June 18, 2009

A PERCIPIENT COMPARISON:

OPEN LETTER TO AYATOLLAH KHAMENEI: 'Your Regime Is Finished': "The people of Iran will accept your rule no more," writes Afshin Ellian in an open letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The professor of law in exile demands that Iran's religious leader allow democratic change -- and suggests that South Africa could offer valuable lessons. (Afshin Ellian, 6/19/09, Der Spiegel)

To His Excellency Ayatollah Said Ali Khamenei, [...]

Thirty years ago, millions of Iranians, young people mainly, took to the streets to demonstrate for three fundamental rights. First and foremost the three basic freedoms of Azadi-e Baian, Azadi-e Qalam, Azadi-e Andish-e: the freedom of speech, the freedom to write and the freedom of thought. Secondly, the right of independence. And thirdly, they demanded the (Islamic) republic.

Against our hopes we helped put a monstrous constitution in place. In the end, Imam Khomeini's doctrine of vilayat-i faqih, rule by a single ayatollah, created an unparalleled crisis for Iran and Islam itself.

Excellency, every response you have given in the face of non-violent protest has been one of more oppression and more violence. Even in constitutional questions: the appointment of the supreme religious political leader under the vilayat-i faqih system, has led to insoluble conflict. The periodical presidential elections have had no influence at all on the organization of the judicial system, on foreign policy or the government's security policy, and have thus undermined every form of public credibility and legitimacy. Former-president Khatami was eventually forced to concede in public that despite the high expectations of his supporters he had been unable to implement any serious reforms. You, as leader of Iran, blocked every presidential measure that you did not accept. As a result, millions of Iranians were disappointed in President Khatami -- although it was actually you who was to blame.

The revolution that had begun in freedom, ended in the rule of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. President Ahmadinejad boasted that he would wipe Israel, a member of the United Nations, from the map. Many like me feel a deep shame at this uncivilized and un-Persian anti-Semitism.

Iran's semi-official anti-Semitism and tyrannical rule towards its own people reveals the moral failure of the regime that you lead. Millions of people in Teheran and other Iranian cities have condemned this moral bankruptcy by demonstrating and by voting for Mir Hossein Mousavi. Your regime is finished. Surely you realize that too, Excellency? And if you have not realized it yet, then surely you, just like the Shah some 30 years ago, must have heard the hundreds of thousands in Teheran shouting "Allahu Akabar, down with the dictatorship!"

Excellency, the demonstrations attest that the people of Iran, the children of the revolution, will accept your rule no more. Your regime is no longer able to exercise sovereignty over the Iranian people without the recourse to violence -- extreme violence. I urge you to recognize that Iran is now undeniably at a crossroads: Either the will of the people is accepted and a peaceful transition to democracy is achieved or you plan to respond to these protests by launching a bloodbath, which will cause unprecedented chaos in Iran. Ask yourself: Can a regime, hated and rejected by a huge majority of the population, transform itself into a democratic administration that recognizes the rule of law? Has it ever in history been possible for a political transition to take place peacefully and without the shedding of blood?

The surprising answer is yes: it has been done. The Apartheid regime was also despised by the majority. And that regime was an extremely violent regime. Even so, South Africa opted for a peaceful transition under the brilliant leadership of Nelson Mandela. They negotiated to guarantee the interests (including security and property rights) of the ruling minority. At the same time, they discussed and developed a transitional constitution. This model, called Negotiating Justice, is founded on human rights and the principle of democracy. What happened in South Africa, a country torn apart by hatred and violence, can happen in Iran too.


Apartheid South Africa like the Iranian Republic was required by its own democratic principles to reform.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 18, 2009 2:19 PM
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