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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Memo to the media: There are no 'reformists'
in Iran's mullahcracy

By Sheda Vasseghi

Journalists and political analysts around the world have been supportive of the Iranian people as their struggle for freedom has gone live on the internet. Yet the majority of such reports carry common erroneous themes leaving many questions unasked let alone answered which made the following comments or clarifications necessary.   

There are no "reformists" within the Islamic Republic. That term is an oxymoron and propaganda line that uses the internal strife among the founders of the regime to suggest that it is democratic in the eyes of the world. Interviewing members of this camp continues to give the false impression that they can create an "Islamic democratic" state as opposed to their opponents the "hardliners."

The first step towards democracy is absolute separation of religion and state. That is not what either camp advocates because they are all Islamists and there is no such thing as an "Islamic democracy."

The Western mainstream media and educational institutions that give members of the "reformist" camp continuous coverage fail to force them to explain how a state based on Sharia laws can be democratic.

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Khatami, Rafsanjani, and Mousavi are some of the members of the "reformist" camp, who also played a significant role in the creation and survival of the Islamic Republic. So who exactly is a "reformist" and how are they any different than the "hardliners" represented by the likes of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad? The reformists just want a power shift from one camp to another under the pillars of Islamic laws. The "hardliners" have the militia on their side and the "reformists" had until recently the masses. What neither side expected was that the people would revolt against the regime itself.

The people's superficial support for Mousavi and the "reformists" was an excuse to finally show the world what they have been wanting all along - a secular government based on freedom of choice and opportunity. Providing continuous media forum to the "reformists" is a political betrayal to Iranians, who are screaming "down with the regime" not "let's vote again." Simply put - is the acceptable cure for cancer removal of some of the cancerous cells?

The current regime is an Islamic regime based on Sharia laws and the only thing republican about it is the fact that it removed Iran's 2500 years of monarchy. Islam and republicanism cannot and do not co-exist. The father of the revolution, Khomeini, stated that the new regime can call itself a republic so long as its laws do not contradict Islam. So the current state is following what Khomeini established in 1979.

An affluent and powerful ayatollah, Mohammad Yazdi, in response to the recent uprisings stated that legitimacy and acceptance are different. According to Yazdi, "Legitimacy of rulership in Islam derives from God and acceptance of rulership is with people's cooperation." He went on to say, "It is true that without people's cooperation an Islamic leader cannot do anything, but such cooperation does not legitimize rulership…." Yazdi is correct! This is the meaning of an "Islamic Republic."

In a recent interview with Spiegel Online, a "reformist" Mohsen Kadivar in criticizing the recent election debacle stated Article 56 of the Islamic Republic constitution gives the right to the people to elect their leaders and not those claiming to be God's agent. What Kadivar fails to clarify is that in an Islamic regime such as the one in Tehran such candidates must be male Shiite Muslims whose "qualifications" are approved by an unelected council of clerics. In regards to the state doctrine of Guardianship of Islamic Jurists ("Welayat-e-Faqih") championed by the regime's founder Khomeini, Kadivar stated the recent uprising was not a rebellion against everything but rather a demand for justice and fair elections. According to Kadivar, those who are shouting "Down with the Dictator" in support of a democratic state based on separation of religion and state are "some young people … oriented towards the West" but Kadivar himself and majority of his compatriots do "not want a complete separation of state and religion." So how exactly do the "reformists" plan to make an Islamic regime a democracy so long as there is no separation of religion and state and how do they differ from the "hardliners"?

The two camps are not only fighting for political and theological gains, but economic power as well. The immense wealth accumulated by the heads of the state such as Khamenei, Khatami, and Rafsanjani are rarely brought up in these mainstream articles and interviews. In a recent Op-Ed in The New York Times, Roger Cohen states the former British ambassador to Iran told him with amusement that Iranians still believed the UK had influence in Iran. What the ambassador left out of that conversation was that the UK and other nations have a keen economic interest in preserving a corrupt and illegitimate government in Tehran to continue with their extortion of that nation's wealth since their companies are embedded in Iran's major industries such as nuclear, energy, and telecommunication. As soon as Iran is sanctioned, their companies start their black market bids to counter those sanctions. In these black market bids, the cost of a project is tripled or quadrupled and the Islamic Republic official in charge of the project gets a cut from the obscene markups.

Iran's culture and heritage are often praised as one of the greatest and oldest in the world. An important distinction, however, is usually not made. That is, such greatness is based on their founding fathers' principles and legacies. It is the human rights legacy of Cyrus the Great that is honored as one of Iran's greatest social and political achievements. Such Iranian ideals cannot co-exist with religious fanaticism. This is why brave Iranian people have been defying the theocratic dictatorship in Tehran for decades and with their recent massive acts of solidarity are able to show this to the world. It is their proud nationalist heritage that will guide them and keep their spirits strong despite the hardships and brutal government crackdowns. When Iranians achieve freedom from the fascist regime in Tehran, they can once again celebrate their past and future.

The Islamic Republic has been a tragedy for which Iranians continue to pay with their nation's blood and wealth. Let's not continue interviewing the "reformists" or reporting what the "hardliners" have to say. All the Ayatollah's men have had their share for 30 years. Now the only words worth publishing are those by the Iranian people - "Down with the Dictator!"

Sheda Vasseghi obtained a Master's degree in Ancient History with an emphasis on Persia from American Military University.

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