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Freedom in Iran
Looking toward the spring.


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The oppressive clerical dictatorship in Iran has once again squashed any illusions of “democratic reform” via recent actions by its hard-line Council of Guardians, which has disqualified a high percentage of candidates from running in the February parliamentary elections.

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Since 1997, Iran has had four national elections, in which Iranians have been able to vote for candidates claiming to represent the less extremist elements of the governing clergy. Over 70 percent of the population voted for candidates they hoped would offer more freedom, though this has been in vain, as clerical hard-liners ignored the voice of the voters and continued to use their power to veto, repress, and crush even a few modest efforts at a political opening. For all the elections Iran holds, and for all the post election spins of “reformists” and “religious democracy,” the real decisions are made by a handful of ayatollahs behind closed doors.

Now the hard-line dictatorship has overreached by trying to prevent even symbolic opposition. Consequently, the Iranian people are witnessing the detested clerical dictatorship fighting amongst themselves, as all 18 provincial governors, 80 members of parliament, and even the minister of the interior staged a public sit-in demanding reversal of the decision to exclude more than half of the candidates.

Not that it matters to the cause of freedom. This tyranny is incapable of reform–the regime must, and will be, replaced by the Iranian people. Today not only the young population of Iran, and its women, but also a significant proportion of the military and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as most of the clergy in Iran, all oppose and reject the rule of the hard-liners. In fact, the regime’s own public opinion polls found only about seven percent gave it their support. The regime’s repression, massive financial corruption, economic failures, and its negative effects on the Islamic faith of the population demonstrate what President Bush correctly said in November: “In Iran, the demand for democracy is strong and broad….”

As pro-democracy Iranians in exile, in touch with like-minded Iranians at home, our purpose is to use nonviolent means to help the people of Iran remove the current repressive and corrupt dictatorship. We seek a democratic, secular system of governance, which will respect the inherent human rights of each person, including freedom of religion, political speech, assembly, and association. We espouse free, fair, and open elections as the means of choosing the political leadership.

Replacement of the Islamic republic in Iran with a democratic regime means the immediate termination of Iran’s support for international terrorism; an end to its covert intervention and support for violent elements in other states–including Iraq and Afghanistan; and, dismantling of its massive, expensive, and dangerous military programs in weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. This will promote peace, bring safety to the people of Iran, and will save billions of dollars annually.

We strongly advise the Bush administration to consistently support the cause of freedom, and decline to listen to the siren song of “openings” with tyrants proffered by the diplomats at the State Department. There must be no concessions, no easing of sanctions against this brutal and oppressive dictatorship. The pro-democratic movement is organized, and we welcome the support and participation of all who share our purposes and our principles in the coming peaceful campaign of massive citizen protest to bring about the removal of the despotic Ayatollahs in Iran.

This is our liberation; we shall do it as Iranians. From the world’s governments, we ask only political encouragement of freedom, and an end to open or secret talks that the clerical regime can use to feign legitimacy and to maintain its rule in the face of rejection by the people of Iran.

Bahman Batmanghelidj is chairman and Kamal Azari is president of the Alliance for Democracy in Iran.



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