Iran: Loss of Legitimacy - Part 2
by Dr. Bahar Bastani
These days, the main point of discussion is the events taking place in Iran. Amongst those Iranians abroad, who have friends and family members in Iran, it is being discussed how to best support the Iranian people who have become the victims of a very brutal and suppressive government. While amongst some of my non-Iranian Muslim friends the main concern is that the press is unfair to the Iranian Government, and that the current events in Iran are a “Western and Zionist” plot against Islam. The question remains, what is the reality and what is the propaganda?
For the many Muslims in the world who have known only life under despots and dictators in the forms of kings or life-time presidents, who are corrupt and often puppets of a superpower, the Iranian Government and its leadership seemed to be refreshingly progressive and democratic, following Islamic principles and values. However, for people such as myself who have lived in Iran after the Islamic Revolution, and even though currently living in the U.S., still frequently go back to the homeland, and are in close contact with family and friends living there, the 30 years of experience living under the “Islamic Regime”, has taught us that theocratic, authoritarian regimes are much worse and more brutal than other forms of government. In the past 30 years, despite using all of the media, the schools, the mosques, etc. to enforce religion into the minds of people, the new generation of Iranians are more distant from religion than the previous generations. Moreover, the worst thing that has happened to our culture is the domination of hypocrisy, which has become the norm in daily life, probably as a tool for survival in a religious dictatorship. Having said that, I should admit that the Iranian Government, even in its present form, still has more democratic features and liberties, and is more progressive than the vast majority of Muslim countries. The experience that people of Iran have gone through has been an eye-opener for them, giving them the realization that too much power in the hands of a small elite, particularly a religious elite, would be extremely dangerous. As you have heard, absolute power brings absolute corruption. Now people of Iran have reached the maturity to demand a more open and free society, where principles of democracy and human rights are given more than just a lip service.
According to the vast majority of Iranian economists, scholars, politicians, sociologists, writers, lawyers and human rights activists, the last four years under Mr. Ahmadinejad had maximized oppression, particularly on intellectuals, university students and faculty, writers, and political and human rights activists. He is considered a very unreliable and untrustworthy person. I have personally witnessed him claiming that when he was giving a presentation at the United Nations, he noticed a halo of light surrounding him and that during the whole talk, none of the audience blinked. However, he later on denied having said this. He has lied so often about economic progress markers that a number of members of the parliament publicly objected him passing false information to the supreme leader and the public. His misappropriation of the budget, poor economic planning, and lack of accountability has caused major economic hardship for people at the time that the price of oil was as high as $170 per gallon. His granting of all grand public construction contracts (highways, bridges, tunnels, metros, etc) to the Revolutionary Army, which has now evolved as the greatest and richest industrial institution, has deprived all the other potential private competitors. Meanwhile, he has replaced many of the governors and mayors by the members of the Revolutionary Army. He has forcefully retired a number of prominent university faculty members. He has promoted superstition to the extend that one of the first very innovative achievements of his government was to drop a letter of contract addressed to the 12th hidden Imam (Imam Zaman) in the Jamkaran Well near the City of Quom. The rush of illiterate and superstitious people to this “Blessed Well” was so much that a duplicate well was constructed for the “sisters” to drop in their requests. And the story goes on ….
The people of Iran had great hope that in this new election, in which voter turnout was so much larger than in previous elections, they could peacefully change this oppressive, militant and back ward government. And in a way express their dissatisfaction on the general trends in the country. However, a year ago, the appointment of Mr. Mahsooli, a former Basig member who over a period of 10 years had become a multimillionaire, to the position of Interior Ministry, raised our suspicion that plans were underway for voter fraud in the upcoming presidential election. All political parties, who four years ago had boycotted the election on the basis that the Council of Guardians had excluded the more credible candidates and the remaining choices were Ahmadinejad and several others who were not popular, this time all progressive parties persuaded people to participate and vote for the more progressive candidate, Mr. Moosavi. The massive voter fraud that was committed by the Interior Ministery under the auspices of the top leadership, caused major protests through out the country, as manifested by hundreds of thousands to millions of citizens peacefully marching through the streets of Tehran and all other major cities in Iran, such as Isfahan, Shiraz and Tabriz. However, the interference of Basig and government supported thugs (plain clothed militia) who brutally attacked the peaceful demonstrators, turned the peaceful demonstrations into violent riots, in which many innocent people have been killed by the government supported militia. When a government brutally suppresses its own citizens, and does not tolerate peaceful descent, it has lost its legitimacy.
In the recent debates shown on government controlled Iranian television, between Mr. Moosavi and Mr. Ahmadinejad, it was astonishing to many that Mr. Ahmadinejad publicly accused Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had been one of the closest allies of the late Imam Khomeini in the early days of the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the elected president for two terms, and on many occasions the Imam of the Friday prayers in Tehran, also the head of the Assembly of the Experts (Majlis Khobregan E Rahbary) and the head of the Council of Expediency (Shora Maslehat Nezam), publicly accusing him and his family members as being corrupt, as well as, some other recent events in which some Grand Ayatollahs, e.g., Makarem Shirazi, Javadi Amoli were publicly insulted and humiliated. One would wonder, what is behind the scene, in this rearrangement of power (s) that would manifest itself so bluntly.
Apparently, there are two theories of the Velayat E Faghih (supremacy of the Faghih), among the Grand Ayatollahs. The concept of the Velayat E Faghih in the Shia brand of Islam is that after the Prophet and the apostolic Imams, and in the absence of the 12th Imam, the Faghih(s) will be in charge of the matters of the Muslim community. One theory, which belongs to the Grand Ayatollah Javadi Amoli and his like minds, is that it is the supremacy (Velayat) of all Faghihs, who will chose amongst themselves a supreme leader, and the power will be shared among them and the supreme leader, to the extend of their social status.
The second theory, that belongs to Ayatollah Mesbah E Yazdi, famous for his militant and fascistic view points, is that the position of Velayat E Faghih (the supremacy of the Faghih), during the absence of the hidden 12th Imam, belongs to a person chosen by God, in the same line that Shia believes that the holy Imams after the Prophet were appointed by God. In this model, the role of the other Grand Faghihs/Ayatollahs is to discover the one who has already been considered for this position by God. This is called the theory of’ “Ikteshaf = discovery.” In this model a divine stature, very similar to that of the Shia Imams, is given to the Valy E Faghih (Supreme Leader). In this model, the Supreme Religious Leader is granted an authority similar to the 12th Imam (Imam Zaman), and all other Faghihs and the entire community must obey his orders.
While Ayatollah Mesbah E Yazdi was marginalized at the time of late Imam Khomeini because of his allegedly poor past ethical history, at the time of Imam Khamenei he gained the support of the Supreme Leader, and significantly expanded his students body and public support base. In his view, “the republic” (Jomhooriat) has no meaning because the Supreme Leader has some sort of divine position, and thus, there is no need for public opinion or participation. The public should always keep their allegiance with the mandates of the Supreme Leader. In this camp, Ayatollah Mesbah E Yazdi is the ideologue, Ayatollah Khamenei is the supreme political and religious leader, Mr. Ahmadinejad and his government are the Executive arm, and the Revolutionary Army are the military arm. In this view point the “republic” component of the Islamic Republic of Iran should be omitted for the establishment of a better form of government, i.e., “ The Islamic Justice Government”(Hokumat E Adl E Islami), in which the Valy E Faghih in his ultimate wisdom, guided by divine decree, will lead the country. There will no longer be a place or need for the other Faghihs who would now be a nuisance. Similarly there will be no need for participation of people in the decision making process, i.e., democracy. That explains the recent public disrespect to a number of Ayatollahs, and that some of the Grand Ayatollahs, such as Makarem Shirazi, Javadi Amoli, Sanei and Safi Golpayegani refused to support the results of the recent fraudulent election and did not endorse Mr. Ahmadinejad for presidency, to the extent that Ayatollah Sanei gave a decree that collaborating with this government is forbidden (haram), and Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani said that it was a coup d’etat that had occurred.
What I’ve just described is a most dangerous scenario in which a person in granted a “semi-divine” position with absolute authority and no accountability towards people, which would inherently result in an authoritarian, militaristic theocracy, which is what is currently evolving in Iran.
May God bless all of the brave people of Iran who are risking their lives resisting a totalitarian theocracy that has lost its legitimacy.