Sunday, December 12, 2004


Finally yesterday, the issue of the "call for a referendum" was discussed in the meeting that was organized by IAUT and I was one of 6 panelists. One good thing that this meeting had for me was that it demonstrated the fact that those who advocate this idea at best have one argument: "this call for referendum will bring hope to the disappointed crowed of reformists who have lost their confidence in Khatami and his allies". I wrote an e-mail to a non Iranian friend who is going to interview Mr. Sazgara, one of the signatures of the call, and explained my reasoning for opposing this call. Here it goes:

This issue has raised so many questions and caused some serious disagreements and debates among Iranians. I along with a few other students who were active in Iran in the last 7-8 years, have been among those who opposed this call for referendum for a very basic reason. They are calling for a referendum to change the constitution, now historic evidence in Iranian politics from the first day the elected parliament wrote a constitution in 1906, has been that law is an irrelevant factor when it comes to political action, both for the rullers and the opposition in Iran. Non has ever stopped a political move or a decision that effects the nation because it was prohibited by the law. The good example of that was 57 years of Pahlavi dynasty from 1921 to 1979. In which the constitution, just like UK, gave the Shah(king) a symbolic role and the Parliament and PM, the real power,but in reality Shah always was the only power. His dictatorship resulted in a revolution which fundamentally changed the Constitution,but again in the last 26 years, the only thing that didn't matter was the law and the only thing that did matter was the fact that right wing clerics have the real power(money, intelligence services and military) and therefore they are the dominant force. Any time that the other side could bring an element of power -like people- to the equation, no matter what the law said, they could ease this dominance and the election of president Khatami in 1997 is a good example.

So a call for a referendum basically undermines the real problem and the fact that reformists and democracy movement in Iran has failed to rally people behind them the way Ukrainians did, We can argue that the reformist president and his allies have failed to use their already faded popularity in order to bring people in to the streets, but that failure in no way, justifies a call that is sending the wrong single and is telling people that: "it is the constitution and law which is the main obstacle".Another important issue here is that if the right wing power, in the words of the callers of this referendum themselves, hasn't left any hope for reform, then how in the world will they allow a referendum to take place under their watch?? Obviously they wont.

So consequently,this call for a referendum is indirectly suggesting that people, in order to ever have a real referendum, should first overthrow the current regime and that means another revolution. This is a recipe for disaster and I don't understand how they can still call themselves reformists and stay in the column of those who are against violence. The ultimate justification is that this call can at least bring hope back to the camp of disappointed reformists, this also is a bad justification, since even if this hope is created, it is an empty and unattainable goal that soon will lose its early support and once more people will feel powerless. Let me add at the end that I do believe there are other alternatives, like taking advantage of the upcoming presidential election and participate in masses and cast a white ballot in protests and turn that election to a referendum. But it all depends on how much Iranian middle class is prepared to organize it self and pay the small price of going to the polls.