are emerging in Iran, he will respond to the needs and aspirations of the masses. But given his past report card, being an integral part of the system, it is highly unlikely that he will opt for the second and third options.

Excerpts of a document recently disclosed by the supporters of the late Dr. Bakhtiar, namely, the National Movement of the Iranian Resistance (NAMIR), linking Khatami to plots of terrorism abroad, and his shutting down of magazines like Armaan and Faraad - the latter for a mere inclusion of a soccer cartoon, corroborate this notion even further. All in all and most probably, he is not the man to "stand and fight". He has showed in the past that he is not a decisive man and posses no will power and courage to take tough decisions. Nonetheless, we still have to %%alt and see.

It is worth pointing out that Mr. Rafsanjani should also be watched. He has been mainly responsible for the corruption, the mismanagement of the economy, violation of human rights and support of international terrorism. Oddly enough, he still claims, or rather pretends to be a "moderate". He will be the chairman of Council for Discernment of Expediency, the politburo of the Islamic Republic. He will be one of three important leaders of Islamic Republic. As we know, historically triumvirates never succeed. Therefore, it is likely that Rafsanjani. in order to achieve maximum power, could side with President Khatami to weaken or remove Khamenei, with the final intention of bringing Khatami under his control.

No matter what happens, the of people Iran do not trust and indeed detest the clerics. The May 23rd, elections has given the people a voice. The voice is total dissatisfaction with the oppressive rule of the clerical leadership. 18 years of the arbitrary rule of the clerics has ruined the country and shattered Iran's economy. They abolished the rule of law and fundamental rights of the people and destroyed the cultural foundations of Iran. We have always advocated a secular democratic government for our country and return of the ruling clerics to the Mosque . As it was noted above, it is difficult to believe Hojatol-Islam Khatami, who himself worked for 18 years under the banner of Vclayat-eFaghih, would like to, or will have enough power, and will, to go against the system and establish democracy which is alien to the mind and nature of the ruling clerics. It should be noted also that, Mr. Khatami along with notorious clerics such as, Moussavi Khoeiniha, Sadegh Khalkhali, Mchdi Karroubi and All Akbar Mohtashami were founders of the conservative "Society of Combatant Clerics". Again it is difficult to fathom that he can go against the will of the Supreme leader, put an end to terrorism, human rights violations, deal sensibly with nuclear proliferation and Middle East peace talks and terminate the export of the revolution in the region. But the May 23rd presidential elections has introduced a new element into Iranian politics.

From now on, the people will be the center of political gravitation of Iranian politics. We anticipate that the demands of the people for freedom, liberty, political and economic reforms will increase and opposition to clerical rule will continue. We could even witness more resistance and riots in different cities. Therefore. it is the duty of Iranian expatriates, to continue sending their social, political and cultural messages to the people of Iran who are combating the despotic rule of the clerics. Regardless of Mr. Khatami's policy, his success or defeat, his subservience to the Supreme leader or his independent policy, the external dissident groups must establish better contact and coordination with internal opposition and especially with the people of Iran, women and youth. This campaign should continue till the present clerical regime is replaced with a democratic and a secular one.
With the present situation and undemocratic constitution that is based on the Governance of the Supreme Theologian (Vclayat-e-Faghih), Mr. Khatami cannot possibly introduce any reforms and thus, there remains no hope for change or change in the political behavior of the genre which is expected by some in Europe and the United States. With that in mind, the first priority in achieving a meaningful change must ultimately be the formulation and promulgation of a new constitution, void of any theocratic ideology, which could guarantee "liberty and freedom" for all Iranians. Hopefully this can be achieved by peaceful means. In this campaign for freedom, the role of youth and women, could indeed be a decisive one.








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